Misty, green and blue

It’s my birthday.  Well, actually, it isn’t because I’m writing this ahead of time as I’ve no idea what state I’ll be in come the day.

My plan was to either, finally, take that henner off the Dean Bridge and stop talking about it, or stay under the covers all day weeping.  But David Walters is forcing me to meet him for lunch and I wouldn’t top myself after someone goes to the bother of meeting me.  It’s just rude.

See Linda always made my birthday special.  That came as a helluva surprise 26 years ago.  It had never happened before.  I spent my primary school years living with my Great Auntie Euphemia and Great Uncle George and I’d be amazed if they even knew when my birthday was.  By the time I was living back home my Dad was ill and dying so things like birthdays and Christmases just went by. Then I left home and lived in council flats and digs for 9 years. Again, I doubt anyone knew when my birthday was.

Four months after Linda and I started living together in a housing association flat off Dundee Street I was woken up about half six in the morning by Linda singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the top of her voice. I rolled out of bed and found the flat festooned with banners and balloons. What the hell?

When we got home from work there was a store bought cake and a pizza from the chippy. We couldn’t afford to eat out back then.  And so it continued every year without fail.  Even in later years when we tended to be on holiday for my birthday she would pack banners and balloons in the suitcase, sneak out of bed about 4 in the morning and decorate wherever we happened to be, prior to another early morning serenade.

Last year on what turned out to be my last birthday with Linda we went away on holiday.  We didn’t know how ill she was but we came close to cancelling.  We’d come away early from the two previous trips due to Lindas infirmities brought on by the butcher of a knee surgeon.  But this time she’d been ill for months while the GP who ultimately killed her gave her antibiotics for a non-existent throat infection.  She struggled and the day before my birthday she spent in bed in the hotel while I trawled the chemists of Southport buying every throat medicine born to man.

So no-one was more surprised than me to be woken by the annual serenade.  What was more amazing was her sore throat was all but gone.  Linda couldn’t believe it after 5 months of pain.  Even her usual muscular and joint pains were diminished by the relief.  We thought “this is it”!  You’re finally on the mend.  So delighted were we that we got on the train to Formby.

We’d wanted to go there for ages after seeing pictures of the beach there.  But it was hardly easy to get to from Edinburgh.  But now we were only 15 minutes away on the train.  Of course if we’d realised it was a 45 minute walk at the other end we still wouldn’t have gone.  For a non cripple it was probably half that but even with the reduced pain the walk through the nature reserve and the dunes took Linda a while.

But it was worth it.  The sun was shining, the beach was empty, it was glorious.  We just basked.  Then I mentioned to Linda how the Irish Sea was always warmer than our North Sea what with the water being Caribbean rather than Arctic in origin.  She was having none of this but October be damned I went paddling.  After a lot of persuasion she joined in and for the first and last time paddled in the surprisingly warm, Autumnal water.  See pictures below.

We head back to the hotel pausing only to see our first ever red squirrel in the woods of the nature reserve.  It was a truly happy birthday.  And our last happy day.  The next morning she was sicker than ever.  A week later we found out she had cancer.  My beautiful girl.  Thank you for being the only person who ever made anything special for me.

birthday16

Advertisements

Diary of a working man*

Or Me! Me! Me!

Obviously I’ve been writing about Linda recently but I thought I’d set in context just how central she was to my world.

See, even Mrs H called me peculiar.  It’s a polite way of saying strange.  Or as she would have it, no quite right.  And I can’t argue with that as it’s been true all my life.  Now I didn’t have an abusive childhood they way she did.  But it was an odd one.

I was an unwanted child.  My parents weren’t horrible but they had no interest in being a mother or father.  Now I get that and I don’t hold it against them.  I’ve never had the inclination myself.  My Mum had also been told she couldn’t have children so when I arrived when she was 36 and my Dad was 43 it really didn’t suit them.

It didn’t help that unlike Mrs H I was born melancholy.  There are a few photos of me when I was under 5 and I’m not smiling in any of them.  My Mum didn’t hang about though.  She packed me off to the nursery full-time when I was 18 months old and even paid the extra so they’d keep me till teatime.  She told me later that all her wages went to pay the fees which shows how keen she was to be around me.

