A Knight’s Tale (59: About The Children)

Jackie had stayed at our home with the children.

The next few years saw me trying to settle somewhere in which I could accommodate the three children at weekends and holiday periods. Michael stayed with his stepmother until there was no hope of reconciliation. First I visited them and took them out.

From Lolesworth Buildings I moved for a few more months to stay with Jill in Blackheath.  I remember the flat, at the top of Shooters Hill, but forget the address.  The sequence and chronology of the next few months is a bit hazy, as was I, but I had a fortnight in a flat in West London belonging to a work colleague in Southwark Social Services Department and  a month or so once again with Tony in Gillespie Road, near Arsenal’s former football ground in North London.  A period of stability sharing Giles’ basement flat in Pimlico lasted a bit more than a year.

After spending some time with friends Tony and Madeleine, Jill, a work colleague, gave me the Blackheath room. It was spacious and could accommodate a thick piece of foam rubber measuring 6’6″ x 5’6″ that I had tailor made so that Michael, Matthew, and Becky could share it with me at the weekends – two of us at the top and two at the bottom. That makeshift mattress was to serve for another 34 years. When I set up home with Jessica I had a wooden bed built around it. Only when I left Lindum House and returned to London, where it was too large to fit into the Hyde Park Square flat, was it replaced.

I was to be even more grateful for the Blackheath room and that mattress before I moved on, because for period of six weeks I suffered my one and only bout of bronchitis and hardly left it for a month.

Matthew on donkey 11.72
Matthew and Becky 11.72
Becky 11.72 002
Becky 11.72 003

During the time at Blackheath the children and I visited that village where donkey rides and Guinness were sampled.

Greenwich waterfront 11.72 001

Sometimes we went down to the Thames waterfront at Greenwich, which would be unrecognisable today. Smoke still billowed from Battersea Power Station and cranes were still in service.

As all my readers will know, music is a powerful trigger for joy or sadness. Jackie and I were fans of Tom Paxton whose Croydon performances we attended. From the day of our parting I was never able to listen to the singer/songwriter until we were reunited. One real tear-jerker was “About the Children”. It is perhaps just as well that the video of this was unavailable for me to add to this post.


  1. Winsome pictures of the children. Assuming the child licking her/his tongue is Becky (which is why I didn’t want to misidentify a child), looks like she might prefer the Guinness over the donkey. I’m sure we will learn how long you and Jackie were separated in due time, but it already seems longer than I expected or hoped.

  2. Once again, Derrick, your modest understatement belies what must have been an incredibly difficult time for all concerned. How well I understand the power of music. There are certain pieces which I can’t listen to either because the connection is too painful. I am hoping though, and you intimate this here, that eventually, you were able to listen to Tom Paxton again 💕

  3. I agree about the music. Lovely to see photos of the little ones.
    Did you ever find those missing pages of information that you had on the previous site menu before you changed your theme?

          1. Thank you Derrick. Is it not there under Pages but just not published on this theme? Have you asked WP if they can find it?

  4. Such as poignant story of this time in your lives. 40 years apart is a log time. I also agree about the music. I heard a song by Justin Hayward last year. It comes to mind again with your story. Here is Justin telling the story behind the song and a clip of performing it in his later years.

  5. Such a poignant post, Derrick. Lovely photos of the children. I can’t imagine what those years were like for any of you. 💙

    I didn’t remember the Tom Paxton song, but I looked it up. It is a sad one, but as my parents split up (twice), I also see it as from the children’s viewpoint.

  6. I too found this a very poignant post: it couldn’t have been easy to write. Nearly forty years is a long time. It is as well that we do not know what life has waiting in store for us.

  7. It was so kind of Lavinia to supply that video for you. This is a sad post, Derrick. But you do have some pleasant memories of the children.

  8. Oh, the pains we go through along our journey of self-knowledge and understanding! Music is also a powerful trigger for joy or sadness in my life. I’m not familiar with Tom Paxton’s music and was able to access the song you mentioned on YouTube.

  9. Ah, Derrick, I know these are hard times to remember. You were without Jackie, without your children, without your home . . . It must have been just awful. Hugs to you all.

    My parents divorced when I was 19 and I divorced my first husband when my daughter was 3. And you are SO RIGHT about songs! Whenever I hear “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot, it takes me back to the day my parents told me they were divorcing. I believe it must have been playing on the radio at the time.

  10. Tom Paxton was a favorite of mine in those years, but I’d never heard that song. I found it on YouTube today, and listened. Poignant, indeed — and powerfully expressive. Certain songs carry memories–carry experiences– forever. How wonderful it is that we can bring them up and listen when we’re ready, rather than having to relive the experience that filled them with personal meaning.

  11. This brought the tears.
    The children’s faces brought smiles.
    Yes, music becomes the “soundtrack” for our lives and certain tunes and lyrics bring a flood of memories to us. When a certain song plays and we are not prepared the not-so-good memories can be overwhelming. But when the songs that are associated with good memories play, we can relive the joy!
    When certain songs play all of my senses ignite and I can remember words said, people there, emotions felt, even the weather-temps, etc. Music is powerful. And we couldn’t live without it. 🙂
    I read this knowing you reunited, and I’m so so SO glad you did! <3 <3

  12. Your story adds to my amazement at how we can be devastated yet persevere, putting one foot in front of the other, until, years later, things work out and life becomes beautiful. I’m thankful we made it through the tough times.

  13. Pretty awesome that the foam mattress lasted 34 years! Must have been good quality and then to think you got ride of it because it was too big or it could have kept going – must have been really good quality

  14. You know I understand how difficult it is to write about these times. But you have made a commitment to document them. For us, but also for your family. I found, weirdly, that once I had committed my painful memories to paper (or virtual paper in your case), that they had a place to live outside my head and heart, and somehow, the hurt diminished in the process. Or the obsessive memory diminished. Whichever it was, after all, I am not sorry I did it.

    1. Thank you so much for the identification, Gwen. It must be three years since I first started this writing and came to a grinding halt as I approached our parting. X

      1. I’d actually forgotten that my ex-husband had made my daughter and I homeless – shows how life can move on as well 😊

  15. Very interesting to read this bit of personal history. I am so thankful that you & Jackie reunited. I love the photos of the children. Am going to try to find that nostalgic Paxton song! Have a wonderful week, {{{Derrick}}} and enjoy that new wardrobe with the clothes sorted and now comfortably displayed!

  16. It is always traumatic for children, no matter how caring and accommodating adults are. Of course, I am not saying anything you don’t know, Derrick.
    Your children were adorable, especially Becky, a veritable doll!

  17. You are so right about music, Derrick, and I am sort of grateful you couldn’t share Tom Paxton with us because I would likely be crying for you as I watched it. To make your case I have an example. A few nights ago I was cooking in Pedro’s kitchen and was playing a random selection from the group 10,000 Maniacs that I remembered enjoying long ago. I was having fun singing along with every song and surprised that after all the years I remembered the lyrics. Then the opening notes of one song came up and I was filled with misery and had to skip it before I crumpled into tears. It instantly reminded me of my first divorce and there was no way I could listen to the song. I hadn’t even remembered there was such as song that would do that to me, but my body remembered.

Leave a Reply