My Doctor wouldn’t give me HRT, saying, “ I can’t prescribe that for you! What if you had a stroke? You’re American and you’d sue me.”

The title is an absolutely true statement made by the man who was my GP at the time!

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Photo of me at 45, not realising what lay ahead

I was about 48, having the occasional hot flush and night sweat and I realised my child-bearing days were, essentially, at an end and I was getting old – but that’s NOT why I wanted – no, needed – HRT. I had noticed that at certain times during what had turned into an increasingly irregular cycle, I would feel really well followed – several days to a week later – by an intense migraine that would consist of a terrible headache plus nausea and severe vomiting which lasted for about 24 hours. All I could do on those days was go to bed with a bucket next to me and try to sleep. Sleeping, I didn’t feel the pain but, every time I woke up during an attack, I knew several things would happen. First I would be assailed by an excruciating pain on one or other side of my head which would be followed after an almost intolerable length of time by – at the beginning of the 24 hours – violent vomiting and – towards the end – dry heaves that were even more violent.

Each migraine was followed a few days later by a scant ‘period’ which lasted some days and, when that was over I would settle into a month or two or even three of being ‘okay’, followed by a few days of feeling really well again and knowing that, without doubt, the next bout of migraine was soon to follow.

After my GP refused the HRT, I went away feeling resentful and I felt as though there wasn’t much I could do about it. I took various herbal remedies but nothing made any difference to the hot flushes which soon started in earnest, the night sweats which were so uncomfortable and the various bouts of feeling like crying for no reason at all and, as night follows day,  severe migraine.

This carried on for, possibly six months, but the cycle of hot flushes etc followed at decreasing intervals by diabolical migraines sent me back to Dr. R-S. (I won’t use his name as, though he isn’t American, he might sue me!😂) This time, he finally took pity on me and compromised by giving me HRT patches which I had to stick to my bottom or hip area. I can’t remember whether I changed them once a week or every day or what but, immediately, the migraines settled down as did the hot flushes etc.

After several years of patches my skin became intolerant of the adhesive and I changed to little tablets, almost exactly like “The Pill” but not so strong. (Strangely, it was “The Pill” which started the migraines, when I was in my twenties so I was unable to take them as birth control.) I carried on with those for a number of years then, slowly, cut down and stopped. Immediately all the symptoms returned including severe migraines. I started HRT again and went on until I was in my sixties then decided I must stop. (There were often reports of what nasty things HRT might do). Almost immediately I stopped the HRT, I started getting hot flushes again and still have them from time to time but, luckily, as there probably isn’t a big rush of oestrogen, or a big loss, I seldom have really bad migraines, maybe one every two years or so.

For those of you who haven’t ever had a hot flush, let me assure you of two things. First, there are loads of women who never have even one hot flush, let alone ten or twenty a day; and secondly, a hot flush can’t kill you though the feeling certainly isn’t pleasant! I remember when we lived in East Malling and had a back boiler run by a wood-burning stove which fed all the radiators. There would be times, in the depth of winter, where I would just close the curtains and take off everything but my underclothes then, nearly as quickly put all my clothes back on. They don’t last long but they are very uncomfortable. You know when you hear about someone who has combusted spontaneously? You think, “OMG, I’m going to do that! That’s what happened to that poor person.” But of course, it doesn’t happen.

Migraines run in my family. My father suffered from them, at least one of my half-brothers does, my daughter and grand-daughter are also afflicted. They’re obviously not all connected to female hormones but mine were and I’m so pleased I was able, in the end, to convince Dr R-S that I wouldn’t sue him!

Epilogue: Judy had migraine, too, but it was completely different and very scary! She only had a few episodes and the first worried her intensely. She was, at that time, a probation officer and was appearing in court to give background on one of her ‘clients’. She suddenly found that her sight went from normal to tunnel-like to complete blindness in just a few moments. She was worried about what was wrong with her but, more, she was worried about her ‘client’ and whether she could do her job properly. Luckily for the ‘client’, her sight came back in very quickly but she was exceedingly worried about why it had happened. The doctor was able to reassure her after a complete check that it was a type of migraine.

Another epilogue: Some people who have migraine have what is called an ‘aura’ before they are hammered in the head by the migraine attack. As far as I know, an aura is a bright light in the eyes, although I could be wrong. I don’t get them with migraine though I have had what I call ‘castellation’ – a flashing light that suddenly appears in my eye/s in the shape of a castellation except it is semi-circular. They often just appear, work their way around in a complete circle, then disappear! Really weird and, in me, not connected to more than a light headache, if that. (Below is a poor drawing of the shape of a castellation which, really, should be in flashing glowing white!)

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Why we spent a full day in the cupboard and other mysterious tales.

