I haven’t written my blog for a very long time. Life sure has changed these past few years. The Little Dog, after a wonderful life, born on the streets of LA, travelling the world… a little dog who loved Paris and knew we were there whenever we arrived… caught his last breath in a veterinary surgery in Canterbury four weeks ago. He was done.
The day before he died he staggered into the garden and lay in the cold and dark under a garden chair. It was the sign I needed. The following day we said our goodbyes to our friends in Whitstable. Marilyn and Johnny held him one last time. He had been with me for longer than any human. Now he is a small tube of ashes, his coat, collar and passport.
There are days when I want to be where he is. But I know the Little Dog is waiting for me and whatever death God has planned for me it gives me solace to know this.
We have been living in Portugal these past years. Trapped by covid and inertia. We had our routine. We walked the little park every day. Occasionally, but not nearly enough, walked the beach. He loved the sand. That’s where I will scatter his ashes. Forever running on the sand.
My own brush with death in 2020 started on the morning of December 17th and ended four months later. Gripped by Covid. Hospitalised, plagued by demons, holding onto life. Covid 19 changed everything. My semi lifeless body washed from head to toe by gentle nurses. Learning to walk again. I agreed to take antidepressants. To be honest, from the hit of the first pill… I haven’t looked back. I wish I had taken them when they’d been offered years before. Everything changed. Everything. I take my pill and fear falls away. Finally I love everything I own, I enjoy the colours and the form but my self esteem is not tied up in my possessions or what I may have or have not achieved. Settled in my own body I finally have the peace of mind I thought would elude me til my deathbed.
Life is not without difficulties but my faith is simple: if I own my part, everything will be ok no matter what.
Fearlessness has its downsides. Recently I was queer baited in a supermarket in the small Algarve town where I live. Instead of ignoring the assailant I stood up to him. He was violent and I fought back. I thought ‘Duncan, you are 60 years old, it’s now or never’. By the time the brawl was over the supermarket was trashed, the police arrived. We were taken in separate ambulances to separate hospitals. My feet lacerated, glass shards are still making their way out of my toes. The gay paramedic in the ambulance advised me to contact a gay helpline who organised a lawyer gratis. They have been handling the situation ever since. It was time to fight back. It was time.
I let professionals deal with problems I cannot. Doctors, dentists, the gay lawyer. The Spanish lawyers: I am still suing Ana for the money she owes me. The property in Herefordshire is gently unfolding in the right direction. We won three major planning successes (one at appeal) and I love, more and more, being there. I realised I had never experienced my property in the summer so made my way there last July. It was such a treat. So quiet and beautiful.
Georgina, now it’s your turn. I have to write about you.
As I flew home from London to Portugal late last night in the rowdy Ryanair airbus, trying to ignore the menacing, drunk racists laughing around us I looked out of the window over the villages below me. Lit up like galaxies. Some strong and bright and highly coloured. Some weak and small swallowed up in the black, moonless landscape. Constellations above me, constellations below.
I had spent just one day of the planned 10 in Whitstable. Whitstable. How happy you and Georgina have made me these past 7 months. My mother and I have reconnected and made our peace. Richard, my best friend during my twenties is now married, children grown, a grandchild on the way. We sat by the fire in the Oyster Company drinking tea and catching up. Strangely, or not so strangely, our life trajectories had unknowingly intersected those three decades. Holidays in Montauk when I would have been there. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway past my house. He has a great deal to be proud of. The business thrives after thirty years. His son is strong and handsome, intelligent and humble.
I met Georgina Jenkins shortly after she moved to Whitstable 22 years ago.
Georgina bought the Copeland House bed and breakfast on Island Wall from John and Jill. John and Jill were fat when nobody was fat. Their obesity was a shameless part of their character as much as their gold chains and fancy set gold sovereigns. Jill had huge, baggy arms and voluminous breasts that swallowed you up when she hugged you. They owned the green grocer on the corner of Terry’s Lane before the council knocked it down, replacing the tatty nissen hut, the public toilets and the assembly rooms with rows of ship lapped faux fishermans cottages with ugly dormers and triangular windows that point into the eaves, never properly blinded.
