It was coming up to Christmas last year - the first since I lost MTL - when I got a phone call from Jack. I had known him since I was in the lower thirds at Grammar School and he was a dazzling fourth former - good at school work and ace at sport. We both left at the same time - he to become a medical student and me to train as a nurse. We kept in touch for a while - I had had a slight crush on him, and then our paths diverged - he stayed in the north and became a doctor and I - after becoming stated registered - went south and started a modelling career.
Decades later I married MTL and went north again. Visiting my mother I noticed in the local paper that one of the teachers I had known was mentioned and - on a whim - went to visit her. She was full of enthusiasm for the School Reunions and mentioned Jack as being one of the stalwarts who always turned up. She persuaded us to go to the next Reunion and there was Jack - much the same- and we became friends with him and his wife Jenny; we would see them when we visited our cottage in Yorkshire and they would come to see us when they came to the south west.
Our correspondence had dwindled because although Jack was an inveterate letter writer I was converted to emails and that was off Jack's radar so as age inhibited travel we kept in touch with the odd phone call - usually on a Sunday afternoon.
" Jenny and I were talking about you the other day and we thought - poor Pat - all alone in that big house."
After a bit more chat I put the phone down, made a cup of tea and had a think. Those words reverberated in my head. I was an object of pity; I didn't feel sorry for myself - on the contrary I felt I have been blessed - so why should anyone else feel sorry for me ? And these were nice decent people. Have I been giving off pathetic vibes?
Sod that for a lark!
Something had to change; either I could spend the rest of my life spiritually crippled or I could take charge of what's left of my life and live it to the full, as if MTL were still by my side. The first thing I did was book to go on a cruise - alone - to see the mountains and fjords of Norway.
On the first night I still remember the slight panic as I made my way to the restaurant I had chosen
" I was shown to a table where a gentleman was already sitting. I knew he was a gentleman because he rose as I approached. This was Dylan – he was Welsh and for the rest of the cruise we were dinner companions. Dylan had asked to be on a large table but when I turned up decided to make the best of it. Fortunately we had a similar sense of humour."
Dylan has become a firm friend - what we used to call a platonic friend. Fortunately he is computer friendly so we can both exchange our daily minutia without boring the pants off each other. Recently he came to spend a few days in a nearby hotel where he used to stay with his late wife and the weather was kind. One day we joined our friendship group in Porlock Weir and it went well.
Of course it is difficult for people to understand when they haven't met the person involved.
DIL"We don't know anything about this Dylan - you should phone your mother and make sure she is OK."
Son " I did - there's no answer."
DIL" She could be lying in a pool of blood!"
For a while Dylan signed himself the Axe man.
I'm grateful to Jack for prodding me to the turning point and in December - over Christmas - I am cruising in the Canaries - on the same ship as my friend Dylan and his 15 yr old Canadian grandson.
It goes without saying that my heart belongs to MTL. Always.