Paul – Love & Loss (part 1)


Thus far I haven’t been able to blog specifically about Paul and our relationship, but today, 10 years on from the eve of his death, it seems a fitting occasion, so I’m giving it my best shot, though much abbreviated.

If you missed how we met you can find the story here:

I had two marriages behind me and he was into his second of what I thought initially was a happy marriage. I was enjoying my newfound freedom as I had been more or less tied to husband number one since I was a mere child of 14 and soon after our divorce I married husband number two, so I certainly wasn’t looking for a new relationship.

Following two encounters with cancer and radical surgery I embarked on a degree course which I found quite challenging – and one evening I was doing work for college at a friend’s house, as my parents’ home was being rewired and they were having central heating installed, so their house was in a complete mess. The phone rang and Barbara answered it and it was Paul for me (Mum had told him where I was and given him the number) and he asked if I would meet him for a drink.

‘I’ll bet your wife doesn’t know about this’, I scoffed.

‘She’s gone’, he said briefly and I responded as one might expect, but I was really busy and wanted to get on with my assignment.

‘But I have so much work to do’.

‘I thought you were my friend?’ I melted, as he obviously needed someone to talk to.

We met at an old coaching inn and visibly upset he filled me in on the detail and also about his first marriage and the reason behind that divorce. He was partially covering his mouth, clutching at his chin and fighting back tears. I reached out to touch his hand in a gesture of support.

‘How did you know I wanted you to do that?’ he asked and I was hooked!

His story is as long and convoluted as mine and too involved to tell in a blog, so here is the abridged version:

When we first met he was estranged from his own grown up children, but before the divorce many years earlier, he had been a devoted father. Since that marriage broke down it had become increasingly difficult to see the children as they were growing up, and he had little contact with them.  His second divorce proved just as difficult and protracted – and even then he was still paying maintenance to his first wife, so once again his assets were to be decimated. He was broken.

Apart from his own three children he had three stepchildren (also grown up by that time) and throughout both marriages he worked full time as a tutor (latterly commuting 100 miles daily). Any spare time was spent on the never ending DIY, as he would usually buy older properties, live in them whilst doing them up, then sell. The process was repeated and I think in total he had lived in 17 or 18 homes in his lifetime.

We became a couple. He wasn’t perfect and neither am I, but he was probably very close to the man of the dreams I had as a young girl – the man I never thought existed. I was happier than I had ever been – and he started to laugh again too. We sometimes fought, but were totally devoted to each other and my heart would skip a beat whenever I saw him after being away from him for a few days. My sons and their families loved him and he them. After the birth of his eldest son’s first child, her maternal grandfather urged his son-in-law to let Paul know – and he made contact. I then cajoled Paul into rebuilding a proper relationship with them and they have been very supportive of me too.

Paul with my grandson

It was awhile before I discovered what an exceptional artist he was, as I had never seen him paint. It was only when he had to leave his lovely big cottage and move to a two-up two-down on the wrong side of the tracks that I saw his portfolio and his unique talent. I bought him a small sketch book and he started drawing on our many drives out into the country. He loved landscape and worked fast and would be onto his third drawing when I hadn’t even finished my first! I encouraged him to start painting again and even sent off applications for him to submit to various exhibitions, but he refused point blank.

It was a particularly cruel blow when I became seriously ill again and we both thought I was going to die just a year into our relationship. Without Paul’s help and sheer determination I don’t think I would have survived. You can read more about it here, here, here and here.

I introduced Paul to Hong Kong where some of my family live. It inspired him – the hustle and bustle of ships in the very busy harbour jolted his dormant talent into action again and with the flat 13 floors up overlooking the West Lamma Channel, he dragged the dining table closer to the window so he had a better view and set about looking for wood from the building site below, on which to paint. The Chinese workmen were very bemused by the tall, skinny, bearded gweilo, stripping plywood off old doors and nicking off with it! He bought paint, paper and ink too and produced one painting after another. His passion for his work had returned! He started submitting his paintings and drawings to exhibitions and entering competitions – and was a regular winner, especially at London venues and one of the prizes was a one man show in Bloomsbury!

