Rosie was my first wife, and mother to my only son, Russell.
Born in May 1946, her father Harry was senior partner at the law firm Hunt and Wrigley based at the time in Thirsk Yorkshire. The family home was a large house in Osmotherley, North Yorkshire, which was where we had our wedding reception in September 1976. Her family was comfortably well off, with holiday homes in nearby Filey and elsewhere.
The wedding day was not auspicious as it poured with rain, threatening to destroy the marquees and other structures brought in for the occasion. My best man was Hugh Slater, a good friend from the King’s School Canterbury.
Rosie’s mother Miriam was a commanding presence, and used to getting her own way: Harry, on the other hand, loved the quiet life, and golf. Rosie had a younger brother Chris, who at the time was training to be a solicitor at the the Guildford Law College.
I first met Rosie in about 1972 at a party held at the home of the O’Connor family in Hockley Essex. She was friends with a boy named Steve, who also happened to know Dianne – one of the O’Connor girls – and Steve was studying at the same Law College in Guildford as Rosie’s brother Chris.
My first impression of Rosie was that she enjoyed parties and alcohol, and was more “extravert” than I was used to seeing. She did not seem to have a job as such, but was financially independent with her own MG Midget sports car – she was actually a pretty good driver!
We got on well, and she later visited me in my cottage at Saham Hills in Norfolk. Our relationship of boyfriend/girlfriend was “on and off” and we separated for a year before re-uniting in 1975, as I was beginning to do rather well with Merchant Investors as an insurance salesman.
I invited her to come with me on my annual sales convention to Crete in September 1975 – all expenses paid 5 star holiday – where she met the other leading salesmen and women from Merchant Investors. Shortly after this, we jointly decided (it was not a romantic “on one knee” moment with engagement ring to hand) to get married.
I did not tell my parents immediately – they were in Rhodesia at the time – preferring to tell them when we visited together in early 1976, but our surprise news was slightly overshadowed by the decision of my younger brother Robert to get married to Judith (from the same Merchant Investors connection) in Rhodesia at the same time on the same visit. From this marriage came my niece Camilla, who is now doing rather well as a Social Media professional.
Rosie was a very pretty girl, with a nice character, but she used alcohol as a way to emerge from her “shell”, and the resulting lack of inhibition many times caused problems. I was well aware of this, having witnessed it before, but thought that once we were married this would no longer be an issue. I believe that the problems that she had were a result of her mother’s controlling influence in her childhood – Miriam did not drink or smoke at all, but both her children did so, and sometimes to excess.
We started married life in a flat in Corfton Lodge, Ealing, West London and then moved to our first purchased property Rose Cottage in Neville Road Ealing, which was very close to the Pitshanger Lane Tennis Club (at the time they had grass courts, and we did sometimes play together) and not far from Hanger Lane Tube Station used for my daily commute to the City. By this time, there was an addition to the family in the shape of a crazy Red Setter male puppy called Gemini (Gemmy)
We planned to start a proper family as soon as possible – Rosie was in her 30s – and she became pregnant in 1978. Unfortunately, the baby boy (James) was premature at only six months and survived only three days in an incubator. The autopsy confirmed jaundice and lung failure, owing to the premature birth, and I and Rosies’ parents were told privately by the doctors that it would be advisable for her to give up smoking and drinking before trying again.
To her credit, she did so, and Russell was born in November 1980, perfectly healthy.
We did not have any help with the baby , but we managed OK, and business was going well, so I “upgraded” our property to a large 4 bedroom detached house in Sandall Road, Ealing, which was more suited to a family.
Our main friends, with whom we socialised on many occasions were Chris and Jenny Efstratiou, working with Merchant Investors and lving in London (and later Oxford), and Ron Hollett and Daphne Roughead in Hampshire (and later Wiltshire). Daphne was Rosie’s best friend, and they had a son Chris who was a little older than Russ. Ron was a very talented Art Director working in London, and his passion was clay-pigeon shooting, a sport which he introduced to me, and we spent many hours in different parts of the South of England at various organised shoots – with prizes on offer often won by Ron!
Chris and Jenny Efstratiou had three children, Melissa, Marcus and Rowena, with Marcus about the same age as my son Russell.
So what went wrong?
In the next four years or so, life was comfortable financially, but Rosie seemed bored and not particularly happy, resulting in a return to smoking and drinking in the old style. She was not at all interested in getting some help or counselling for this, and was not particularly maternal.
There were frequent alcohol induced rows at home: after one episode at a friend’s house, which resulted in a violent altercation between us, I realised that I could not spend any more of my life in an environment which may have led to more violence, and that it would be better for all concerned – including my son – if I left the family home.
I realised that when I made this decision, legal custody of Russell would certainly go to Rosie, even if I portrayed her as an unfit mother, but I assumed – rightly – that she would return to Yorkshire and get the necessary help from her parents, and so Russell should be in good hands.
I left the family home taking only my car, some clothes and a few personal belongings. Once Rosie had left London in approx 1986 after selling Sandall Road, and keeping the proceeds ( some £100,000 plus) she returned to Yorkshire with Russell to live with her parents. She never married again, and died of (as I understand it) heart related causes in about 2015: I was not invited to attend the funeral.
After the separation and final divorce, she did everything possible to prevent me from contacting Russ, and whilst still in London, when I did take my son out for the day, it was obvious that she had poisoned his mind against his father to an unacceptable degree. On one occasion, my second wife Michele and I took Russ on a week’s holiday to Spain: it soon became apparent that he had very recently contracted measles, and of course we were not told in advance.
It took 15 years for Russ to re-establish contact – he was studying at the Royal University of Holloway in Egham, not far from our home in Chiswick. I was happy to hear him say (in confidence) that he did not blame me for leaving Rosie, and by his own account, his life in Yorkshire was not ideal: I was not happy and I do very much regret, however, that I had missed out on the most important formative years of his life, when father and son would normally bond.heart