My Silver Jacket
How was your Easter Weekend? The weather here in London was that perfect spring mixture of warmth and sunshine with the odd dip in temperature to remind us all that it’s April and not July. I had the blissful prospect of four clear days entirely to myself, so I decided to tackle three major projects in my house and garden. The first was to paint a wall in my kitchen, the second was to paint the walls that enclose my small garden and the third was to have a massive clear out of my second bedroom, something I’d been putting off for a year or more. I tackled this mammoth task on Sunday, which left Monday to cart everything to the recycling centre and the charity shop.
What a wonderful feeling to let go of all that accumulated ‘stuff’. I was absolutely ruthless apart from one single item from the charity shop pile of ‘never likely to wear that again’. A beautiful silver jacket which is so talismanic that I can’t bear to let it go.
I have never been a hoarder. I am not sentimental when it comes to objects. I no longer have any of my childrens’ toys or things in the back of cupboards that ‘might come in handy one day’. I’m also not keeping things in case my daughters or grandchildren might want them. I know they won’t, just as I didn’t want much of the ‘stuff’ that was left when my parents died. Hopefully when I die there won’t be much clearing out to do as I have no garage, no loft space and very limited cupboard space. But they will find amongst my clothes a lone silver jacket. They may wonder why I kept it for all those years, what it signified for me and why I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away despite being ruthless with all my other possessions.
The occasion I wore it was when I was the mother of the bride at my daughter’s wedding on September 25th 2004. I was fifty seven years old and was attending the wedding without a partner, whilst my ex-husband would be there with his second wife. At the beginning of the year I had thought that I might be accompanied by a new man in my life who I’ll call by the pseudonym Henry, for reasons that will become apparent. I’d been introduced to Henry by a mutual friend and liked what I saw almost immediately. Our first date was an early supper followed by the theatre. We saw Juliet Stephenson in Beckett’s play ‘Happy Days’ and I enjoyed the evening and his company very much.
This was the start of what I thought might be a promising relationship. I had been divorced for fifteen years and was happy enough on my own but still entertained the idea of another long-term and committed partnership with some lovely man. Henry and I hit it off immediately. We shared a love of nice restaurants and he took me to some places I’d never have discovered otherwise. We enjoyed the cinema and theatre and again, he liked the more challenging, unusual and obscure performances which suited me just fine. He was a dealer in architectural salvage and he’d used flooring, doors and architraves from old buildings to make his large flat in north London into a rather beautiful space. My initial impression, If I was to sum him up in three words, would be charming, urbane and sophisticated.
Unfortunately he was also a liar, a philanderer and a cheat. But I didn’t discover any of that until we’d started to plan a future life together. The scales started to drop from my eyes when I went to Cape Town for a holiday with my two daughters. The arrangement was that he’d take us to the airport in my car, use it while I was away, and then pick us up on our return. I’d only had very sporadic contact with him via text whilst I was away, which had started a small alarm bell ringing at the back of my brain but I was inclined to ignore it. However things unravelled very quickly from that point. I discovered that all the time he’d been with me he’d also been seeing another woman and that while I was on holiday he’d actually moved over to her place. It became apparent that he'd been lying to me on several occasions. The final straw actually came via a text whilst I was in the changing room in the Armani store in Bond Street, trying on my beautiful silver jacket which I’d just decided would be perfect as part of an outfit for my daughter’s wedding.
The text dropped yet another bombshell. It said “I am an alcoholic but am in recovery, please don’t do this to me. I promise to make it up to you if you give me another chance.” I can remember standing there looking at myself in the mirror and thinking “What shall I do? Is this what I want? Could I ever trust him?” But deep down I knew that leopards with that many egregious spots are very unlikely to change them. By the time I’d chosen a black bustier to go under the jacket and a very slimming pair of black palazzo pants to complete the look, I’d made my decision. With the words of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” ringing in my ears I texted back “Sorry, but I’ve decided that a future with you is not what I want for myself.”
About four months later I went to Suzy’s wedding on my own. There were many reasons why that day would be a challenge. My ex-husband and I had barely seen each other in fifteen years after an acrimonious divorce. I had tried to build some bridges so that we could host the wedding together but to no avail and I knew that on the day itself he wouldn’t speak to me. I was also going to be reunited with a great many people, old friends we’d had as a couple during our twenty year marriage, whom I also hadn’t seen in all that time. I decided that I’d be friendly, smiley and welcoming to all the guests and hope for the best. I needn’t have worried. With the exception of one or two who gave me the cold-shoulder, everyone from that past life was warm and friendly. So much so that afterwards I renewed acquaintance with many of them and have seen three or four of the couples socially ever since. Unfortunately there has been no such thawing of the relationship with my ex.
So my beautiful silver jacket symbolises so much for me, which is why I can’t bear to be parted from it. It was expensive, but I was able to buy it with my own money for which I had worked so hard after my divorce. I bought it at a moment when I decided that I’d rather face the future alone than make compromises with a superficially charming rogue. I wore it on a day of high emotion and some jeopardy because I had no idea how people would respond to me as the divorced and unaccompanied mother of the bride. As it turned out, Suzy’s wedding day was one of the best of my life. I felt confident, loved wearing my outfit, and no-one made me feel like an outcast. And, perhaps more importantly, Suzy was marrying a delightful young man. Sixteen years later they’re still in love and I still love and will never relinquish my silver jacket.
Upcoming Event Information:
Upcoming Event Information:
Tuesday 26th April
Teatime with Tricia - Appeal for Ukrainian Children with Gill Blundell
Chernobyl Children's Lifeline provides direct support to children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The charity has close connections with families and children in the war torn areas in Ukraine and is working with local contacts to provide much needed medical supplies, transport, food and water.
You can donate to the charity here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ccllukrainesupertroupers
Day: Tuesday 26th April
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
Friday 29th April
Film Club - The Piano (1993)
Available on Netflix
Watch the film before and join us for a discussion!
Day: Friday 29th April
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB