Jenny Was A Friend Of MIne

A few weeks ago some friends gave me a load of DVDs in the hope of letting me catch up with what’s been happening in the world of Tv and film.  One of the films was “Confetti” a romantic comedy which is shows four couples who have been selected to take part in a wedding competition organised by a magazine.  Anyway there is a scene where they go to a wedding fair and one of the woman gets a make over and walks down the catwalk in a wedding dress.  Her partner played by Marin Freeman watches and his eyes well up with tears and he is moved at seeing the woman he loves all dressed up.  There is a song that plays which coupled with his excellent acting makes the whole thing very real and touching.

That song and two recent posts by Joanne Cake over at Having my Cake and Eating it  have prompted me to tell this story.  I did think about telling this story after a couple of posts I saw last week and then changed my mind, but have changed it back when I read her recent post about relationships.

I am still not sure I am doing the right thing telling this, but having made a decision I will stick with it.  I have had to change names and a few minor details and have tried to keep it as relevant as possible.  It maybe a bit long, but really I don’t want to break the story up.  In fact i cant break it up.

A couple of years ago I got a call from a lady called Jenny who lived on her own in Fulham who was having a bit of a problem with some yobs.  Not been a million miles away from where I lived, it was no big deal to pop down there to see just what the problem was.

Jenny met me at the door and was in her early forties, very pretty with big brown eyes, chestnut hair and and a lovely smile.  She reminded me of that woman Susan Stranks who used to be on Magpie when I was a kid.  There is no doubt about it she “was crumpet” as Bob would put it so succinctly.   Now, the thing is that at first glance when she opened the door to me she looked OK, but as we made our way into her living room she moved  very slowly and painfully and was clearly very feeble on her two pins.  When we got into the living room she collapsed exhausted into her wheel chair.

As I said at first glance you would be hard pushed to know that there was anything wrong with her, but the truth was that she was practically confined to a wheelchair.  It transpired she had some kind of neurological degeneration (which I think was due to TB in her spine) and some form of MS, I don’t know exactly what was wrong, but the long and the short of it was that she was a very ill lady.  Because she was vulnerable,  the local shit bags thought it a right laugh to throw stones at her windows and do various acts of vandalism and generally make her life miserable.

The first few minutes of our chat she kept it together and then the dam burst and it all came out.  It wasn’t just the yobs, it was a whole accumulation of things.  She had been a data analyst for a city bank and had been very well paid.  When she was first ill they were accommodating and eventually she worked from home, then they put her on a consultancy or free lance and slowly but surely the work dried up, not because she couldn’t do it, but because they were embarrassed at being with her and her condition and didn’t know how to handle it.

At the same time work dried up her husband left having been shagging her best friend for the last couple of years.  If that wasn’t bad enough he and the best friend moved to Australia – taking a major chunk of their joint saving and the two kids who were 20 and 22 went with him.  Her kids couldn’t be arsed to keep in touch with their mum.  I don’t know their side of it of course but this is what she told me.  She was an only child and her parents were dead. She had friends, but with the separation and divorce plus the fact that when can’t get out much and suffer the indignities these conditions can pile on you it is easy to drop off the social radar.  I known that from experience, your wife and klids die and suddenly you are a social leper, not that that really bothered me too much.  I digress.

So it was that she had spent her 40th birthday on her own in her house.  She was alone.  Not being disabled or sick I don’t know what that kind of loneliness is like and cannot begin to imaging, but from looking and listening to this lady I suspect it is desolate, totally desolate.

Fortunately, my trusty, ever present clean hankie came to hand and I was able to stem the flood of tears.  I put the kettle on and we chatted for ages over a few cups of tea.  I told her about Alison and the girls and it became dark and then the yobs turned up.  It was a swift one sided chat and they were advised that if they came back they would be looking for the service of a dentist.

