Marion and Brian
It’s a walking stick and er, and Brian bought it when we were camping, cos we were great campers. And um, and he took it with us when we went on holiday and it, I like it because I love, always loved wood; I think if I’d been a man I would have been a woodworker of some sort and, and I just like the feel of it. And I like to think that Brian held that, up there, and I can feel him when I, when I hold it and you know that’s how it is to me really. It’s so comfortable. If ever I have to use it as a walking stick, I’m gonna have to cut a bit off the bottom because it’s a bit tall for me. But er, but to me it’s, it’s Brian. And there are some badges on there, not many but there’s some from The Peak District and Matlock in Bath, and The National Tramway Museum in Crich, Brownsea Island, the places we went, The Peak District, (and er I mean cos he’s very patriotic) Great Britain at the top. But er, but yeah. So that’s, that’s Brian to me because it’s strong and supporting; that’s what he was. Because it spent lots of hours in Brian’s hands and whenever we walked together, we always walked hand-in-hand, so there’s a connection there.
And although Brian has never lived here, for some str. . . I don’t know how it is but there are occasions when I can smell him, you know? I mean in Avalanche Road, where we lived together, I could understand that but I can’t understand it here. But I, I can smell him. Just, just very very rarely but occasionally I think, cor yeah Brian’s here, that’s okay you know? And everything’s alright.
And erm . . . yeah I’ve chosen it because we had so many lovely camping holidays. Not always good weather but we learned to live through that and erm never got ground down, I’m pleased to say. Erm but, but they came, this came on, on every holiday, whether we camped, whether we caravanned or whether we had the posh holiday in the, in the cottage.
No there’s nothing I dislike about it at all. I just love the smoothness of it because that was worn with Brian. That was worn with Brain using it and I can feel him when erm, when you know, when he’s not here.
I’ve known Brian practically all my life. Erm he was a couple o’ years younger than me but we went to the same Sunday School, we went to the same school erm, and we were mates basically. And erm as we grew up he, he went into the army to do his national service and I married a relation of a local family. And erm, and had three children but I still stayed, we still stayed locally. Erm but erm, Brian came out of the er, out of the army when he, he did his national service because that was in the days of national service, and he did six years. And he, he really enjoyed it because he was doing things. He was in Kenya when there was the Mau Mau and then they moved to Malaya when they had troubles there. So he felt that he was doing something, you know, something for his country. But when they came back to this country and they were in barracks, erm he got a bit bored and so he came out and he joined the local Ministry of Defence Police at erm, at Southwell.
I was married and I produced three children, two girls and a boy. And when the boy was born, up ‘til then my marriage was perfect, I thought. But erm while I was in Portway, cos in those days you went into Portway and you went into the hospital for a fortnight when you had a child, and stayed there. And because I had blood pressure, troubles like that, I was always in there a bit longer. Erm he got a bit bored with domesticity and erm, and while I was in there he had an affair with my best friend. But I had him back and she went back to her husband, but he couldn’t, he still couldn’t stay. Erm he was working in the post office locally but he joined the Merchant Navy, which meant that he was doing things that were a bit more exciting than living locally. Which meant that he was away for seven weeks out of eight and erm, which also meant that I was looking after the home: bringing up the children, dealing with everything at home and things like that. So erm that was okay, if that was what he wanted I didn’t mind. But then I found out that he was also dallying with other women, while he was away and at sea. And when you’re an officer at sea, because he was a refrigeration engineer, erm you got a nice uniform and you, you have to socialise. But he used to take the socialising just that little bit further sometimes. And erm I had a birthday party for Julie, up at the erm, up the street in a restaurant, and we had a private investigator turn up looking for him because he’d been cited in a divorce. So no, no nothing to do with him, that wasn’t him. But er anyway, I, I had him back and erm, cos I thought it would be okay. But eventually he decided that perhaps South Africa would be a nice place to live because that was his run; Southampton to Durban and back. And erm, and so I think he thought that I would not go. That I would say, "No, no, no. I’m not leaving here" y’know. But I didn’t.