Then when I was four I started primary school and I was packed off to live with my Great Aunt Euphemia and Great Uncle George, my Dads aunt and uncle.  I say packed off but they lived in number 17 and we lived in number 11 which meant it was actually the stair next door.  I stayed there Monday – Wednesday, then  I spent Thursday with old Mrs McLuskey, Friday I was home, Saturday with my evil Granny and Sunday back home again.  A whole 2 days a week with my actual parents.  The rest of the time was with family members who regarded me as an imposition at best.  But they certainly didn’t like me.

Now when I were a boy your friends were the laddies who lived in your stair.  So that was Alan and Jammy from the first and ground floor in number 11.  That’s who you played Japs and Commandos and Cowboys and Indians with in the back green.  They were also in your class at school so you spent your time with them there as well.

It’s only when you get to secondary school that you choose your friends as your early life gets broken up.  I remember turning 11 at the end of first year and suddenly realising that I was the only one with no friends.  They just didn’t like me.  I didn’t know why and in the seventies asking that kind of question would have got you a good kicking.  So I decided that if they didn’t like me I would give them a good reason for it.  Which explains my remaining years at school.

Fast forward 15 years and I still have no friends.  It’s probably part of the reason I moved around a lot and changed jobs regularly.  It didn’t give people a chance to dislike me fully.  So you will realise my surprise when this beautiful, funny and lively girl liked me.  I only found later that she was no quite right as well but she took to me, befriended me, loved me and married me.

At the time Mrs H did have friends and they tolerated me for her sake but it was noticeable that they all abandoned her in time.  I was born strange, life made Linda that way.  So for over 25 years she was my wife and my best (and only) friend.  She was the reason I got up every day.  I sobered up, knuckled down and tried to give her the best life possible.  And look how that ended up.  You can’t factor in the NHS first crippling and then killing her.

And that’s why I’m such a mess.  She is the only person in my entire life who found any value in me.  I was worthless before her and I’m worthless now.  All I can hope for is that it won’t be too long before we’re back together.  Minus the cheap lager.

lindaandme

*one for the Blackfoot fans out there

It gets worse

It’s the funeral tomorrow.  I’ve no idea how I’m going to get through that.  Because the second week is a whole lot worse than the first one.

The first week you’re in shock.  And you’ve to got to deal with a whole load of arseholes, most of whom seem to be in the wrong job and go out of their way to make things difficult for you.

But the second week is when it really starts to sink in.  In between howling I’m raging mad.  We had plans, damn it.  They weren’t big plans.  We’d never asked for much.  We wanted each other.

I’d taken my redundancy, we were going to move house, buy a puppy and potter around arm in arm for another twenty years or so, enjoying some peace and quiet.  It wasn’t a lot to hope for.  But now, wandering around an empty house, Linda’s house, it’s all gone.

Unfortunately for me, Linda knew me too well.  So when she was still lucid she made me make some promises to her, knowing full well they’re the only promises I’ve ever kept.  I’m not to do anything stupid.  Which was her polite way of saying don’t top yourself because she knew that would be my first inclination.  Which it is.

I’ve not to start drinking again because that would lead inexorably to breaking the first promise.  I’ve not to be mean to her mother.  Which is easy because I’ll never speak to her again.  You know the witch who when an 11 year old Linda ran into the house, in tears, because their downstairs neighbour had grabbed her and felt her up slapped her in the face and told her not to be a dirty girl.

And, somehow, I’ve to be good to myself.  That won’t happen.  She knew fine well the only reason I got up in the morning was to try and look after her.  Something I failed at time after time.  The last thing she said to me as she faded into unconsciousness was “you always made me feel safe”.  But in the end I couldn’t.  I’m sorry Linda.

HPIM0173

______________

St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton

http://linda.hamilton.muchloved.com/

Uncle Tommy

So I went to see Uncle Tommy a couple of days ago.  He’ll be 91 this weekend and went into a care home at the end of May.  In fact he went in 4 days before we found out Linda was going to die.  I went to see him on the Thursday of the week he moved in.  Linda went into the Western General the following day and on the Saturday they told us she was going to die.