What is wrong with people? I really don’t get it,  you give these fuck wits fair warning and do they listen?  No of course not.  The next night they came back, but then so did we and we  were six up.  The problem was very quickly and amicably resolved – well from our point of view anyway. They came back once more after that and the ring leader had to have the terms of our agreement reinforced properly, just so there was no more misunderstandings.  Funnily enough that was that.

The job was done but I popped in  fairly frequently over the next few weeks just to make sure they didn’t come back and to make sure she was OK.  She mentioned fairly on in proceedings that her house was on the market and that she intended to move to a more suitable location for her illness and then not long after this she told me she had accepted an offer on the house and would moving quite soon. A couple fo days later she randg me and asked if I could come and see her to discuss some business.

She asked if I would be able to arrange an escorted journey to Switzerland as she intended to use some of the money from the sale of her house for a holiday and treatment in a clinic in Switzerland.  she said it was time she though of her self rather than putting everyone else first.  I said I could arrange for one of the girls I work with to go with her, but she asked me if I would do it. I said I would think about it.

She went on about the trip and after looking at commitments and other things I said I would do it and she asked for a written quote for my services which I gave her.  Time ticked on and as I said she was so alone and being not far from where I lived I thought there’s no harm in popping in a few times a week for a chat and a cuppa, besides which the truth be told I didn’t have anyone to go back to and we got on pretty well and had quite a good laugh.

One day in Spring it was a lovely day and a job I was on had finished sooner than  had thought so I suggested we went out somewhere for a day.  I hired a suitable jam jar and we went out to Windsor and the Great Park and then had some grub at a pub I know near Virginia Water.  It was a good day out, but when I said we should do it again she became a bit quiet.  When I asked her what was up she said I was taking her out because I felt sorry for her.  I said that was partly true, but I felt sorry for myself as well and also I enjoyed her company.  She laughed and said she admire my honesty and said that I could continue to feel sorry for her provided she could feel sorry for me.  A deal was struck up and we shook hands on it.

So it was, I would pop in three or four times a week and when she was well enough I took her out and  we had a good time.  In fact we started going out a fair bit when she could.

I have to say I had not realised how piss poor our so called caring Britain was when it came to being disabled and going out.  As a nation we are more concerned with friggin dogs and cats that people it is a disgrace.  Oh yeah, they all talk a good job, but in general the facilities are rubbish most of the time and as for disabled parking, don’t get me started.  If I had to remonstrate with some ignorant bloody yuppie once I had to do it a hundred times.  Well maybe not a hundred, but quite a few.  On one occasion I took Jenny to a restaurant and as we arrived and were just about to park in the one disabled parking space, a BMW pulled up screeched into the disabled parking space. A man and woman got out and they were  as disabled as I was.  I called to them and the bloke came over.  I explained the situation and mentioned that he didn’t seemed disabled and would he mind moving his car so we could park there.  His explanation astounded me.  He was a doctor having a meeting with a drugs rep and he was late.  His missus, the stuck bitch said and I quote “there are other parking places you can use”  I said to her why didn’t they do that.  She told me to “fuck orf” turned and walked off and Dr twat laughed and shrugged and said “what can you do?”.

Silly me I thought he was asking for a demonstration so I showed him. He might have been a doctor but his first aid was crap, but he moved the car afterwards and I suspect he never did it again, but it spoilt the night out for us.  Actually it didn’t, but we went to a different restaurant as I had a feeling the police were going to interrupt our dinner at some point.

We had become friends – a bit of an odd couple in some respects but friends none the less.  However she pushed me to sort the details for the trip and was a stickler for details and proper costings.

After a couple of months I had to work away for about three or four weeks.  It was a very tough job in Somalia and I felt done in when I got back.  When  I saw Jenny I was really shocked at how weak she looked, maybe it was because I hadn’t seen her for awhile and prior to that had got used to seeing her, but I felt she had visibly deteriorated.

I asked her how she was, but she played her cards close to her chest and kept the medical visits and consultations private.  To be fair although I was on friendly terms we did still have a business relationship and I was still a relative stranger.

