15/03/2019 - Skills Holidays play matchmaker to give couple another chance at love
Couple who met while on a Skills coach holiday looking back on 32 years of marriage.
Loving couple Peter and Pat Baker got another chance at love - thanks to a bit of matchmaking from Skills Holidays.
And now the pair are celebrating more than 32 years of marriage after a chance meeting on one of the top Nottingham travel firm’s coach trips.
Peter was so smitten, he proposed just a month after meeting Pat.
The pair are now set to embark on a trip on the East Lancashire Steam Railway - ahead of their 33rd wedding anniversary and to mark Skills’ centenary.
It turned out to be a happy ending for divorcee Peter and widow Pat, both 77, after they separately decided to book a trip to “get away" from tough times, back in July 1985.
Peter, a retired telecommunications company project manager, was going through a divorce and Pat had been bereaved for almost five years and had two teenage sons when they both decided independently a break was needed.
So Peter, who was living in Toton, Nottinghamshire, went to his local Skills office and booked a five-day trip to the Lake District.
Unknown to him, Pat, who was an accounts manager, was doing the same - booking the same break at a travel agent’s an hour up the M1 in her native Sheffield.
“I wanted to get away for a break,” said Peter.
“By taking a coach trip, I could be on my own, but not alone.”
Pat said: “I just thought if I went on a coach trip I wouldn’t be on my own.”
It could have ended differently, if Peter’s first choice of Tenby, Wales, hadn’t been booked up.
But fate played a hand, and he booked a Lakes trip.
On August 25, 1985, the coach break came.
They struck up a friendship after sitting in opposite aisle seats on the coach and then sharing a cuppa in a service station on the way.
And from that moment, the pair were inseparable on the trip, which took in Windermere, Kendal and Edinburgh and included a stay in a Workington hotel.
“Most things I think we did together from that point on,” said Peter, who has son Christopher, 50, and daughter Marie, 53 from his first marriage.
“We stayed good friends all through the holiday. When we got home I sent her a few flowers as a thank you.”
The pair had exchanged numbers and addresses and a week later, Peter - who had the obstacle of not being able to drive - got a lift up to Sheffield to see Pat.
Over the coming weeks, he would make return trips and wrote daily letters, and Pat drove to see him in Toton. Then on September 24, the day before Pat’s birthday and just a month after meeting, Peter proposed.
But it wasn’t until five months later that Pat accepted.
Pat, who is mum to Russell, 52, and the late Ian, who would have been 55, arranged the nuptials and they tied the knot at Sheffield Register Office on June 6, 1986 in front of a dozen guests.
They had a church blessing and family meal afterwards.
They bought a house in Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, and lived there for two and a half years and then Toton for 12 years before settling in Breaston, Derbyshire, in 2000.
Peter said: “Skills unwittingly have played a very big part in bringing us together. It wasn’t manufactured in any way - but it happened on a Skills coach.
“And she has put up with me for 32 years.”
Pat added: “It could happen to anybody. I’m a very cautious lady. But he was a gentleman.”
The couple, who have 10 grandchildren between them and a two-year-old great-granddaughter called Harper, have been on numerous Skills holidays since Cupid first struck, including a trip to Italy, and have three planned in the coming months.
These include the Lancashire railway trip in April, a Settle to Carlisle railway break in May and Portsmouth Historic Docklands in November.
Peter said: “We quite like Skills. We feel they are very good value and have a good choice of locations and it’s always a comfortable trip. We try to go on the trips around our birthdays and anniversaries. We have built up a lot of memories.”
Pat said: “I’ve driven all over so it’s really nice to sit and relax on a coach trip. If you are on your own, I think a coach trip is not a bad idea.”
And in a further Skills twist, a couple Peter and Pat met on their Skills travels, Pam and Mark Hawley, formerly of Clifton, Nottinghamshire, are now their neighbours in Breaston - they share a back garden fence.
Nigel Skill, chairman of Skills Holidays, congratulated the couple on their long and happy marriage.
He added: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been able to play a part in bringing Peter and Pat together. We can’t wait to welcome them on board our East Lancashire Steam Railway excursion in April, along with our other guests, to celebrate our 100th anniversary.
“Skills provides great value breaks and holidays by coach and we are sure we will have played a part in making happy memories for many travellers over the years - here’s to many more!”
The East Lancashire Steam Railway trip, on April 6, includes return coach travel, a ride on a chartered private dining train with a three-course lunch and glass of fizz and free time in Bury.
To find out more, visit www.skills.co.uk