Uncle Tommy was her favourite.  I remember she told me when she was young she wanted Tommy to be her Dad.  His brother, her step-father was a drunken, bad tempered bastard.  But Tommy was always full of life, drink free and took time to spend with Linda.  So when his wife died a few years back it was Linda who stepped in to look out for him.  She took him to the doctors, hospital appointments, sent me to his house with food parcels and had him to our house as often as she could.  This was despite the fact he wasn’t actually a relative and his own nephews and nieces never went near him.

She only left the hospice twice – once to come home because she couldn’t remember what our house was like – and once to see Tommy in the care home.  Which she thought was great and helped put her mind at ease.  I organised a couple of escorted visits for Tommy to come and see Linda and his last visit was two days before Linda fell into a coma.

When she died I phoned the care home to let them know and asked them to break it to him gently.  I couldn’t face him that week as I was too much of a mess.  I still am but I knew I had to visit, for Linda’s sake.  So I chapped on the door and went in.  I was surprised when he just smiled and asked how I was.  Then I noticed he was looking behind me, down the corridor, and I realised he didn’t know.

So I had to tell him that Linda was dead.  God, he wept.  Nearly as much as me.  She was his favourite as well.  His pal.  She looked after him.  She loved him and he loved her.  He knows I’ll still visit but with her gone I think a wee part of him is gone as well.  Strangely, it was quite nice to be with someone who loved her as I haven’t spoken or seen anyone else since she died.  And I don’t know anyone who knew her anymore, apart from her family.  And they don’t count.

After the NHS fucked up the first time and she ended up partially disabled she really withdrew from the world.  She was in constant pain thanks to the botched knee operation and the misdiagnosed ankle problem and I was content just to be with her. After all, I didn’t have anyone to withdraw from. And as  long as we had each other, nothing else mattered.  So for the last six years it’s just been the two of us.

Here she is on Tommy’s last birthday.  My beautiful Lindy.

100_1718

MEMORIAL FUND FOR LINDA – ST. COLUMBA’S HOSPICE

A day to forget

It was a dark and stormy morning.  As it should be as today was the day I had to register the death of my Lindy and arrange her funeral.

IMG_20170811_104713_1It was no surprise then when the registrars office turned out to be an utter shithole.  Well it is run by the City of Edinburgh Council. So no surprises there.  With the usual warmth and courtesy of a council official the assistant registrar never even bothered to introduce himself or even express condolences.

The last time I was there was over 25 years ago when Mrs H and I went to register our marriage.  And I don’t think it had been cleaned or tidied since.  It certainly looked as though someone had crapped the eighties all over it.  Bearing in mind there are only two reasons to go there – happy ones (birth/wedding) and sad ones (death).  The least they could do is spring a minimum wage for someone with a black bag and a hoover.

IMG_20170811_104653On the plus side I was in such a foul mood that I actually went into a caff for an all day breakfast – the first meal I’d eaten in 3 months.  It was alright even if it’s the first all day breakfast I’ve failed to finish.  But that’s one less thing for Linda to moan at me from on high.

Then it was off to the store to arrange the funeral.  Old habits, see.  My family always went to the store for a funeral because that way you got the divi added on.  And it was a nice wee bonus come divi day if you’d had a good few deaths that year.* (*the preceding paragraph will only make sense to Scotch folk of a certain age).

At least the woman there was matter of fact and professional, something the council staff might want to consider sometime soon.  The funeral was sorted within 20 minutes as Linda had given me quite specific instructions when she was still able to.  Private, cremation, a light wood coffin, bright yellow flowers (but not sunflowers as she hates them). She just wants me there as she arrives to ‘Run’ by Leona Lewis, then a few minutes contemplation before she departs to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ by Willie Nelson, two songs I’ll never be able to listen to again after the day.

Here she is a girl of 16 and as a young woman.  She hated the thought of her picture being on the internet but her was a rare beauty.

Donations to St. Columba’s Hospice in her name can be made here.

My Lindy

My dearest Lindy is gone.  I’ve never felt so bereft and desolate.  For over 25 years it was always Linda and Stuart. There was no Linda. No Stuart. We were one of those annoying couples who were inseparable.  And now she’s gone.