I thought well if it’s going to save our marriage, I’ll come. I realised after it must have been the biggest shock of his life because I found out that he’d already had a lady out there to go to. What a shock, when your wife and three children say they’re coming to South Africa with you, and they have all the injections and everything that they need. And erm so he said, well he would go and get a job and a home, and send for us. Well that was his get out really cos he didn’t. And after about eighteen months, two years, I got fed up and said either we come now or I’m not coming at all, which exactly played into his hands. And erm, and he wrote back and he thought we’d been apart too, too long. So that was okay. So we, fortunately just at that time a divorce by mutual consent had come in and so we were able to divorce by mutual consent without too much trouble. You didn’t have to lay blame on one another, I mean I was the injured party but I didn’t care. Let’s just get it over and done with. So erm that was what we did. And then I just, we arranged how much money he would send me and things like that and er, and that was all sorted. And I could stay here comfortably with the children and, and I had a home. And the one decent thing he did was make the house over to me. So I had to pay the mortgage, but at least it was mine. And so, so that was what we did. And erm, and so we, I was four or five years actually on my own with the children. Not on my own cos my Mum and Dad were close by, but erm. And I got on along with his Mum and Dad as well. The first thing I did when I realised we were going to split, was to go to them and say, "Look, it’s not your fault. The children are still yours. If you want to see them anytime, you either come to me or they come to you. It doesn’t matter."
I lived next door to, to Brian’s sister and er, and what I didn’t know was, they, they used to sit in there, her and her husband, used to sit in there and say, "We gotta get them two together you know. They’re just made for one another." I mean he was living at home with his Mum, I was living there with three kids and on my own. She said, "We gotta do something about it." And erm, and so they worked out that they would have a New Year’s party, get us all together. And it worked. We went in next door, Brian came home from work. Er Belinda was in her early teens then and, but in those days they didn’t have the, you didn’t have to be a certain age to babysit and she was babysitting just at the back here. And about half past eleven I put me coat on. And I said to, Brian said, "Where you goin’? Half past eleven at night? Where you goin’?" and I said "Oh I’m just goin’ up Click’s Hill to make sure that Belinda’s okay before the New Year comes in" "Well you’re not going up there on your own", he said, "I’ll walk up with you." And they all went like, "Yes!" Cheer! We’ve cracked it, we’ve sorted it.
Anyway to, just to take it on a bit, in that January his mother was lending me, or lending Julie a Kimono because she was doing, they were doing The Mikado at school. So she gave it to Brian to bring round. And so he brought it round and he stayed for a cup of coffee, and then he said, "Do you fancy opera for all?" And I said, "Well yeah, I’ve actually seen the posters. Cos it’s on at the pavilion isn’t it?" And he said, "Yeah" He said, "My mate can’t go." So he said, "Rather than, you know I don’t wanna waste the ticket, so would you like to come?" So I said, "Ooh yes, I’d like that" "Oh right.", he said, "It’s on so and so, I’ll come round and pick you up." He didn’t drive at the time, so we had to go by bus. And I didn’t give it another thought. He went home and said to his mother, "Will you get my suit cleaned for me?" and she said to Joy, "Our Brian’s got a girl. I know our Brian’s got a girl, he’s asked me to clean his suit. He never wears anything but his uniform or his fishing clothes." (cos he was, he used to fish off the beach) "Oh god I wonder who it is, oh I hope it’s somebody nice." And I didn’t think to tell Joy that we were going and I just didn’t give it a thought, until about a day before we were going and I said something about going to the pavilion with Brian on, on tomorrow. And she went, "Oh thank goodness for that. Our mother’s goin’ mad out there thinkin’ who, who it is he wanted his suit cleaned for!" She said, "When she knows it’s you, she’ll be that pleased!" And, and this was just our first date!
Anyway we went to the theatre and we got married and it all started turning out quite well.
We started singing together because we had the time to do it. And er I mean we, we were church goers and you know, and we had young people in the church and er they were let down for the Sunday school anniversary by a young youth group that were coming. And they, they said to Brian, "Well you play the guitar, could you get our kids together and do something?" and he said, "Yeah." They, so they came to us and we worked out a programme and that basically was how it all started. And erm, and we used to take ten kids round to different churches and do concerts with them. Brian wrote concerts and plays and things that we would do in the church, and things like that. And erm, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. And eventually we would do musical sermons as well. Erm, if they were short of a preacher, you know they would say, "Do you think you and Brian could do something?" And we’d sort of work out a theme and work the music in with the, with the, I’ve got them upstairs.
And they are now, you know perhaps not quite so mature as they would be now but the people enjoyed, the customer, you know the congregation thought it was wonderful! Cos it was so different to the normal five hymn and, and er, and reading sermon sandwich that they normally got. It was different, so they, they quite enjoyed that.
We had a fulfilled and a happy marriage. And Brian’s happiest day, I think, was when he walked Belinda down the aisle as the father of the bride. And, and she said, "You’re a real Dad to me." she said. And that made his day. And erm, and that, that was lovely as well.
