or coming to terms with a lost life
a writer's experience

I had a life complete with all the trimmings — a job with good responsibility if not a good salary, a comfortable home with a large garden, a new company car plus my own, a dog and two cats, two lovely daughters of my own and a lovely stepdaughter, and a stepson who still suffered the effects of the trauma resulting from the loss of his father through divorce.

We lived in a four bedroom house in Essex until one day Betsy, then my wife, left with our four children. We’d been together almost seven years and had seen some trying times before she disappeared. We’d started our lives together in her Sussex seaside home town of Brighton — when we met I had been living in Brighton for some time, trying to break free of a troubled lifestyle that had seen me in an out of jail over nearly 20 years of my life. It was beginning to seem almost a losing battle.

Our meeting was a fatal attraction kindled by our loneliness and soon she had accepted me into her home, with her nine-year-old son Richard and new born daughter Demma, whose father had disappeared after her birth as quickly as he’d arrived. I became Demma’s father from the age of two months. We lived in a flat in Portslade, close to Hove and there I bought an old Remington office typewriter and began churning out radio and television drama scripts by the dozen, stage plays, film scripts and pilots for a wide range of TV series. The flat was seldom free of the clatter of the typewriter and Betsy proved tremendously supportive of my efforts. I became a regular contributor to the Spitting Image TV comedy series and I am sure some of my material kept them alert.

Then I was successful in gaining a commission to write a series of six monthly investigative environmental articles for a county magazine. They were all published but the earnings failed to cover a day’s work. Each article had taken many, many hours of painstaking research to prepare. The final article, a much larger feature, paid well and was some consolation.

It was an eventful time in many ways. One night a drunk stranger knocked on our door and seemed surprised to see me but asked for some cigarettes. I figured he was lost, gave him some smokes and he went away. Thirty minutes later another knock came but this time the door burst open before I could get to it and the same guy forced his way into the apartment brandishing a bread knife. Betsy was down the hall in the main room and the children were in bedrooms off the hall. I backed down the hall into the main room, followed by the stranger with the knife who was waving it and threatening me with it.

I managed to put a small solid table between him and myself and Betsy, who had jumped up in alarm from the sofa. I'd also picked up a heavy brass ornament from the table and was debating on either knocking the knife from the guy's hand or knocking him cold. In the end I was able to talk him into giving me the knife and after we talked some more he calmed him down he apologised and left. I contacted the police after he left anyway and they called on him with a stern warning. I saw no need at the time to press charges and the cops agreed it was OK.

A few weeks later after a minor but loud argument Betsy went from the flat and told a garbled story to a nearby friend with the result that two friends of hers wrongly thought I had been beating the children.

They appeared unannounced at my door and took me by surprise, knocking me through the plate glass kitchen door and almost beating me to death with a baseball bat before being stopped by Betsy's friend, who rushed in.

Later I was to turn to crime with Betsy's brother in an attempt at getting money for the family's needs but was caught after Betsy informed the police of our intentions. I received a jail sentence of 30 months, but forgave Betsy and we continued living together after my release, though it was eventually to prove an ill-fated attempt.

Despite now having a portfolio of published work, I was unable to find steady work and after much discussion with Betsy, we moved to Basildon in Essex, although she was a first reluctant to move to a new location. We had a better and larger home and I thought my chances of getting work would be far better, closer to London and the Home Counties.

I was right and soon had plenty of work as a freelance writer and was eventually taken on as a full-time freelance reporter by a large newspaper group. By now we had two more daughters, Jessica and Anna and they had started school. My work kept me extremely busy and the pay was good to begin. I was determined to stick it out, having finally found a job I thoroughly enjoyed after spending many years in mind numbing employment. At one stage I was working in the day as a reporter and also for several hours at night as a night stone editor in Harlow, 30 miles from where we lived, until the company decided I was too expensive to retain as a freelance and gave me a staff job instead. My salary took a crippling blow in the process.

