Weeding isn’t just a gardening activity… it happens in lots of other ways too… as well as going through all the stuff we have in our house which we’ve accumulated over the last ten and a half years of living here, I’m going through the text of ‘Loving Judah’.
In case you don’t know, this is my next book to be published as an e-reader on Amazon. It’s the story of Aislin McManus and her husband Peter Whitamore and how they are affected by the death of Peter’s beloved son, Judah far away in India. Their bereavement affects them in ways neither would have expected and they each find they look back to their own lives before they were together, and they are forced to face up to the people they have become.
Peter and Aislin begin to tread new paths to try and find the answers; Peter wants to know why his child died, and he leaves their home in Yorkshire to do this. Aislin remains at home, she feels trapped in the ruin of the house they are renovating… she doesn’t know if Peter has gone away or run away… but she begins to find answers when she witnesses a mugging and becomes involved with the victim.
Does this sound mysterious enough? I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you! However, I will give you the next part of the story:
A tall windswept blond woman strode in and dropped a travel bag.
“Ashy,” she said. “Oh Ashy! I know I’m late, too late, but oh Ashy!”
It was Sandi.
Later they sat outside, perched on the pile of plastic-wrapped timber for the new floor. Sandi had made everything seem better. She had organised Aislin to light the stove, to put a kettle on and while they were waiting she breached the duty-free bottle of vodka and they’d hit a couple of shots while they cleared and tidied the kitchen. They spoke of the house, not of Judah. It was as if he was sitting at the table while they moved around him, aware of his presence but not liking to speak about him.
“Peter was just so keen on renovating this house, a chance to make one of his dreams come true… ”
“Yes, you said in your emails.”
“And it wasn’t just him, as soon as I saw it and stepped inside, I just fell for it. This was it!”
Having Sandi with her had shown her the house again as if new. It stood alone on the narrow lane which led to a tiny hamlet. There was a front garden full of piles of sand which Peter had ordered, and the floorboards for the hall.
The porch was arched with seats on either side and original tiles on the inner walls. The effect was spoiled by a hideous cheap door which would have to be replaced. On either side of the generous but floorless hall was the sitting room and the dining room and a small study. Only the sitting room was in use, a high ceilinged and elegant room, wrecked by Peter’s assaults on the wiring, but warmed by a fire in the wide grate beneath a broad mantelshelf.
The stairs lead up to three rooms, the smallest had been earmarked for Judah, the largest faced east to the moors. Aislin had loved this room, but Peter had wanted the one at the front of the house as their bedroom and so it had been. It felt a generous house, a welcoming house, until the chill of Judah’s death and the loss of electricity made it austere and grim… and so very cold.
“It’s a great house,” Sandi peered at the original tiles around the range.
“Well, perhaps one day. Pete was so enthusiastic, you know what he’s like. This was his new interest, his latest hobby. Do you remember when he went mad on wine-making? The equipment he had, the books, the tons of fruit and vegetables he chopped and mashed and… and then none of it tasted any good, not even for cooking! The beef in bramble wine, and oh, gee, the lamb in elderberry!” Aislin mimed throwing up. “And then he wanted to learn the guitar; it involved buying all that stereo equipment. Every time he came home it was with a new CD or book and a different guitar. Then he realised he’d never be as good as Jimmy Page so he decided to make guitars instead; he turned the garage into a workshop.”
“At least his hobbies didn’t include mucky women, or gambling,” Sandi laughed, and it was the first laughter in the kitchen for months.
“He was offered early retirement and he needed a new hobby. Why did it have to be restoring old houses, why couldn’t it have been golf or fly-fishing?”
But Aislin had gone along with it and every spare moment leading up to his retirement was spent scanning estate-agents and cruising round looking at property and this house had seemed perfect. She was fed up with their old home; it had been Peter’s before they married and she was excited at the idea of buying somewhere together, somewhere that would be theirs from the start.
“And since we were renovating it ourselves, it would be even more ours… ”
“I hear a note of reservation creeping in,” Sandi remarked spooning coffee into mugs.
“Mmm… We never had agreed on decor – our tastes are completely different. I suppose I’m minimalist Chinese/Japanese, he’s Old Curiosity Shop. In the old house it didn’t matter, too much, we compromised and ended up with something neither of us liked very much, but didn’t dislike very much either.”
Sandi’s dark grey eyes read every slight expression on Aislin’s face.
“We both want the house to be perfect – but his perfect and my perfect are poles apart. And somehow I feel it’s still going to be Pete’s house – if he ever finishes it which I’m beginning to doubt,” Aislin sighed and Sandi picked up their mugs and they went out into the late winter sun. “I suppose we’ll agree in the end… But actually it doesn’t matter. What colour we paint the walls doesn’t matter. Judah…”
Peter and Aislin had rowed in a civilized and grown up way about Judah going to India He was twenty-one, he’d got his degree and a good one, he was a free agent and certainly old enough to know what he was doing. It was sweet that he told them about it as if he was asking them, Aislin said to Peter when they had discussed it. Oh yes, certainly, Peter had replied, but he shouldn’t be positively encouraged to go. Of course he should, Aislin retaliated, see the world, travel a bit, we’ve all done it and it didn’t do us any harm. We haven’t all done it, Peter replied tartly, we weren’t all hippies, we didn’t all turn on, tune in and drop out. Well, nor did I really, I travelled a bit, but only round Europe. Even so…
And even so, in the end, of course Peter had rallied and wished Judah well and bought him the air-fare to Delhi and they both went to the airport and both hugged him and both waved and stood till he had pushed through into the departure lounge and then had watched the plane take off, standing against the window even when it had disappeared.
“I can’t really believe he won’t come back, I keep thinking Peter made a mistake. All the time at the funeral yesterday I kept thinking Judah would suddenly turn up and say – Oh shit! I’m sorry about this, it keeps happening when I don’t expect it,” and Aislin wiped her streaming eyes.
Sandi flung an arm across her shoulders. “Walk me round the outside of the house, tell me your plans, the garden will be lovely, it’s so big.”
They left their mugs and walked around the wilderness of the back garden.
“Some people said very comforting things, but others… One woman said you never expect your child to die before you, you worry about getting older and being a burden, but you never imagine your child will die before you. Several people said it must be much worse for Peter, he was Judah’s father. One woman said, ‘well my dear you’re not too old to start a family of your own’ – honestly! Apart from the insensitivity of it, I’d be a pensioner before the child had finished school.”
“She didn’t mean to be as awful as it sounded – any other time I’d have been flattered. I wonder if she told Pete he could have another child to replace – ”
It was supposed to be a bitter joke. It was just bitter, and in the shade of the leafless overgrown lilac tree Aislin gave herself up to real grief in the arms of her friend.
You can read my story here: