Archive for the ‘bereavement’ Category

April

September 13, 2017

 

I’d been trying to remember a quote I heard for someone dearly departed, which went along the lines of, “try not to be sad that they’re gone, but be happy that they were here”.  No words can ever really make you feel better, or cover how those closest must be hurting, but you know everything carries on, the unstoppable juggernaut of life relentlessly marches on. On Friday 8th September, Ma’s sister, April Weller, succumbed to her illnesses while in hospital, leaving Ma, (Lavender), as the last of the Courtney Bennett siblings. April had an accident while on holiday in the U.S a few years back, which needed surgery, with a wire cage being used to hold her leg together as part of the solution. Later down the line this wire cage caused complications, infections were becoming a repeated problem, eventually resulting in the leg having to be amputated. Despite all of this, April was ever upbeat and positive in her outlook, and her Catholic faith remained rock solid. She was determined that she would make this year’s pilgrimage to Lourdes, regardless of having lost her leg, and the Lourdes pilgrimage people made sure it happened.

April and Uncle Leslie were taken by ‘Jumbulance’ to Lourdes, Ma went with the medics charter coach and plane. Ma and April had been going on the Lourdes pilgrimage for some years, but this year it was looking as if it may not be able to happen owing to April’s ill health, her strength of faith, sheer determination, and the fantastic assistance of the Arundel/Brighton Lourdes Pilgrimage team, made sure it did happen.

Ma n April at Lourdes 2011

April and Lavender at Lourdes 2015

Only two weeks ago I saw a postcard on Facebook, and instantly recognised a very young April Courtney Bennett in a garden at St Martha’s Convent, Rottingdean. I printed it out, and when myself and Ma went to visit her next, took the photo along. April told us it was her first day at the convent school, around 1935, she would have been 5 years old, and the photo was staged for a postcard. She didn’t have a uniform yet, so they kitted her out in a borrowed one for the photo shoot. She also recognised some of the others in the picture, one of whom she recalled was Angela. Ma, (Lavender Courtney Bennett), joined the school sometime around 1938, with the threat of war looming, and it was from here that they both picked up their Catholic faith, which they have carried with them ever since.

April at St Martha’s convent, Rottingdean. (“2nd left) Circa 1935

 

The C.B’s:-Ma, April, David, Peter, and Jim at St Martha’s circa 1938

April and Ma were always very close, and I imagine their time at St Martha’s had a lot to do with that. They were at Southlands Hospital in Shoreham together in the 1950’s, training as nurses. In later years when they had both married, one of my earliest memories is of going by train to Hove with Ma, travelling in the guards carriage with the pram, then once at April’s, one of them would be taken for her driving lesson, while the other looked after all the children, and vice versa. I can still picture a sand pit in the basement, a faint memory of black and white tiled steps, and the concertina gates of the lift at Hove station. They both passed first time, and their driving instructor, Mr Doo, would go on to teach us all to drive many years later.

Further on, after a terrible case of seasickness while sailing to France in the teeth of a gale, I had to be farmed out to April and Leslie’s place in Hove Park Road whenever the parents went on boat trips across the channel. It seemed a very peaceful place compared to our noisy home, talking to Trevessa years later, she told me that April very rarely raised her voice, and taught them all not to raise their voices either. That has always been the thing about April, she radiates a kind of peace and tranquillity, and you can see that in her children, doubtless they have passed that on to their children too, all of whom April was so incredibly proud, and rightly so.

Leslie, middle of back row, April front left, Ma front right, Uncle Peter back right

As well as having a strong religious faith, April and Ma inherited their mother’s relentless industry with needle craft, knitting or sewing. Neither family has been short of jumpers, hats, or scarfs, and to that end, they began getting involved with friends in what we later laughingly called their, ‘Stitching and Bitching’ Tuesday’s, gathering at each others places alternately, to chat and make things. They all enjoyed a well told joke, so if I had come across something which made me laugh, often rude, I’d print it out and give it to Ma to take along. You knew it was a winner if you heard April laugh, not because that was unusual, it wasn’t, but she had a glorious laugh, her head would rock back, a kind of shriek would be the precursor to the following bellow of laughter, and it was totally infectious. The joke would never be read out loud, but passed around, so that one by one, the Sewing Sisters would wait their turn, and those that had read it already, would wait with interest to hear the ’pay off’. These sessions kept going until recently, but sadly with April’s illness, and other factors, came more or less to an end a while back.

