1994 FINISHED WITH A BANG 

My visit to the doctor about my water-works became of major concern.   I was passed onto the consultant, Mr Walmsley, at St Mary’s Hospital, where I was diagnosed with a cancerous prostrate gland.  I was prescribed a course of pills, as it was thought that an operation was not appropriate.    I had no pain, so that its effects were not felt, for which I have to be thankful.

Those who attended Age Concern for their midday meal, at the centre at Frazer Road, were invited by the Publican, Mac, of the Red Lion to a Christmas meal at Bedhampton Social Hall.    This came as a surprise to us, who were relatively new to their luncheon club.   However, we learned that the customers of the Red Lion had been providing for a Father Christmas and a celebratory meal for many years.

Ella’s daughters had become very quiet, particularly Barbara, who it would seem, had found in Terry the man for whom she had been waiting for many years.   Long may they be happy together.    This quiescent state of Barbara’s was offset by the news received from Janet’s daughter, Louise, that her mother had left home on the advice of Alcoholics Anonymous.   She had no money and was instructed not to disclose her address.    All this weighed heavily on Ella’s mind, so that this invitation to the Age Concern Christmas dinner provided an opportunity for Ella to dress up to show off her pearls and forget her family cares.

It was a great achievement for the Red Lion’s publican family, Mac, Margaret and staff, to provide the Christmas turkey with all its trimmings and to wait on the sixty or more who attended.   Bedhampton still retained a village community life, be it part of Havant, and it was good to know there was still a village pub which kept up its old traditions.   One of the publican’s activities after leaving the Navy was to enter the annual raft race at Eastney Beach, the proceeds from which were donated to the Lifeboat Association.   On one occasion we saw them launching their homemade raft into the sea.   We did not stay long enough to know who won or how many they lost overboard!   We would have given a huge cheer if we had known about the good work this local pub did for society.

With Christmas approaching so fast following our Christmas feast in the second week of December, we still had no news of Janet - I feared what kind of Christmas this was going to be.   Harry would be with us following the same pattern of the previous years, making it worthwhile for us to spend yuletide at home, to enable him to know he still had a home to go to.  

Three Christmas dinners were scheduled within eight days, both the stroke clubs were holding theirs within a few days of each other, whilst my Doyle House Bridge Club would hold theirs prior to the other two.   The most important aspects of the stroke club dinners were that Ella could always find a lady member to chat with.    Few can realise how valuable these clubs are, especially to the house-bound, where in some cases, they remain without company until they are picked up the next week.

I had played my last Friday morning indoor bowls on the 9th December, so that I was at home the following Friday morning to answer the phone.  Not hearing too well, I asked for the message to be repeated.   “I am an RAC patrolman, and have been asked to inform you that Janet will be calling on you from Newbury during the afternoon.”   I hurried to tell Ella the good news, knowing that there would be a good possibility that Janet could stay with us over Christmas.     Ella just gave me a thoughtful look, as if this could not be true.   We were clueless why an RAC man should have phoned us and equally mystified why the phone call came from Newbury.

We decided to get fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop immediately Janet arrived.   Around mid-afternoon, the sound of a car arriving on the front drive caused both Ella and myself to get excited.  I rushed to the front door before she arrived on the front doorstep.   On opening the front door, all was quiet and no-one appeared.    I looked closely at her BMW car, and to my horror noticed a figure slumped in the driver’s seat.  I immediately rushed to open the driver’s door and found Janet’s head leaning sideways, with eyes closed and mouth half open.    When I first attempted to lift her out, by putting my arms around her, she resisted my efforts - then I knew she was not unconscious.   My next attempt was more successful, in that I managed to get her out of the car, but her resistance continued and she fell to the ground.

It was as if she had gone into a deep sleep, and by falling on the ground, it had woken her into life again.   All this time, Ella was at the door looking horrified, not knowing what to fear.   With support, I helped Janet up the front door steps, holding my arms around her to take the weight off her legs.

Ella and I were waiting for the first words to be spoken by her, to give a clue as to what had happened.   She stood freely on her own in the hall and muttered, “As I approached Newbury, God told me that my dad had died, and that no useful service could be achieved by going on to Canterbury.  I have no money with me, so I asked an RAC man to phone you that I was coming to Bedhampton.”

