Posts Tagged ‘bereavement’

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.

Freddie

October 20, 2013
Freddie, our beloved, and hugely missed pup

Freddie, our beloved, and hugely missed pup


20-10-2013

A little over three weeks ago, I went down to get my hair cut by Callum at Beachcombers, ready for my upcoming trip to Myanmar. It was a spur of the moment decision, but I just thought it might be nice to have my hair cropped for the journey ahead. While I was sat down, a rather friendly little hound called Freddie introduced himself to me, he was a Bichon Frise, with soft curly white fur, and big brown eyes. As I’m stroking and chatting to this lovely pooch, Helen informs me that he’s looking for a new home, because his owners have two other dogs, which bully him. I said we might be interested, but I would have to ask Ma and Pa, and see what they thought. Later back at home, I told them about this lovely dog that needs a home, and it took them very little time to say yes, they would be happy to take Freddie on. My only reservation was that I was about to go away for two and a half weeks, so wouldn’t be there to help in the early stages. What I didn’t know then either, was that Freddie had been nervously chewing at his tail and legs, possibly because of the other two dogs mistreating him, who knows, but he had to wear a collar to stop him getting at these sores, and the vet prescribed some pills to try and treat the problem.
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As it turned out, Ma and Pa coped perfectly well, despite a couple of incidents, notably the first time they brought him home, he legged it out of the car and up the road, so Squire hopped back in and drove around after Freddie, catching him at the bottom of the road. They got him back again, and he did the same thing, and so off went Squire again, but this time Freddie had gone full circle, and when Squire returned, there was the little fella sitting on the back door step, wagging his tail. From that point they didn’t let him off his lead while walking him, and made sure he was harnessed up before the door was open.
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The next issue was his barking, he didn’t like being left downstairs when Ma n Pa went to bed, so let everyone know of his displeasure by barking all night long for the first two nights. Sarah next door mentioned to Ma that they hadn’t slept for those two nights because of it, so Squire said “that’s it, we’ll have to have him upstairs with us”, and that day they went out and bought a new bed for Freddie, which fitted perfectly under the eaves alcove next to their bed, no more barking after that, well almost.
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During the time I was away, Freddie had transformed our house, the joy obvious in Ma and Pa’s faces when I got back, now it was my job to win his heart and acceptance, one of the easiest, and most pleasant tasks of my life, whatever you gave in attention and love to Freddie, he gave you back with interest. He had real character too, often dictating where, or even, if, he was going to walk. My first effort at taking him out he promptly sat down and refused to budge, so I picked the little fella up and carried him outside to the corner of Havenside, put him down and went to walk, again he just parked his rear legs and looked up at me with defiance, I couldn’t help but laugh, so again picked him up, and walked towards the beach. On the way I saw my mate, Barnes, he was smiling already as he saw me coming, dog in arms, “it’s not meant to work this way” I told him, and Barnes proceeded to tell me of his mums dog, and how it gets used to the route she takes when walking, so won’t go a different way with someone else. He goes on to tell me he’d seen Ma walking Freddie in the opposite direction, and maybe that was the problem, but from what I’ve learned from Freddie, it’s just his way of letting me know who’s really in charge in this game.
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I ended up carrying the wee mutt all the way to the beach, where I put him down, and other than sniffing a clump of grass for a while, he refused to budge, until I motioned towards home, and he led me off at a healthy pace, trotting me all the way back home. Ma n Pa laughed as I walked back in defeated, and Ma then put his harness back on and took him out, without a murmur from Freddie, I had to laugh, thinking ‘this boy has spirit’. Ma has been walking and feeding Freddie everyday, and had the reward of him sitting at her feet wherever she’d be in the house, and following her around, Squire had been taking him out too, and as Freddie had already sussed, was an easy touch for a treat, as was I. The next day Freddie allowed me to take him out, but still dictated where we were going, walking me down towards the Beach Green park, having a dump on the verge, which I scooped up in the poo bag, then he turns back. I thought, ‘ok, we’ll see where this leads’, and I let him take me along, but he missed the Havenside turn, and I managed to steer him to the Adur Rec, or he may have planned it. Either way, once on the Rec, he spotted another dog, a Jack Russell, and bounced over to it, wanting to play,  this other dog wasn’t up for it, but Freddie was not to be deterred, until his attentions were met with a short snap, and they drifted away while I chatted with the owner and her family, they all liked Freddie, and he revelled in their attention. As we came to split up, Freddie was just sitting down waiting for me, I felt like I’d passed a test, gaining his acceptance, feeling a warm glow inside as we walked home.