My relationship with Betsy seemed stable enough but I was beginning to feel trapped in a relationship I felt neither of us should have been in.

Then one day I’d had to prepare a story relating to fears of an outbreak of childhood disease epidemics due to a national complacency toward the precautionary inoculation programme. Our own children had not been inoculated — Betsy was completely set against it and refused to properly discuss it with me. I tried to bring the subject up again but to no avail and eventually stormed from the house in anger to cool off, frustrated at not being able to discuss something serious concerning our children. She remained unapproachable in the matter.

Some days later I had to visit our family doctor as I had undergone a critical operation on one ear and would soon have to have the operation repeated on the other. I asked the doctor for a prescription for Betsy, who suffered with hay fever.

“I’ve already told Betsy she can’t have the medicine when she is pregnant,” the doctor said. It was the first I knew of her pregnancy. I was stunned.

Betsy had talked of wanting another child but with four in the house already, I knew we would be unable to adequately afford another. It was two days before I felt able to confront Betsy with my knowledge of her condition. There were no arguments, the matter just came into the open.

The following day I returned from work to find the house empty and a good quantity of the children’s clothing missing. A close friend later told me that Betsy had confided in her, that she had deliberately stopped taking the pill without telling me so to get pregnant again.

It was to be over six months before I located my family. Once I had seen Betsy interviewed on the national BBC television news at six. She had been chosen for interview as she was staying in a women’s hostel at a time when the government was proposing changing the welfare payments for single mothers, something she as a mother of four would be affected by.

I’d come home late from work and was watching the broadcast on the video, some 30 minutes after it had been televised. I was dumbfounded to hear Betsy say on camera that I had put her and the children out of the house and would not let her back, and to hear her refer to me as a ’criminal’.

Incensed I telephoned the news editor at the BBC and berated him. Libbie Weiner had reported on the piece but no-one had contacted or tried to contact me prior to its broadcast to afford me the right of reply to potentially damaging comments. The BBC had my details on file as I would often file news items across - and anyway, I was easy to locate. I worked a major news area from Brentford to Southend-on-Sea. After my call the report was pulled and did not go out again with following bulletins. Several months later I located Betsy and the children in a cramped bedsit in Southend where I visited them. The next day they all returned home, but it wasn’t to last and she left for good less than one year later, again leaving no trace. All contact came via solicitors, though this time I eventually located her at a woman's hostel, again in Southend.

Then one morning at work I received a telephone call from a neighbour who told me someone was in my home and he didn't know who. When I arrived by car a few minutes later after telephoning the police, I found my front door barricaded from within and a sheet draped from the upper windows and covered with the painted words ‘WHAT SORT OF MAN REFUSES TO LET HIS OWN CHILDREN BACK INTO THEIR OWN HOME’.

Reports that reached me through her solicitors spoke of how she was unable to go out as she had to spend her time looking after the children, had very little money, and generally blamed me for everything. Unknown to her, I had collected photographic evidence of and documented the numerous times Betsy went out in the evenings until quite late, often in the company of different men and going to night clubs in the town.

I was beginning to feel the victim of some almost inane satanic plot. It turned out the women were from the hostel where Betsy was staying and she had herself given them the front door key. At that point I still had been unable to locate Betsy and the children. I later learned she had been taken from the house with the children by a local women’s aid group whom I later threatened with legal action for their illicit behaviour of moving my children from my home and not contacting me regarding their whereabouts and safety.

Almost two years later I was still alone at the house, going through the trying business of making a legal case for custody of the children. I’d also had a very poor few months of illness following the second ear operation, which badly affected my balance and left me virtually unable to properly look after myself. I then met Linda, who lived and worked in the adjoining town of Wickford. We began seeing each other regularly, then I was offered the job of chief reporter at Winchester, over 100 miles away.