Back in 1956 or ’57, after we had returned to Cincinnati from Reno and parts west, we settled back into our old homestead in McAlpin Ave. We lived in what the British call a ‘bungalow’ and the Americans call a ‘ranch-style house’. There was a big L- shaped lounge-diner with huge plate-glass windows at one end with a modern kitchen off that, three good-sized bedrooms, a family bathroom and a second bathroom off the master bedroom. The master bedroom also had a walk-in wardrobe with a door at the end from which one could go into the cellar or outside. There were also doors to the outside world in the dining part of the L-shaped room and in the kitchen.

Somewhat different today, 503 McAlpin

Several times it appeared to us (Mommy, Judy, Jennie and I) that someone had been into the house although we couldn’t find an unlocked door or window and nothing was gone but, then, one day when we were getting ready to cook supper we found that all the cutlery and utensils had disappeared from their allotted drawer! It was found, eventually, in the cupboard just underneath which housed various pots and pans or maybe potatoes and onions.

Now we knew that someone had sneaked in and was playing games with us so we decided to catch them at it. The following Sunday we all went out, got into the car and drove about a hundred feet down the road to the home of the Connellys and we parked in their garage. (They knew we were going to.) Once there we sneaked (!) up their outside stairs then made our way through the surrounding woods to our house, doing our best not to make too much noise and hoping we weren’t seen by the ‘burglar’. We entered the house by one of the doors at the back then made our way to the walk-in cupboard where we made ourselves as comfy as we could in the circumstances.

This cupboard was quite large – perhaps eight feet by fifteen feet and had a pole that went the length of the cupboard on the left-hand wall, leaving the right-hand side free but there was no furniture so we sat on the floor, chatting, perhaps reading…I can’t remember, so it wasn’t anything unusual.

After some hours we realised that it was getting near to meal-time (we had a biggish dinner on Sundays at around three) so, mom and I sneaked out to the kitchen and started preparing dinner. [Strangely I can’t remember anything that we ate at home when I was a child/teen except for ‘chipped’ beef in a milky sauce (ugh), succotash, beets, sweet corn, mashed potato, rice, okra (yuck!), spaghetti (bolognaise – though it wasn’t called that in those days), ‘johnny marzetti’ which was spaghetti bolognaise with noodles rather than spaghetti, and corned beef hash]. (There were obviously other foods but I have no memory of them.) I have a feeling that we cooked something that needed carving but I haven’t got a clue what it was and also probably some sort of potato and vegetable.

When it was ready to eat, we reached a dilemma – should we eat in the cupboard or at the table? We ate in the cupboard. I vaguely remember carrying the food into the cupboard and putting the plates and bowls on the floor, then carving whatever it was while sitting on the floor with it. It was very uncomfortable! I don’t remember the ‘eating’ part at all or the tidying afterwards but that all must have happened.

The day progressed, it turned dusky and then dark. No one had tried to enter the house!☹️

We had spent a full day cooped up for nothing – except for the memory of a day in the walk-in wardrobe.

Many years have passed since that incident. I have come to the conclusion that it was probably Judy who was the culprit; she really liked to make mysterious things happen.

Judy, the tom boy, around the time of the day in the cuupboard.<<<<<<<<<
nother time she and I went with our best friend, Rosemary, down town in Zanesville to Rosemary's music lesson. We waited outside while Rosemary had her lesson and, at one point, I went inside, possibly to find out how near Rosemary was to finishing or maybe to go to the loo. When I went back out on to the porch Judy was very excited. She had been watching, she said, as two men came out of the house across the road carrying a fridge which they put into their car before driving away with it. She had memorised their license number, she said; it was V3509 and obviously the two men were burglars who had stolen this fridge!

When Rosemary came out we told her about this terrible theft and together we vowed to catch the thieves! We spent the next couple of months looking at every license number that we could find – but we never did find V3509.

At around the same time little green men had been seen in Kentucky (probably a couple of hundred miles or so from Zanesville) and we decided that we would be the perfect threesome for the little green men (from outer space) to make contact with so we roamed Zanesville, going into neighbours' gardens and keeping a good eye on the skies. We never did meet any aliens but not for lack of trying!

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Translations! Cutlery – silverware; Chipped beef – dried and thinly sliced beef

Succotash – mixture of cut green beans and corn

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Oh, no! Not awake again! The awfulness of insomnia!

In the year 2000 I started suffering from insomnia. I was 57, healthy and a bit overweight. I would work all day, or go to an auction some miles away, or go to London to look after my (then very young) grand daughter and at ten or eleven o’clock go to bed and……lie there. I would try desperately to relax, I would count as high as I could (I can’t do the counting sheep thing as I can’t ‘see’ things in my mind’s eye)*, I would get up, go back to bed, walk around, go back to bed and lie there…… I must have slept a little because this happened every night and I was still able to function every day. This period of insomnia lasted for some months and, though it eased considerably, I never really got over it.