I don’t know what she ever saw in me.  She was beautiful, funny, full of life and mischief. I was and and am a dour, cantankerous drunk.  But the second last thing she said to me before the brain cancer put her to sleep was “You always looked after me, no-one else ever did that”. And she meant no-one.  Because underneath the smile she was lonely and after we became a couple she told me how she would cry herself to sleep at night. That broke my heart.

Until she fell ill last Christmas I don’t think we’d spent a night apart in over a decade bar some hospital visits and once she ended up in St Columba’s Hospice I spent every night with her there until she passed. I was with her when she took her last breath and she was still the beautiful girl I met all those years ago.

She had a pretty shitty life. As she would say “there’s always a fly in the ointment”. Whether that was an evil mother ruining her childhood, a teenage wedding to an utter bastard, caring for elderly relatives with dementia and COPD or after the hospital fucked up her knee and misdiagnosed a damaged ankle so that she was never pain free for the last six years of her life.

We made grand plans last year. I took my redundancy and we were going to move out of town and get a dog as we wound down into later life. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent 10 lots of chemotherapy and 30 lots of radiotherapy, some of which hospitalised her again, we still hoped.

Then the final kick in the teeth.  Just a couple of weeks before the follow up scans were due to see if the treatment was successful we found out the cancer had spread to the brain. And there was nothing they could do. Her last few weeks were horrible as the paranoia and confusion had her in tears and if euthanasia needed any more justification spend some time with a brain cancer patient in their last few weeks. Sometimes she would forget she was dying and then the reality would sink in. It was only a fortnight ago that she looked and me and said “I’m never going to have a puppy now, am I”. And we wept.

There were a couple of good weeks in the hospice and the staff and volunteers there managed to put a smile on her face. But after weeks of torture she fell asleep and passed away five days later.  If you feel like it you can give some money to the St Columba’s Hospice charity here.

This was always her favourite picture of the two of us. It was taken a couple of months before we started winching and she always said that she knew back then that I was the one for her. She was my Lindy, my dearest and I don’t know how to survive without her. But she knew how much I love her. Aw the way to Morrisons. And back.

mrandmrshaged12

24 years of doom

Little did Mrs H know, way back in 1992, that she was doomed to spend the next 24 years married to me. It says a lot for her sheer bloody mindedness that she’s still hanging in there, or it could be that she knows when she’s on to a good thing.

After all, how many husbands would take a day off work, and jump on a 26 bus to the Toby Carvery for an all you can eat six quid buffet AND offer to pony up the extra 30 bob for a King Size. That woman’s got it made.

I’ve even offered to take her back next year for our silver wedding and splash out on a pudding.

25gf61u

Once upon a time Part 2

Continuing the notion that I used to be a real person, here’s a picture taken at Northallerton on some kind of corporate beano.  I can’t remember what I was doing, or who many of the people were, but it must have cost a fortune to ship us all there.

I’m in the back with the impenetrable shades.  The bloke two to the left from me was called Chris, the girl on the right at the back was Nicola.  Front row, far left was Catherine, and in the middle of the front row was Sarah Bellamy.  She moved to Cyprus, became Sarah Karmiotou and, last I heard (2015), was very poorly. Fingers crossed.

pace

Once upon a time …

in a far and distant land,  the venerable Mr H was a proper person with a proper job and everything.  I know that children today find this hard to believe, but it’s true.  I was a high flyer with responsibilities and all sorts.  And here’s pictorial evidence that I once knew people who grew up to be fancy Dans.  Now I know it looks like I’m about to remove from the premises but they were actually almost friends of mine.

On the right is Tracy Keates (later Tracy Lerpiniere) and on the left is Campbell McCafferty.  Mr McCafferty went on to do top secret hush hush work for the Ministry of Defence, which was so secret and hush hush that he ended up in the Honours List, adding a CBE to his name.  Ms Lerpiniere ended up as Head of NATO and Europe Policy (MOD), which also sounds very important indeed.  I, however, abandoned such petty matters, instead concentrating on the nature vs. nurture debate, ending up as an emotionally stunted (thanks Dad),  mentally unstable (cheers Mum), unemployable jakey (both sides).  So we’re all winners.  Happy New Year.

 

Tracy Lerpiniere Campbell McCafferty