Today started off well. We had company; my step-daughter and our new grandson had come over on Saturday, and they stopped the night. The sun was shining, and I made bacon sandwiches for everyone. The house was full of baby talk, and even Ollie was attentive to the new addition to our family. I worked on my latest post about architecture, until it was time to take Ollie for a walk this afternoon. It was nice over the Meadows, bright and sunny, not too cold. Ollie was able to play with Hector, the Bull Terrier, and Spock, the young Alsatian.
When I got home, I made a start on dinner. It was to be a traditional roast; a nice joint of pork, with all the usual vegetables. In with the meat, and the peeling and chopping commenced. I fed Ollie in the meantime, giving him a little extra, as he has been so good this weekend. Then I got an unexpected phone call, from one of my cousins. He has just retired from the Royal Air Force, and rang to catch up. As we don’t often get a chance to chat, we had a long natter, and I really enjoyed hearing from him.
I arranged the meal to be ready at 6.30, as Julie had to take her daughter and the baby home to Norwich later. The meal went well. The pork was very tasty, and the crackling on top had turned out perfectly, for a change. We all enjoyed it, and I cleared away, as they got ready to leave later, and there was a lot of stuff to pack away. Just after 8pm, we decided to load up the car, in preparation for their departure.
Then the phone rang again.
Julie answered. It was Jim, the son of one of my oldest friends. He never usually called, though we sometimes exchanged e-mails, or blog comments. She handed me the handset with a knowing look. As soon as I heard the voice at the other end, I knew the news was bad. Unable to contain his emotion and distress, Jim quickly told me that his Dad had been found dead today, in his south London flat. It is suspected that he died suddenly, of a massive stroke. Hearing him so upset made me feel even worse on hearing the news. I began to cry too, which upset my step-daughter, and Julie of course. We hurried off the phone, both too distressed to continue, saying that we would speak soon, about the funeral plans. I was very touched that he had contacted me first, knowing what great friends his Dad and I had been.
Since then, I haven’t really known what to do, except to write. I have sent an e mail to Jim, and to his sister Helen, telling them how I feel. I also e-mailed some others who knew him, and sent texts to other old friends. Now I am writing this, perhaps to help me deal with it, possibly because I just don’t know what else to do.
Pete Medway was one of the oldest and most cherished friends I have had throughout my life. When I was eleven years old, he was a teacher at my school, only ten years older than I was. And over the next few years, I got to know him well. Even though he was not my English teacher at that school, he always inspired and encouraged me. He accompanied some of us on school trips, and I got to know him better, outside of the school environment. He treated me like an adult when I was still a teenager, and expected the best of me, by giving me the best of himself. When I was fifteen, he even rented a room at my parents’ house for a while, and he would talk about things, discuss literature and relationships, life and experiences.
As the years passed, he was always there. Even when he lived in Canada for some time, we would write to each other frequently, imparting news, telling of jobs, things of significance, and insignificance too. When he returned to the UK, we would meet occasionally, keep in touch by letter or phone, and later by e-mail. When I got married, he came as a guest. When my Mum died, he attended the funeral, despite some medical problems at the time. He was a constant presence, always there somewhere, never more than a phone call away. He had some academic fame, published books, and lectured at prestigious colleges in London University. He was a thinker, and thoughtful too. A caring man who loved his son and daughter, and the grandchildren that came along later. And he always had time for his friends, especially me.
I feel lost. I feel for his family, and I cannot really believe that I will never see him again.
I can’t think of many worse ways for a Sunday to end.