Sunday, 28 July 2013


I first met Douglas at a party twenty years ago when he was about the age I am now. I disliked him instantly, then I have an aversion to English voices invading the country I escaped to. He was interesting, informed and bright but was sadly showing an interest in the cottage next door to us andMike and Dee were looking for a quick and easy sale.

They had been ideal neighbours, they even had well behaved kids and one was a crack shot on the local farm where he shot pigeons to fill our freezer for a very good price. Mike flew for an airline which was needing them to live closer to his base in the south, quite a comedown from flying Harriers or his spell in the Red Arrows display team, he was taken with the fact that Douglas had flown though being Douglas he flew not for the RAF but for the Navy! He was just getting into action and on his way to the Pacific when he said the Japanese heard he was coming and gave in…

Douglas and Betty met in London during the start of the swinging sixties each abandoning their married partners and setting up together. They had a wild time and met people who sound like Who’s Who and read like pages from the colour supplements of the time. Betty worked in a classy shop in central London while once he was shorn of his long hair and beard Douglass rose through the civil service to near the top reporting to a government minister by the time he decided to take early retirement.

No male had ever passed the age of 73 for many generations, his father went into hospital for a check up at that age and never came out… He had decided to go early and enjoy a bit of retirement buying a home some miles out I the country from here only to decide that driving a sit on lawnmower and being miles from a paper shop was not really their style. They had moved on average every two years with his job so another did not seem much of a hassle, that was twenty years ago. When his 73 birthday came there was a huge party and he got more presents than he had ever seen in his life, after all it was going to be his last. Well that was about twelve years ago… Ten years ago he had a sudden lung condition and was rushed into hospital while we were away on holiday, Betty was planning his funeral when we arrived home but he was lucky enough to be seen by the one doctor who had once before seem a similar attack and saved him! A few minutes later and he would have been gone but he survived and was told if he was lucky he might have two or three years more, the doctor started writing a paper on his case and they have been meeting up every year like the old friends they have become past the doctors retirement. He can finally finish that paper since today he got another attack when I visited and though they had a priority ambulance call ready for all that time with his recent other signs of decline he barely made it to the hospital before he died. He had been visiting his friend Mike in a nursing home and hospital before that for nearly two years and had stated that it was his wish to never have the same fate, he sensed that if he left the house he would probably never return.

Would that we could have such a life, only a week ago all four of us were invited out on two nights and he was his sparkling old self if a bit shaky on his use of pronouns…

Where do you find neighbours you can trust implicitly and hand keys over to when you go away and know the house will be looked after better than if you were there yourself? Douglas loved to come and sit in our greenhouse and while away the time to keep from getting orders back home, he would lock the doors we had forgotten to lock, switch off all the lights and post on all the bits and pieces we had forgotten. Only a couple of weeks ago he announced yet again that he had outlived one more of his lifetime friends, tomorrow they will be thinking much the same and wishing that they had set up a tontine...


  1. He was an amazing man; I even enjoyed arguing with him, and winning. People like him are always a loss, no matter what age they die.

  2. A wonderful epitaph for someone who evidently deserved it. I often wonder what my own epitaph might be but hope it will be something similar.

    Shirley Anne x

  3. Louise, I was impressed that you caught him out, his memory was like a computer and over a vast range of subjects.

    He really liked meeting you even though you caught him out and was impressed by your height for a girl...

  4. Shirley Anne, probably like mine it will just be "always on time"...

  5. Sad to lose such a friend

  6. Sounds like they probably broke the mould when they made Douglas. Sorry to hear that you have lost such a good neighbour and friend

  7. Lovely story, and so well written. I'm sorry you lost a friend, but he lived a long life and did manage to avoid the nursing home.


Many thanks to all who ever joined in the conversation and to those who took the time to follow my zig zag to a new life..

I can be contacted on the email found on my profile page.