2016: Surely the saddest year, says Carol Tyne Johnston


Finding love amid the sadness of loss. . . and having to risk losing it all

SO NOW we have lost Prince, so soon after our national treasure Victoria Wood. What ever did we do to deserve the year 2016?

Prince: latest superstar to die in 2016

Only four months in and such a terrible toll of loss: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan. Ronnie Corbett, all of them taken from us. There were more: Frank Kelly, Tony Warren, Paul Daniels, not to mention our very own, beautiful Denise Robertson. Rest in peace, each one of you. On the day the Commonwealth was wishing Her Majesty the Queen their love and congratulations on her ninetieth birthday, midst all of those joyful celebrations Victoria Wood’s family and friends and millions of fans of the US rock star Prince must have felt so cheated.Because in a world full of awful people (and we only need watch either of the presidential primary campaigns in the United States to know the truth of that statement) it seems incredibly unfair to have lost so many good ‘uns in so short a space of time.

For me, too, 2016 is going to be a year of mixed blessings. I am finally returning to my beloved Northumberland for an extended stay, though, sadly, not for the happiest of reasons. I am coming home from the other side of the globe to be with my mam and dad as they enter their metaphorical winter. Their north wind is blowing hard and it is chilling them to the bone. I plan to bring what sunshine and warmth I can into their darkening world in the next few weeks and months.

And so I find myself sat here writing to you from Wellington, New Zealand, surrounded by packing boxes.

My darling cocker spaniel Delilah is unsettled. She knows there is something afoot and suspects that it isn’t going to involve her. She has even taken to sitting in empty banana boxes, and sleeping on my bed when I’m not looking.

(Actually she does that in the middle of the night, too, and I am ashamed to say I don’t even discourage it because, suddenly, time with her now is also precious.)

I wonder if loss is a symptom of aging? Just like temperature tantrums (better known as hot flushes), expanding waistlines and bulk-buying hair dye and anti-inflammatories, along with a more careful selection, natural and otherwise, of true friends and admired celebrities.

There seems to be so much loss around me that the air is thick with ‘doom and gloom’, to use one of my dear mam’s favourite expressions.

According to Newton, every action has an equal and opposite reaction which, in layman’s terms, must mean that with loss there is also gain, Yin and Yang etcetera.

And so, for me, there is a David.

No, not OUR David. Not our ‘Banksy’, dear readers! Not our original ‘voice of the north’ who has made me laugh out loud literally hundreds of times with his tales of Godzone and ’Er Indoors (his vey own She Who Must Be Obeyed) and who has enlivened my otherwise humdrum, Kiwified life!

SO in love: me and my Kiwi bloke David
SO in love: me and my Kiwi bloke David

No! I am talking about MY David. My real-life ‘Kiwi bloke’. Ah, now THERE is a story to be told! We met online in the murky, grubby, online world of New Zealand Dating. I set the ball rolling by sending a winking emoticon and an automated “gidday” to the very handsome face which flashed up on my computer screen. Little did I know that my whole world was about to change forever!

This one was a little different from the normal (‘normal’ in his case being perhaps a contradiction in terms!) run-of-the-mill NZ Dating participants. For a start, he made me laugh. A lot!

And, by some miracle, I found that I had finally discovered a man who could actually use an apostrophe correctly, even in the case of  plural possession, a rare skill in the heady heights of cloud-based dating.

We chatted for a few weeks; this in itself was quite unusual, as one quickly discovers that most ‘relationship seekers’ want to meet yesterday, and usually all for the same reason (which has nothing at all to do with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc down the pub!)

When we eventually met, over a pint in a local Irish bar, I arrived with a list of requirements for my next prospective relationship saved in an Evernote.document (that’s 21st century middle-aged list-making in action!)

He was to be rich, possibly running his own successful, multi-million dollar business.

He was to have no ‘baggage’ such as (heaven forbid!) young children.

He HAD to be tall, at least a six-footer, and have gorgeous eyes, and he MUST be a non-smoker.

And please, I wrote to Whoever Up There Might Be Listening, would there be even the slightest possibility that my gorgeous gadgie might, by some miracle, be a fellow Geordie?

Okay, so my David ticks only two of those boxes. He is six-foot-two, so tall that his head is growing out of the top of his hair, and he has the most twinkly blue eyes I have ever seen. He also had the bum of a rock star and the shoulders of a brickie (shallow, I know, but I was entranced, and so was he).

Within minutes of meeting we were  old pals. So much so that a drunken Irishman attending a raucous stag party in the pub asked us “how long have you two been married?”. I laughed, nervously; David gave him a glare that I later learned was Kiwi bloke talk for “piss off bro, it’s our first date and this one is special!”.

And those unticked boxes? Well, when we met he was a full-time, single dad to two young boys with no multi-million dollar business ticking over until his return from parenthood. In fact, he was broke. And,worst of all, he was a broke smoker. And a confessed Liverpool supporter. Oh dear!

Not a great start, you are thinking? I agree!  However, there was an upside . . . one box he DID tick immediately: the one that said I HAD to be Number One. In a country full of beautiful Kiwi women, I had to be the first and only on whom his twinkly blue eyes completely and utterly gazed.

And they did. His gorgeous eyes never left me. He told me I took a “crap photo” as he’d never expected me to be so beautiful.

Yes, yes…. I know: a classic line, but not one I’d heard before and, you must admit, a line that took a certain amount of courage to actually pull off without giving huge offence!  When we left the pub, he appeared at my side of the car and opened the door for me. A good looker with manners! Again, a first for me!

Two weeks later, he told me he loved me.

Well I wasn’t having any of THAT! I had just come out of a 28-year marriage determined to have some fun! He knew this, so his next bolt-from-the-blue declaration was meant toi answer my objections: “I want you to fight this with everything you’ve got. Because when you finish fighting, I will still be here. And you will realise that THIS is actually IT. The real deal.”

Arrogant Kiwi bastard! I thought to myself. Yet I kept ignoring every one of my friends who advised me to “walk away now!” It took me another month to admit I loved him, too, Valentine’s Day 2011, on our return from seeing that great Geordie, Sting, in concert in Hawke’s Bay and cementing in place ‘our song’,  Every Breath You Take, which is, I’m told, about a stalker, a fact we choose to ignore and focus on the fact it is OURS now.

That was then. Five-and-a-half years later we are two middle-aged people, very deeply in love. He still opens the car door for me, still tells me daily that he loves me like he has never loved before.

And this is grown-up love: we don’t live together (our choice), but we speak to each other at least twice every day and spend precious weekends together, because it just doesn’t feel right if we don’t. Talking via Skype twice daily for three months during my recent trip back to Godzone confirmed that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

And yet I am about to leave him again, to spend a  long, long time on the other side of the world.

Mixed blessings, indeed, to have such love for my people in my homeland and, at the same time, for a person who will be 12,000 miles from me. Once again it might appear that I can’t have it all.

He was wonderfully strong after our decision that I should fly home. “People did this all the time during the war, darling,” he said. And all without the benefit of Skype or unlimited broadband. So we have already begun planning my inevitable return to New Zealand.

That will involve two people in one house with separate boy and girl caves: one painted Kop-red, the other in Toon black and white stripes with definitely no room for our current lodgers, Messrs Doom and Gloom!

Watch this space dear reader. If love makes the world go round, as I truly believe it does, this particular love story is nowhere near done yet.


  1. You are one amazing person and I love you bits even though we have never met in the flesh we will do take care and treasure those moments with Mam and Dad, David will be right here waiting for you


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