Jill and John wanted a bed and breakfast thinking it less taxing than lugging boxes of spuds and brussels from Covent Garden every day. They bought the abandoned coastguard cottage by Keam’s Yard, Copeland House. They cleared out Nobby and other assorted drunks squatting there. Johnny put up terrible partitioning and equally bad wallpaper and voila: Jill and Johnny had Whitstable’s first seaside bed and breakfast.
A decade later, time to retire… Jill and John bought a bungalow in Yorkletts. Moving from Essex, a leap of faith, Georgina bought the B&B and set about poncifying her gold mine the day after she bought it. Out came Jill’s ghastly nick knacks replaced with a life time collection of Clarice Cliff. Out went Johnny’s pale yellow winceyette, brushed nylon and fire hazzard bedding replaced with white linen and interlined curtains.
George, divorced from famed book maker John Jenkins, has two children: Sophie Kay and Patrick Jenkins. After 15 years making the best full English in Kent Georgina retired and her daughter Sophie and son in law Michael Kay bought the bed and breakfast. They closed it abruptly and applied to the local council for change of use.
Like so many Essex woman of a certain genre, Sophie is instagram ready the moment she leaves the house. Alternately gurning or pouting in every filtered picture taken. Fake tits, fake tan, no conversation her ex boyfriend sent to prison for fraud, stealing credit cards. When I met her she had recently stabbed her boyfriend Adam Wright in the chest, he was hospitalised. She boasts she has many friends, a multi million pound property portfolio, that her daughter Poppy is top of the class. Is any of it true?
Patrick, Georgina’s son who I detested for years, has learned from both British and American prisons there is more to life. I now have a great respect for Patrick after years of being frightened and intimidated by him. Patrick has owned his addiction and from what I have seen of his writing could be a great writer. We unexpectedly had cause to visit Brighton and he beguiled me with his unique and compelling stories.
I always have time for an addict who owns his shit. Understandably, the rest of his family are less willing to forgive his unmanageability. Patrick’s children Henry and girlfriend Brooke, his daughter Grace and her drug dealer boyfriend Billy no longer speak with him. This family run in a pack. His aunt Gay Briggs and her daughter Chloe Coates also ignore Patrick. Chloe has a dim, posh husband called Jack Coates. Patrick calls Jack, Pussyhole. However, dim Jack is bright enough to know how uncomfortable Sophie and Michael Kay’s casual racism/homophobia made him. The Spanton/Jenkins are heavy drinkers. Gay drinks red wine and nods off at the end of dinner. They all think far too much of their moderate success and limited achievements.
I knew Georgina’s chain smoking sister Gay Briggs years before I met Georgina, she never really interested me. Gay is a show off who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. A fog horn boasting into the wind.
Lately, the pack has shrunk. Gay’s charming husband Bruce recently died of a massive stroke ‘he farted three times and I knew he was dead‘ and their hugely popular sister Maxine died of a rare leukemia. The best of the family died with them.
Georgina is my friend. I love her very much. An unlikely partnership. 14 years older than me, those who saw us together were bemused. When I lived in Whitstable I would leave her to deal with visitors from London when I couldn’t. We would cook, garden and travel. We fantasised owning a hotel. We wanted the Dolphin Hotel in Herne Bay but when push came to shove, it was a scary prospect. Wherever we went we would pretend we were looking to buy property and make time-wasting appointments with realtors. It was our hobby. We spent three months in Australia. Gallery owner Oscar Humphries was astounded we shared a room. Not a bed. We jogged from Bronte to Bondi and every day worked out at the City Gym. We drove from Sydney to Melbourne. We drove with Oscar into the outback and photographed a Bachelor and Spinster’s ball for the Sydney Morning Herald.
I wanted her to see everything I loved. I took her to Fire Island, we stayed at the Mercer Hotel in New York City, we travelled to film festivals. When I made the Elizabeth Hurley movie she pretended to be my mum when I had to entertain the producers. When I brought Jake B to London it was George I wanted him to meet.
