Good morning, I am back. It is the 1st January 2021. A brand new year with lots to look forward to, lots to recover from and lots to complain about. Over the Christmas just gone I promised myself in discussion with my loved ones to get into my stride again and start publishing my thoughts, feelings and gripes about the world tainted by the nonsense of 2020, the year in fact that the world thought it was ill and in fact had no more than a sniffle.
I stopped writing when my wife, Helen, stopped breathing on Christmas Day 2016. Four years ago now, how time has flown. I wrote a few pieces after that but their incidences were desultory, spasmodic and emotional. That whole time knocked the stuffing out of me, I could have gone left or right but with the help of somebody I turned right.
2017 was a long hard year after Helen’s demise, characterised by my need to escape my torpor, recover my equilibrium and look at life from a different perspective. I was greatly helped in this aim by a local woman, trained in counselling, who visited me on an almost daily basis during March, April, May and June of that year. She had no ulterior motive only to save a sinking ship. She baled me out, tidied up my rigging and set me on course for a safe harbour. There were moments in that time I wanted to hug her but she remained aloof. We talked and talked and talked some more and eventually I started to see the light that the sun was pushing through the end of that tunnel. She herself had had a hard life with an early marriage and a disaster of a husband. This all came out along with my grief as our conversations gave me back my sanity and distracted me enough to make me realise alcohol was not the answer and that my 44 years of good marriage had given me strengths I did not realise I possessed. After a few months she drifted away, her job was done and I went about my life with her God-given charts that made me realise my worth. We still see each other out shopping and chat. She does not see herself as anything but a friend. To me she was the Good Samaritan and still is my guardian angel.
She had given me the strength to get off my arse and look again at the world. In the summer of 2017 I travelled to Malta, Morocco, France, Italy and Iceland.
Malta to trace the graves of Connaught Rangers killed during the Great War. I found the place similar to Blackpool apart from parts of the southern coast and that beautiful isle of Gozo on its northern banks. To Morocco to see my daughter in Marrakech which was dirty, exciting and a little basic, except for the beautiful oasis in which I stayed. I went to France to celebrate the centenary of Messines with Royalty, politicians and Orange men. The Pas de Calais was dour and clean and certainly not worth fighting over. To Northern Italy to appreciate its beauty and in particular Verona where I watched a wonderful performance of Madame Butterfly in the open air Roman collosseum with three of my children. It was Helen’s favourite opera and possibly the favourite for all women as it told the story of unrequited love for a man not even worthy of a kick up the arse. I have discovered most men are of this ilk. From there I went to Iceland, the land of spectacular scenery but bugger all else. It was like a slice of the moon but the Blue Lagoon was something else.
Travels over and for the Winter and Spring of 2017/2018. I joined a dating site. I was really missing the company of women. I missed their touch, their fire, their thoughts. Men,I knew did not have these propensities. I met four or five women this way and a couple I did not meet who threw in the towel prior to engagement. All the women I met told of miserable lives and abusive men. It strikes me that most of the decent women in this world have the rough end of the stick. The male species do not give a damn. Selfish, miserable bastards who would be better off spending their few quid on whores rather than complicating the lives of good women. However it seems that the maternal instinct overrides everything and unsuitability does not enter the fray.
These liaisons did not last. Two or three meetings proved their memories were long and damaged, however one lasted a while but her abuse had ruined her life, her mind, her memory. I was kicked into touch, accused of being a bully. I think I am far from that but tainted opinion cannot be denied so I went on my way. These feelings were foreign to me, after 44 years of a loving marriage I could not understand these tales of misery but it made me, I suppose, realise that all those 44 years were not loving. There were a few moments of panic.
However as Spring sprung in 2018 and out of the blue and after having been battered by tales of misery, God guided this woman towards me, she nearly driving me over in her red Ford Ferrari in Maynooth Station car park. A woman of class, of substance, of fire, she invited me for lunch at Carton House, the home of Irish Rugby practices. We ate, we walked a while, we sat on a bench on the top of a hill and surveyed the counties of Dublin, Kildare and Meath. I was whisked away by this lady. She was foreign so I told her stories of Ireland’s past.
She was a medical professional from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, a place I had dreamed of in youth where Hughie Tayfield had spun his whiles at desperate MCC batsmen in tours of long ago. For the purpose of annonimity we will call her Ma Femme , a product of another failed marriage, who sought an Irish passport through grandfather rights. He had, by the luck of God and by his father’s needs to procreate whilst on military service in Ireland, been born in 1881. This father was Charles Lewis Clark a 3rd Battalion Rifleman in the British Army, a cockney through and through, born near Trafalgar Square in Northumberland Avenue, who enlisted in 1857 at Aldershot as a private soldier and remarkably and eventually became a Quarter Master and Captain in the 3rd Battalion Rifles, retiring in 1897 after 40 years’ service, 12 children and 15 years in India. His wife, Rose Robinson, whom he married in Murree, in India in 1866, was a product of the Murree School system who looked after the orphans of soldiers and their wives who died in India on service. She was 16 years old and he was 26 and a sergeant. Whilst stationed in Ireland 1878-1888, he managed to infiltrate his wife on numerous occasions and, whilst stationed in Richmond Barracks in Dublin, she gave birth to William Henry Clark in the maternity ward of the barracks in Inchichore on 2nd November 1881 her 7th child at the age of 32. In fact her first four children were born in India, her next two in England, the next five in Ireland and her last back in England in 1890, five girls and seven boys over 24 years of marriage. She was 40 years old. Such was the lot of a soldiers wife. Charles Lewis the lifetime soldier and loving father died in Walthamstow, London in 1911 aged 68. His work done. Do you now realise how easily she slipped into my groove. With my archive of military history and her pedigree, we were bound for each other.
This child, William Henry Clarke, followed the money and ended up in South Africa during the South African War and, following paternal tradition, went on to have numerous children, the 7th of which was Norman Keith Clark, born on 29th January 1929 in Port Elizabeth, the father of this God-sent woman.
Ma Femme after twenty years of marriage and three children, to a slowly self-destroying, introspective and socially inept man, parted company, sought a better life but continued to bring up her brood and at the same time continued to educate herself professionally. When that job was done she sought a divorce and took up these aforementioned tenuous links and ended up in Dublin after two years in England at the age of 61 despairing of life in modern day South Africa. This woman, besides having good looks, a fabulous figure, intelligence and a humorous and caring disposition, had a pair of gigantic gonads.
On that bench in the land surrounding Carton House, I was hooked. We met again several times walking many a mile round Dublin and a mile or so along the pier in Dun Laoghaire, cementing our friendship. Then disaster struck on May 22nd 2018. It was a lovely Spring morning, the sun was shining at 7.00am when I had an almighty crash south of Limerick, writing off my car and others and hurting myself. I reached home, Ma Femme heard and the medic in her made her run for the west to care for me. As a result of this care we became one and have remained together since, two years and seven months of happiness. There were a few blips along the way but we have grown into each other as only mature people can. There is a lot to be said about mature love and one day with her permission I might dig deep in the matter. It is a subject not much spoken about but it is real and exceptional. The only real problem is that she works in Dublin and we see each other at weekends and during holidays. I have just had two weeks with her and it was wonderful. However 2021 is a new and hopefully better year. This year I know will be mighty fine.