Then one day about a week  later she rang me to say that the house sale was going to complete very soon and she wanted to finalise the trip and could I pop into see her.  When I got there she was really bubbly and looked fantastic she also said that she had come into some money so the big news was that the trip was on and she had decided to go for the treatment at a clinic in Switzerland.  She had decided that she might not be well enough in the future so she wanted to make the trip a real blow out holiday.   I have to tell you I was taken a back but pleasantly encouraged  by her “up and at ’em” attitude and said it sounded great.

She then said she need invoices from me for organising and accompanying her on this luxury trip across Europe.  I said that I would be happy to go with her for free.  She was livid and said that feeling sorry for her was one thing but giving her charity was not what she wanted.  Was I a professional or not? I argued back but she was adamant and said that if I did not do it officially and charge her the proper rate she would get somebody else who would.  I was a bit offended to be honest and felt that she had taken mercenary code  –  go anywhere, do anything provided you get paid for it- too literally.  I mean I put some shelves up for my mum once and gave her a family discount!

Jenny wasn’t having it.  It had to be business – proper business,  she was to be invoiced which she would pay by cheque in advance, all expenses charged to her and pre paid because she didn’t want any cock ups, receipts to be kept or I wasn’t going, it was not open to discussion, it had to be that way.  I threw in the towel and drew up a final itinerary based on her requests.  Paris, Lake Como, Rome then  Zurich before heading home.  She wanted first class rail, five star hotels, good restaurants, luxury cars a no expense spared top notch trip.

I did as I was told and she paid me in full before we left.

We went from London to Paris first class on Eurostar and stayed at the Inter Continental Paris le Grand Hotel.  She had a very swish suite and I had booked the cheapest room I could swing – which I can tell you was a bloody fierce price.

The weather was good and Jenny had insisted on a dining on a bateau Mouche.  The early summer evening was wonderful.  I had arranged for a bottle of champagne on my account and when they brought it she said “I didn’t realise we had ordered Champagne”

The smooth waiter said ” Monsieur ordered it for Madam”

She looked at me crossly “Norman what did I say”

I took her hand and kissed it inb that frog manner, smiled and said  in my best Inspector Clouseau accent” I could not come to Paris in the summer with a beautiful woman and not buy her champagne could I?” she smiled and then her eyes welled up with tears which she fought back.  Norm – you clummsy twat.

“Norman don’t tease me its not fair” she said sadly

“I’m not teasing you mon amour, I meant it”


“Really really” – Shrek voice.

She smiled and her face glowed her eyes twinkled and there was something, I don’t know why but  she reminded me of my girls opening their Christmas presents.  It was a moment that  I knew that I had a future and that I was coming out of the dark after everything had been taken from me and into the light where I could get something back from life.  It was a moment I will never forget.

The meal and evening were perfect and we went back to the hotel.  She was in good form and I helped her to her suite and then she said she needed help getting ready for bed.  She had always seemed to do alright on her own, but maybe she was tired. She was looking a bit tired, but maybe it was the champagne or Paris but she was really beautiful.

Then she went all quiet, shy and pensive.  She then looked at me and said very quietly “Norman will you sleep with me tonight, I can’t have sex anymore, but if a gentleman has to buy a lady champagne in Paris surely a lady has the right to ask him to make love with her.”  She looked up and again there was that something in her eyes that I can’t explain, maybe it is something too personal and touching that I don’t want to explain.

I slept with her and held her close and kissed her face lips and hair, she smelt like heaven on earth and I think I felt every breathe she took that night.

The next day we did the sight seeing bit and ate well and then I picked up a hire car which we were going to use for the rest of the trip.  It was a big merc.  She had been very specific.  “Luxury with a big L.  Norman, this is a a once in a life time trip I want to do it properly”.  We drove down through France and headed to Lake Como just in case we bumped into George Clooney.   We didn’t, but we did have few wonderful days there before heading to Rome and the Rocco Forte Hotel De Russie which is between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo on the Via del Babuino where we were staying for four nights.

