Words for Friends #14

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These living epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

#14  Jayne

This July I took a long overdue holiday with my wife Gill, in my old haunt of Chichester, West Sussex.

Whenever returning home – as I still call Sussex – I always made a point of catching up with one of my oldest friends.

Jayne and I met as teenagers while nursing together way back in 1978.

But any hope I may have had of a romantic attachment disappeared quickly when on our second date, and after a couple of beers and an attempted snog, she told me she was gay and lived happily with her partner Julie.

She was the first openly lesbian woman I had ever met – in a time when personal sexuality was more closely guarded.

I was gobsmacked and in typical 1970s’ misogyny I said something like: “How can you be gay, you are too attractive?”

Horrid words, which ought to have choked me, there and then.

But, there was something deeper between us and instead of romance, we became lifelong friends.

Over the next 30 years on my each visit to Sussex, we would meet for a beer and swap stories about the directions our lives had travelled and how much weight we had both gained!

While my life and career took my all over the UK, Jayne remained my constant point of return.

This summer I had not seen Jayne for over 10 years, so this holiday visit was going to be an extra special catch-up.

But, before I set off for the drive down south, I cried myself empty, when I discovered that Jayne had died some 30 months earlier, aged just 56.

Her partner Julie was with her to the end.

Time, life and death waits for no one.

But my friendship and memories of Jayne will always remain.

 

Words for Friends #13

This is part of a new series of blogs entitled Words for Friends, in which I will try to acknowledge some people in my life for whom words of thanks are not nearly enough.

These living epitaphs to my true and lovely friends are published in a random order as fancy takes me.

#13 Ann

Ann is the type of friend who comes into your life just once.

We first met 30 years ago while I was in hospital undergoing radiotherapy, following surgery for a malignant cancer to my right shoulder.

It was in so many ways “true love”… for while my first wife visited me just twice in my 10 weeks (my cancer ensured our marriage, which was already on the rocks, was over) in Velindre Hospital, Cardiff; Ann was with me every day. She was my saving grace, and a real-life Angel.

As a nurse she tended my mundane daily needs and dressed the slowly healing flap and skin grafts, which the surgeons had used to repair my shoulder and back. She also treated the suppurating skin on my neck and shoulder, caused by the radiation burns, ensured I took painkillers and sleeping tablets, and listened quietly to my fears and growing angst about my uncertain future.

We maintained close contact after I left Velindre, and she visited me regularly, when I was readmitted to another Cardiff hospital in April 1988, after the cancer spread to my right lung.

At this time the oncologists gave me a 1 in 10 chance of surviving five years. Yet Ann stayed close by, checking on my welfare by letter and phone almost every week. Her love was immense.

When my marriage finally ended, Ann and I enjoyed an all-too-short romantic relationship. She regularly told me that my horrendously scarred body was “beautiful” and urged me to “keep living”.

But, when I moved to Scotland in the winter of 1990, the geographical distance between us (this was before the days of email and mobile phones) meant we lost touch.

Seemingly forever.

Then suddenly, 26 years later, and thanks to the blue and white monster called Facebook; we found each other again.

We now maintain touch and banter by email, as if time had stood still.

Life and relationships for both of us have moved on.

But, Ann is, and remains, one of my most important and lovely friends and I genuinely do, owe my life to her!