Even though she had an occasional romantic love for me (mocked by her daughter) she knew her romantic love could never be fulfilled. And even though I continued to have intimacy with men I didn’t flash my various affairs or one night stands in her face because I knew it would hurt her. Most gay men I know have a very close woman friend in lieu of a mother. As my mother and I became closer, leaving decades of resentment behind, my relationship with George changed too.
George and I were fractious on occasions but never bored. We had a few, huge dramatic fights. Fantastically frugal she knew to the last penny how much money was owed at a restaurant. How many sweets we shared on a road trip. Every penny profit was a ‘touch’. Her family never approved of me even though, when I lived in LA, I was forced to accommodate and entertain them. I invited Georgina many times to Los Angeles but she never came. She would have loved it. The garden. The space. Malibu.
So, it was with great sadness I learned she had Parkinson’s Disease. She deteriorated quickly.
I would occasionally pop in to see her whenever I was in Whitstable, avoiding Patrick. She was often on her own and would ask me to help out with little tasks as her mobility was impaired. She never forgot my birthday and I would keep up with her on social media. Last year she told me her family (all of the above minus Pat) plus Sophie’s red faced husband Mickey and Pat’s ex wife (also called Georgina) were travelling to Cyprus for two weeks. George told me proudly Mickey is treated ‘like a king’ in Cyprus.
So, needing to be in Whitstable, Georgina invited me to stay. It was lovely to be with her but what I subsequently discovered was extremely disturbing. Stories of casual abuse from her unemployed daughter Sophie. The evidence of neglect was clear to see. The formerly beautiful beach house George moved into after she sold the B&B to Sophie was such a mess! My Mary Poppins gayness got the better of me: Piles of old papers sorted. A huge, unused treadmill sold. The 18th century Indian bed she used as a coffee table returned to its correct place, loose covers freshly laundered.
The previous year, left alone in the house she had fallen badly and broken her hip. When the ambulance arrived her family came to kiss her goodbye. Each one of them solemnly climbing into the ambulance. They didn’t expect George to survive a covid hospital and rehab. The youngest grandchildren were told they wouldn’t see their grandmother again.
The family extended their stay in Cyprus from two to five weeks. I stayed on in Whitstable to keep her company. We established a nice routine. Working with her carers and Emma the cleaning lady we restored order where there was none and a good routine for her safety. I took her to hospital appointments, food shopping and Tescos to buy loungewear. Tiny things to do but apparently a bridge too far for her daughter the gurning Sophie who had rarely taken her out. George admitted she didn’t like the way they pushed her around, in and out of the car. She felt unsafe. ‘They treated me like meat.’
When it was my time to leave she would shake uncontrollably. On her own she was useless. I knew it.
“Protect me from my family.” she asked. I came back. For six months.
During these past few months we have laughed so hard, we’ve eaten at restaurants which is no small feat considering her disability. I wash and blow dry her hair and she calls me Nicky. (Until Sophie ‘borrowed’ the hairdryer.) We unpack the past. I have a notoriously bad memory after my spinal leak. George remembers all the detail my brain erased. She says, ‘do you remember…?’ I often don’t remember, even when she tells the story.
We got into very bad habits, watching bad TV. Game shows in the afternoon. We cooked three meals a day and put on weight. We experimented with Parkinson’s approved diets. I fed her black chocolate and bananas as it was meant to help. We loved eating home made curry and slow cooked shoulder of lamb. We braised oxtail. Porridge every morning unless we fancied greek yogurt and granola.
Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect the body, it affects the brain. A quick google search and a chat with her doctor confirmed the worse: Georgina has stage 4/5 Parkinson’s. Paranoia and terrible anxiety are as much a part of the disease as the uncontrollable shakes. People with Parkinson’s shouldn’t be left on their own. Loneliness is corrosive. When she was certain I wasn’t leaving, even for a short while, she would settle and calm and the less the terrible shaking would grip her. Yet, I also saw her focused and determined when she really wanted something and I was there to facilitate.