Every night she would ask me to hold her in bed and kiss her and every night I was only too happy to oblige.  The weather in Rome was hot, too hot for her really and she was wilting like a fragile flower, but being a stubborn cus she was hell bent on enjoying every minute of her blow out trip and enjoy it she did.

Then it was off to Switzerland at a leisurely pace and she was in really good spirits.

I have to be honest and say that Zurich has never been my favourite destination for a variety of reasons.  Arms shipments and wars are financed from here.  Numbered accounts and all sorts of underhand activity abound. It is well dodgy and my opinion remains the same to this day.  Anyway having got there and sorted out at the hotel etc she had to make some phone calls to the medical people re her treatment.

We had a great meal that night and lovely evening and Jenny looked  more beautiful than I had ever seen her.  That night as I held her she said

“You wont forget me Norman?”

“How do you mean?”

“When I move”

“Don’t be such a prawn how could I.  Any way you’re only moving, its not as if your going to the other side of the world is it?”

She let out a contented sigh and snuggled up and I don’t know if it was my imagination but I thought I felt a lot of tension leave her and she relaxed against me.

“Do you think you could love me?”

I knew she was special and how much she meant to me but I wasn’t sure if I really loved her then, but maybe I did and had just forgotten how it felt.  I thought for an Instant I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and said “if you weren’t special I wouldn’t be here would I”

“I suppose not” she said and let out another contended sigh and snuggled up to me and said “But do you think you could love me”

Nothing for it “I do love you, in fact you are the only thing I really have, I just didn’t realise it”

She let out a little laughed and elbowed me “Good, I thought you did and I just wanted to know” and then she was asleep.

The nest day I took her to the clinic, which was actually in a exclusive apartment block rather than a hospital.  I waited for her and she came out about an hour later and was very upbeat and happy she said she had to go back the next day.

The next day we went back to the clinic and this time she asked me to come up with her and to wait with her.  It was a very nice flat expensively furnished, but still with a sort of clinical hospital feel to it.  A nurse came out and Jenny went into a room and they asked me to wait.  About five minutes later I went in to a light warm room. Jenny was sitting in bed in a night gown.  She smiled and extend her hand which I took and held and sat down on the chair next to her.  We chatted and then she said “Do you really love me or were you making me feel better”  I looked her in the eyes and again there was that something.

“You should know me better than that by now, of course I love you, that’s why I am here” I said squeezing her hand

“I love you Norman and that’s why I am here”

I leant over and kissed her gently.

The nurse came back in.  She was a pleasant cheerful lady and she had a glass in her hand.  She looked at Jenny and then said “Jenny Is this your last day because this will be your last drink?”.

The enormity of the words took and instant before they reached the brain and I computed their meaning.  I felt the room spin.

“Yes it is” Jenny said brightly but firmly.

The nurse smiled and said “After you drink this it’s over, you will sleep in two to five minutes and afterwards you will die.”

I was stunned by what I had heard and just couldn’t believe it.  Jenny looked at me “I am sorry Norman, but I only have a matter of months at the most. I wanted to go happy and after so much pain and heart ache, please don’t be cross” and she touched my cheek.  I could feel the tears welling up but knew that no whatever else this was not the time or place.

“You love me, I know that and to have just these few months of love and friendship from you is the best thing I could have asked for.  I want to go out on a high with good memories.  We have never had a row and you make me laugh and most of all I love you and its because I love you that I had keep this secret.”

“I dont understand, why”

“I had to pay you to bring me here just in case there was any come back, and thats partly why I didn’t tell you, I couldn’t tell you, you understand don’t you”

Of course I didn’t understand, but I smiled and said “Of course” even though I didn’t know which way was up.  I lent over and kissed her again.

The nurse stood there patiently and when there was nothing else to be said by us she said again “Are you sure you want this to be your last drink?”

“Yes I am”

The glass was handed over and Jenny took it and drank it and the passed the empty glass back to the nurse before laying back.  “Will you hold me Norman like in Paris”

“Of course” and I held her close and kissed her

“its been good hasn’t it”

“Its been fantastic” I said and gave her one small kiss and just as her eyes were getting heavy I said “I love you”

She smiled and said “Thank you” and she drifted off to sleep.