In 2005 we moved to the seaside and got Rosie, our lovely dog. I started sleeping better then, probably because of the air and taking Rosie out and playing on the beach with her but there would be an occasional night when, for absolutely no reason, I would lie awake until 3 or 4am. It was never that I was worried about something. People would tell me to empty my mind. My mind was empty! I wasn’t mulling over a problem, nor lying there in expectation of something. I would cut out coffee and other stimuli, have a warm bath, make sure I exercised during the day but nothing could be relied upon to work.

Then I had all my various health problems including a ‘squished’ nerve in my back ( the same one that caused my recent sciatica attack). For the ‘squished’ nerve the doctor gave me amitriptyline and I started to sleep much better. The trouble, then, was that I couldn’t wake up at a decent time of the morning. I would take the two little blue tablets at, say, ten o’clock at night, go to bed at eleven, fall asleep and wake up around ten the next morning. If I had to get up earlier I could force myself but without that necessity I would sleep on. At the family Christmas party at Angela’s house, everyone including Julian would be up and around eight – I would struggle down at 9:30 or 10:00. Luckily, Angela would usually go to church before breakfast and I would get downstairs in time for the holiday bacon and eggs.

After pneumonia, going to see Andy Fairweather-Low.

Then I discovered that if I forgot to take the amitriptyline, I could not sleep. It’s so easy to forget to take regular tablets at the right time and I was forever forgetting, getting upstairs, washing, putting on my pyjamas, getting into bed and reading, then turning off the light and….finding myself still awake two or three hours later, then, remembering that I had forgotten my tablets. It would never seem worth it to get up and get the tablets so I would spend a lot more time trying to fall asleep then sleeping late the next morning.

It was especially annoying that alcohol and amitriptyline aren’t supposed to be taken at the same time. I didn’t actually drink any alcohol from around the age of twenty until I was in my mid to late fifties and then it would only be a glass of dry white wine, but I got the taste for having the wine with my evening meal. After I started the ami (which I’ll call it because it takes so long to type), I would have my glass of wine at, say, seven with my meal then take the ami at eleven. That worked well but, if I wanted an extra glass or two or if I went out for the evening and got a little tipsy, I had the choice of not taking the ami or taking it even though I’d had (for me) a lot to drink (one has to think of one’s liver, after all!) If I didn’t take the little blue tabs, I’d lie awake and I found out that if I did take them I would also lie awake! I never did solve that one😩About 20 months ago I had pneumonia and was in hospital for a day or two. I had gone to bed with a headache one Wednesday afternoon, slept until Friday evening when Julian made me get up and dressed and took me to the doctor. By that time I was very dehydrated and could neither think nor talk coherently. When the doctor asked me when the second world war happened and I couldn’t answer, even I began to worry there was something drastically wrong with my brain. I was taken to A&E and, after a wait of some hours, was admitted to hospital. From the Tuesday before this happened until the Sunday night when I got back home, I hadn’t had my ami but had slept so I decided it was a great time to come off them.

Most nights I was able to sleep after I gave up the ami but about once or twice a week I would go to bed and either fall asleep for an hour or two then wake up and lie awake until five or six in the morning or I would lie awake until three or four before falling asleep. And then I was struck down with the dreaded sciatica which was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life (except, maybe, toothache) and started taking the ami again. It definitely helped the sciatica pain clear up (after a couple of weeks!) and I am, once again, sleeping beautifully but getting up late. I’d already given up alcohol and haven’t had any in the last two and a half months.

Maybe I’ll get a little tipsy this year at the family Christmas get-together (the noise made when Lovegrove men get together is horrendous!) but until then, I’ll lay off the booze and take my little blue pills (which are not the same little blue pills men sometimes take!)

Ami tablets<<<<
See my earlier post on Aphantasia.

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What Judy Wrote About Fear

I went and took Judy’s writings out of the cupboard they’ve been sitting in for I don’t know how long. The sheet on the top of the pile is called FEAR. Here it is, including (sorry but I thought it’s good to put them in) the occasional swear word – after all, we’re all adults, I believe.

“You don’t think about it all the time. Without the pain, not even most of the time except when you are reminded. And, it’s not as I imagine sitting in a death cell is like – constant terror of the noose. The real terror, the “heebie-jeebies”, is quiet. A sudden, quiet, no-reason, “Today is 27 July. I will never see another 27 July again. Next year, I’ll be dead. Me. Gone forever.” ” I might be dead ten days from now.” “I might be dead four days from now.” Creep, creep, creep. Oh, I’m scared. I’m so frightened that fear might get me before the C does. I’ll never know what direction ‘Veronica’s’ life took after Oxford. I’ll never see what Thomas and Lucy grow up to be like. Ethel will outlast me. And the fear calms down and the disappointment comes. I feel like I’m going to miss the end of the story. But, everybody is. I don’t want all this pain. Please don’t let me get too weak to kill myself if the pain gets too bad.

I think I’ve come to terms with it (ha-ha). If nothing else, I’d like to give an appearance of bravery or something – courage. But then it just …creep, creep, creep… I am going to die. Die. It’s all over – gone. Let it be fast because I’m not holding on very well any more. I’m turning fucking chicken shit. I’m ready to grovel on the floor begging for one more chance. “Please God, I’ll be good.” Please help me, please help me.”