Hong Kong Central.jpg
Hong Kong Central
misty ships copy.jpg
Misty Ships
Pearl Of The Orient 2.jpg
Pearl of the Orient
The Golden Arches of Cheung Chau scan.jpg
The Golden Arches of Cheung Chau

My father became terminally ill with cancer and was confined to a wheelchair and as I had no siblings I felt I should do my best for my parents. I worked two days a week at a factory near Paul and he would take me to work on Monday, then drive me the 30 miles down to my parents where I would stay till Thursday when he would collect me and I would work again on Friday and then spend the weekend with him, so it was very much a part-time relationship.The house next door to Paul came up for sale and my father would have moved quite happily, but my mother just wouldn’t budge.

Dad died in year 2000 and I retired from my job in 2005, but was still commuting to spend three days with my mum who by then was suffering with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, therefore two parts of the brain affected. She had Meals on Wheels coming daily and her neighbour, Jean, popping in several times a day to check on her when I wasn’t there. The situation was becoming quite stressful for everyone and Paul and I didn’t manage to live a normal life together. The house next door became for sale on two more occasions, but Mum flatly refused to move.

Finally Paul and I made a decision; throughout 2006 I scanned the Internet for property we might afford in Scotland and we visited Dumfries and Galloway several times to look for houses big enough for all three of us (perhaps just with a garage suitable for conversion to a granny flat) and intended to move somewhere near the artists’ town of Kirkcudbright. We reasoned Mum was so far into her dementia that she wouldn’t remember that she wasn’t ‘ever going to leave’ her house. It would mean that we could live as a proper couple  and so we would finally get married. 2007 was to be our year.

Harbour Kirkcudbright


2012 – the Artwork

Jimi (digital image)

In spite of anther year of DIY, I did manage to do a bit of artwork, though not as much as I would have hoped, so I’ll make more of an effort this year and maybe get on with the book. Mainly I’d like to concentrate on sculptures of my grandchildren.

I made several digital images and had then put onto canvas. Some worked better than others. I think it really depends on the original image. Remember that old idiom –  ‘you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear!’


Handsome Fellow (digital image)
Handsome Fellow (digital image)
  • Edward (clay)
  • Edward (clay)

One hand, One Heart...

Wa Sze-Wai (clay)
Wa Sze Wai (clay)
Wa Sze-Wai
Wa Sze-Wai (plaster cast)
Edward (plaster cast)
Edward (plaster cast)
Mosaic for hob back-splash
Mosaic for hob back-splash


THRIVINE vs HIV – Positive Picture

Adrienne receiving the £1500 cheque
Adrienne receiving the £1500 cheque

Congratulations to Adrienne & Cath for their sterling efforts in presenting the ‘Positive Picture’ project to the ‘Dragon’s Apprentice’ and successfully obtaining funding for the project. Read all about it on Adrienne’s blogs at :

Skype Has Changed My Life

How wonderful Skype is; my eldest son and his family live in Hong Kong and I only see them once a year. We used to keep in touch by phone once a week, but you know what anathema that is for kids – then there was the cost to consider as well – and as a consequence the calls were short and sweet.

Three years ago my youngest grandson was born and he was one year old before he met me. I was a complete stranger to him and he was only just getting to know me when they had to leave. In the meantime we got Skype and that has changed my life. I spend just less than an hour with them every Sunday and it is as if we are in the same room. They just get about their normal business, coming and going, chatting and playing games with me and in the background I hear the little one’s voice, ‘Grandma, Grandma!’ – and then the top of his head appears on the screen, bobbing up and down like a demented Muppet until someone picks him up.

Last Sunday was simply the best. My eldest grandson noticed I was online and called me early. I had arranged lunch to accommodate the hour change in BST, so that the call wouldn’t clash with our lunch and their evening meal. As it was, I received the call when our lunch was in the oven and would soon be ready. Thousands of miles away my daughter-in-law was about to produce their meal and it seemed that we would have to hang up and speak later, but she said they had a cooked lunch, so the evening meal was just a snack and so they could all sit around the computer with it. I hurriedly went and gave my mother her meal and brought mine to the computer, complete with glass of wine. They had wine too and there we sat, face to face, eating our meals just as if we were looking over the dinner table. It was magic and the call lasted for about an hour and a half. I really felt I had dined with them, so thank-you Skype!

