Wednesday 2 January 2013

should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

When I left University in 1995 - with an eminently (un)employable degree in Music and English - I obviously had to spend a certain amount of time being out of work.

Eventually this all got a bit depressing - so much so that I offered to do some voluntary work in the marketing department of a local theatre. I ended up working my way through the ranks, from part-time in the Box Office to full-time in the Marketing Department to an eventual Head of Department role.

This was all before the place closed down and made everybody redundant a couple of months before I was due to get married.

This is no sob story, however. Despite the fact that most of the people working there spent a great deal of time moaning and trying desperately to get work elsewhere (myself included), the people I worked with at this time are the people that we stay in touch with.

I also met the woman who would eventually become my wife there. And it was during this time that I was  diagnosed with MS. So this was the first place I had the experience of 'coming out'.

Emma and me have worked at different places since then - but we don't really stay in touch with anyone from any of them. Certainly not to the same level, anyway.

It's probably the closest I'll ever come to being down the trenches or something.

A couple of months ago, we went to the wedding of one of our old colleagues from the theatre. And I sat at a table with a bunch of people that I don't see from one year to the next but who I would gladly do anything for if they needed me.

One of my favourite people from this period was Annabel - she was the same age as me but she supervised the Box Office team. We worked a lot of shifts together and knew a lot of the same people from the local music scene. She was such good fun and we had a great time, even when working in a fairly crappy job (basically the same as any retail position with more anti-social shifts and dealing with the artistic temperament).

She was married to Simon with a daughter - I think me and my girlfriend of the time used to look up to them as a really sorted couple of cool grown-ups - they had a house and everything! So we had dinner parties and spent New Year's Eve's together, and we had at least one ill-advised attempt at a camping holiday (never again).

Anyway, Annabel changed jobs a couple of times, she and Simon had a couple more kids, life got complicated. We stayed in touch in that modern not-really-staying-in-touch-properly-sort-of-way (i.e. Facebook) and bumped into each other at events around town. Simon works with local voluntary services and often uses space in the building where I work now.

After my relapse last year he called in to see me, when he told me that Annabel had breast cancer. The treatment was kicking her arse so I wasn't able to see her but I was glad to have a chance to hang out with Simon when Emma and Evie were away in October.

After picking up from him on Twitter last week that things weren't going great, Simon called me a couple of days after Christmas with the news that Annabel had died.

Yes, this hasn't got a whole load to do with MS but if anything, this is a major wake-up call that we all need to start looking out for each other.

If you need to tell someone that you love them, do it now and do it often.

And (on an MS tip, and partly directed at myself) stop whining about what might happen with your condition and get on with living your life as best you can.

No-one (MSer or otherwise) knows what's going to happen so shut up and enjoy life because as far as I can tell the other options really SUCK.



  1. A good, thoughtful post, Steve. I'm your typical, emotionally repressed Englishman who can barely tell my wife that I love her, never mind anyone else.... But my dad mentioned to me at Christmas that he is now the same age as his mother was when she died, and I look at him getting older and wonder if I shouldn't just get over myself and say the things I need him to hear before it's too damn late. Mind you, I'm on day three of my new year hangover, so maybe I'm just feeling vulnerable and old myself.

  2. emotionally repressed? man, the chance would be a fine thing.

    i wish i could say it was just my downhill-trundle to 40 combined with fatherhood but i find that i'll cry at the drop of a hat (not literally) - particularly if there's a Muppet involved. Big Bird singing at Jim Henson's funeral is my armageddon.

    thanks for the comment - happy new year to you and yours!

  3. Oh, don't get me wrong... I well up at the strangest of times when watching the telly or at the cinema. You know, when you have to pretend you've got something in your eye and/or check that no one saw you. Cool Runnings got me, although as I always say in my defence, it was the last film I saw in a run of things like Remains of the Day, Schindler's List, Philadelphia and Shadowlands, so by then it was mostly like muscle memory. That's my excuse, anyway. I was weeping at Rochester's manly gruffness and concealed turmoil of emotions in Jane Eyre on new years day, although that might have been the hangover too.
    Happy New Year to you guys too!

  4. "You know, when you have to pretend you've got something in your eye and/or check that no one saw you. "

    dude, i'm well beyond being able to pretend anything of the sort.

    the first time i was aware that something had CHANGED with me was the Christmas special of 'Extras' - y'know when Ricky Gervais' character is in the Big Brother house and he's talking to Ashley Jensen (honestly, I'm getting a bit trembly writing this!).

    we're talking full-on SOBBING - it wasn't pretty.

    (this has set me off again! - bastards!)

    my wife tends to just roll her eyes at me now.

    (do you worry that this is turning into a kind-of weird "i'm more of a wuss than you"-type conversation?)

  5. (Yeah. Isn't it?). Cough. YOU WIN. YOU DEFINITELY WIN. I'm off to have something MANSIZED for tea.