Hayling Island

I'll not forget showing Delia into our home and introducing her to Joan. I left the two of them together with a cup of tea and took a walk down to the beach, my mind in a turmoil. I knew if this didn't work, for any reason or for no reason, for either or both of them, I would be looking for a nursing home for Joan. She was now permanently wheelchair bound, suffering considerable pain. There was no way I could keep on looking after her myself or expecting my sons to do so, neither could I carry on paying for outside support of the kind she needed. I had asked my fellow director Peter Viggars M.P. about state finance for this but the answer came back zero. My leaving work and becoming a state supported unemployed carer wasn't an option. I knew I could never be a good enough housekeeper / nurse and my job was the therapy I needed. Add to that the fact was, we would definitely lose our home anyway without my income.

If either Joan or Dee said 'no' I would probably be saying goodbye to Dee, my personal lifeline through these hardest of hard years. I would be on my own.

I need not have worried. The two of them formed a fair to good relationship from the start, a relationship that varied from functional to great to hilarious over the following two years. Delia moved into her own bedroom at 45 Raynes Road to live there alongside whichever of our sons were not, on and off, away at the fishing. My two daughters were married with distant homes and families of their own. It was time to look at the next part of my plan - i.e. sell the house and buy another one.

Joan, Delia and I sat down together and looked at possible locations having first decided to move away from Lee and the Gosport / Lee-on Solent peninsula. A fresh start for us all beckoned yet we must contrive to live within commuting distance of my office. Somewhere nice and detached with four bedrooms - and close by the sea - that was the order of the day. Several times we took the car across to the Isle of Wight on house exploratory jaunts. Twice we came close to making an offer there, but on each occasion something negative emerged re the properties in question - negative enough to make the three miles long, expensive ferry boat ride from Portsmouth to Ryde on the Island tip the balance. We forgot about the Isle of Wight. Finally we found what we sought, a pleasant postwar detached, a stones throw from the sea front on Hayling Island, which is not an island but a peninsula by Langstone Harbour, and a twenty to thirty minute commute from the office. Our offer was accepted.

By 1985 Joan and I had lived in 45 Raynes Road Lee-on-Solent for fifteen years. We and our family had grown up there, my career had, in all the circumstances, flourished from there. To us and our two* dogs it was home.  I had not anticipated my reaction when that 'for sale' sign went up. I have never been one to fall in love with bricks and mortar but I did feel the odd lump in my throat. The house didn't take too long to sell, and for a price some  six times that of our original purchase. But it was that good old property owning delusion, for my salary had advanced by about the same percentage and so had accumulated inflation and bank debt.. On the other hand of course the Hayling Island house we were buying was about the same price as the one we were selling. After paying off mortgage and bank and funding the deposit on Hayling there was not that much left but at least I could relish my new, debt-free situation, even though having to live with monthly mortgage repayments much more than they had been.

All four of our boys - my Robert and Stuart and Delia's Max and Rudi got on well together. Hayling being a holiday town with much nightclub life, young folk pubs and the teenage girls suited them all too well! My oldest, Bob and Dee's youngest, Rudi, became especially friendly in spite of - or perhaps because of  Robert's incipient mental illness. And Max and Stuart, being closest together in age, were similarly friendly. Perhaps too much so. They were often accompanied by Stuart's friend Fraser on their Saturday (and all other) nights out. Picking fights seemed to be part of the fun. Why do you have to do that? I asked of one of my bruised warriors; because he looked at me and this girl, came the incomprehensible  response. A quite bewildering rota of girlfriends arrived at the house. I rarely knew quite whose was which if you see what I mean! The boys would sometimes go out sea fishing together - rod and line, not commercial, for by now Robert's late unlamented oyster dredger was long in the boat knacker's yard, R.I.P Kerry Jane. Dear old Culash had been sold and little Limanda had been wrecked by Dee's two rapscallions. We were now boatless so they had to borrow their fishing boat. One day they arrived home with the biggest lobster any of us had ever seen. It weighed in at some fifteen pounds, was older than all three of the boys combined and seemed not at all pleased to have become entangled in Stuart's fishing line. Of course we had no cooking vessel large enough to accommodate such a gigantic crustacean. One of them had a brainwave; we can boil (yes, that's how you cook lobsters) her (yes, all the big ones are female) in the top loader washing machine! Wonderful. The washing machine broke down and 'she' tasted like reinforced cardboard.

One thing I did share with all four of our male offpring to a greater or lesser extent was arachnaphobia. I had loathed and detested spiders since one had tickled my eleven year old bum whilst I was sitting on the toilet. One day Max announced that he had discovered a wasp nest in the attic. Quite what he was doing up there I don't know, but I have not seen my long unused golf clubs from that day to this! Anyway all five of us climbed the ladder to devise a plan for the good riddance of our unwanted boarders. Suddenly Stu shouted oh, no!! It was the biggest house spider I ever saw. We fought each other to tumble out and down the ladder, much to Joan's hilarity. She had been  watching the pantomime from her wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs. She always had been partial to that kind of banana skin joke and she didn't mind spiders. Just as well. On our first night as a married couple we had stayed in an hotel en route for London. Ready and waiting, nude on the bed and posing like some imagined Greek warrior whilst Joan divested herself of her going-away outfit, I glanced up. Directly above me was a spider on the ceiling. I moved off that bed like lightning, imploring my lady to catch the xxxxxxx thing and get rid of it. If you lose it, I said through clenched teeth, we're getting out of here. She looked at me in pity, said; don't be daft; it lives here, Bryan. It won't do you any harm. Nevertheless she did catch it and pop it out of the window. It took me several or more minutes to rediscover my amorous intent.

Hayling Island could and would have worked for us all had it not been for twenty three years old Robert's mental condition. For weeks or months he would take off for goodness knows where, funded by us of course, then arrive home often dishevelled not to say evil-smelling and unwashed, once riding a stolen motorcycle. For years we had been turning a blind eye to his mental abberation. It was Julie's husband, Rob, with his background in military medicine, who forced me to acknowledge that my beloved eldest son was suffering advanced schizophrenia. On another occasion Bob was found by alarmed policemen sleeping in a one man tent on the green just outside Buckingham Palace! Bob had a close affinity to his disabled mother and she to him. To the end of her days Joan was convinced that his schizophrenia was linked to her multipleschlerosis. But his general behaviour and his convictions about other world voice messages were getting more and more alarming. He was physically very strong indeed. One day I found myself in a hospital A&E department with several broken ribs, the result of a single one of his punches. He had never threatened Dee but she was becoming more and more terrified, never sure of when he might appear and what he might do next.

The situation was impossible. Time for more change.

* I'm not sure if I mentioned it earlier but Stuart's show-ring success with his dog Seth had inspired Julie to want a vizsla for herself! Hence our dear old Chloe, a lovely young lady animal although never a match in the show ring for her older mate. Lightning may strike twice but how very, very rarely!. In spite of our best efforts to avoid it, Chloe became pregnant to Seth and oftentimes reluctant mother to five lovely, incontinent, sandy coloured bundles of hungry energy.

1 comment:

  1. The spider story had me in giggles here. I take after my mother - we both dislike spiders. In fairness... my mom has walked into a bird-eating spider (in its web) in Africa. You should see African (house) hunting spiders. :D


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