Ella asked her, “And where have you come from?”

“I’ve been staying at the cottage, Dunster, no-one knows that I have left.   All my clothes are there and I have there a bottle of whisky, a bottle of red wine and other gifts.    I must phone Sam, to find out if he died.”

Whilst she was on the phone to Sam, Ella broke into tears, muttering, “What are we going to do with her?”

I replied, “She needs a doctor, fast, so I will take her immediately after the phone call has finished.”   When her conversation finished with her dad, she turned to me and said, “Here you are, take the phone and speak to Sam.”  The last time I had spoken to him was in Wolverhampton, in 1963, when I had tried to save his marriage with Ella.   “Hullo Sam, nice to hear your voice.    I trust all is well in Canterbury.”   He replied, with a shaky voice,  “I think you have a problem to sort our, whatever it is.    I thank you for doing your best, as you have tried in the past.   Good luck, hope all goes well.”

I phoned Dr Robinson’s surgery and asked for an emergency appointment, which I obtained and was asked to attend with Janet immediately.  During the time she spent with Ella, very little sense could be obtained from Janet, other than that she needed tranquillisers, which could only be obtained from a doctor.  Without further ado, I managed to get Janet to co-operate and leave for Havant Health Centre.

Her car was in the drive, which meant that this would have to be moved out of the way to allow my car, in the garage, to pass into the road.   Janet would have none of it, she would drive, with me telling her the way.   There was little I could do about this matter, if we were to reach the surgery tonight.    I just had to close my eyes if things looked dangerous, and pray hard.   We made the surgery in one piece, with about half and hour before closing time.

Thankfully, the surgery was almost empty and we were told by the receptionist that we were the next to see Dr Robinson.   He always had a genial manner and I can never remember him losing his cool, an ideal bedside doctor.

Janet became frustrated waiting to go into the surgery, and pestered the receptionist to allow us in.   The receptionist explained that she had already given us preferential treatment, due to the state Janet was in, by allowing her in before his next patient.

When given the go-ahead to enter the surgery, Janet said to me, “You are coming in too, you are my best friend.”   Dr Robinson gave us his usual welcome.   “And what can I do for you?”   I managed to give him the background to Janet’s presence since her arrival, and said I thought she was in need of tranquillisers.

To the questions he asked Janet, why had she left Dunster, and other relevant questions, all she would reply was, “I don’t know.”    The genial expression had left the doctor’s face, realising he had a problem to sort out.  He made it clear he could not prescribe tranquillisers until he was satisfied they were necessary.    Finally, when he did handover the required presciption to her, she immediately tore it up in his face.   I at once admonished Janet for treating the doctor in this manner.

This action caused the doctor to request that we wait until he had attended his last patient, as he left the surgery.   The Havant Health Centre was in the process of closing for the night, since it was around 7 pm.   My thoughts were of Ella and wondering what state of mind she would be in.    I decided to phone and give her the latest situation, and that Janet would not be returning just yet.    Whilst making this call, close to the centre’s entrance, Janet disappeared, and the receptionist was chasing around everywhere for her.   I immediately joined in the hunt outside in the dark, realising that she was a stranger to this area.    Fortunately, she had wandered into the Methodist Church Hall adjacent to the centre, and I met her coming out!   The chase was over for all concerned, knowing that the receptionist felt that it was her fault for losing her doctor’s patient.

When we all reassembled in Dr Robinson’s surgery, there was a very serious look on his face.   Janet was indeed in need of immediate hospital attention, and he would require me to take her to St James’ Hospital, Portsmouth.   He had a note for me to take to the duty psychiatrist, which I put in my top pocket, with a flap, secured with a button.  

Taking Janet on this journey along the Eastern Road, as she sat alongside me was probably one of the most frightening experiences I have had in the car.    Janet had her eyes fixed on me as I made my way into Portsmouth along the narrow and busy Eastern Road.   At night, I am not a very good driver, for most of the approaching cars appeared to have their headlights beamed into my face.   As this was a dual carriageway, I could spare time to glance sideways to see what Janet was up to.   Fortunately, we reached the final bed of this road, without any mishap.