I informed Betsy’s lawyers that I was moving and Betsy moved back in straight after I left. I moved to a rented house in Southampton, from where I commuted daily for a year to Winchester. Linda would visit me every few weekends and I would repay the visits. The she decided to sell up her house in Essex and move to be with me. We found and rented a house in the Hampshire countryside and Linda started a new, far better job in Winchester that I helped her to locate.

For several years I worked as a crazy man, setting up my own news supply agency while developing my role as chief reporter with the Hampshire based news organisation and also trying to maintain contact with my children. The dedication I gave to my work impacted somewhat on the relationship between Linda and myself, but we remained close as a couple and shared a lot of adventures and times together. We moved to a new home of our own in Eastleigh. Linda had bought the house without my knowledge and said she intended moving away from me, but then decided we should continue our relationship.

In the summer of 1994 took on the role of organising a civilian charity trip to Bosnia. It took an inordinate amount of work over a six month period over and above my other work and duties and often had me up until the early hours of the morning, especially towards the latter stages of the preparation. Linda decided to accompany me and be one of the six-strong crew taking two vehicles laden with donated items with which we would hold children’s Christmas parties for orphaned children across Bosnia, assisted by UNPROFOR and the UN. Yet the stress and time of working on the project took its toll on our relationship. It was not something Linda seemed able to fully cope with.

By the time we were ready to leave on 19 December, our relationship was on something of a knife edge. I still felt comfortable within the relationship but was unaware of how Linda was beginning to feel. She also seemed unwilling or unable to inquire into my own feelings. Several setbacks to the smooth running of the operation occurred in and on the way to Bosnia and, looking with hindsight, Linda seemed to view my irritation and annoyance as being directed at her. Of course it was not – I was hoping for a friend in Linda, but it was obvious that I had not really found someone who was able to be my friend. It was just another ill-fated match.

The Bosnia project proved an overall success, despite our near miss by a mortar bomb and having been shot at by heavy machine gun fire as we climbed a mountain road on the Bosnia/Croatia border and an encounter with Afghan rebel fighters. One van had returned early to the UK and Linda and I returned with a third member of the group on 31 December.

Thousands of people had donated gifts and money and had otherwise helped towards the success of the project and the day after our return I decided to write to everyone on my database to inform them of the outcome of the trip. I felt I owed it to them. Linda immediately castigated me for wanting to go back to working on the computer in the room I had turned into my office at our home. It would probably have taken me no longer than a few minutes to write the letter, programme the system and print off all the documents.

Linda became so angry at my plans that I dropped them and suggested that we went off for a few day’s holiday. She declined the idea and instead drove alone that evening to her mother’s home in Romford. We spoke on the telephone the next day, but she asked me not to travel to Romford, although I offered to.

She returned on the evening of 2 January, my 45th birthday, and her return was suddenly like a cold, unwelcome wind blowing into my life. She had been in the house just a few minutes before asking me with a distant emotion if I would go out for a walk with our dog Emma and her. Before we had crossed the road outside of our house she told me that I had “two weeks to leave” the house we were buying together.

Linda had put down the initial deposit on the house, but we were making the repayments together. I was earning good money and it was all going into our lives together.

There was no let up from Linda. After spending a week sleeping on the living room floor of my own home and not being spoken to by Linda or her 21-year-old son, who had recently returned from a trip to Israel and South Africa, I’d had enough. Our immediate neighbours, a kind and generous couple with whom we were both friends, knew of our troubles and said I could rent their holiday home at nearby Lee-on-the-Solent. It was a Godsend.

The two bedroom apartment was ideal and looked out over the Solent. The bulk of the home equipment in the house I shared with Linda had belonged to me and most other items we had acquired together. My new apartment had everything – it was fully equipped as a ready to live in home and all that I took from my previous home with Linda were personal items and my home office equipment. The personal items included my written work over the previous 15 years and my extensive photograph collection. I lived for six months alone at the apartment, but it was over an hour’s drive from my office. I moved to accommodation in the centre of Winchester, just a few hundred yards from my newspaper office. As keyholder to the office, it was much more convenient than being called out in the middle of the night from over an hour’s drive away whenever the alarm system activated.