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Simon had also been given the treatment by Freddie, first time bringing him back because the little so and so wouldn’t be taken, but a few days later and he’s given the all clear, and takes him up to the Rec, where Freddie met another Bichon, and the two of them frolicked together while Simon rattled off a load of priceless shots on his camera. In the house we’ve become used to this warm affectionate animal, our new and lovely little friend that just wants to be near you, at your feet, on your lap, or following you around and hopping up to let you know a treat wouldn’t go amiss, talking to you in little gruff, muffled barks, and a whole range of different noises. He had won us over so completely in such a short space of time it was hard to believe, but in a most wonderful way. Squire and Ma just took him to the vets yesterday to get him chipped, checked up for his biting issues, and fully registered as our family member. Squire was cock a hoop, “he’s properly ours now, part of our family”.
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The day drifted along, I was thinking of when to walk Freddie, where he might let me take him, I’d had to drive him down to Beach Green the day before as he’d decided he was in an ‘I’m not moving’ mood, but he’d been fine once down there, even meeting another Jack Russell and making friends, it was a mate of mines dog, so we joked we’d be dog walking buds in future then, I was looking forward to that. Ma had made many friends already through taking Freddie out, and the walking seems to have been doing her some good too.  When Simon came around, I asked him if he was hoping to walk Freddie, it was about 3.30, he was indeed, and happily got Freddie ready, only for the wilful little fella to do his sit down trick. Undeterred, Simon picked him up and carried him down the driveway, and off towards the Adur Rec.
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This is the bit where you run back through your mind in a million different ways, if only this had happened, if only I’d done this instead of that. I was moving Simon’s car, so I could get Ma’s car out, gently but slowly manouevring it in front of Squires, then stopped to chat with Brent and Sarah from next door, their children and friend playing out front. Next thing I see Simon carrying Freddie back home, his face ashen, without words I knew something was very wrong. He quickly explains Freddie had done a runner from the Rec, made it across the busy Brighton road, but wasn’t so lucky on the Beach Green road, getting hit by a VW van before he could make it into Mardyke on his way, in his mind, back to Havenside, and his home. I asked if it was bad, “bad” was all Simon needed to say, then “get a towel or something to wrap him in”, I shot inside and grabbed Freddie’s blanket, Ma and Pa looking on as I darted in and out, without I’m sorry to say, telling them anything. I put the blanket on the front passenger seat, and Simon laid Freddie down on it, then I got into the footwell so that I could cradle and comfort him while we drove to the vets. We took him to the vets that he’d been to just that morning, but they were closed, so we then went round to the West street vet, closed too. Driving back to the original vet to get an emergency number, I was talking to Freddie all the time, felling his breathing through my fingers as I cradled his head in my palm, with my other arm gently holding the rest of his body. Simon phoned the emergency number, we had to get to Grove Lodge, Worthing, and quickly. Simon was distraught, but having to hold it together to get our poor Freddie to help.
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Pleading, begging Freddie to hold on, stroking him, nuzzling, we were only a short distance from the vets by now, but I hadn’t felt any movement for a bit, I raised his little head, saw no sign of his eyes moving, in fact they looked blue now. Then, as I lowered his head, it just flopped, and all I could say was, “please no Freddie, don’t be gone”, crying my eyes out, poor Simon had to hold on and get us there, in the hope it’s not too late, but it was. At the vets, they came rushing out, and took Freddie from me, I told them I thought he was gone already, then collapsed against the wall, unable to bear going in, Simon followed them.  Not much time passed before the woman that had taken Freddie from  me came out, she didn’t need to speak, and I let out a groan/ wail, I don’t know, and just let go, she wrapped her arms around me, but nothing helps, and I knew Simon would be suffering badly, not to mention how Ma n pa are going to feel when we get back. It’s impossible ot express just how much Freddie touched our hearts in the short time we had him, every single one of us. Last night was so difficult, Squire quietly gathering up Freddies stuff to put upstairs. Simon begged forgiveness, even though he couldn’t possibly have been to blame. Ma, with tears in her eyes, saying how much he had won our hearts and so quickly, we should have had years more with that gorgeous, loving, friendly, wilful, wonderful, little hound. Life is very cruel sometimes, one minute Squire and Ma are celebrating the fact that Freddie is now officially ours, and then a few desperately short hours later, he suffers fatal injuries under the wheels of a van. But the short time we were lucky enough to be graced by Freddies presence, has given us some of our happiest memories, just wish he was still here, he had so nearly finished training us.