The Roaming Pen in the community - October 2010
Autumn draws on, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and just for a change I am moving away from my usual subject of the highways and byways of Kemp Town. I have noticed that all over the media recently the word community has been used to describe any vague grouping from the European Community right down to plane spotters. Read more...


The Roaming Pen dries off - September 2010
Recently I have been congratulating the City Council for some good work, I knew it couldn’t continue. Without any advance warning the free swimming for over 60’s has been cancelled with effect from 31st July. Read more...

 

Hot town its summer in the city - August 2010
Not many people will remember that line from Summer in the City by The Lovin’ Spoonful from 1966, it sums up our occasional hot weather, hose pipe bans are probably on the way so it must be summer. Brighton is awash with tourists and thousands of so-called ‘students’ who are In fact only studying the local night life. Am I the only one to be a little irritated by their apparent inability to see other people and walk down the pavements six abreast trampling the lone walker underfoot? But we need them and the money they bring so we just have to grin and bear it. Read more...

 

The Roaming Pen: Out and about – July 2010

There are a few items of good news on the travel front this month.

The new coalition government has made it quite clear that they have no plans to scrap concessionary travel for anyone over 60, there had been a lot of unfounded rumours about this and it’s good to know that this great benefit will stay. Much to my surprise I reached that age quite recently – OK not quite that recently – but these days 60 is not regarded as remotely old. Most of us in our ‘mid maturity’, lead busy active lives and are quite often still in full time employment. This is why I got pretty annoyed when I noticed that the button that bus drivers press when issuing you with your ‘free’ ticket is labelled ‘OAP’. That phrase hasn’t been in general use for a long time, the Old Age Pension was rebranded at State Retirement Pension over 20 years ago and frankly I find it mildly insulting to be identified as an OAP. Why, I wonder, does Brighton & Hove Buses even issue tickets, they don’t on any buses in London and in many other parts of the country either. All you need is to have your pass with you in the event of an inspector requesting it. Read more...

 

The Roaming Pen: Goes international – June 2010

Just a quick update on the travellers that have been gracing our locality recently, they appear to have gone but the cost of clearing up was no less than £120,000, who pays, we all do of course.

Now let’s ponder the town of Newhaven for a moment or two, that’s all the time it will take. What’s there, you may well ask, not a lot is the answer; I once asked a resident how far Newhaven was from Brighton, about 20 years was the answer. I did once spend six months working there, so can speak with a little knowledge and when I say that colleagues would get excited when there were more than ten people walking up the High Street. “It’s heaving out there” was the comment. Market day is Thursday which features a couple of fruit and veg stalls and the usual cheap clothing. There is a good Sainsbury’s just out of town and a very good fish shop on the harbour side, but that’s about it. OK so they have the Fort, which is of moderate interest, but try as they might there really is very little point to Newhaven. Read more...


It’s time to start roaming around - May 2010
At last spring is actually here, we have been expecting it for weeks, it was probably delivered by Royal MRead more...

. Read more...


What does Brighton really want - March 2010
I've lived here since 1948 and of course I have seen many changes over the 60+ years but in essence Brighton is still the same place that Grahame Green wrote about in Brighton Rock. That novel was set on 1938 and apart from the crooks getting a bit smarter and the town centre now gridlocked with traffic, there is not a lot of difference. Read more...

The Roaming Pen slips up – February 2010
It is nearly spring an so every mans fancy turns to… growing their own vegetables. Not for the first time Brighton and Hove City Council has done something right and has allocated us an allotment. Way up on the top of Whitehawk Hill we are now the grateful tenants of 130 square metres of prime Downland. Read more...

Ho Ho Ho its Christmas - January 2010
Yes it’s that time again, the season to be merry and gay and it’s also the season that causes most stress and anxiety, well don’t let it. Whether we have any religious belief or not you simply can’t ignore Christmas, I have tried and failed so if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. Get the Brussels sprouts on. Haven’t you done that yet? – they need at least three weeks good steady boiling; you will then enjoy the smell until Easter. Buy the presents that no one really wants; thank heavens for T K Maxx, put the fairy on the tree, throw last year’s lights away as they will never work and pour yourself something long, strong and interesting. Read more...