At night we kept the door between us open so she could hear me breathing and she would settle into a deep sleep. Sometimes she would panic. Screaming out. A deep roar from a place I did not recognise. Left on her own the unreasonable fears and thoughts would overcome her and she would imagine people breaking into the house, stealing from her cupboards. Occasionally, even when I was with her she couldn’t get comfortable, getting in and out of bed dozens of times. Pulling on the only shoes she trusts. Removing them. Pulling them on again. Frightened she would fall. I would put her back to bed, cover her feet, hold the jug so she could pee, soothe her wet brow. Sometimes at 3 or 4am we would get her off to sleep. I wasn’t always patient at 3am. She would apologise telling me her daughter would accuse her of attention seeking, unable to understand the profuse sweating was her broken internal thermometer, another Parkinson’s horror symptom.
A month or so after I arrived she told me she was worried about money. Knowing how frugal she was I asked how that could possibly be. She said she was totally broke. I didn’t believe her. She owns her house on the beach, had sold the B&B for £600,000 which gave her at least £300,000 to live on after paying the mortgage.
Elders are incredibly vulnerable. Elders with a debilitating disease are more vulnerable. Elders with money and a debilitating disease and greedy children? After a quick look at her bank statements it turned out during the past 5 years of the worst of her Parkinson’s her daughter and son in law Michael Kay had persuaded with her to part with over £350,000 in cash and still owed her £85,000 from the purchase of the B&B. They had defaulted on the promissory notes they had signed. They had made her take out a £50,0000 government bounce back loan. Predicated on a fantasy Covid would get her, that she would die, they thought these interest free loans would vanish, the 1.2 million pound house she lives in would be theirs. Job done.
However, things went tits up for Sophie and Michael Kay.
Georgina didn’t die.
Nor did the gurning, pouting Sophie expect an old friend to turn up in a moment of need. They did not expect the friend to call a lawyer, Age Concern and the elder abuse unit at Maidstone Police Station. They did not expect to get caught.
It latterly turned out a shrewd property investment made by Georgina had also been intercepted and overwhelmed by Michael Kay.
I spent more and more time with George. I was frightened for her life. I wanted her to have a life. More than sitting in her reclining chair looking out of the window. When we weren’t together we would chat for hours on the phone. An hour’s chat before bedtime. Often those conversation were about her children. Sophie ‘had a turn’, Patrick was a terrible son.
For spurious reasons guilty Sophie would storm into George’s house, screaming. A 50 year old woman screaming relentlessly at her frail mother. Even when we locked the door she kicked the door so hard it splintered. Whilst I was there Sophie barricaded her mother into her own bedroom screaming. Always screaming. Blaming anyone/everyone other than herself for her problems.
A violent household on Christmas Day 2021 I saw Michael Kay hit their tiny dog, a big man punching a small dog. Michael Kay was officially warned by Canterbury Police for threatening me.
Mickey and Sophie have a small son, Dexter and Sophie has a 13 year old daughter called Poppy. The heavy set daughter was both bullied and a bully at school. Both Poppy and Sophie have eating disorders. Sophie wants weight loss surgery, she was impressed when meeting my sister Roya who recently had weight loss surgery. We would hide biscuits and other sweet things from Poppy. We stopped buying ice cream. She would eat everything she could lay her hands on.
Yet, whatever Sophie owes Georgina, however they treat her… she forgives them. I suppose that’s what mothers do? Georgina loves her daughter and her granddaughter. Stockholm syndrome.
Alone at the house, George placates herself in the early hours on-line shopping, cardboard boxes and packages arrive from Ebay and Amazon. She lives on a meagre state pension. Rather than returning an unsuitable item she always offers the item to Sophie, who never said no. Nibbling at the very little Georgina has. They never offer to help out with the important things. Only when Patrick demands they pay for a new wheelchair or the security cameras set against the loan repayment. Never did I hear Sophie say, hey… I know you don’t have much I’ll return this gift, you should have the money.
Living in constant fear of her overdraft. This is not how life should be. She worked her ass off. She always had a job. Expected nothing, gave everything. She made excellent business choices, George should be luxuriating in her dotage rather than worrying about every last penny.