I was becoming a little jaded with life. Linda continued her job in Winchester and occasionally we would pass each other as if we were strangers, although we would speak. I was finding it tough going. As if sensing my growing despair, my editor decided to move me to the head office at Basingstoke, where I then worked for just over one month before being transferred back to my own area of responsibility.

I felt that the circumstances of my private life were impacting on my ability to perform my job as well as I should. It was a job I was proud to have held for almost five years and a position I had struggled hard to achieve for many years more, yet a few weeks after being relocated back to my patch at Winchester I quit overnight and left England for Ireland.

I left the bulk of my property secure at my Winchester apartment while I decided on the course of my life. It felt almost like trying to put together a shattered light bulb. Three weeks later I returned to England to sort out my possessions. I traded my car for a camper van.

When I telephoned my newspaper to offer apologies for having disappeared for three weeks, I was in for a surprise. I learned that the editor had been fired the day after my departure — staff said he had been escorted off the property following a board meeting. The acting editor offered me my job back and said I could return to work whenever I wished with no questions asked. In some ways now I feel sad that I did not accept the generous offer, but at the time I felt unable to return. I remained in England for a few days, deliberating on the matter, before realising that I did not feel able to return and making up my mind to travel back to Ireland. Some might consider I was going through a form of emotional or nervous breakdown, but I had no-one to help me through my trouble at the time.

I contacted Linda by telephone to tell her that I planned to leave England and we went out that evening for a meal together. It was the first time we had been alone together since our separation, but nothing had changed. She did agree to look after the personal property I could not take in the small camper van, the boxes of my written work, my hundreds of photographs and other essentials I wished to be stored in safekeeping. I could store them in the room attic of her house, she said.

I had hundreds of pounds worth of clothing at my Winchester apartment, and thousands of pounds worth of tools and equipment and kitchen hardware. I packed what I considered essential items of clothing, my camping equipment and my guitars into the van and left everything else behind. With a friend I took the items Linda had said I could leave with her and stored them in her attic. Walking through what had been my home I was struck at how Linda had removed every vestige of my ever having been at the house. It was eerie, as if she had tried to remove me from her life as if I had never existed. I found it extremely difficult to comprehend such a cold attitude.

I toured Ireland mostly alone in my camper and lived on the road. After several months of touring and meeting new acquaintances I met someone from the USA and we spent several days together, during which time she told me she was suffering with a form of leukaemia. I had developed a fondness for this woman and was left a little disconsolate after her return to America. Two weeks later, and uncertain what direction my life was or should be going in, I sold all of my possessions and bought an airline ticket to the USA, where I stayed in Boston for one year. Several times I met the woman I had known in Ireland in Boston and in New York, but our relationship did not develop and after the year I quit the USA, unable at the time to stay longer, and returned to Ireland.

While in the US I remained in occasional contact with Linda. Then one day a letter arrived from her, a short page telling me she had met a “new nice man”, that they intended marrying and moving to a new house, and asking what should she do with my belongings.

I was unable to contact her by telephone and instead left messages and wrote, asking her to ensure that what I had left with her was secure and safe. She had access to locate my friends, and members of my family in England. I heard nothing further from her.

It took a further two years for me to locate Linda in the UK after my return to Ireland and then it was only indirectly, a letter from me passed to her by her former employer who had remained in contact. In the letter I asked Linda about my belongings.

A few weeks later I received a reply in the form or a small single torn scrap of paper with no return address and a High Wycombe postmark on the envelope.

“I’m sorry. I threw your things away. Linda,” was all she wrote. And that was it. All of my written work, photographs of my children, material collected through my life, discarded as junk by someone with whom I had shared life with for six years and trusted with its safekeeping.

There's no real blame. Not really. I was the one she was meant to be with but she didn't know it and instead sacrificed commitment for worldy pleasure.

This, then is part of the story of the person behind this web site.


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