Over the last few weeks, Mick has started a reflective book called The Philosophy Of Love and Laughter. What follows is an episode taken from the fledgling work. Hope you enjoy it. xx
Vicky chose me some cracking jackets through our lives. I still have, somewhere in storage, a one-off, red velvet Bomber jacket with the signs of the zodiac running down the arms in silver and black with a large world and star design emblazoned across the back that we chose together, early ‘90s. She bought me my Grandma’s Curtains Jacket.
I should say at this point that my wife (the beautiful Miss Victoria Lesley Jackson) has just died. I hate it. If I’m honest, I’m still pretending it hasn’t happened.
That’s what’s going on right now, I’m blocking, battling my brain, emotions and logic and sometimes I lose, and when I do, it really fucking hurts.
There’s a lot of official bollocks to sort out and I found myself sobbing yesterday, as I filled out yet another form, hissing, ‘I’m not a widower, I’m married and you can’t stop me being…. Official bullshit, it’s just official bullshit. I’m married, I’m married to Vicky and she din’t say any different, so we’re married. Just because she’s died dun’t mean we’re not still married, we are, she’s my wife…. She’s my wife, you electronic cunt of a form and I’m no fucking widower.’ I was overwhelmed by a form, a stupid form just like the previous seven forms I’d filled out without even noticing that they’d classified me as a widower.
As young teenager in 1970s East Leeds I came out, in girly clothes and make-up. The dirty rocker or spitting, growling punk stuff (although I loved the music) was too close to real life. I wanted to gentle miself up and change my outlook and surroundings. Vicky was soon there to encourage, advise or help me adapt old ladies blouses, jackets or coats that I’d bought from jumble sales. She’d help work out just what went with that gold lame jacket from Miss Selfridge.
Y’ see, I love clothes, I’m one of those weird people that invests meaning and emotion in certain clothes. They can have a life and a story that ties them into my life and the people of my life.
I was and am, without question, the vainest man in Leeds. I LOVE MY BLING, I love strutting. I am, in short, a lot of a twat. Vicky was classier, more subtle, that’s why she always avoided the obvious looks from our youth and took that through her life. With me, she helped contain my urge for over the top glam or bling and gauged it just right.
Anyway, back to The Last Jacket Vicky Ever Chose Me. About six months ago she came with me to chose a bling, Indian wedding jacket, a Sherwani. I’d wanted one for a while, but dint like to spend more than a fiver on any jacket but Vicky encouraged me. In the shop, she held a relatively plain jacket in her hands for 20 minutes, saying, ‘Try this one.’
‘It’s too plain, it’s all maroon.’
I continued going through the store, trying on the blingiest jackets they had. Big, embroidered silver diamonds going over shocking blue and black patterned panels. They weren’t quite right. Vicky was still holding the dull jacket, ‘Try this one.’ I did, ‘Fuck,’ I exclaimed giddily, ‘I knew I’d find the one in the end.’
I drag my eldest son, Ezra, out dancing sometimes and he finds my bling (and talking shit to random strangers) difficult. As I walked up, on the first night out wearing the new jacket, he exclaimed. ’Thank fuck. Dad, that jacket is perfect.’
‘Yeh, ta, Vicky chose it, I was after sommat more… ’
‘Nah, y dote want more, that’s just enough. Vicky got it just right, thank fuck y’ took her. You should listen to her more often. VICKY, VICKY…’ He shouted, pointing at the jacket, with thumb up, ’Good choice.’
Vicky planned her death, she didn’t want a hearse or a service or people sobbing as the coffin disappeared behind a curtain, she wanted a party. At the party, she’d’ve smiled happily at the sight of my 83 year-old mother dragging me and Ezra up for a dance. As I try to explain to Ez, our love of dancing is a genetic thing, ‘Grandma and Grandad used to go to Crossgates Working Mens Club twice a week to dance, always first up, wherever they went. And Grandad was dancing his arse off with a colostomy bag, weeks before his death.’
I wanted a new jacket for Vicky’s party-wake so I took Ezra to the same shop. As I explained to the owners, ‘He’s playing the role of my wife… same taste, controls my craving for out and out, over-the-top bling.’
No matter how many Sherwanis I tried on he just kept shaking his head, as Vicky had. No matter how much me and Kathy (his girlfriend) tried to persuade him, he just kept on shaking his head but I NEEDED a jacket.
He explained over a coffee break, ‘Dad, this is wrong, you’re just buying one for the sake of it. The right jacket isn’t here. There’s a couple in the catalogue but Vicky chose the only one that’d suit you in there. Don’t just buy another one for the sake of it.’
He was right, I left dejected. No jacket for Vicky’s party, I was sort of letting her down.
A few hours later I was trying t decide if any of mi old jackets would do when the phone went, ‘Mick, I’m so sorry to hear about Vicky.’
‘Fuck, Pat, I’m so sorry, how could I have not told you?’
Pat’s a best mate, a rock in mine and Vicky’s life for over 20 years, always sat in with Vicky on a DROP night when Vicky no longer had the energy to come but wanted me to go.
‘Don’t worry Mick, you’ve a lot on. Mick, I’ve got something for you.’
‘Well, when I walked in to see Vicky, a few weeks ago, she said “Ooh Pat, don’t let Mick see that jacket… y’ know what he’s like, as soon as he sees it he’ll say, ‘Pat, what the fuck are y’ doing wearing my jacket? That’s my jacket…. Cheeky cow, wearing MY jacket.’ He’d love that jacket.” Anyway Mick, I told her it was in a bag to go to the charity shop but I grabbed it out of the top quick, cos it was raining. Vicky said, “Pat, you can’t chuck that jacket out, it’s perfect for Mick. Keep it for him, promise y’, he’ll love it. Give it to Mick, it’s his jacket.” ’
I was shaking. ‘What? A jacket? You’ve got a jacket that Vicky chose it f’ mi?’
‘Yeh and I’m pretty sure it’s a one off, it was very expensive when I bought it.’
So a few days after her death I discovered that Vicky had chosen me one last jacket and it’s the last jacket Vicky will ever choose for me. But wow, what a jacket. It wasn’t quite blingy enough for me, so I added a couple of things :-) but the closer you look the better it gets. Even the lining is stunning, pictures of lots of cherub type angels. Two main, beautifully contrasting, materials make up the jacket. Across the top of the back, on a side panel and on one arm it has the repeated slogan in different fonts and with random capitals, ‘Angel insiDe’
No doubt me and Vicky had more than our share of bitching and fighting but, sorry to be a pussy, she’s still my angel inside and I hope I’m still hers.
The jacket’s got two nicknames, ‘the last jacket Vicky ever chose me’ and I also call it ‘the jacket that just keeps giving’ cos the closer you look the better it gets, the more beautiful, subtle detail you see. Sorry, but similar to Vicky. It’s also struck me that, ask anyone who knew her well, Vicky was the best friend you could have, always there for her mates, and way too generous, always giving. I often heard myself saying, ‘Fo’ fucks sake Vicky, y can’t give the telly away now, I’m watching it.’
Anyway sorry for wittering. It’s not just part of my grieving, I’ve always wittered. And now I’ve written it down, when some stranger comes up at 3 in the morning and sez, ‘Top jacket mate.’ I won’t have to repeat the story for the 38th time, hoping that I don’t start blubbing, I’ll just say ‘Awwwe ta.’ and send them here.