Anxiety exacerbates Parkinson’s disease.
If she ever gets the money she is owed by Sophie and Mickey she is determined to send Poppy to a public school but I’m afraid you can’t polish a turd. This may seem harsh but read until the end, dear reader.
For seven months I saw Georgina decline. Paranoia, when anxious. would twist her mind, she was convinced the carers were stealing her makeup. Convinced they were poisoning her food. She would fret a specific bowl or jug had been thrown away. She thought she saw a person stealing a television. She was particularly anxious about my relationship with other women. She was convinced I was having an affair with Patrick’s girlfriend, Caroline. She said, ‘Caroline is my achilles heel.’ Convinced my female friends were not just friends. Most worrying of all she could hear people lingering in the garden. We had security cameras fitted to alleviate her worry. I found the bowl, the jug and the missing ribbons, we found her purse she was sure Sophie had stolen. We located her missing wedding ring.
Eventually I found her a more suitable walker for the home and a new wheelchair powered by a lithium battery for trips into town. Sadly, she only felt safe with me taking her out.
Occasionally she would ask me to marry her. “If anything happens to me, marry me .” I must admit, if it protected her from Sophie, I would have married her but I knew in my heart it was an impossible dream, a dream like the hotels and homes we saw together all those years ago. It would have been a marriage of convenience to suit her immediate needs. I couldn’t do it.
The pressure from her daughter was getting worse. Knowing my service was coming to an end I booked a ticket to Portugal. Promising to come back in a month. A week into my return Georgina called me, she was distraught. Her adored grandchild Poppy had slapped her so hard in the face she saw stars.
Poppy, is a heavy set teen, she has a foul mouth and often called me and her grandmother ‘cunts’.
I was furious. Georgina said the slap reminded her of when Mickey hit their tiny dog. I called Patrick but Georgina, trying to protect Poppy denied it had happened. Then she admitted it was true. Frankly, I didn’t know what to believe until Poppy relented and confirmed it had happened.
She begged me to come back. The following day from Stansted I called to see how she was doing. She told me she had seen compelling evidence from her daughter Sophie I was planning to murder her. Knowing the jig was up, Sophie had persuaded her poor mother her best friend and greatest support was out to kill her. It was enough. I knew I had to get out. I arrived in Whitstable, Patrick picked me up from the station. There is nothing anyone can say or do when dementia sets in. The person you knew is no longer there. I packed up my things and Richard organised a room in the hotel.
When I arrived at George’s house she was sitting in her new wheelchair. She looked terrible. Georgina’s ‘friend’ Pauline Hendy was there. Her friend who wouldn’t believe Sophie and Mickey had taken her money. An ex barrister who in 1993 had worked infamously on the consensual sado-masochistic acts case for the appellants. She is one of those woman who seems to disapprove of strong gay men. Her face looks like a disinterred, freshly unwrapped Egyptian mummy, one colour, no lips, holes where eyes should be. Pauline was determined to defend Sophie. Her smile, a crude slit in old leather. For what reason I have no idea.
I told her to fuck off. It was not Pauline Hendy helping her friend at night. Clearing up the pee. Feeding her. Holding George until the shakes stop. Toweling off her night sweats. Where is Pauline for her friend? Pauline is not a friend. She is a goule.
Georgina called at midnight. She was crying. She said, ‘I was praying. Asking God for one normal day, then I would die.’ She misses walking the dog. Ironing. She misses what life used to be like. Normal.
Yesterday, returning to Faro I felt for my friend, Georgina. It’s hard to reconcile the things people are saying and the disease they have. The disease is speaking. This is not the person I knew.
Thankfully her son Patrick and his girlfriend Caroline can take up the reigns where I left off. They are chasing the money taken by his sister Sophie and her frightful husband Michael Kay. Pat and Caroline are feeding her. Protecting her.
It is not my responsibility. I will remember the fun we had. I will miss the laughter.
Elder abuse is real. It is silent. It is happening to a person you know. It is happening right now.