But anyway we er . . . Brian’s condition, eventually he, I mean he’d been well, we all, both were well. And it, quite suddenly he had this condition, that being a man he ignored. Erm, he thought at first it was haemorrhoids or something like that. And erm, and then I realised what was going on and made, I made the appointment for the GP. Yeah, I said, "This has gone on, whatever it is, this has gone on long enough and you’re goin’ to the doctors. Now." So he did go to the GP, who examined him and made an immediate appointment with the consultant. And we were very lucky. Brian had radiotherapy first and erm he insisted on driving hims. . . cos he had to go to Poole, and he insisted on driving himself to Poole every week day, for about six weeks, for this, his treatment. And erm, and he thought that would be it. But when it was over, they decided that they would do chemotherapy as well. Er so he, he did that and erm he, he coped with it really well actually and erm, but it still didn’t do the trick. When it was finished they decided that they would have to do a colostomy. So he would be left with that but "Okay, if that’s gonna make me live", he said, "let’s do it". So, so he, we went on, he went into hospital and he, and he had that. And once that was over and done with, and he, he went back to work and he went back to, to doing everything.
We were back singing and we were back at church, we were back camping; everything went on. And erm every six months he would have to go back and, and have a check up. And yeah, everything was fine. Everything went on beautifully. Just to, you know, just had to make sure that everything was okay.
But fairly soon after that erm, Brian realised that things weren’t quite so good with his health, again. So he went back to the doctors who sent him back to the consultant and it was confirmed that the cancer was back, after five years of him being declared free, it was back. And we, we found out since then that shock can cause that. If it’s in the system, sometimes a shock will, will cause it to return because there are the cells there still, eventually. But anyway, it had spread to the liver and they, they suggested that further chemotherapy wouldn’t help, it would just make him weaker. And so we, we just didn’t ask anymore questions; we didn’t want to know how long Brian had. That wasn’t anything that bothered us. We just wanted to keep him as well as we possibly could, for as long as we possibly could. So we just, we just carried on as normal. And later on in the New Year, I er, I went to the doctor and I said, "Look, I think we could do with a holiday. When would you suggest going away?" and all he said was, "As soon as possible." So I thought right, we haven’t got that much longer then. So er, so I, I went home and I said, "How do you fancy a couple of weeks in, in the Cotswolds or somewhere like that? I thought that’s not too far to go and erm, and they’ve got nice hotels there and they’re places we could go." and erm, so he said, "Yeah that’s a brilliant idea" but unfortunately he couldn’t drive anymore.
He just slowly got weaker. And erm friends brought an armchair to church, because we had wooden pews in the church in those days, and they brought an armchair to church for him to sit in because it was, it was much more comfortable. And this, you know, made his life in church a lot better. But he, he accepted his approaching death philosophically. I mean he was a Christian and he believed in the Lord and he believed in an after life, and that erm, and that there wasn’t that to worry about. He wasn’t worried about that. Like he was more worried about leaving us, you know me and the kids. But our minister Chris was, same man that we’ve got now, erm was going on a three month sabbatical, which they have to do every five years. And erm, and this was in June and Brian said to him one day at Church, "Will you do me a favour?" And he said, "Brian I’ll do anything for you if I possibly can." He said, "If I pop my clogs, while you’re on sabbatical, would you come back and. . ." (and I mean he would be around but not working) "Would you come back and do my service for me? Cos. . .", he said, "nobody knows me like you. I wouldn’t want some stranger coming in here and tryna talk about me, and not knowing who he was talking about." And he said, "Brian if it’s humanly possible, I will do that for you."
Brian died on the 26th of July. And erm, and so I did phone Chris and tell him, and he did his service. And Brian didn’t want any black at his service at all. I wore a red suit, all the boys wore bright ties, the girls wore bright dresses, the congregation wore bright dresses and suits, bright ties. I lent the undertaker’s men bright ties because they only had black ones. And erm I said, "You can’t, no sorry, you can’t wear black ties." So I, Brian hated ties, so he always got the brightest there was anyway. So I had a wardrobe full of bright ties. So they all wore bright ties and we, we had bright music. Erm we came out of church singing (which is a family tradition) When the Roll is Called Up Yonder I’ll be there - "When the roll is called up yonder, when the roll is called up yonder. When the roll is called up yonder, when the role is called up yonder I’ll be there." And we, we’ve sung that for years at family funerals as we leave the church. And erm, but Chris suggested that we stayed in for the first hymn and chorus, so that the whole congregation, the church was full to standing, and erm the whole congregation could join in. And so we sang the first verse and chorus, and then they carried Brian out, while everybody sang the second chorus. Which was absolutely brilliant. I mean the singing, with all the folkies there as well, was absolutely wonderful.