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I copied this word for word. I did put in the occasional comma, but otherwise it is exactly as Judy wrote it, in July 1990.

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Judy, sometime in the 70’s

 

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The Mystery Of The Missing Blog Post

Yesterday I had a great deal of trouble trying to publish the post entitled, Nov 3rd, Judy’s Real Birthday and, eventually had to delete it and re-publish it. (It has appeared now with its spacing almost correct and with all its photos)

Somehow, when I deleted it I also deleted the post entitled Judy, Candy and the ‘Smoking Tree’. I can’t work out how that happened as it was published over two weeks ago and shouldn’t have been near enough to the new draught to disappear, but it did. When I was able to find the post it was missing the last paragraph! 

Luckily, Julian has my posts by email and hadn’t got round to reading and deleting that one yet so was able to send me my last paragraph, because I couldn’t remember what I wrote🙁. I haven’t republished it because that would mean everyone would be told there was a new blog post etc, but, if you want to read it and hadn’t or want to read it again, let me know and I can send it to you. 

And, why not get yourself on the mailing list so my posts come directly to you? I will never give your email address to anyone else, I am not trying to raise money or sell anything and, if you get fed up with my ramblings, you can always ask for your email address to be removed!😊

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An apology

I finished my post called ‘Judy’s Real Birthday’ this afternoon. When I published it the first time, for some reason a large chunk toward the end was missing. I spent long minutes fixing it when I found out, saved the new words, then found, upon republishing, those words had disappeared. At one point, after I had fixed it yet again the blog statistics told me I hadn’t published ANY posts yet.

Anyway, I have to remove the post and will go through and repair it AGAIN later.

And, when I removed that post, another one about the Smoking Tree, disappeared, too. I found it but for some reason it’s missing the last part so I will have to try harder to find the original (OMG) or rewrite it.  I’ll do that later as I’m going to eat now!

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Nov. 3, Judy’s Real Birthday

On the third of November, 1944, Judith Bridget, my sister was born. She was a beautiful baby with gorgeous auburn curls and translucent skin. I was eighteen months old and quite pleased to have a new baby sister. When I was about three and she was eighteen months old, our daddy left us and our parents got divorced

I don’t remember being particularly sad and all through my teens and twenties I said it didn’t affect me much. Looking back I can see that I was affected in the way I reacted to the men in my life, always trying to please and not ‘upset the apple cart’. Luckily for me none of the men I went out with realised this or, if they did, they didn’t take advantage of it to any extent. (Looking back I realise how lucky I was as I was very innocent, too)

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Judy the tomboy

Judy, on the other hand, seems to have been badly affected by the marital split. Her personality was very different from mine; she was a tomboy who enjoyed rough and tumble games with the neighbourhood boys while I played dolls with the neatly dressed little girls down the street. She was very good at winding me up, making me cry. When I made paper dolls, she would find them and tear them up; when I was slightly older and wrote in my diary, she would find where I had hidden it and read it, then write something rude. She got poor results at school because she found it boring and wouldn’t pay attention, preferring to daydream. She didn’t really learn to read until she was about thirteen and our mother found her a book she was interested in – it was called Freddy the Detective. After that she wouldn’t stop reading and she started to do better at school as a result.

When she was eleven, as I have told before, we went to Reno so that Patty could divorce Bill. Our father, who lived in California with his new family, drove to Reno with his wife, Lee, and took the two of us back to California with him. We drove over the Sierra Nevadas and saw mountains and beautiful rugged scenery. In Carmel, where they lived, we saw the ocean for the first time ever and took a car ride down a long road that was above the sea. We spent a lovely week or so with our ‘other family’, getting to know our two new siblings, Lindsay and Una, talked with our grandfather and spent time with our father.

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Judy holding Una and Daddy holding me, 1955

Judy had idolised ‘Daddy’ since she was about seven so she was ecstatic to be able to spend some time with him. I quite enjoyed spending time with my step-mum who taught me how to sew dolls’ clothes and was a stay at-home wife and mother. The time flew past and at the end of the week our dad took us to the airport and put us on a plane back to Reno. (My first ride in an airplane wasn’t scary at all!). We arrived back to find our our mother had bleached her hair, didn’t like it and had had it dyed…the resulting colour was ‘apricot’ which was a shock!

Years went by. We saw our father intermittently, once or twice in Ohio, then in London. Occasionally we received a letter from Daddy and, less occasionally, we wrote back. When we moved to England it seemed an awfully long way from California but, within three or four years, Daddy and his family, by now with two more little boys, moved to this side of the Atlantic to live in Ireland. We saw Daddy slightly more frequently. Judy went with him and the others to some sort of country week-end where she learned about hare-coursing (glad I didn’t go!). Judy came back from her time away with a real crush on our dad.

