Like any new great-grandmother, Kelly Baker couldn’t be more delighted with the recent addition to her family – baby Layla.
But grandmother of nine Kelly is nothing like virtually all new great-grannies – she is just TWENTY-EIGHT years old.
That’s what comes of marrying a man more than 40 years her senior, but Kelly says she couldn’t be happier.
Her union with husband Bob, 68, made her stepmum to his three children who are all also many years older than her – Derek, 45, Tracey, 44, and Lorraine, 38.
And her own parents – Sue, 54, and Maurice Darvell, 52 – are, of course, years younger than her husband.
Even her eldest grandchild, Layla’s 25-year-old mum Tahra, is only three years her junior.
Despite the huge age gap, Kelly insists: “We’re just like any normal couple really.”
She admits she has noticed people occasionally whispering and staring at them but says: “I try my best not to let it bother me but sometimes that’s hard.
“The snide comments like, ‘Isn’t he old enough to be her grandad?’ hurt the most. Bob tells me not to rise to it.”
The couple are adamant that they themselves rarely notice their age difference but Kelly reveals she would rather listen to her favourite Britney Spears’ songs on her iPod while Bob prefers to relax to his old 60s’ vinyl records.
And although they work together as cleaners, in the evenings their TV viewing habits are quite different – Bob watches the news in one room while Kelly switches on The Simpsons in another.
Yet the couple, from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, say they couldn’t be more in love after seven years together.
Kelly was just 21 when she met divorcee Bob. They soon became inseparable and four years into their relationship they married.
Kelly says she realises they are unlikely to have children of their own because of Bob’s age but she revels in having such a large, ready-made family – especially now she has five-month-old Layla to dote on.
“She’s so beautiful,” she says. “It’s so wonderful having a baby in the family. I know most girls dream of being a mother but I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Bob has nine grandchildren and one great grandchild and I feel like they are my own family. We spoil them rotten.
“When I look at Bob I don’t see a man 40 years older than me – I see a man who’s passionate, loving and full of life.”
They first met when Bob was dating a friend of Kelly’s, who was also in her 20s. “I met him briefly when he was picking her up one time,” she says.
“The first thing I noticed was his twinkly blue eyes. We both said a polite, ‘Hello’ to each other and that was it.”
She says she thought no more of him until after he and her friend broke up in the summer of 2005 and, one day, she got a phone call from him.
“He said he’d been unable to stop thinking about me,” says Kelly. “He had asked my uncle, who he was friendly with, for my number.
“It might be hard to believe, but the age gap never crossed my mind.”
After exchanging flirty text messages Bob asked Kelly if she would like to meet up for a drink.
“I spent hours getting ready, and the nerves were really building as I waited for him to arrive,” she reveals.
“It was the most anxious I’d ever been on any date. But as soon as Bob walked through the door he completely put me at ease. He was the perfect gentleman.
“Unlike men of my age, he was a really great listener and seemed to really want to get to know me.
“We chatted for hours swapping stories about our childhoods. It sounds cliché, but I felt like I’d known him for years.”
The couple continued to meet up regularly at their local pub and it wasn’t long before they made their relationship public.
At that time Kelly still hadn’t even asked Bob – grandfather to Tahra, Chloe, 21, Jade, 18, Arran, 18, Warren, 16, Chanice, 16, Kamran, 13, Amber, seven, and Toby, three – his age.
She says: “He pulled me aside and said, ‘You know I’m quite a bit older than you are?’ I just laughed and said, ‘yes, I know you are, Bob’ – and that was that.
“I’d never thought to ask his age. It just didn’t matter to me. A number doesn’t define who a person is.”
But they were aware that their families and friends might not share their joy in finding one another.
Kelly reveals how they were initially reluctant to tell them, saying: “Meeting Bob’s daughters was the hardest.
“Tracey and Lorraine are over 10 years older than I am and I was worried they would question my intentions in being with their father.
“But once they had gotten to know me, they were very accepting and we’ve since become close.”
She tells how she was also very nervous about introducing Bob to her parents.
She says: “Bob was at least a decade older than both of them and I was concerned how my mum would react when she found out his age.
“But luckily she saw past that and loved him just as much as I did.”
It was Kelly’s friends who gave her the hardest time. “They were very sceptical,” she says.
“They would ask me, ‘What on earth do you see in him?’
“But when they finally got to meet him, my girlfriends said, ‘Don’t let him go, Kelly – he’s perfect for you’.”
She recalls how Bob, who had previously been married for 37 years, proposed after four years of dating. “It was completely out of the blue,” she says.
“He called me into the kitchen and he was waiting for me on one knee, holding my grandmother’s ring.
“I immediately cried out, ‘yes’ and threw my arms around him.
“He told me he had been secretly planning the wedding and had already arranged most of it.
“All he needed was my approval. That’s why I knew he was the one for me – he’s got such a big heart.”
They had planned an intimate ceremony with just a few close family and friends but, on the day, over 100 people turned up to wish them well.
“There were so many people they couldn’t fit in the register office,” says Kelly.
Asked about dreams of having children of her own, she says: “Bob always says, ‘never say never,’ but I think we both know his fathering days are over.”
She confesses: “The age difference means we have slightly different sex drives but it’s never been an issue for us.”
Bob himself says: “The first time I saw Kelly I thought she was beautiful. She had the most gorgeous smile. We chatted for a while and hit it off straight away.
“When people realise she is my wife, not my daughter, they say, ‘well done!’ She’s my best friend and I feel very lucky to be married to her.
“As for more kids, I’d never say never – Charlie Chaplin had a baby in his 80s – but now I’m a great-grandad the family is quite large enough!”
Kelly tells how in the early days of their relationship, Bob would offer to take her out clubbing. “I suppose it’s what he thought most people my age wanted to be doing,” she says.
But she says she’s always preferred cosy nights in with her man. And now they’re looking forward their first Christmas as great-grandparents.
“I can’t wait,” says Kelly. “We’re going to a local pub with all the children, grandchildren and Layla for a huge dinner. Bob’s such a lively, bubbly person it’s easy to forget he’s actually a great-grandfather.
“We have proved everyone who doubted us wrong. We couldn’t be happier.”