While April was in the Sussex County hospital, Leslie was making the trip in everyday to visit, parking at Bristol Gate, and climbing the steep hill each time. Whether this had an effect or not, Leslie ended up in hospital himself, having suffered a stroke. On Friday, 8th September, came the worst of all news, April had passed away, with family around her. Ma had gone to visit, but got there too late. I don’t think we realised just how bad April must have been, but I’ll struggle with the fact I didn’t insist on driving her in. Ma had been visiting April by bus for so long, other than the couple of times when I drove her. I packed her off with some fresh pineapple chunks, as April had said she’d rather have that, than the tinned stuff they served up.  When I picked Ma up from the footbridge, she told me she had been too late. We drove back quietly, I know how close they have always been, and how devastated she must be, as will Leslie and the family. She will be missed, and greatly, but she will be remembered well. For now it’s the difficult process of becoming used to that fact, while trying to tap in to some of April’s quiet, determined, positivity.

 

May you rest in peace Auntie April.

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Road Trip for Chud

February 19, 2017

 

19-02-2017

Chuds order of service

Chuds order of service

For the best of reasons, for the worst of reasons, old friends gathered to celebrate the life of an old friend, Richard Miles Wilson, or ‘Chud’ as he was  known to a certain crowd that long since grew up and became sensible. To revert to the names we used when we called Crown road home, P Dog, Billy Boy, Roly, Monetta, and the Wolf, aka Ramdog, drove up to Wales together, among many others that had made the trip from far and wide to pay their respects. P Dog being the only one not to have lived at number 18 Crown road, but spent as much time there as any that had. Chud had the box room during his tenure at that happy bungalow, around 1996/7, and at the time I was a tad restless about my lot in life, and took a psychometric assessment to see where it might lead. When I got the results, Chud suggested a media course he’d been reading about, at Northbrook College, Goring. I went along for an interview, and got on the course for the 1997-98 terms.  Britpop was all the rage, with Blur, Oasis, Pulp, The Verve, Ocean Colour Scene knocking out classics, the film Trainspotting, and it’s Welsh version, Twin Town came out. Music, films, and computer games played a major part in our lives, studying the subject seemed to validate the importance of watching as many movies as possible. The computer games and cards brought out the competitive child in all of us, PGA Golf, Wrestling, or Worms, on the Sega Mega Drive, and Sega Rally Championship, Sega Knights with its clown ball, on the Sega Saturn, all played in a highly animated fashion, to the great amusement of the rest of us waiting our turn.

The card games are probably what defined Crown Road above all else though, and Shithead for Tea was ‘The’ game. A game of deviousness, deception, cunning, and from certain quarters, cheating, you didn’t want to lose at Shithead for Tea, because there were generally as many as 13 players, and that’s a lot of tea to make. Not every game was for tea, but when the call went up, there would be chewing of nails, and furtive glances around between the established cheats, namely, Roly and Guzzi, but others were not averse to the occasional sliding of an unwanted card down the side of one of the sofa’s. The game of Shithead is not designed for finding a winner, it’s all about the loser, and trying not to be the last one standing, and Chud, like me, loved the fact that you could actively work towards stitching someone up, even delaying your own exit so you can have fun sealing someone else’s fate, especially when it’s for tea. The Horse Racing card game was the liveliest, as the banker would give commentary on the progress of the Aces as they race to the top depending on whether their suit had been drawn from the pack. All the penny jars came out for Horse racing, with bets limited to 20p, and occasionally raised up to a pound, should the banker permit. Imagine looking down on a round rug, with 3 sofa’s, and two armchairs, ashtrays all over the place, the stairs acting as extra seating for a big attendance, and everyone cheering on their ace, or holding heads in hands as their ‘horse’ struggles to get off the mark. These were the things that amused us all at 18 Crown Road.

