Last revised on 21st December 2013
It's taken quite a
while for me to be able to write all of this down. It's also
been quite a painful experience.
In mid 1996, my company announced that they were relocating all of our jobs to Reading from Birmingham. I'd been expecting the announcement and had been looking for another job with very little success. I was persuaded by my other half to relocate as it would be more convenient for his job with the Welsh National Opera. The next few months were filled with house hunting and eventually we settled on a new development in Thatcham and a house almost identical to the one we were living in.
Things did not go smoothly. I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to get various things done. The relocation company was supposed to make things easier, but it made it far worse. The sale of my old house resulted in a loss of £5,000. I now had no capital and had to borrow the money to make up the shortfall and provide the deposit. At first the company said they couldn't give me a loan at which point I said that made it impossible for me to relocate and I was about to change to take the redundancy package when they suddenly changed their minds and I then finally accepted the relocation package. Every stage had to be chased up and by the time we actually came to move, I was really stressed. My new colleagues resented us all coming down as they believed (quite wrongly) we'd all been promoted to the higher of their two grades and, as the first one to move down, I had by far the worst of it. Some were quite openly hostile. Also it had not helped, that my other half lost his job the week before we moved. The move itself wasn't easy either, but we got in and Rod was offered a job at a London Theatre, so things looked as though they were going to be OK. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Rod commuted at first and then after a couple of months found a furnished studio flat to use during the week. I'd been having to fetch him from Reading every evening and getting up early to commute to Reading and the strain was proving too much, without realising what I was doing I was slowly shutting him out. On the May bank holiday, things just got to the point where we both realised that it was all over. Normally, I would have poured my heart out to Mum, but at the time she was having her own worries after major surgery. I'd just about got ready to tell her in the Autumn, but she'd had a scan and it wasn't good, she was going to have to go in for more surgery. Rod and I remained friends, what had happened was nobody's fault, it just happened at the wrong time.
Now I was alone, I started to feel desperately lonely. The car developed a problem which caused it to overheat, limiting me to only being able to drive 5 miles at the most - I couldn't afford to replace it. Opposite me lived a policeman, who'd taken a distinct dislike to me. I don't know what he'd told the other neighbours, but none of them would speak to me and one would rush out and fetch her children in each time I went outside. I thought it couldn't get worse.
In December, Mum went in for her operation. I phoned up after she'd come out of the operating theatre and all seemed OK. The next morning, I had a phone call to get to the hospital. I had to go up by train from Reading for the next couple of days as she was in intensive care. The following week she had to go into theatre again and I went up and stayed overnight in an hotel - I'd booked a hire car over Christmas as I'd planned to go up and visit them. At around 3am I had a phone call. I was half awake and it stopped. I hoped I'd imagined it, but my heart sank as it rang again. I rushed to the hospital, scared out of my mind, and got there to find Dad already by the bed. I sat by her and held her hand. I was suddenly aware that my sister was standing behind us, she was quietly sobbing. Suddenly one of the nurses said "I think she's died" - those words are burned on my memory. I got back to the hotel somehow and went back to bed, I felt numb, nothing seemed real.
Later in the morning, I mechanically phoned round colleagues to explain what had happened and that I wasn't going to be in until after Christmas - it was the 23rd. I went over to a close friend's house and as he opened the door I collapsed into tears, it was the first time I'd cried. As the funeral couldn't be held until after Christmas, I spent the whole time in a complete daze. Rod & Tony looked after me during that time, and for the four Christmases after that, for which I am very grateful.
The funeral was held just after my birthday in the new year, so I had to have more time off to go up and attend. Nobody told me what I was entitled to and one even had the audacity to grumble that it wasn't convenient. I stayed overnight at Dad's and was still in a complete daze. In the morning, I remember Dad getting things ready while I was only just up in time. I slept in my old room, but that had been changed into a guest room with a sofa bed and patio doors out onto a balcony over the downstairs extension. It was only when I got into one of the cars following the hearse that it finally hit home. I was hit by a chill and such a feeling of despair I'd never felt before. The funeral was held at St Bartholomew's, the vicar being a friend of Mum and Dad's. We then went over to Bushbury crematorium. Back at the house, old friends of my parents kept telling me that it was now up to me to look after the rest of the family. Unfortunately, I was the one coping the least well with things.
Back at home, things got much worse. It got to the stage where I would get home and immediately bolt the front door. I had never felt so alone and so scared, I felt I had nobody I could turn to. A further incident increased my sense of isolation. One time I was feeding one of the cats. I stood up, and glanced out of the kitchen window to see that the policeman was "mooning" at the house. I felt very threatened and from then on, kept the front curtains drawn when I was at home, even in daylight. I dreaded leaving the house and going to work and once there, dreaded the journey back home. I still do to some extent.
During this time, I was under a lot of pressure at work as well. The strain proved too much and I came close to having a breakdown. Far from helping me, colleagues just ignored the situation leaving me so desperately lonely. Night after night was spent in a zombie like state next to a phone that hardly ever rang and when it did it was always someone demanding to speak to Rod and demanding that I give them his new details. The days were hell at work as I felt nobody wanted to talk to me and I so desperately wanted to be listened to. I think that most people don't realise that sometimes you need somebody to tell you that they understand or can at least sympathise. Most of the people I'd thought were my friends turned out not to be. I was fortunate that two of them were true friends and came to my rescue. One of them gave me his old computer to give me some way of contacting people and the other phoned me weekly. I found out a couple of years later that they'd been very worried indeed. However, looking back, I appear to be a lot stronger than I thought.
Fortunately, the policeman moved away, as have all but a few of the neighbours, so things are not quite as bad and are still very slowly getting better. I still feel isolated and very lonely, though and I wonder what it is I've done to deserve this.
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