British Humanist Association – online magazine – Humanist Life

Lunch at The Natural History Museum (Darwin Ponders Evolution)

Nice surprise last night – received a message that my painting, ‘Lunch at the Natural history Museum (Darwin Ponders Evolution)’, is now on the magazine cover. It was September last year when I was asked, so I had completely forgotten about it.

Desperate Housewives – UK aficionados should complain about the ‘short break’

I’m mortified – that there is no show for two weeks and emailed Channel 4 to complain. Although I received two replies there is no satisfactory explanation. If Corrie or East Enders were to take a ‘short break’ there would be rioting on the streets, so why should we lovers of DH have to put up with this?

Clearly the break is to accommodate those who have gone away for the Easter hols, but the scheduling department should be pandering to those of us who have no alternative but to stay at home and not those who can afford to swan off to distant climes.

Please email Channel4 to register your complaint.

See abbreviated exchange of emails below:

Me: Why no episodes of Desperate Housewives just because it’s Easter?

Channel 4 reply:

Dear Willo,

Thank you for contacting us regarding DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. We would advise that the series is taking a short break and will return with episode 11 being broadcast on E4 on 11th April at 10pm and on Channel 4 on 14th April at 10pm.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us here at Channel 4 and for your interest in our programming.

Me: Thank you for your speedy reply. However, you didn’t answer my question – I already observed that Desperate Housewives is taking a short break and that is why I wrote to you in the first place! My question was ‘why’? If it were a live show I could understand that the team needed a break – but it isn’t. I assume you’ve altered the programming on account of the Easter holiday, but I am one of the many who can’t take a break, so why should we suffer on account of those that go away? After all – they could record their missed programs or catch up on 4oD.

Otherwise – thanks for the ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘wacky’ programs.

Channel 4:

On 2 Apr 2010, at 13:28, Channel4 VE Support wrote:

Dear Willo,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. The decision to take a break for a week was made by those in our scheduling department. Unfortunately, they have not supplied us with a reason for this break. Nevertheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted and logged for the information of those responsible for our programming.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us here at Channel 4 and for your interest in our programming.


Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

For information about Channel 4 have a look at our FAQ section at

The Bristol Stool Form Scale

When, on the doctor’s instruction, I asked at reception if the District Nurses might contact me regarding incontinence pads for my mum, they said it would be at least two weeks before they would get in touch (I did wonder how this might be helpful when it was now that Mum was suffering from diarrhoea). So imagine my surprise when two days later I was just about to go to my Thrivine Trustees meeting when there was a knock on the door and when I opened it a woman barged right in.

‘I’ve come to see your mother’, she said, curtly. To which I replied, trying to muster a smile, ‘and you must be the district nurse?’ With no further introduction she said, ‘I came yesterday, but you were out.’ Then, turning to my mother accusingly, ‘Were you out?’ Mother looked blankly at her as I said, ‘Yes, we had to attend an appointment at the hospital – Stroke Clinic! I wasn’t expecting you, at the doctors’ reception they said it would be two weeks before I would receive contact from you – and I’m just on my way out for an important meeting. Had you phoned me I could have arranged a mutually convenient time.’

Totally undeterred she produced a piece of A4 paper – a ‘Bowel Habit Diary’ and instructed me that I must keep this diary for two weeks, noting the time of bowel movements, whether or not lots of toilet paper was used, if the underwear was marked and the consistency of the stool using the Bristol Stool Form Scale ‘What is the Bristol Stool Form Scale?’ I asked innocently. She seemed astounded at my ignorance and said she would get me a copy from the car.

I explained that I felt (hoped) mum’s incontinence was entirely due to the gastroenteritis and not a normal event. Again she looked at me accusingly – ‘so you don’t want to complete the form?’ I gathered by the tone of her voice that it wouldn’t be prudent for me to decline, so I meekly took the form from her. (You may be picturing this nurse as a big old battle-axe, but not so – she was youngish and even smaller than me, which would make her less than 5ft).

To try and ease the tension I explained the situation over recent days and the fact that I though Mum also had a urine infection, but I had been told I must wait five days for the result. ‘What?’ She scoffed. ‘We would done a dip-stick test right away!’ ‘That’s what I was expecting,’ I concurred. ‘Ridiculous!’ and with that she left, muttering. I ran bare-footed out to the car to remind her that she was to give me the stool chart. With no time to look at it I made a mad dash to my meeting.