Of the many things that Chud introduced us to, was the word ‘cutch’, or ‘cwtch’ as it’s spelt in Welsh apparently. We all liked a good hug, especially on one of our many excursions into Brighton, to the Escape Club, so when Chud informed us this hug would be called a cutch in Wales, it stuck, along with silly Welsh accents, sayings, and whatever else childish word play we could think of. A cutch wasn’t just a hug though, it would be a form of bear hug, a deep feeling, hold on tight, let that loving out, full on way to let the recipient know that they’re better than all right.

I have a tape recording somewhere, of Chud, Billy, Zac, and Roly, after a pub session at the Cricks one weekend. As was their wont, they would often come through the door play fighting, normally Roly and Zac, but now and again anyone else in the immediate vicinity could become involved. As they bundled their way through in to the lounge, smashing in to the phone table under the stairs, I happened to have my camera at the ready, taking snaps of these precocious youths, unbeknown to all of us at the time, the voice recorder had been activated, so I have this priceless moment recorded for posterity. All I need to do now is find a way to get it digitised, and upload it. I remember one line from Billy, like, ‘Zac’s got his finger up my nose’, you couldn’t help but laugh at them.

Crown Road post pub bundle

Crown Road post pub bundle

 

As we drove up to Swansea, story after story being recalled, a good deal of them unrepeatable here, the journey seemed to zip by. On arrival at the Travelodge, we began seeing old familiar faces from that bygone era, and knew that the memory of Chud had weaved its magic, but for the worst possible reason. This day was to be a celebration though, so no sour faces, just walk around, share your stories, and listen to the others. When Chud’s brother, Si, asked me if I would be a pall bearer, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so honoured, and of course I took up the offer without hesitation, if not a little concerned as to whether they would have someone else as short as me to line up with. P Dog had told me of his uncle’s funeral, where he had been a pall bearer, but was a foot taller than all the others, so he had to bend himself in to shape for the job, top hat and all. Needless to say, it went fine.

Next to his picture on the front of the Order of service was:- Richard Miles Wilson: 6th June 1974 – 21st January 2017. Star sign: Taurus, with Mars ascending, although he believed astrology to be utter nonsense.

The service was a masterpiece by Chud’s family, beginning with his 13 year old daughter, Sophia, reading, ‘He Is Gone’, some lines of which were,

‘You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he lived.

You can remember him and only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.’

His brother in law, Matt, read the most wonderful eulogy, which still has me smiling at the massage episode in the taxi. I’ve never met Matt before, but as he spoke, with every word we could understand he knew Chud so very well, and ‘got’ him, summed up so perfectly the loving nature he carried with him. Si and Chud’s 90 year old Grandad addressed us all, to thank everyone for coming, and what a testament it was to Richard, that so many, from so far, wanted to come to pay their respects. When it came to Si’s turn to give us his own tribute, by way of an amusing anecdote, we were hit with the harsh reality of the crematorium business, they were telling him to wrap it up and move along. But Si took this in his stride, determined not to let anything deter us from keeping it a happy affair to celebrate his brothers life, he did so amazingly well on what was probably the hardest day of his life. I hope to get the story he couldn’t tell from him at some point, and share it here. As the coffin disappeared to the tunes of Surfin’ Bird by the Trashmen, smiles broke out, which I know would have made the Chud of old grin like a Cheshire cat, he never let go of the irrepressible child within himself, and that was something that endeared him to all who knew him.

Later that day, having partaken of a beverage or two too many, I nodded off at the wake at the Buck Inn, Pontlliw, and as a nod to times past, the boys naturally took advantage of the situation. I should consider myself lucky to have kept my eyebrows, but they decorated me with whatever came to hand, the pictures had been circulated around Facebook far and wide by the time I got back to Shoreham. Next week we will be celebrating Chud’s life again, at the Cricketers pub, Southwick, where we met him, Si, Gill and Kev all those years ago, and hopefully raising a few pounds towards the children of Chud and Rachel.

no-respect

The physical presence is no longer with us, but our memories of him will live on, so Richard Miles Wilson, cysga’n dawel cariad bach.

