On the evening of the 29th, I had just got back from helping them move. I was alone in my own little bachelor pad. I had this idea in my head that it was going to become a Shag Palace.
Several weeks earlier, I had gotten involved in a drama group at Lings Theatre - it was this, er, theatre that was attached to my old school and I was asked by a guy called Stuart Blake (who had been one of the community workers based at my old school, when I went there) if I wanted to help with the formation of this youth group. I had little to do, so I accepted. It was here that I met the woman who would become my wife.
[Now, this preamble isn't the beginning of a history of my marriage, it was however important for a couple of things. Firstly the date and secondly the location. Below is a map and on the map are two white boxes with the letters A and B in them. I will explain all as this blog entry is revealed.]
I don't think it was the party at Kevin Benstead's house that convinced me to stay in Northampton, but it was the thing I intended to go to on my first night in my own place. I had my motorbike and nothing else planned; so at about 8pm - after having a takeaway from round the corner - I set off to try and find this place (which is shown by the A in the white box at the top right of the picture).
The rest, they say, is history...
On January 29, 1998, a full 15 years after I met my wife and on the dreaded Dryden Ward at Northampton General Hospital, my mother died. It was one of the worst days of my life and it should have been one of the happiest. Patricia Hall (nee Rodway) was a tremendous woman (yeah, I know, you expect me to say that, but the thing was most people thought my mum was a bit of an angel; in fact, she was one half of a truly angelic double act). She died far too early; she was 64, and it was all down to the fact that she smoked about 40 cigarettes a day and had been smoking since she was 6. yes, 6. It was her only vice and she loved a fag; she'd wake up twice in the night just to have one...
My mum is buried in Kingsthorpe Cemetary, right underneath the little white box with a B in it. It wasn't for a couple of years that I realised that she was buried less than 200 yards from where I effectively started my marriage.
Now, coincidences don't finish there. My folks were married on September 13, 1952 and had celebrated 45 years of marriage a few months before mum died. They had a by and large very happy marriage; the biggest headache for them was undoubtedly... um... me.
The wife and I got married on September 13, 1986. We figured that if my parents (who my wife adored) could have a long and happy marriage, then we would try and emulate them and so, we got married on the same day. We will celebrate 25 years of marriage next September. Oddly enough, I remember my parents' Silver Wedding anniversary very well; it was a low key affair at their house in Boothville. Their three sons were there and my godparents. If my godparents are well enough to travel next September, I'd like them to come to our party next year. They were, after all, my folks' best friends and they're my godparents.
Anyhow, my dad lasted five years without the love of his life. He spent five pretty miserable years existing. There was no better way of describing it. He was never the same man again; not after she died. On October 1st, 2003, he passed away from a massive aneurysm. It was again one of those devastating things you live to forget about.
Unlike my mother's death, which is imprinted on my memory and will never, ever, go away. I wasn't at the Southport hospital when dad died. I had been there a week earlier, a few days after he came out of surgery and in a coma. I intended to go and see him again when he started to pull out of it. I mean, he was as strong as an ox and if any man in his 60s could pull through a life threatening surgery it was Ron Hall senior.
I got the call from my brother the day before he died. He wasn't going to pull through. In fact, he was slipping away. Ron junior told me that Steve, my middle brother would pick me up. I said, 'No.' I couldn't do it. I'd been told that the 8 days he'd been in a coma had ravaged his body and he looked bad. I had visions imprinted on my mind about how bad my mum had deteriorated during her last few days alive and I couldn't face it. I'd seen him a week earlier; kissed him goodbye then. I couldn't do it again...
My dad had stopped smoking after my mum died; like her he loved his cigs; but he'd had a heart attack and while he wanted nothing more than to join his love, he wasn't going to encourage it. He still had 3 sons, 4 grandchildren and at least two daughter-in-laws who cared for him more than he felt he deserved. He did the lottery every week, even after mum died. He always said, if he won he could make sure all of us were financially stable. The last words he said to my brother Ron as he was being wheeled into surgery were, "Bloody hell, Ronnie, I forget to get my lottery tickets."
I tried to give up smoking in 1998. I failed miserably. My brother Steve tried and he's been stopped for 12½ years. I tried to pack up after Dad died. I actually managed to do it for 18 months. No nicotine based products passed my lips for a year and a half (although, to be fair, I didn't really stop smoking, if you know what I mean). During this 18 months, I started to dream again and on one night I had this dream where me, the wife, our two old dogs and my parents were in our old house in Wellingborough. We were sitting there, not doing a lot. I woke up and felt like a million dollars.
Last night, I dreamt about them both again. Dreams about them are as rare as rocking horse shit and I don't know what prompted it. I mean, I think about them every day and I still love and miss them both so much it hurts (after writing the paragraph above the last one, I was blubbing like a 5 year old). I miss my mum more, because she was my best friend; yet I get more upset when I think about my dad - weird that. Anyhow, last night's dream was very much like my life with my folks. It was a travel dream. I have a lot of travel dreams; they're brought on by anxiety. I have to be honest, I've been thinking that perhaps I have something serious wrong with me. It's been 6 weeks since my back went and while it is better, the affects of it haven't really got any better. I still limp like I've hurt my leg; my joints ache like a bastard - everything from my fingers to my ankles (but I haven't got arthritis - a blood test proved that) and I still don't feel well. It might all be to do with being incapacitated for so long; it might have something to do with having stopped smoking substances that I've ingested for 31 years; or it might be something wrong...
The details of the dream aren't staying. It involved driving and getting somewhere. My mum was far more prominent in it than my dad; she seemed to have a lot to say and while I can't remember any of it, I remember that she was trying to tell me not to worry. She was, after all, the woman who could do wonders for me in times of genuine stress. She was my safety net and I never really let her know how much I depended on her. I could talk to her about things that I'd never dream of discussing with my dad, so having her in this dream was apt.
Someone asked me a long time ago if dreaming about my parents wasn't upsetting. I looked at them totally incredulously. Upsetting? Never. They're both dead and I'm not a religious person; so I don't believe I will ever see them again, unless its in my dreams. So when I see them in the land of nod, it is something to celebrate, to be happy about. They're the same as they always were in my dreams and that makes me happy.