26th February 2013
Bink stepped over the threshold and left Gatsby outside.
I had, at the time, a friend called Graham. I met him when he was doing work on my father’s seaside house in North Norfolk.
The very first thing Graham asked me, knowing of my work, was would I help him.
He was losing – had virtually lost, indeed – his grandchildren.
It was breaking his heart.
I always knew it was not enough. Not nearly enough.
To do enough, I would have had to abandon my own life, my own children and work, and chain myself to the railings of No 10 for him, full time.
Graham didn’t have the resources to do this for himself. Mostly, educational resources.
He was a good man. A member of the Sally Army. Didn’t drink or smoke or swear (then). Just loved his grandchildren and wanted to do the best by them.
But he got the wrong side of the Social Services and didn’t have the wherewithal to beat them at their own game.
Eventually he introduced me to someone else, Wendy, who lost her grandchild too – she must have contacted him through the Daily Mail – so I wrote about her, as well.
Graham cared a lot about Bink. Prayed for her regularly and often asked after her. He knew what it was to lose a child. To see others doing terrible damage to someone vulnerable whom you love, and be powerless to prevent it.
27th February 2014. 8.04
Been thinking about you. Hope the meeting happened and you was able to move forward, if only a little bit.
27th February 2014. 8.16
Thank you, Graham.
She turned up, with Jay. I said he couldn’t come in, so he asked her if she wanted to stay, which I found extremely manipulative and sinister.
She did stay, we had a very pleasant dinner, and she then asked Shaun if she could take Rosie out for the weekend. When he said no, not as things stand at the moment, she said there was no point in her staying.
She left without saying hello to my father, which caused him very great distress indeed. He still has her Christmas present here, and prays for her every day.
So… well, I don't know whether it was positive or not. It seemed lovely at the time to sit down and have supper with her, as if nothing were wrong. But afterwards we felt… used? I mean, I know parents are there to be used, but it's good to feel loved too. I think what really finished me off was seeing how much she upset my father.
Jay is very, very bad news indeed.
Thanks for caring. Funny: I've been so concerned for you over the years and now Wendy… and now we've lost our own child.
I don’t remember why Shaun said no. I don’t remember anything between Bink’s stepping into the house, and stepping out of it again, causing my father extreme and acute anguish.
To a waiting Gatsby in his car, presumably.
My father, ninety seven, wanted to scour the streets in his pyjamas, looking for her, like the Shulamite goatherd in the Song of Songs, going by night through the city, dodging the watchman, peering in alleyways… barefoot and desperate for one so loved.
I’ve no idea how we stopped him.
Heartbroken comes easily to the tongue.
The last time I saw Graham, to our and my father’s stunned astonishment and shock – given what a loving, Christian pair they had seemed before misfortune struck in the form of the SS as Graham called them, with bitterness – his wife had already left him. For someone less broken.
He had come down from Norfolk to stay for the week and do some work on our house. He often did.
He had been signed off, disabled, almost since I knew him. Occasional moonlighting – when he wasn’t too depressed – was his only way of hitting back at a system which had taken what he most cared for.
He had badly miscalculated the cost of the work, he and I both lost money, he couldn’t finish it and we couldn’t pay him so much more than he had quoted for less than half of the work.
It was a dismal business. Friday lunchtime he packed up, shouting at me for twenty minutes in front of a number of people included passersby in the street, and then drove off.
By an unhappy coincidence I was then screamed at by someone else living with us – we were doing a kindness – who is not much to do with our story but was also disintegrating into mental illness.
Afterwards I sat in a sunny garden with a cool beer, a friend… and Bink herself. I felt like shaking.
That day I wrote Graham a sad email, as kind as I could. Several thousand words: he was a dear friend.
I wish you well, Graham. For the time being I am going to block calls and emails from you so I can concentrate my emotional energies on looking after Lara (and other members of my family who need my help: she is not the only one who is ill and struggling). I am not ruling out friendship with you.
[Alas, in his distress Graham had fallen out with many. I didn’t hold out huge hope.
I then made it very clear he could continue to contact Shaun, if he believed we still owed him money.]
With very best wishes and I do, genuinely, hope that life looks up for you soon and also that we remain friends in the future.
It was not long afterwards – perhaps a few months; not four full seasons – that Graham went into his garden shed, as he often now did, alone and heartbroken.