Sleep peacefully dear friend.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

January 24, 2017
Richard Miles Wilson, aka Richie, aka, Chud. Lovely guy.

Richard Miles Wilson, aka Richie, aka, Chud. Lovely guy.

24-01-2017

 

To be brutally honest, I’d like to drop kick 2017 in to the dustbin already. I’d made an effort in the run up to Christmas to banish my previous antipathy towards the festive bandwagon, and give us a cheery kick start to the new year coming with a happy, Christmassy house. Well that didn’t turn out too well did it. Admittedly, Ma is recovering well in hospital, and Squire is making slow, but decent progress from the virus that hit him, requiring anti-biotics to stave off another bout of pneumonia.

 

All these things however, pale in to insignificance when you hear an old friend has been driven to despair enough to take his own life. Richard Miles Wilson, Richie, or Chud, to a lot of us, was one of the nicest people you could have the privilege of knowing, better still to call a friend. We lost contact a while back I’m desperately sorry to say, and like many others I’m sure, I wish so hard I could have been there to wrap an arm around him and tell him things would get better over time. But life isn’t like that, and in this case, there is no second chance, so now we’re left with just the memories to try and find some solace, and a belief that we were lucky to have known him.

I first met Richie when his mum and dad, Gill and Kev, ran the Cricketers pub in Southwick, and we hit it off pretty much straight away, the Welsh family from Gorseinon, Swansea, or ‘Go Sign On’, as they laughingly referred to it. My place was the smokers version of a pub, the Shithead card school capital of Shoreham and Southwick, for a small group of us. Richie and his brother Si, were soon a major part of our social circle, and for a few wonderful carefree years we all knocked about together. They were both good looking boys that turned the girls heads, great fun to be around, and with their pub upbringing, more than up for a party, always ready to put in the effort to make things go with a bang. Thankfully I have a myriad of memories which put a smile on my face of both Richie, and Si, and everyone that knew Chud, will have their own, but that will also make it that much harder to take when they realise those memories can never be added to.

Richie was a sensitive soul, he cared, I think he even went to an orangutan sanctuary to help over in Borneo if my memory serves me right. But he cared about others, had a great sense of humour, always up for a laugh, even at his own expense, and was one of life’s lovable softies. He met and married Rachel, and they had three children, moved away, came back here, and moved away back to Wales again, and as so often happens, you find yourselves having less and less contact for whatever reason. Facebook allows you to see what they’re up to, drop them a line on birthdays and Christmas, comment on pictures uploaded, but not the same as meeting up and saying, ‘hi, how are you?’. I need to think about this fact.

He and Rachel had split up two years back apparently, and his dad Kev died last year. Chud and Si had a close bond with Kev and Gill, so Kev’s death will have hit them hard, it’s not something you can prepare yourself for. All four of them had tremendous character about them, but if one hurt, they all hurt. I don’t want to even think about the pain Gill, and Si must be in right now, but I do know the people they are, and that there will be people around them that they trust and love, who will be trying to help them through this bloody awful time. Rachel and the children must also deal with the dreadful aftermath, hopefully with loving friends and family to cope, and time, the last great healer.

 

Finally, I hate the fact I’m writing this all in the past tense, that we’re never again going to be blessed by that lovely face, amusing company, silly voices, and everything that went in to being Richard Miles Wilson, a beautiful human being, gone far, far too soon. Shine on you, you crazy diamond Chud, although, given one of his favourite bands was Green Day, maybe ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ would be a more appropriate. Thank you for being my friend, and please forgive me for losing contact.

Crown road days. Left to right, Self, Chud, Taylor, Billy Boy, Hannah Cabana

Crown road days.
Left to right, Self, Chud, Taylor, Billy Boy, Hannah Cabana.