I explained to Janet that in doing my hospital car driving, I always turned left into Euston Road, as we approached it.   This enabled me to enter the back entrance to the hospital, being a much shorter route than going into Milton and taking the Locksway Road to go in by the front entrance.

No sooner after I told her this, I had doubts whether at night time the gates would be unlocked, as I had never done this journey in the evening.   On reaching the end of Euston Road, I took the right turning into Warren Road, having decided to make for Locksway Road by turning left into Holland Road.   Although this was a new route for me, I knew that I would enter Locksway Road, which lay ahead.     However, I never remembered travelling through Holland Road, which I found to consist of terraced houses with double parking either side, allowing only one single car to motor through at a time.   My need was to reach the end of the road before I came face to face with another car.   With it being night time, the only indication one had as to whether there were cross roads, was by keeping an eye on any gaps between the terraced houses.   The double parking prevented any early view of double white lines on the road where a cross road existed.

The few glances I had at Janet indicated that she still had ideas of getting hold of the doctor’s note, by the way she had her eyes fixed in my direction.   With the road ahead clear, I made good progress towards the hospital, when suddenly two headlights shone on the right side of the car, no more than a few feet away.    There was an interval of a fraction of a second, before I was inevitably rammed, causing the Allegro to swivel round, as if it were on a pivot.    I sub-consciously switched the engine off and looked at Janet, who by a miracle, appeared unharmed like myself.

The noise of the impact brought out the local residents, who were peeping through the car windows.   Without warning, Janet made a dive for my top pocket to snatch the doctor’s note, which I managed to parry.  There was no way I could get out of the car on my side, due to it having received the major impact, for the door had been severely buckled.   Janet still persisted and had both her hands around my top pockets.

In the dimly lit cross road, those who could see inside the car must have thought that a murder was taking place.   It was a relief when the driver’s passenger door was opened and a rescuer lifted Janet out of the car.   I managed to scramble over the gear lever, and escaped through the passenger’s door.     Before I had time to assess the damage, Janet made one huge dive at me.   The onlookers came to my rescue, and released her hold on me.

It was, indeed, a repeat of the war days, for everyone wanted to help in some way.   After my Allegro had been pushed to the kerb, a person asked if I wanted to have the contents of my car removed to his house.   Janet and I were invited to wait in Mrs Pearce’s house at the corner of the cross road and to use their phone.   Both the ambulance and police had been contacted.  The lady driver of the car that had rammed me was also being cared for by a local neighbour.   It transpired that she had just driven off from a local shop in Meon Road, when her Cavalier crashed into me.   Although both cars were a write-off, none of the parties involved were injured in any way - so my guardian angel was still taking care of me!

The ambulance men, after I gave them the reason for being at this spot, hurriedly got Janet and myself into their ambulance to finish the journey to St James’.   Once more, Janet made an effort to obtain the doctor’s note, but I managed to forestall the effort.   Most of those who had witnessed Janet’s attacks on me had little idea what she was attempting to do, the ambulance men likewise.

At St James’, the duty staff, including a psychiatrist and the head nurse, told Janet to go into the interview room.   Janet replied, “I am not going without my best friend, Alan.”   They agreed to this, with similar questions being put to her, as those from the doctor.   Her replies were equally the same as her answers to the doctor, ie “I don’t know.”  

I was asked to leave so that she could be admitted for a short stay, and an order would have to be placed on her.   The head nurse recognised my name and asked how Harry was progressing.

I had much to do in sorting out the recovery of my car.   It was still wrecked, close to Mrs Pearce’s house.  I knocked on her door and asked if I could use the phone to contact the RAC.   She again made me feel welcome, in spite of the time of around 10 o clock at night.

A pick up vehicle arrived later from Boarhunt Garage, Wickham, and by the time this driver had finished his rendezvous with another driver of a vehicle from the same garage, at the Farlington end of the Eastern Road, it was not far short of midnight. 

Ella had not gone to bed, but had fallen asleep waiting for me down-stairs.  This situation further compounded her depression and I did my best to point out how lucky we had been not to suffer serious injuries as a result of our car crash.    Another important factor for Ella to remember was that she now knew where her daughter was, and that she was being cared for and would receive help from the doctors and nurses at St James’.

