As week's go then this one has not been the best.
I’m not very anxious about signs of my own mortality. It’s along the road but it seems to be out of sight at the moment. However for one good friend it came dramatically into sight before he got too close to 60. Such is my mental process that after I received a text from Marion I immediately thought of 'First Of The Gang To Die' by Morrissey, not least because Jason Field was.
I met Jason when he became a resident in a house I shared in Billericay in the late 70’s/early ’80’s. He was a young undergraduate engineer on a placement with Ford Truck. The rest of us in the house, Paul, Peter and Tim, worked at Ford, whether Tractor, Cars or Trucks.
It was stupid lads together who either balanced buckets of water on top of doors, invited the most vulnerable to a complimentary sandwich saying it was chicken but enjoyed their reaction when we told them it actually was frog leg meat, let off horrendously loud boat fog klaxons at 3 am next to someone’s bedroom and not least enjoyed rolling up to the pub for continued ribbing.
Jason at work was a star and a hoot out of it. A confident, opinionated and slightly know it all from Newton Aycliffe. More fun continued when he borrowed his dad’s Morris Marina Estate and, with Neil, we drove to Austria for the Grand Prix – many memorable moments not least him carrying out some engine servicing at a campsite that eventually necessitated getting the equivalent of the RAC to visit to swap around the plug leads that stopped the engine firing!
Clearly from this photograph we must have been invited to a fancy dress party back in the day - I recognise my old school cricket pullover, if not the bearded lad in tinted glasses with masses of hair..
We all left the house and moved on. Jason finished his degree at Manchester University and not least caught the eye of his bride by turning up at the Hall of Residence bar in bedroom slippers. (At my age this seems logical but at 20 years old or so then I can see the fashion crime). He returned to Ford and moved up through the grades that we had all originally coveted. On his stellar rise he ran a night shift at Halewood, ran the White Body Plant at Jaguar, looked after the manufacture of radiators at Dagenham and ended up in the Czech Republic joint running a Plant that made air conditioning and light components for just about most major car manufacturers in Europe.
We’d kept in touch albeit loosely, as blokes do, and met up over the years. In 2009 I cycled with a another pal, Jim, to his house in Kunin, just over the Czech border, from Krakow in Poland (via Auschwitz). There we were treated royally by Marion and Jason before trundling back. He was now in his early fifties and thinking that he might retire back to England. The pension seemed good and life was good.
Despite Christmas cards then the communication tailed off. People can be like that I thought. However, in 2014 I received a card from Marion saying that it would be great if maybe I could invite him on Facebook? He was now wheelchair bound with Multiple System Atrophy. This very rare condition leads to a failing of the body whilst the intellect remains in tact. Of course I went to Essex to see him and admired their fortitude and spirit coping with this wickedly random tragedy. Over subsequent visits with Jason, now in care, he was always cheerful but for a man of such energy and capability it all seemed unforgivably cruel to be reduced to such captivity.
I was getting frustrated looking for decaffeinated coffee beans at Tesco (they didn’t have any) when Marion sent a text saying he’d passed. I’m sure when I next visit that aisle I will have a terribly heavy feeling.
We’d tried to visit in February but he’d been rushed to A & E, it was not uncommon for him to have episodes that needed hospitalisation, and it was in our plans to try and visit again on May Bank Holiday.
So a part of my life has gone but frankly my loss is incomparable to a widow’s. As they say seize the day and look after yourself.