Then I got pregnant, which I’ve  told you about before. Judy was, at first horrified, then very angry at me. But, when ‘Veronica’ was born, she was so happy that the baby was a girl. She and Patty both got very drunk and phoned everyone we knew actually singing, “We’ve got a baby girl. We’ve got a baby girl!”, which annoyed me a week or so later as there was no one I could tell the news to. She became the most loving auntie that you can imagine. At the time she had a boyfriend whom we called Zac. He was from Iraq and studying business at the same college as Judy. He adored ‘Veronica’ as well. Jennie’s boyfriend, Nick, was also a good ‘uncle’, so Veronica was surrounded by a loving family and was a very happy baby.

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Jennie, Veronica and Uncle Nick

As Judy went through her teens and into her twenties, she had boyfriends about the same age as she was but she always seemed to fancy older men at the same time. She became very secretive, she drank more than was good for her and eventually, she had some sort of nervous breakdown. This was to be a sort of pattern in her life. For months, even years, her life seemed to be on an even keel then things just seemed to fall apart for her.

Now, I’ll fast-forward a bit to the time after we had both finished college. Judy became a probation officer. The job description, via Google, is, “A probation officer is someone who works with and monitors offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes. They carry through with anything the court assigns to them, the most common being to supervise offenders and to investigate the offender’s history (personal and criminal) prior to sentencing.

Judy’s job was very demanding. I think she had quite a large case-load and it began to take its toll. If you remember, ‘Veronica’ and I had the large bedroom at the top of Market Cross Cottage. Judy had one of the two bedrooms on the first floor. One night I woke up to find Judy frantically searching through the bookshelves in my bedroom. I got up and asked her what she was looking for and then realised she was actually asleep. Nevertheless, she told me she had to find Wendy’s file! She had to find the file, it was most important that she found the file. After a little while I was able to get her back to her bed but I was quite worried about her sleep-walking.

Not long afterwards, she moved to a bedsit in Rochester, much nearer to her work in Chatham. The woman who owned the house where she lived was very kind and Judy seemed to enjoy living there. Around September of 1981, Judy asked if I would help her clear out the bedsit of one of her ‘clients’ as he had gone to court that morning and had been sentenced to several months in prison. When we went into the room, I found one of the saddest things I had ever seen. The ‘client’ had left his pipe and tobacco pouch on his bed where he would be able to pick them up that evening – he really hadn’t expected to ‘be sent down’. We packed up his meagre belongings – including many tins of frankfurters which he had in his store cupboard – and took them to the probation office for when he came out.

Within weeks Judy had become very outwardly depressed and was unable to go to work or even get out of bed. Judy’s boss rang to find out where she was, thinking she might have come home. I think I went to her ‘digs’ and found her sitting on the floor, crying. I talked her into coming home with me. Things are a bit hazy about what happened next but I don’t think she went back to work. (It was during this time that I met Julian and was in the first flush of love). It would have been around October that Dad and Lee came to see what was going on, all the way from California. It was arranged that Judy would go back to the US with them, which made her happier than she had been for ages. She stayed with them for several months then went to Ohio for Christmas. Just after she arrived back in California after spending Christmas with our grandmother Ethel and her family, our dad died. Judy was heart-broken but so happy that she had had those few months getting to know him.

Judy went back to Zanesville where she lived with Ethel and her husband, Bill and several other family members who came and went. Then Patty decided to go to Ohio for a prolonged visit. They both enjoyed a round of social gatherings, Patty renewing old-friendships and Judy getting to know all sorts of new people.

 

In 1983 Judy married Charlie who was in his 80’s (she was 39). She was very happy with Charlie. They used to go out on his boat, fishing. Judy learned to ride a motorbike, learned to drive, and looked after Charlie and their cat. Around 1987 Charlie died and Judy found herself alone and with no income. She tried to find a job but no one in Zanesville had ever heard of the London School of Economics and refused to accept her British educational qualifications. She tried all sorts of jobs selling some sort of vacuum cleaner but she realised that the sales patter she was meant to use in order to sell that particular machine was a scam and that the repayment terms meant that some people would never be able to pay off what they owed, so she left that company the day she started.

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Judy on her visit to England, 1989

Judy came home for a visit in 1989. She was very thin but reassured us that she had been ill but was now on the mend. She went home after a couple of weeks, found an apartment in Columbus, Ohio and started looking for work. She must have been interviewed by a potential employer as they asked her to have a health check, including an x-ray. When she went to the doctor for the results he told her that she had a malignant tumour in her neck/jaw and that there was nothing that could be done. She would die within nine months. She went home, drank a bottle of whiskey and fell into a deep sleep from which she didn’t want to wake.

She woke up some hours later with a terrible buzzing in her head and, realising she was still alive, phoned for an ambulance. She ended up in a psychiatric hospital where she refused to tell the doctors why she had tried to kill herself. They phoned us in England and told us what had happened. We, of course, had no idea why, either. A month or so later, when the hospital deemed she was well enough (she’d played along, pretending to find the therapy, the art, the writing they did with her, helpful!) she came back to England.

