Odd Socks

pool couple collage

I usually wax my moustache, but I didn’t do it this morning. I like to stand out from the crowd, but I haven’t always been like that – I used to be shy and reserved.

He wouldn’t go out on his own.

That’s true. I was working at Falmouth docks. Life revolved around going to work, going to the pub and then going to bed – that was it. And then I met June.

I was a single mum at the time and one day I went down to my auntie and uncle’s pub and said, “Are there any good men around?” My auntie said, “I know one….” But we didn’t get round to meeting for a while because things kept getting in the way. And all the time he thought it was a wind up because my uncle used to look out of the pub window with binoculars to keep an eye on what the young ones were up to at the phone box or whatever, and he would wind people up. He thought I wasn’t really interested in meeting him. But in the end, I came down for an evening at the pub and they introduced us.

Even then I still thought it was a wind up because I was very shy.

But within three months of the night we met he moved into my place and that was it.

I was still really shy and didn’t want to go out anywhere unless she was with me. Then she bought me a mandolin for my birthday and said, “Learn to play that.” So I picked up a few tunes. There was a local folk club, but I was frightened to go unless she went with me, so she did. And within two years I was playing onstage at The Royal Cornwall Show.

Now he plays piano, accordion, mandolin and guitar.

It brought out my confidence, but I’m not in a band at the moment…

We tragically lost my youngest son two years ago. He was driving his girlfriend’s bike into Falmouth and he took the corner wrong, clipped a lorry, went under it and the lorry went over him. Twenty-one. Gone.

You don’t get over that. You just put on a brave face.

You just have to keep very busy. We bought a camper van and we go out, even if it’s just for a coffee, just to get away from the house… But we are still living in the same house. I’ve been there for twenty-nine years and it’s where the boys grew up. If we left, we’d be leaving that behind.

He was a musician as well, and I’m surrounded by his instruments. He was three when I met June and he used to come to the folk club with me and play along.

Sometimes it takes things to shock you out of the way you live. I’d spent my life just keeping my boys full – making pasties and things. So when Mark went there was a big void. When he died, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t get any words out for probably a year. I think it’s a bit like when you see the earthquakes on the news – you’re cooking tea and everything’s fine, then all of a sudden, everything around you is devastated. You’re shell-shocked, like someone in the First World War. That’s why I couldn’t speak. I’m usually a real chatterer, but it just couldn’t come out in words.

It was different for me. I went back to work about three months after he died, and two customers came up to me – both of whom had lost sons and I’d known nothing about it. I’d known them for about ten years. They didn’t say very much, and they didn’t need to, but they knew, and felt they had to speak. Things like that do open people up and help us make connections… My odd socks stem from Mark and his girlfriend. They always used to wear odd socks. His girlfriend bought these socks for me. So it’s kind of a commemoration.

You know… I knew I was going to lose him. As soon as he told me he was going to take his bike test, I begged him not to. He’d already had a prang in his car and I said, “You aren’t going to get a second chance.” I was beside myself because I knew 100% that I was going to lose him, and everybody thought I was being a fussy mother. The Wednesday before it happened I cut his hair for him and before he left I said, “Give me an extra hug Mark because I don’t think I’m going to see you again.” That Saturday, he died. The last thing he ever text me was, “Don’t worry.”

Things could have been totally different – we could have fallen to pieces and lost the house and everything, but we’re fighters I suppose. But you never get over it.

We buried Mark’s ashes in Princess Pavilions under a magnolia tree and there’s a bench there dedicated to him. We chose there because there’s always music playing and he would have liked that.