When we were first married we lived in a flat in Forest Hill and Nick worked for Lewisham Borough Council. Then he got a much better job – it paid £1,400 per year as opposed to the £1,000 he’d been earning previously. And no, I haven’t made a mistake with the noughts. This was 1970.
The Local Government Training Board was based in Alembic House on the Albert Embankment. Actor, Stanley Baker lived in the penthouse and LGTB employees got used to chatting to him in the lift. Today that penthouse is owned by Jeffrey Archer.
We knew from the beginning that LGTB was planning to move out of London and in the end it relocated to offices above the (then) new Arndale shopping centre in Luton and we moved to Wellingborough – removal expenses paid by LGTB.
Well it wasn’t the best of moves, really. The house we unwisely bought turned out to have all sorts of problems and was eventually sold four years later for less than we’d paid for it. Moreover, the job changed and Nick became very disillusioned because there suddenly seemed so little for him to do. It was like being literally redundant while still on full salary.
And that is quite stressful. The migraines Nick had always been prone to got worse and much more frequent. And it was always weekends. He’d routinely spend either Saturday or Sunday in bed, more or less insensible with the curtains drawn and vomiting frequently. You can imagine how difficult this made family life. By 1976, when things were at their worst, I had a child of four and a new baby. No wonder my smoking shot up and my weight, for the only time in my entire adult life, dropped below 9 stone.
Then I had a brainwave. One Sunday afternoon at about 4pm when he’d just about reached the dry-biscuits-and-sips-of-water-stage – there was a definite pattern to these migraines – I sat on the edge of the bed and said: “Listen. We can’t carry on like this. Why don’t you give up the wretched job? I’ll get a full-time teaching job and you can look after the boys.”
He looked incredulous. “You’d really do that?”
“Yes” I said. “Provided we can go back south to do it – Kent, and near London preferably. I don’t want to stay in the Midlands.”
So that was what we did. I was appointed to teach English at Rowena High School for Girls in Sittingbourne in 1977 (having, for the record, finally given up smoking earlier that year). We bought a house in the town and Nick became, for some years, a jolly efficient and capable “house husband”. A ground breaker – he was several decades ahead of his time.
What I often wonder now, is has anyone ever done any research into migraine and Alzheimer’s? Both are brain conditions after all and Nick’s migraines were pretty spectacular although they occurred less regularly after we moved and as he got older.
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Photograph 1969. Claude was our first cat.