Looking later at the Bristol Stool Form Scale, I fell about laughing. ‘Who would be a graphic designer?’ I thought. There are seven types of stool depicted in the illustrations, ranging from ‘Separate hard lumps’ through to ‘Watery, no solid pieces ENTIRELY LIQUID.’ Speaking as a once graphic designer/illustrator, I have had some uninspiring things to draw, but none so shitty as this. Then I noted that it was reproduced by kind permission of Dr KW Heaton of Bristol University and I became full of admiration for him/her. From these illustrations I was able to easily identify Mum’s stools for the following two weeks. The form given me by the nurse was far less easy to use – not allowing enough space for the many times Mum passed a stool on some days and under the heading ‘Did you mark your pad/underwear,’ I found myself writing ‘No – floor, yes,’ or ‘wall yes’, but that’s another story… .

Gastroenteritis or – When the Shit Hits the Fan!

I’ve seen enough of the trials and tribulations of life (and death) to know that in the grand scheme of things, my few days beginning on 4th March were nothing of significance, but as a shit few days go – literally (and this is from someone who has had colo-rectal cancer, so knows everything there is to know about shit), I have hardly known worse.

Mother was awake all night, pacing up and down – up and down, in and out of bed, backwards and forwards seemingly never ending. After continually getting out of bed and finally losing count, I put my head under the duvet, trying to block out the noise of the creaking floorboards as the pacing continued. BIG MISTAKE!

When finally I surfaced after maybe an hour or so of sleep, I heard Mum downstairs, still pacing. I crawled out of bed and as soon as I opened my door I realized my error as I was greeted with the smell of excrement. Then I saw the trail – all across the landing, into the bathroom, over the mirror, the radiator the floor, the toilet seat, hardly a surface untouched. I backtracked to her bedroom and just outside her door was the pile where it had first begun. She had done it on the landing and walked in it, gone to the toilet, then walked back to her room and climbed in and out of bed – it was everywhere. Then I followed the trail downstairs, all over the stair carpet, across the floor, into the kitchen and back into the living room, where I even found it on mum’s tray at the side of her chair.

My first thought was that she was ill, but when I investigated the origins on the landing I realised it was just the normal consistency indicating her very healthy appetite – big appetite = large dump! Followed by size seven feet tramping through it, then hands trying to wipe it off.

Firstly I had to get her back upstairs to the bath, but I couldn’t ask her to sit down so I could wipe her feet (white sofas), neither could I get her to balance on one leg without her grabbing hold of something with her shitty hands. As the floor was already soiled I took the lesser of the evils.

Back in the bathroom the big clean up began by me helping her into the bath, stripping off her nightie and hosing her down with the shower, then getting her dried and with great difficulty got her back into her bedroom, trying to avoid the dollops on the floor. As she was getting dressed I set to – on my new carpets (in preparation for marketing the house) with water, disinfectant and a scrubbing brush. I had viewers coming round at 6pm that evening!

Mum was due to go to day-care between 9am and 10am, so I decided that she wasn’t ill (with the ‘normal’ dump) and I would be better fixed if she was out of the way, so that I could scrub the rest of the house and dry the carpets with a hairdryer.

She ate breakfast as usual and off she went as I got back to the task in hand. I popped out to buy more cleaning stuff and when I returned there was a message on the answer machine. Mum had vomited, so could I go and get her!

She was looking rather jaded and they kindly gave me a washing up bowl in which to collect any vomit on the way home!

Having lived in Africa and gained knowledge of all kinds of gastroenteritis, I was aware of the necessity for rehydration. Fortunately I had some rehydration salts in the cupboard, so started these immediately. Within the hour they were back, together with copious quantities of pea green bile! Fortunately this was collected in the bowl and I was able to continue with my scrubbing.

Job finished I was just heaving a sigh of relief when the diarrhoea started, leaving a trail back upstairs to the bathroom covering the area I had just cleaned. And so the day progressed with me finally having to bite the bullet and go out to buy anti diarrhoea pills and incontinence knickers, dreading what I would find upon my return.