She didn’t look much different than she had a few months earlier – still very thin and pale – but, now she had a lump on her neck which she said was just a gland, not to worry. We did worry, of course, but we still didn’t realise.

One evening Julian and I decided to take Judy and Patty out to an Indian restaurant. Judy had always loved Indian food so we thought it would be a real treat. We were sitting at the table when suddenly Judy burst into tears but refused to tell us why. (Later I discovered that she had been in terrible pain.) We finished our meal quickly so that we could take her home. After we got to Patty’s cottage she asked me to come with her to the bathroom. She sat down and said, “I have cancer.”

Judy had been frightened of cancer since she first heard the word. She had gone through medical dictionaries finding all sorts of terrible illnesses and thinking she had them, so when she told me, I thought she was being melodramatic! “Don’t be silly,” I probably said but she assured me and told me of the x-ray and the diagnosis. Then she told me not to tell my mother! How could I not? But, I said I wouldn’t and kept my promise until, finally, Judy told her some days later.

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Julian and Judy on the beach at Stone Bay, Broadstairs in July, 1990.

That was in May, 1990. I was teaching part time but took Judy to hospitals and doctors when I was able. She saw the local GP who gave her pain killers strong enough to dull the pain somewhat but, in the meantime, the lump on her neck grew bigger and by August or September she was no longer able to eat solid food.

My mother looked after Judy but she was unable to make the illness or the pain go away and that gave her the excuse to drink. In fact, I should imagine Judy had a bit of alcohol in her food drinks, knowing Judy. She didn’t want to die and was very scared about what would happen. Macmillan nurses came and friends dropped by to help, but eventually Judy found it impossible to get out of bed and didn’t want to see anyone but family and the nurse. She spent time writing about what she was experiencing – I have the papers somewhere but it is difficult, even now, to read them.

She died just two or three days before her forty-sixth birthday.

Several weeks later, after the funeral, Patty received a letter addressed to Judy from a hospital in Ohio asking for the payment of $50,000 for some treatment she had had. Patty sent back a copy of Judy’s death certificate and a letter saying they would have to send their bill to Judy, c/o The Garden of Remembrance, Vinters Park Crematorium, Maidstone, Kent and offering to send them Judy’s entire estate of $1.24 and 6 pence in English money. She never heard another word from them.

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More pictures of Judy

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Judy holding Jennie. This must have been around 1950. It was taken at our home in Cincinnati

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A  photo of Judy (in the middle) aged ten or eleven with two friends.

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Judy fishing, probably on the Ohio river or the Muskingum.

(The title refers to Judy’s real birthday. When she started school, the cut-off date for entering the first grade was the first of November. The school agreed that Judy’s official birthday could be the 1st so she could start school a year early.)

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Market Cross Cottage – Another update!

In the post about Market Cross Cottage and the ghost, I mentioned that I had come to the conclusion that the cottage, together with the restaurant which is part of the same  building, was the inn for visiting monks and other pilgrims, to the West Malling Abbey. I forgot to complete my thoughts for you on why I believe that to be true.

The walls of the cottage, when we moved in, were covered in match-boarding which was removed by the builders. In the far left corner, on the long wall of the ground floor, was a tall, shallow, built-in cupboard which we used to store tinned goods during the time before the builders started their work. When the builders removed the shelves and boarding walls they discovered quite a large recess which was about two or three feet deep. Inside this recess they found an old board which was in pretty poor condition but which had the remnants of a painting of a white swan with a crown around its neck with a chain on the crown.

The recess with cupboard doors to left of photo behind lamp shade, inside of which was found the ‘Swan’ sign.


We realised that the board was very old and were keen to find out why it was left in the niche behind the wall. I went to the local library and spent many hours looking for pictures of swans in various encyclopaedias and finally found quite a good likeness and the information that this swan had been a symbol of one of the royal families of England. (See the page on The Bohun Swan  in Wikipedia)  The encyclopaedia I used gave me to understand that the swan was the symbol of a king who was crowned sometime around 1452 which gave me a tentative year for the date that the cottage was built.
I don’t remember exactly which king it said or which book I found it in. Sadly, I no longer know where the swan board is, either. When Patty sold the cottage to the restaurant owner, she gave him the swan board. About twenty years later the restaurant owner had died and the restaurant was run by his son. I asked him about the board and he told me that his dad had given the board to Jim, the owner of the Swan pub which was around the corner. Jim and the pub had long-since disappeared as, I fear, has the old tatty bit of history, which I think is a damn shame!

I believe that in the days when most people didn’t read and write, that old sign was hung over the door of our building which would have been known as The Swan Inn, otherwise why would that board have been hidden in our house? I think that our ‘monk’ was somehow attached to the Abbey and the inn. There are plenty of ghost stories in West Malling, though a lot of them have been lost and others forgotten. I guess this is one which will be known for a short time by those of you who read this and, of course, the remaining members of our family.

