Earlier today, I heard some radio station playing the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and its opening lines “It was twenty years ago today…”
I used to half-heartedly keep a diary on my computer. On a whim, I looked up what happened twenty years ago today… I have changed the names of other people and their locations…
Saturday 22nd June 2002 – Edinburgh
Shirley is trying to give up heroin. Her father is trying to give up chocolate.
In the evening, Shirley and I stayed up until 03.00am talking. She told me God gave her help immediately on three occasions she asked for help. She has a water container from which she swigs regularly during the day. I had presumed it contained water; in fact it contains Blue Star cider.
When she lived in Manchester, addicted to heroin, she was mugged by a tall black man and and a small white girl she knew. Without warning, the man kicked her in the chest. She went down on the ground and both started kicking her. She had been mugged five times before so she used her hands and arms to protect a pocket with only £2 in it. They stole that £2 but left her handbag and the other pockets in her jacket untouched – that was where she really kept her money.
Then I went back another year in my diary…
Friday 22nd June 2001 – Cambridge/Borehamwood/Clacton-on-Sea
I had lunch with a friend in Cambridge. It was her 16th wedding anniversary and I think she was feeling a little down.
She told me her son (aged 13) is still being bullied at school. The other week, someone pushed him into a bush. Her daughter (aged 11) says she has decided she is going to marry a rich man, take over her mother’s house, have children early, then her mother can look after them while she goes out and has fun.
“Good luck finding a rich man,” my friend told her daughter.
“You managed,” she told my friend.
“I didn’t know he was going to be rich,” my friend replied. “I thought we were soul mates.”
After lunch, I drove back home to Borehamwood.
As soon as I got through the front door, my mobile rang – It was the matron at my father’s nursing home. My mother and aunt (my father’s sister) had walked in to see him and found him lying back with his mouth open, apparently not breathing (and, as I later found out, his false teeth dropped down from his upper gum) with a spoon in his hand and a bowl of jelly in front of him. My aunt, a former nurse, found he had no pulse.
The nursing home matron was up in the room within about a minute and found he had a strong pulse but, by this time, both my mother and aunt were in tears.
I drove out to Essex from Borehamwood in the early Friday evening rush hour – it took about 2 hours 45 mins instead of the normal 90 minutes – to find my father looking dramatically thinner, I thought: bonier than he had been when I saw him yesterday afternoon. I got there around 1830 by which time my mother and aunt were dry-eyed but still twitchily upset. I drove them back to their homes around 1900 – my mother broke down in my arms – and then I went back to the nursing home where my father was asleep. When I had left, I had told my father:
“I’ll be about half an hour.”
“You’ll be back – and the boatman?” he asked me.
When I got back and he was awake, I asked him if he felt hot.
“I really don’t know,” he replied.
My father’s wedding ring was found on the floor below his bed this morning. Because he had lost so much weight, it had slipped off his finger.