On the road again with the Roaming Pen – December 2009
As it’s nearly Christmas many people have asked me to remind them of the many ways of reducing the cost
of travel that I listed last year. So to start with if you’re over 60 then you should have a National Bus Pass, you can use this anywhere in England and that includes London. Taking a coach? National Express coaches offer Route 60 for those over that magic age and Fun Fares for those under that age, these both give a decent discount. Read more...

Roaming around the marina and other places - November 2009
Autumn draws on but we can still remember those few brief days that we called summer. Walking down to the Marina these days has become quite a pleasure, thanks in the main to the efforts of one local resident. You will recall that the upper walk of the Kemp Town Slopes was really not very nice at all. The large bushes had become extremely overgrown; garbage was everywhere never mind about the large colony of rats that had made it their home. And after dark, well its best not to even think about it. Today we have a very pleasant promenade with some lovely colourful planting, new gravel underfoot, all the bushes are gone and so are the rats. In fact we can be very happy to stroll along and it is all due to the efforts of one man. Read more...

Kemptown has gone to Ground - October 2009
For many years the only place you could get a coffee was at a Lyons tea shop, today coffee is available on virtually every street corner, in St James Street alone there are no less than 11 coffee shops so there is obviously a lot of money to be made in this now ubiquitous beverage.  In darkest Kemp Town we have quite a few to choose from, not least of which is the latest called ‘Ground’ at 36 St Georges Road. Read more...

Roaming round Kemp Town - September 2009
Its not very often one gets the chance to congratulate Brighton & Hove Council, in fact I can’t remember the last time, but they have done something right for once. At long last double parking has been made illegal, yes its true, don’t believe me then take a look at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/parking. Read more...

Sunday in the park with George - August 2009
It's Suday morning, where shall we go, it's a lovely day'. I know I have said that many times without thinking, 'hey. We live in one of the loveliest places in Britain, so let's go to the park' - what? I hear you cry, the park!!!! Read more...

Roaming around fashionable Kemptown – July 2009
Kemptown has always been fashionable. The Regency Bucks of the early nineteenth century were famous for their 'foppish' clothes, wild parties and generally very louche lifestyle. If you look around today, things are not that different. Read more...

Summer roaming and roving more boutique hotels – June 2009
I promised further investigation into some of our new boutique hotels so to New Steine we go. Virtually every house in New Steine is a 'hotel' this small square, in the heart of Kemp Town has undergone real makeover in the last ten years, from an area of very sleazy B&Bs to today with some very stylish boutique hotels. Read more...

Roaming around Brighton's boutique hotels – April 2009
How often have you been asked by friends and family to recommend a local hotel? Invariably I have to say no as I live here and don't need to stay in a hotel. Where would you recommend? What about the new 'boutique' hotels that are springing up all over town. Sparing no shoe leather I decided to investigate. Read more...

Roaming and roving on the cheap – March 2009
Now everyone knows that you can travel by public transport for very little money even for free. I’ve just discovered Brighton & Hove Buses ‘Saver’ fares, any way you can save money on the local buses has got be a good idea. If you take more than one journey on the same day i.e. to the shops and back, the standard fare would be £3.60 for an ‘all day’ ticket, quite expensive. Read more...

Flight-free holidays – February 2009
It’s the time to plan for summer holidays – summer, remember that, it was occasionally warm and the sun shone, sometimes. We’ve heard a lot over the past few years about carbon footprint, buying carbon offset when you fly, all the horrible pollution that aircraft cause, protesters closing airport runways, it goes on and on. Read more...

New year roaming – January 2009
Good heavens its 2009, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun, well I hope you’ve been having fun. 2008 came and went; we hardly noticed. We did find out how cheap travel can be, with Advance train tickets now being sold all over the Country without you having to go through an interrogation. Read more...