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Market Cross Cottage – update

I was looking through some old photos today and I found a photo of one of the faces of the market cross. I’ll have to change my story slightly because I had forgotten that one could see two faces in the house and one from the outside. This is the one that can be seen from the outside and I ‘think’ it’s an angel.


The spotty black bit is the worktop on which the photo was re-photographed this morning. I forgot to edit that bit and now, it won’t let me!

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The Market Cross Ghost – true story! Or living in a cottage built in 1452

I mentioned that Patty bought an old cottage in West Malling High Street in one of my previous blogs. The house, which she found for sale in either Exchange & Mart or maybe Daltons Weekly, was described as a Victorian brick-built cottage with a forecourt. It was called Market Cross Cottage because there was (still is) the top of a stone cross seemingly holding up one corner. On the cross, on one face, is carved Jesus, another has an angel and the other two are a mystery as they are hidden by various walls. We moved in to Market Cross Cottage at the beginning of the school summer holidays in 1972.

Market Cross Cottage, 1972

In the photo above you will see a door on the left, a large window and another door. The left-hand door was our front door, the window was our window, but the right-hand door belonged to the restaurant next door. The windows on the first and second floors were ours as was the little bit of wall above the right hand door. You can’t see it but in front of the big window, in the pavement, is a wooden door into the cellar which belonged to the restaurant. We had a ‘flying freehold’!

Inside the front door was a flimsy wall on your right and a door into what had been a chiropodist’s office (we found toenail clippings under the lino in that room! Ugh!!] Behind the office and corridor, and separated by another flimsy wall, was a kitchen – and also, under a worktop, the bath tub! There was a stable-type door leading into the walled garden, at the bottom of which was a shed containing the only toilet and no light! On the right-hand wall of the kitchen there was a door leading up a very narrow enclosed staircase to the first floor where there were two bedrooms and another staircase to the second floor where there was one very large room, in the middle of which was a crown-post from which radiated upwards several curved beams leading to all the roof trusses and beams and the underside of the roof.

On our first night there Patty slept in the bedroom at the front – the only room with a door; Judy, ‘Veronica’ and I slept in the top room. We were all exhausted, having got up really early, packed a van with furniture and belongings and driven the forty or so  miles from Ravenscourt Park, down the South Circular, then the A20 to West Malling. (There was no M20 yet). ‘Veronica’ reminded me just last night that we had fried eggs for supper that first night and, she said, they were the best food she had ever eaten! Anyway, we were all in bed, probably by ten that evening, and ‘Veronica’ and I were sound asleep but Judy and Patty were awake enough, around midnight, to hear footsteps on the stairs followed by the slamming of Patty’s bedroom door.

The next morning we all discussed the mystery of the footsteps and slammed door and came to the conclusion that it must be the ghost! We had been told there was a ghost by the very old aunt of the quite old lady who sold the house to Patty, but she hadn’t gone into details. Patty decided, that first morning, to have the door removed from her room, thereby lessening the chance of its being slammed again.

Time passed. We spent some of that first summer exploring the house. All the downstairs and first floor walls were covered by ‘match-boarding’ and we decided to start removing it in the back room on the first floor. We removed first one, then a second and third slat of  match-boarding. Behind it we found the remnants of wooden panels about 12″x18″ of a dark brown colour which covered the walls to about chest height but whatever had been above that panelling was missing and there was just a gap and then the stone wall against which the cottage had been built. Because there was a gap we could see that behind the panels there was a lot of dust. Being amateur archaeologists(!) we spent a good few hours removing piles of the dust and sifting through it. We found many little bones (chicken, most likely), walnut shells and the remains of a leather shoe. All of those thrilling items went into the rubbish – even the shoe which was not so much a shoe as a sole with bits stuck to it. Judy had to stop taking part as she became very wheezy and the fun of it soon vanished for the rest of us.

Soon, it was time for Judy, ‘Veronica’ and I to move bedding, clothes, books and a few toys to our ‘digs’ in London. Judy and I had found it impossible to find accommodation for two adults and a seven year old so, being sneaky, we stopped mentioning the seven year old and found a self-contained, furnished flat in the basement of a house in Comeragh Road, West Kensington. Another time I’ll write about sneaking a child in and out of the flat, the broad beans and the slugs etc. but this time I’ll pass that thrilling story to carry on Market Cross Cottage.

While we three were living in London, Patty had arranged for builders to start making Market Cross Cottage more up-to-date. One of the builders noticed, on looking out of the first floor window, that there was a bulge in the wall above the door and, of course, that had to be investigated. (Remember, please, that my mother was an architect so she was the site-manager in many ways.) The ‘bulge’, it turned out, wasn’t a bulge at all! The ‘bricks’ between the ground and first floor were not bricks – they were mathematical tiles (tiles which fit together in order to look like bricks) Behind the mathematical tiles next to the window was another window, unglazed, with the original bars in place and loads of curved and straight oak posts/beams which made everyone realise the cottage was not Victorian at all, but had been built several hundred years earlier! In the picture below you can see the ‘new’ window and all the oak. Also, our first Tiggy sitting in the ground floor window!