My Allegro, that had been recovered from Milton, drew attention from passers-by as it stood in my drive.   The whole of the driver’s side was caved in whilst the other side had no marks on it, or any form of damage.   I was recognised everywhere I went in this car, because of its colour, referred to as ‘sickly green’.   It had been in the family many years and had reached 95,292 miles on the clock.   When it was towed away to AD Williams, Emsworth for damage assessment, it was as if a member of the family had been taken away - not to return.   

I received 325 for the scrap value of the car, but to compensate for the loss of a car, the insurers, Wellington Motor Policies, provided me with a courtesy car to cover me over the Christmas period.    This was of great help at this difficult time with Janet in St James’ where we required transport to see her whilst on a secure order.

We were advised by the staff nurse in charge of Janet’s unit not to visit Janet while she was being heavily sedated during her first few days in the secure unit.   By the following Sunday, we had the go-ahead to visit her, so it was possible to take Ella along in the courtesy car that had been timely loaned to us.

Visiting St James’ was no ordeal for me, I had been conditioned to see many mentally demented patients whilst visiting Harry.   This was not the case with Ella, who had brought chocolates and cakes along for her daughter.   The unit we were directed to was separated from the main building and was no larger than a detached house.   A male nurse opened the front door after we rang, and asked if we had come to see Janet.   We nodded our heads and were then lead through the main corridor to a drawing room.    He told us that Janet was responding well and that she would shortly be allowed to go home with us for a few hours.

With this news, Ella seemed to become relaxed and when Janet appeared from upstairs, there was much hugging between mother and daughter with smiles and tears, for all to enjoy.

This was an ideal unit for Janet, since it catered for only a handful of patients, where the nursing staff could give individual attention to each patient.   Janet had another visitor after we left, no other than Harry, who had brought her some sweets, according to Janet who phoned us later that day.

Janet continued to make progress, and was well enough to stay over Christmas day, as did Harry, making this a happy occasion for Ella especially.    Contact had been made between Janet and her family at Tanworth in Arden, whilst at home with us.  She gave us the impression that they wanted her back, which she was glad to learn.   

She made her return to the cottage at Dunster in her BMW car on Friday 30th December, to collect her personal possessions.     The last thing I asked her before she drove off was, “What are you going to do with the bottles of whisky and red wine you have in the cottage?”   She grinned as she replied, “I shall take the whisky to Bob, and the red wine I shall drink myself!”

Prior to Janet’s departure, I had acquired a showroom condition Nissan Bluebird for under 3,500 with only 36,000 miles on the clock.   This I obtained from Seward (Havant) Ltd, and I also obtained a free loan of 1,000 over a 12 month period.   This was a red, 4-door saloon car, making my stroke patients pick-up much more convenient compared to my previous 2-door Allegro.

Ella’s demeanour was much more cheerful, for with Janet having returned to her nest, Ella was able to talk on the phone with young Andrew and Louise again, the latter being a version of Ella in her younger days.   I, too, was on speaking terms with Bob, her husband.   Apart from his alcoholic illness, he was all that one could wish from a devoted husband and father.

Although heavily involved in running a heating and ventilation business with a fellow partner, and a handful of staff, he made time to take over on the domestic scene, such as cooking.   He was a very keen sportsman, having almost reached county standard at cricket.   Whenever he stayed here with his family in the summer, he always requested a roll-up on the bowling green at Bidbury Mead, Bedhampton.

He would have his joke, too, for he had a habit of planting potatoes amongst the flower beds, to remind us of him when the potatoes in the spring sent their foliage through the soil.   He had another way of reminding us that he stayed with us when he had forgotten where he had hidden a can of beer, which we would discover in a drawer.

In his work, he did a great deal of travelling in his car to visit clients before and after contracts had been signed.   During the period Janet went missing, he failed a breathalyser test and was banned from driving over a fixed period.   It was fortuitous that Janet soon returned to the fold after this ban and virtually became his chauffeuse until his ban had been removed.  It could be stated that their reunion had brought the family together in a much happier state than before.

This had a spin-off on Ella, who always liked to have a chat with little Louise, her double as a child, and Andrew.   This applied to myself for when speaking to Andrew, I always asked him when he would be coming over to cut the lawn!

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 20, 2001