Chapter Five

Back in the UK

That was the end of mine & Paul’s little fling.  He went back to his girlfriend and I went back to my on-off relationship with Rob.  My mum was now working in London and I ended up getting an admin/finance role at Railtrack for a few months.  I stayed in the flat with my mum and it was great.  I made some friends and spend a lot of time with my mum too.  I have to say, I really did paint the town red during those 5 months in London.  I must have gone out drinking after work almost every night, the number of times people woke me up on the train at Croydon is unreal.  They clearly knew that was my stop.  

It’s a bit embarrassing when I look back.  I think I might have started having an issue with alcohol as I was literally pissed every night.  My mum’s boss Gil was in a relationship (can’t remember if they were married at that point) with the PA to sir William McAlpine.  My mum and I got invited to an event he was hosting at Fawley Hill estate in Henley.  I got so drunk that I couldn’t speak, it was so embarrassing.  I can remember trying to chat with his daughter about horses on the train ride around his estate and I was slurring my words so badly.  She must have wondered who the hell invited this lush!!

In March 1995 I decided it was time to leave London behind and head back up North.  I loved being in London and spending time with my mum but I wanted to go home.  It made sense that I moved back into my mum’s house since it was empty all week.  I had the plan to start my own business selling saddlery items.  I found a really good supplier and advertised my wears in the Loot (clearly this is pre-internet time).  I used to go all around the North West selling cheap saddlery items.  I ended up signing a 5-year lease on a little shop near to Warrington town centre, it was an interesting experience.  My dad helped me to kit it out like a stable and it did look really good.  The problem was the location and the lack of my capital.  To try and makes ends meet I used to take all my stock out 3 times a week and set up mobile stalls in village halls all over Cheshire and Lancashire, sometimes as far as West Yorkshire.  I did this for around 2.5 years, the shop only lasted 1 year and I sublet the premises for a couple of years until someone came along and thankfully wanted to take the lease over as the location was perfect for them.  Another bullet dodged!  The saddlery business was an unmitigated disaster but did teach me a lot too.

My mum’s relationship with Syd was starting to falter.  He was becoming quite nasty and spending more and more time at his actual own home at the weekends rather than ours.  My mum was still working in London and I believe they had a big falling out, I wasn’t privy to the ins and out of it but that was it.  We never saw or heard from him again after mid-1996.  About a year later a friend of my mums who still worked at BNFL saw an article in the work magazine.  Syd had died of a brain tumour in early 1997.  My mum was heartbroken, I tried to comfort her as best as I could but I just wasn’t upset about him being dead, for me it was good riddance to bad rubbish.  But, I was sad for my mum.  He had entered her life and pretty much destroyed it, she never got what she wanted, to say he kept her on her toes would be an understatement and to add insult to injury he messed with mine and my brother’s heads too.  He was a complete arsehole and as far as I am concerned the world is a better place without him.

I floated around from dead-end job to dead-end job for a while after I decided the saddlery business wasn’t going anywhere.  In 1997 I got myself a desktop computer and met Duncan via an AOL chatroom in early 1998.  We started to meet up at weekends, he was from Glasgow and had his own business so in June of that year we decided that I would move up to Glasgow and we got a little flat together.  I got a job as a purchase ledger supervisor and started studying for CIMA.  I remembered how much I had enjoyed the finance part of my HNC that I did while at BNFL and threw myself into studying.  My relationship started to break down quite quickly and just 7 months after moving to Glasgow I asked my mum to hire a van and come and get me.  Having a bit of decent work experience I was now able to start working my way up the accounting ladder and I passed all the foundation exams easily and moved on to the professional exams. 

I dated a few guys but my main focus was work and studying.  Since moving back from Glasgow the previous year I stayed with my mum in her home, but I knew it was time to stand on my own two feet.  In early 2000 I got a decent job in Manchester and decided to buy a house in Swinton.  The sale took forever and I didn’t move in until around October of that year.  I was so excited though, despite having quite an interesting life so far, this was the first time I had somewhere I could really call my own.  When I moved out of my mum’s we had 2 Border Collie dogs, Charlie and Georgia.  We agreed that I would take Georgia with me and Charlie would stay with my mum and we would meet up regularly to walk together.  

Annoyingly not long after moving in to my new home I had my car stolen, I wouldn’t mind but it was a clapped out shitty gold Vauxhall Astra.  Clearly, some kids just wanted a way to get home one night.  I reported it stolen but it was never found and I didn’t bother claiming on the insurance as the excess was more than I would get for the car.  I only worked a few miles down the road so I got myself a push bike while I saved up for another bloody car.  There was quite a nice park in Swinton so my mum would come over with Charley and we would take them to the park.  I continued with my studies and was making really good progress with my qualification.   Things were going quite well.

Jane, who I hadn’t heard from for quite a while called me out of the blue at the end of February 2001.  This is the Jane I met via Robin when I was 18.  We had spent a lot of time together before I moved to Glasgow but hadn’t really reconnected properly upon my return.  We had both been preoccupied with our own lives, she had 2 small children.  Anyway, she was calling to let me know that her mum had died a couple of weeks earlier.  I was gobsmacked she was only in her early 50s.  She had started with headaches towards the end of 2000 and was diagnosed with a brain tumour that Christmas which was clearly very aggressive as she was gone by mid-February.  

I was in shock and my heart went out to her, I could not imagine what life would be like without my mum.  We had our disagreements as parents and kids do, but my mum was my rock.  I rang my mum to tell her and she was equally shocked.   That weekend my mum came over with the dog as usual and we chatted about Jane’s mum and how sudden and quick it was.   We also made arrangements for us both to book the following Monday off work, it would have been the 12th March 2001 so we could go car hunting.  I had saved up some money and was ready to look for a new motor.

Mum and I usually spoke on the phone every day, even if it was just a quick 5 minutes.  The week passed uneventfully and unbeknown to me at the time, my mum ordered a will pack that week.  On Saturday 10th March mum rang me when I was just about to go out with the dog, so it was a complete bark fest and I couldn’t hear myself think.  I was a bit abrupt and said I would call back when I got in.  I did call back and apologised.  Because we were seeing each other on Monday for the car hunt, she wasn’t coming over today so we said our goodbyes and I got on with my studying.   I would have had an exam that May.  I didn’t hear from mum again that day but didn’t really expect to.  I made mushroom risotto for my tea that evening and was standing in my little narrow kitchen at the back of the house when I heard someone call my name really clearly.  This was at about 5.30.  The voice was so clear that I actually went upstairs to see if someone was there.  There wasn’t so I didn’t really give it too much thought.