Pre-Christmas roaming – December 2008
Ho, Ho, Ho, its Christmas, Santa’s been roaming round and he’s found some Credit Crunch Christmas Crackers. Its booze cruise time again and of course there are lots of so called ‘special offers’. Whilst we love Dieppe, it’s my favourite Normandy town, but that four hour crossing on Trans Manche Ferries from Newhaven can be tedious; they have also planned their timetable to prevent anyone thinking of a day trip, unless you really are a masochist, returning at 3.00 am, plus charging in the region of £90 for the pleasure.  So you might as well spend the time driving to Dover and hopping on seaFrance to Calais for £25.00 return for the car and up to five passengers. Read more...

Pre-Christmas roaming – November 2008
As we wait with great anticipation for Brighton and Hove Buses to reach the £5.00 ticket (you heard it here first) and become the most expensive bus service in the country, it’s interesting to see that cycling has become more and more popular than ever, walking is quite good too. Read more...

The great train lottery – October 2008
I’ve been roaming around again and looking at ways you can go places without a second mortgage, if you could get one these days. But by now everyone must be aware of the availability of cheap train fares through the many specialist websites and those nice people in the 1 Stop Travel shops. Read more...

Roger - the roaming pen - September 2008
Hello, well here I am at last, a new name and a new (ish) face, I am really delighted to hop on board this great new organ - whoops - publication I mean, which looks like its gathering such momentum it was get on now or miss the opportunity. Read more...


Losing the one you love

No one likes talking about death, we should, confronting one’s own mortality is a good thing, there is no avoiding it.  The death of one’s lover is possibly one of the hardest things anyone can experience. Everyone is different, we all handle such catastrophic events in our own way and there is no guide book.  My wonderful husband, Michael, died suddenly in my arms, there was no warning, he was just 44 and perfectly fit.  Without being too dramatic my life ended in a heartbeat, our lives were so intertwined that not only had I lost the only man that I had ever loved but I also lost part of me.   After nearly 18 years of real happiness there is nothing, I am alone.

How did we meet, a question I have been asked many times.

Back in the early part of 2004, in the bad old days of Gaydar, I was innocently looking around when a young Irishman popped his head over the parapet and said Hi.  He turned out to be one of life’s exceptional men, although I didn’t know that at the time.  Some weeks later we met, in Dublin, he lived in Galway and he cheekily bought himself a ticket on my flight home, not knowing how well we would get on, if it hadn’t gone well he would simply thrown the ticket away. He liked Brighton and so after a few months moved over.  Michael Wall quite simply one of life’s brightest, most charming, intelligent, handsome and wonderful people anyone could wish for.  We fell hopelessly in love, eventually, and settled into domestic bliss. We got Civil Partnered in 2006 and upgraded to marriage in 2014, happiness forever.

Some years later he was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, the result of childhood abuse and professional homophobia.  Over the next few years he became very anxious and depressed but we continued with our very happy and almost idyllic life and were managing his condition. Changing jobs a few times but developing some skills that were very much in demand. Then 9th August 2019 happened, a day that I will never forget, nor do I really want to.

Grief is almost an illness, one that you will never recover from. You feel totally lost, life suddenly has no meaning, I wonder why I am bothering with anything, there is no one to share my thoughts with, prepare meals for and do all the thousands of small things that as a couple I happily did.  Initially, friends that I never knew that I had called to express their concern.  I got many cards expressing deepest sympathy.  These, I could not open as all their lovely words do is bring the whole sad affair back into sharp focus.  I am a long way from accepting the fact that my wonderful Michael is no longer here.  I have his photos all over the house, which I kiss every day and his ashes are in a beautiful box in the sitting room. Every cupboard and drawer that I open brings memories of him, his clothes remain exactly where he left them, nothing is to be changed in the house.     I don’t care if people think it’s odd, no one comes round in any case.  Of course I talk to him all the time, telling  him what I’m doing, where I’m going etc but I am reassured that everything I do is perfectly normal, I’m not going crazy, that’s good to know.