I held her until I knew she was dead kissed her forehead as is our way and it was over the world had stopped turning for a second time in my life.

I had a conversation with the nurse and she asked if I was Ok or something and I walked out of the building into the sunshine.

Five minutes later my mobile rang.  Would I go to Somalia again?

Why not?

So what has this got to do with Confetti, well the song that is played in the scene I described is called tomorrow in her eyes and it just seemed to capture that look I have so ineptly tried to describe.

I see tomorrow in her eyes
And where my future lies
So I don’t need a crystal ball
At all because I’ve seen tomorrow
In her eyes

Whenever life tears us away
I’ll hold on to the words we say
And if I have to wait awhile
Then I’ll be dreaming of tomorrow
And her smile

Someday soon love
Someday soon love
There’ll be time for you and I love

And time shall hold no sad surprise
More hellos than goodbyes
So I don’t need my fortune told
I know because I’ve seen tomorrow
In her eyes

No, I don’t need a crystal ball
At all because I’ve seen tomorrow
In her eyes

I’ve seen tomorrow in her eyes

5 Responses to “Jenny Was A Friend Of MIne”

  1. dl says:

    That’s so sad and moving, Norman!

    I do wonder sometimes how it can be that the loveliest of people can be taken away from us. But really I do understand that you’re only too familiar with those sorts of feelings.

    In the last week we’ve learnt of two separate cases of beautiful youngsters, friends of ours and our children, both critically ill, out of the blue. Seems so completely unfair.

    Every now and again, we learn of yet another person being investigated by the police for helping someone in Jenny’s situation to exercise their choice. And every time I start to see a red mist. I’m not aware of ever hearing the outcome in these cases – which probably means that someone’s seen sense and no charges have been brought.

    I hope you didn’t get any strife for helping Jenny to make her arrangements?

    Best wishes,

  2. Uncle says:

    I had intended to ad a note to the end of this story just to clear a few things up.

    Firstly I had no idea what Jenny was up to until the moment the nurse asked the question and then gave her the drink.

    Secondly I have been asked if I would have helped Jenny had I known quite why she was going and the answer is I just don’t know. I can understand why she did what she did but am 99.99% sure I would not do it myself. However I cannot condemn what she did.

    Thirdly I am not sure where I stand on euthanasia or the assisted suicide thing.

    On the one hand I wonder at how we being humane by putting animals out of their misery and then let humans suffer to the bitter end. However on the other hand a little voice tells me that if we sanctioned euthanasia it would not be long before it was hijacked and abused.

    I had a bit of grief from the police – when I got back from Somalia about 6 months later, but to be honest the blokes who had the enquiry really just went through the motions. However the grief her ex husband and kids tried to give was off the scale and bloody funny, but Jenny had accounted for this and had made legal arrangements for me to deal with them for her from beyond the grave.

    That as they say is another story.

  3. Uncle says:

    Dl – so sorry to hear about your friends and children. It does seem unfair and there is nothing one can say to people to make that hurt and pain any better let alone go away.

    I am not the most religious bloke on the face of the earth, but my mum used say never loose faith. When I asked her if she meant in God or what, she just said “Always believe never ever loose faith and never give up hope” she never specified God or anyone else for that matter it was faith and hope that she said we needed to believe in.

    I had an RSM who used to say Never give up never surrender. I think they both meant the same thing.

    All the very best to you and I hope the news gets better for your friends.


  4. havingmycake says:

    I started to cry as soon as you mentioned Switzerland. Such a sad story but so beautifully told. Jenny sounds like a lovely person but life had dealt her a series of harsh blows. You clearly made the last few months of her life very warm and special, although it must have been particularly difficult for you to deal with the aftermath as her passing would have left another void in your own life without any time to prepare. Thank you for sharing x

  5. JH says:

    I hope you know I was joking that time when I asked you what you had done with her.

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