By 3.30 I had no option but to phone the estate agent and cancel my viewers – and back to the scrubbing again. It was no wonder that by now my knees and back where killing me, the latter not least caused by having to heave mum in and out of the bath. She is taller than me and considerably heavier.

As I got her off to bed that night I suggested she carry the bowl with her with me following her up the stairs to steady her. She refused the bowl, saying she was now okay, but as she reached the next to the last step she threw up all over the newly washed carpet! So it continued till late into the night. Just as I was making my way to bed I noticed my clean washing, which had been airing over the stair rails on the landing – every item daubed with shit, so it was back downstairs to the washing machine!

Friday morning things had subsided and a friend phoned and invited me out to lunch. I had to decline, explaining the circumstances. Nevertheless he decided to come round here, armed with sandwiches from M&S. As instructed by the pharmacist I just gave mum a light lunch of chicken soup.

That evening another friend phoned, saying after work he would be doing a job nearby and would call in with a kebab. Again I explained the circumstances, but he insisted on calling albeit without the kebab. We just had a cuppa and he enjoyed my vast array of nuts, but I was increasingly starting to panic when I realised I wasn’t interested in the nuts. Sure enough, I went down with the virus later that evening. I just hoped my guests would be okay.

As I started with the diarrhoea and vomiting, so mum started all over again, the difference being that I was able to contain mine. However, there is nothing quite so repulsive as clearing up other people’s mess when you are feeling totally ghastly! The incontinence pants had been a good buy – until Mum, without my knowledge, took them off in the middle of the night and as a consequence I had another trail if shite to deal with. By the Sunday we were starting to improve, but I was totally shattered.

Monday – no shit, but I had decided not to send Mum to day care and let her sleep in. When she finally emerged she was talking gobbledygook – a sure sign she had a urine infection. It could be a mini stroke, but I had lots of experience of TIAs with my dad and these symptoms were different. I determined to phone the doctor’s surgery next morning, so long as the gastroenteritis had still subsided.

Tuesday 8.15, mum was still in bed so I phoned to make an appointment for 2.30pm. Mum eventually got up and horror of horrors it started all over again. How could I take her to the surgery with diarrhoea and vomiting – risking infecting everyone – clearly it was a very virulent virus – and what about the mess? I had to call for advice. I explained the situation, saying Mum had an appointment for 2.30 – with regard to the gobbledygook, but in the meantime the gastroenteritis had resumed and I felt I shouldn’t bring her. The receptionist said I was a bit late in asking for a home visit. I countered that my mum was 92 and I couldn’t let her go on like this so I would take her to the hospital. With that she said she would put me on the list and the doc would be starting his home visits in about an hour. I thanked her and hung up.

Minutes later the phone rang – same receptionist. ‘You already have an appointment at 2.30, you can either keep that or wait for a home visit tomorrow!”

‘I know I have an appointment at 2.30, but with Mum starting with the screaming shits again I didn’t think it wise to bring her to the surgery’. She assured me it was fine, so off we went at the appointed time – complete with bowl!

The doctor was very efficient, covering all angles and I told her that in my opinion it wasn’t a TIA but nevertheless she arranged for Mum to see a consultant.  She also agreed it might be a urine infection and instructed me to collect a sample bottle from reception – also to speak to them about asking the district nurses to call, with regard to incontinence pads. As for the gastroenteritis – just let it run its course.

I did as I was instructed, collected the bottle, took Mum home and with great difficulty and a crushed hand, I managed to get a sample, which gave me no doubt mum had an infection as the urine was bright orange. I immediately returned it to the surgery, where the receptionist told me to phone in about five days for the result. Five days! What good would that do? This kind of infection really knocks Mum back and it takes ages (or maybe not at all) for her to recover from it mentally.

The Stroke Clinic phoned with an appointment the following day – how efficient was that! Not that anything was done except blood pressure & blood test (for which I still haven’t had the results).

I actually phoned the surgery on the Friday afternoon for the urine results, but no luck. Phoned again on Monday, Tuesday and finally on Wednesday I was told the results of the urine sample were back, but not yet been looked at and I was to call again the following day. I phoned just after lunch and received a recorded message telling me the surgery was closed for training. It was Friday before I got the results – 10 days after taking the sample – and guess what – mum did have a urine infection!