How we met: Uri Andres and Anna Massey

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The Independent Culture
Anna Massey (55) was born into a theatrical family and was educated abroad. She has appeared in numerous plays, films and radio broadcasts, winning the 1986 Bafta best actress award for her role in the television adaptation of Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac. Massey's first marriage, at 20,

ended in divorce after the birth of her son. Nearly three decades later, she met her second husband, Dr Uri Andres (67). Born in Moscow, Andres trained as a scientist and has been a metallurgist at London's Imperial College since 1975. He has two daughters from his first marriage.

ANNA MASSEY: The year I met Uri - it was 1988 - was the year I became a realist. It was nothing anyone said, but that March I stayed with my mother in Switzerland and came home believing that it was pointless to live in the past, or to think too much about the future. I'd spent so much of my life thinking that one day I would meet Mr Wonderful, Mr Right, or even Mr Almost-Right, and suddenly something liberating clicked in my soul. After being alone for nearly 30 years, I finally realised that I could fend for myself and that I hadn't made too many compromises along the way. Being single wasn't such a dreadful imprisonment. That was how my life would be. It took away an enormous ball of angst, and I felt strangely at peace with myself.

Then, on the night of 10 August, I went to a dinner party given by a friend of mine, Joy Whitby. I was tired but, as always, the minute anyone arrives at Joy's house, their spirits rise. I hardly knew anyone else in the room. Seven of us were chatting over drinks and I thought we were the complete party. Suddenly, this elegant man in a blue shirt and jeans arrived. He was given some champagne but no one introduced him. I beckoned him to come and join us, which was quite forward by my standards. We were discussing Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, not that I had much to add because I'd only read part of it. Uri told us he'd just come back from Sheffield where he'd seen his new magnet installed. I was excited to meet an inventor whose ideas were actually being used.

When Joy called us down to dinner, I realised she'd sat us together and remember thinking, 'Yippee]' At the time, I thought I'd met a fascinating man called Yuri. I'd no idea he spelt his name with a 'U'.

It was a beautiful night. As Uri had walked to Joy's house, I offered to drive him home. We arranged to have dinner, and for the next three months, until our wedding day on 22 November, the sun never seemed to set. All I remember are golden days when we went for long walks and never once needed an umbrella or raincoat.

Getting to know Uri, I realised how much science and art are intertwined. There are enormous moments of stress, elation, creative anguish and depression in both, yet the two disciplines have always been quite separate. Uri has a capacity to take you into a very different world which is incredibly involving. He's the most original person I know, but without his ability to communicate, we might never have come together.

My husband is completely fearless and an intrepid traveller. I've always been able to fly off and work in a foreign city on my own, but holidays used to be a nightmare for me. Uri would never let the prospect of two weeks silence stop him from going away by himself. He's taught me to travel light: wherever we go in the world, we only ever take hand luggage with us.

Uri is very low key about his achievements: he'd never blow his own trumpet. He's a great listener, and makes people feel at ease. Since we met, I've enjoyed acting in a way I haven't done for years. A close, intimate, shared life has given me enormous confidence and freedom. The journey of creation is much richer, and I'm not so nail-bitten about the result. When you have an emotional life-boat, failure isn't so frightening. I'm braver in what I take on as an actress and braver in what I reject.

Just before I actually married Uri, I wrote to my two analysts and received joyous letters back from both. I'd had years of analysis and without that help, I wouldn't have been able to move into the world that Uri has opened up to me. I wouldn't have been brave enough to live in the present. Living in the present means not expecting the future and not regretting the past. If we'd met a year earlier - when we'd also been invited to Joy's, but Uri was away - it would have been the wrong time for both of us. We were going through gloomy periods. In any case, Stephen Hawking's book hadn't yet been published, so what would we have talked about?

My son was delighted that we got married, and said he only wished it could have happened sooner. I've visited Uri's family in Russia, and they are the warmest, most welcoming people I've ever met.

Uri and I hate being apart, but if either of us has to go away, we speak on the phone every day. After so many years of being on my own, there's now someone to call and say: 'Darling, I've arrived safely.'

URI ANDRES: I saw Anna twice before I met her. In 1976, during my first year in London, I went to the National Theatre where she was playing in Shaw's Heartbreak House. The next time was on television in a dramatisation of Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac. I knew the book, but had a completely different picture of what Edith would be like. After watching Anna, I changed my mind.

A couple of years later, we were both invited to dinner at the house

of a mutual friend - Joy Whitby. Joy asked everyone months ahead, but,

as things turned out, I couldn't

go because I had to be in Morocco.

If we had met then, it would

have been completely the wrong time for us both. I was feeling gloomy about all kinds of problems.

Twelve months later, Joy asked us both to dinner again. By the time I arrived at her house, everyone was deep in conversation about Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time. Of course, I'd never met Anna but I remember feeling surprised that an actress could talk so intelligently about the cosmos, astrophysics, black holes and difficult paradoxes of time. At dinner, we sat next to each other and seemed to have so much to talk about. That night, I was feeling elated: my new project had taken off, and I think I was predisposed to other nice things happening.

Anna agreed to give me a lift home. Though I wanted to continue the relationship, I wasn't sure if it was a good step to take. Neither of us had anything to write with, and so we promised to remember each others' phone numbers - seven figures each - not so much. As I was going to Moscow in four days time, I asked Anna to have dinner at my home before I left. At the last minute, my daughter and granddaughter who were due to come from Leningrad (as it was then), changed their flights and arrived two days early. Eating at home would have been impossible, so I bought Russian caviar and chatka (crabs) and we had dinner at Anna's house. While I was away, I sent her postcards and when I came home, our friendship grew and, one sunny day, we decided to live together. Not long after, on another sunny day, we decided to get married.

I was 62 when I met Anna and had practically accepted that I would never marry again. Since I arrived in London and started working at Imperial College, I have done more than I could ever have dreamed about in Russia. Here, anything was possible for me. I had complete freedom of choice. The college is a cross-roads for scientists from all over the world. My research was my responsibility - there were no feelings of constraints. Life was very good. Professionally, I couldn't have imagined anything better, but since I married Anna, my work has increased from all possible angles, 20-fold.

Like all couples, we disagree sometimes, but they're the kind of clashes which happen between most human beings. They're nothing to do with coming from different cultures and speaking different languages. I think that surprised us both.

Anna's world of theatre, art, literature, is not so very different from mine. It requires unbelievable discipline. Anna is enormously disciplined and organised. She has given me stability and confidence. Of course, there was a period in Russia when I was happily married with my family around me, doing the work I loved, but it was never like this. Not at all. All my friends have noticed a change in me. Most immigrants would understand when I say that however long you have been in a country, a part of you always feels outside society. Now, being married to an English lady, who knows so much about English life, I feel accepted here. -

(Photograph omitted)