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Aside from this amazing find there were also artefacts which weren’t worth much but help to tell the story of Market Cross Cottage. There was, in a hole near the ceiling, the skeleton of a rat next to what was left of a prayer book which was probably dated from the 17th or 18th century. It’s in English, much of it was gnawed by the rat. Below are three photos, one of the leather cover and two of pages inside.

I mentioned earlier the Crown Post in the room at the top of the house. I suppose it holds up the roof or holds it in place or something. Anyway, ‘Veronica’ (who was seven and a half) was playing around the post and found a little gap somewhere, reached in and pulled out a lot of very old flower petals and an old bone whistle – see a photo below.

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After the first year in digs, Judy and I decided we would move back to West Malling and commute to London when we had to be at college. ‘Veronica’ and I shared the top room which still had no ceiling but just the expanse of posts and beams from the floor to the peak of the inside of the roof. Sometimes, if it was very windy, we would watch spiders’ webs which were far too high to remove, sway with each gust. We had a window at the front and a Velux window in the roof so that we could have, in the summer, a bit of a through-draught but, in the winter it was pretty cold and we had a paraffin heater which took the edge off the freezing air.

There was also, thank goodness, a bathroom on the first floor with a toilet which meant we didn’t have to go out to ‘the loo’ any longer. (The one Christmas we spent there before the bathroom was built, was very uncomfortable! We mostly resorted to using a ‘potty’ if we needed to ‘go’ in the middle of the night!)

There were two bedrooms on the first floor. along with the bathroom. All three rooms had doors which, luckily, were never slammed, at least not by a ghost. The next time the ghost made himself known was not long after Patty opened her antique shop in the front room downstairs which also, occasionally, acted as our living room. Patty and a friend, Jean, were sitting in the shop gossiping about something when, all of a sudden, water came pouring out of the ceiling into a very large copper bowl which was directly underneath. When Patty and Jean went to look, the copper was full of water, the ceiling above it was totally dry and, upstairs, there was no sign of any water leak. In the photo below you will see a poor, freehand drawing of the layout of the ground floor and the walled garden. You will see a ‘copper’ in the garden. Coppers were used to boil water for washing clothes and our cottage had one in the garden. It was built into a brick-built stand under which one could light a fire. This copper is similar to the one which was in the shop just on the other side of the rectangle which represents a plasterboard half-wall dividing the shop from the kitchen.

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By this time someone had mentioned that the ghost was, in fact, that of a monk. West Malling has an abbey which was built somewhere between 1090 and 1108 and which is still a religious community. (Look it up on Google for photos and info). Of course, where there is a religious community, there are monks and visitors to the community. The cottage was built up against the original three feet thick outer stone wall of the abbey and I am convinced that the cottage, together with the restaurant next door (one big building which was divided into two sometime in the 19th century) was the stopping place and inn for visitors to the abbey.

I still hadn’t seen or heard any sign of a ghost and I was quite sceptical about it. One evening I was standing in the bathroom, washing out some socks in the basin, when for no reason that I could fathom, a heavy plastic box which sat on the tank of the toilet suddenly propelled itself across the room! I started believing, then. Some time later I was actually sitting on the loo when suddenly a bottle of shampoo flew over my shoulder and landed on the floor in front of me. There couldn’t have been anyone else there – it was a very small bathroom with a bath along one wall, a window on the opposite wall, the basin and toilet on one of the short walls and the wall with the door. No one else could have thrown those items!

Those two ‘sitings’ were the final ones of our ghost. I think he must have got fed up with sharing a house with four females and, instead of scaring us with his antics, he was making us more curious. I used to tell my class this story around Hallowe’en and lots of the kids didn’t believe it. I’m pretty sure you won’t either –  but I do – I was there – it happened just as I say and if you don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter. I know what I know!

We moved out of Market Cross Cottage in 1982 after I met Julian, Judy went back to the US and Patty bought another cottage to renovate. All that’s for another post! The cottage was bought by the man who owned the restaurant next door. He changed the two dwellings into one, again, and as far as I know, it is still owned by the same family and is still run as a restaurant.

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For my American readers:

Lino = linoleum; South Circular = a group of roads which can take you to the south of London; M20 = one of the many motorways in the UK where you can drive (in a car) at 70 mph; loo = toilet/john/bathroom; basin = bathroom sink; a copper = a large container made of copper which was used to wash clothes in before washing machines; paraffin heater = a method of heating a single room, a type of individual stove heated by paraffin oil;

Match boarding, flying freehold and crown post – Google them for explanations and photos

Got = gotten (Here in UK we don’t used ‘gotten’. As far as I know, it just isn’t used! I’ve learned not to use it 😜

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