Brian was home when he died. Erm they’d taken him into hospital, erm I realised after that it was for my sake more than Brian’s because I was nursing him at home. And we had carers coming in two or three times a day to either give him his medication, or to wash him and make him comfortable, and this sort of thing. And erm, but he did have a fortnight in hospital er but as I’ve said, that was respite for me, I realised after, not for Brian. And so consequently he died at home. And a friend of mine had been out to visit, and we’d sat and had a little chat. And then I said to Brian, "Are you okay if I drove Maureen home?" And he said, "Yeah I’m fine, you do it." So I drove her home, and I came back and I sat with him for a bit. Gave him a drink and erm, and I said, "Look I’m gonna cut the grass but I’ll pop in." and I give him a bell that he could sh. . . ring if he needed it. It was electric one, you know a push button one, and I would take the bell bit with me. And so I took that out into the garden, set up the mower, and I did about two strips and I thought, no I’ll go back in. And when I went in, he’d gone. And that, that was the worst. That was the worst thing, I think, was not, was not being there. But it’s, it’s something that I always regret but can’t do anything about it, you know? So I said to my family, "Don’t ever do that. When my time comes, if you’re there that’s fortunate. If you’re not, that’s a shame but don’t ever feel sorry about it, because it just can’t be helped."You know, nobody knows the minute that you’re going and it could be at any time. You’ve just got to live with it and this is what I tried to do with this, but I don’t always work very well. But you know, on the other hand, I wasn’t far away. But I was just not there to, to hold his hand like I woulda done.
But when the funeral service was, was over and everybody goes home . . . sorry . . . is the time that you realise what you’ve lost. And you got things to do, you’ve got, you’ve to fill a large space. And you just can’t, I’m not a moper, I’m not. And, and er there was so much to do to start off with: you’ve got the paper work, you’ve got the insurances, you’ve got the pensions to sort out, the bills still go on, there’s your shopping but you’re shopping for one, which makes it a bit more difficult. I’d had, what really upset me was people that walked away from me in the street. And, and I’ve made, I made a pact then that if ever I met anyone who had recently lost someone, I would stop and chat. Because there’s nothing worse than walking up a street and you see someone walking towards you that you know, and you’re getting your face ready to smile, and they cross the road. And you know why they’ve crossed the road. They don’t know what to say! But it doesn’t matter what they say, so long as they say something. You know, "Hello Marion, how are you?" That’s all you want! But, but to do that, it’s really hurtful. And I finally declared that I would never do that to anybody if I, you know, if I realised it.
We’d always done everything together. So I had to fill in the time after he’d gone. And so I, a friend took me to a quiz night, which she went to every Monday. And erm, and so I’m not that good at it but it was company, and I still go now. And erm, I couldn’t go to a folk club; it was months before I could go to a folk club and even longer before I could sing, because I’d always sung with him beside me. You know and quite often Julie would join us because she was a folky as well.
But I joined the Portland singers because I had to sing. And erm, which was definitely, definitely not Brian’s scene. He was a free singer. Erm it was really the only thing we, we argued about, if you can call it arguing; I read music, he didn’t. He played everything by ear. He could change gear, key just like that, which I can’t, but he could. And if we were singing from something that was written down, I’d say, "No, no, that’s not what it says in the book Brian." He said, "Bugger the book, this is how we’re gonna sing it. Okay?" And we sang it his way, always. Because his was quite often the better way. Still stayed with the church, of course, but I just took on more offices: I’m a worship leader, I’m a church steward, I’m a circuit steward. We do coffee mornings, we do two lunches a month, we help with the cleaning. And latterly, for the last two years or more, I’ve played the piano on the Sunday morning service as well. Poorly; I will admit being trained at the Les Dawson School of Music. I don’t know if you remember Les Dawson? You do, that’s good; you know what I’m talking about. And er I’ve got a friend who plays the recorder as well. So the void that was left by Brian is almost filled and erm, but we still talk about him all the time.
But life goes on, it goes on whether you’re happy or whether you’re miserable. And erm you’ve just got to fill that, that up. You can’t fill it with misery and tears, and doing nothing but mope. But you can remember the good times, and you can go forward and fill, fill the time with positive thoughts and actions. And I know that’s how Brian would like me to be. And that’s how we all try to do.
If I could say one thing erm to him, it would be thank you. See I told you it would make me cry. Thank you for taking me and the children because we were always yours, regardless. What do I think of Brian, first thing? And it’s music, it’s always music because we made music together all the time.
I do believe in God. And I do believe that one day, not too soon I hope, that we will be together again. With all the others that we love, cos er my Mum and Dad’s there, his Mum and Dad’s there. Tim’s there, far too early. But you do wonder sometimes why the Lord takes people at a time, at the time. You know, why that particular time? But erm you know, when I look at other people’s marriages sometimes and I think, we had a far better marriage than you. You know why, why did we have to split up?
And I think, don’t think about it Marion. Accept it and get on with it because it’s how you’ve got to be.