I cry, I yell and scream every day (invariably on my own) professional therapists tell me that crying is an essential part of the grieving process, although breaking down on the bus is embarrassing. But in extreme grief tears will come with no warning, there is nothing that you can do, simply let it happen and let other people think what they like.  It’s like a large black cloud that suddenly appears, drifts over your head and then goes.  My dreams are vivid, always featuring Michael and when I wake I have forgotten what has happened and I think that he has gone to make the morning tea.  Then I remember.  Hundreds turned up for his funeral, former colleagues that I had never met.  It seemed that everyone that came into contact with him was somehow affected, everyone loved him. Some of Michael’s Irish family were there, they had never bothered to keep in touch after he came to Brighton, but his youngest sister did say to me that I had given him the one thing that he had never had – love. Hard to believe but I know it’s true; his father’s ‘love’ was not of the kind you would normally expect between a father and son.  It was something that he never fully recovered from.  I have never heard from any of them again.

One of the first lessons that I have learned is that I will never recover from Michael’s death. .  My own doctors have advised that my feeling of extreme sadness could last five or more years.  I am reminded that Queen Victoria experienced grief for over 30 years after the death of Prince Albert..  I was told not to expect to feel better after a few months; I don’t, in fact, for me, each day is worse than the last.

After a few weeks the phone stopped ringing, all those friends seem to disappear.  The reason is simple, as a couple we were a very attractive fun addition to any party or social gathering.  Suddenly I am a single sad lonely man, who bursts into tears at a moment’s notice, who wants that at a dinner party?  Some of my oldest ‘friends’ turned out not to be, I received several quite nasty phone calls, too painful to recount but a very close friend said just one word ‘jealousy’.  I was and still am very vulnerable and easily hurt.  Many neighbours and casual acquaintances are very fond of issuing vague invitations, meaning it when they are saying it but instantly forgetting.  So this very sad man suddenly thinks ‘great they have asked me over’   when in fact they were just being polite having no intention of actually issuing specific time and date.  That hurts. One of the worse things is the complete lack of human contact, obviously no one will ever physically touch me but it would be nice to actually talk to someone, but they don’t know what to say, so avoid talking.

I suddenly realised just how much I had relied on my husband, Michael did all the household maintenance, I know that I can do it but he enjoyed working on the house and garden. He mended, repaired, painted, re-wired, and established a fantastic tool room, which I was almost forbidden to enter  And when any visitors were due he would clean the house from top to bottom, today I have forgotten what to do and how to do it.  I have become quite lazy, not like me at all. But as there is no one here, apart from me, who cares if it is a little untidy.  Yes, occasionally I do take a deep breath and start the dishwasher and washing machine, but ironing? Don’t think so.  Michael was a very high flying data protection officer so had to have clean shirts etc every day, I regarded it as my job to see that everything was in order.  He could iron his shirts of course but it was just one of those things that I enjoyed doing for him.

I cooked dinner every night but now I have found that I have lost interest in food it took many weeks before I could be bothered to cook a meal. Also I didn’t drink for about 12 weeks after he died.  I do now, but am very aware that I must keep it under control.  Alcohol is a depressive and I am told that I am suffering from reactive depression, this can also last for many years but it will eventually lift.

One of the things I was told  was to distract myself, so I joined a gym, healthy yes but then I got too enthusiastic and now have to slow down.  I am also very tired all the time, this is simply caused by stress, I didn’t realise that I was stressed but apparently I am. Sleep can also be a problem; my doctor prescribed a very mild sedative but only for a short time.  They worked but now I rely on simple herbal tea, which seems to work too.

That’s my story to date, life is not good, in fact life is hell, there is no pleasure in anything. I miss Michael more every day and of course still love him, I always will, true love never dies.  I don’t want anyone else in my life, people laugh and say never say never, they have never experienced the love a truly wonderful man, so without any doubt I can say never.  Michael is with me, in my heart and in my head, I rarely think of anyone else. Several very spiritual friends tell me that Michael is with me, whether this true or not I do feel his presence, but I would, the human brain tells you what you believe.    It’s true I am a very sad man. But there is a good reason for my sadness, no one will ever know how I feel, no one can, everyone is different.

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love you want to give, but cannot.  All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with nowhere to go.  But I hang on to it, that and my memories of course.  But memories are just memories, but it’s all that I have.

 

Roger Wheeler

www.theroamingpen.co.uk

theroamingpen@gmail.com