AGE is just a number is the motto for married couple Jay and Linda Barham.

The pair, from Main Road, Dovercourt, will celebrate 19 years of wedded bliss this summer.

But when they first got together all their friends and family thought the relationship was a fling that would soon fizzle out.

Jay was 18 at the time, and Linda was 51.

They met while Linda was a youth worker and Jay was training to become one.

Jay, now 36, said: "I was learning to drive and Linda helped with some lessons and one thing led to another.

"We clicked, we liked the same music and things and it was just over six months when we decided to get married.

"My parents were okay, a bit shell-shocked and they thought it was just a five minute fad and I would get over it.

"Linda's children, 13 and 17 at the time, took it on the chin and were both very supportive.

"My friends were shell-shocked and said 'oh okay, that's a bit different'.

"But after 19 years of marriage it still works."

Jay's work colleagues had a betting book going on how long the couple would last.

But while most people were supportive, a few took exception to the relationship.

Jay added: "When we first got together we had the window broken on the car and a few nasty slurs written on the car, but that was more to do with where lived."

The couple had gone through tough times, including a house fire started by a DVD player in 2007, which left them living in the Cliff Hotel in Dovercourt for 26 weeks.

Linda, now 70, was then injured in a nasty crash with a bus in the town, which left her with a fractured spine and means she can't walk very well.

Two years ago Jay was diagnosed with Parkinsons and had to leave his job as a bakery manager at Asda - where the pair at one time worked together.

Jay said: "We've gone through so much together.

"It works because we gel really well, we spend 90per cent of our time together and we get well as friends.

"We have the same taste in everything, apart from Linda doesn't like Italian food and I do.

"The only thing we argue about is what's best for the cat."

The pair have seen other marriages start and fail while they have stayed together.

Jay added: "We really do love each other.

"Every year we are together we think ha ha to all the people who doubted we would last."

The couple are used to raised eyebrows and laugh off other people's shock at their age gap.

Jay said: "If it's an older man with a younger woman it's not so frowned upon.

"Ten or 15 years ago different ethnicities together were frowned upon but now it's everyday life.

"People have said 'it's nice you've taken your mum out' and I say 'no, it's my wife'.

"We are used to it but they get embarrassed."

The duo have renewed their wedding vows at their 10th and 15th anniversaries and plan on taking a holiday to celebrate 20 years next July.

They are now set to start a new venture together opening a new Buttercakes and Sweets cake shop at the new Kingsway shopping centre, with hopes to open by June.