A retired Suffolk couple insists their strange obsession with escalators is quite normal.
Vera and Derek Catchpole first met 25 years ago when passing each other on the escalator in Ipswich’s Debenhams store – and it was love at first sight.
They have since married and become hooked on riding moving staircases together in major stores and office blocks.
Derek, 81, told the Suffolk Gazette: “We’ve had our ups and downs like any couple, but really this hobby has brought us closer to together. It’s not silly, but very entertaining and a good way to meet new people.”
A former roofer, it was Derek who first started showing signs of becoming hooked, and an initially sceptic Vera, 79, was soon drawn in.
“She thought I was mad at first,” Derek laughed. “But it’s something we now do together four days a week, and it beats sitting at home watching Bargain Hunt.”
Vera added: “We both get a buzz going up and down escalators. I prefer going up, actually, because it’s the feeling of the unknown as you step on. It’s also about being around people.”
When Debenhams closed, Derek and Vera were forced to spend more time at the nearby M&S store, but the escalator there only goes from one floor, and only up. They have to use the stairs to go down again.
“It’s a pain having to travel out of Woodbridge,” Derek explained. “It has lovely little independent shops but it’s not exactly the spaghetti junction of escalators.
“We, therefore, have to travel to the larger stores in and around Ipswich to enjoy ourselves.”
The happy couple celebrates their silver wedding anniversary in June and the self-confessed adrenaline junkies are in no doubt about how they want to spend it.
Derek said: “It’s got to be Angel tube station in London. Who would not want to ride the longest escalator on the tube network? We’re very excited about it but we’ll do our best to avoid the rush hour.”
One place they will not be calling at is London’s Stratford station. “Yes, I’ve heard it’s got the smallest escalator on the Tube. I’m a bit intrigued to see it, to be honest, but I think we’ll keep to the big stuff on the special day.”
Their hobby has taken them all over Britain, trying to be one of the first to try new escalators when stores or shopping malls open up.
“We’ve never had any bother, although we once got a puncture on the A14 while heading to Birmingham Airport to ride on a new escalator there,” recalled Vera.
The couple estimate they have ridden 250,000 miles on escalators over the years – more than the distance to the moon.
“More people should try it,” Derek said. “It can be very moving.”
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