house, a mouldy Away in a mangy wash hubby mattress for a bed, Dawn’s head... Stu laid down his sneaky
Hubby, his big erection and a shock in the shed!
Carefully, I heaved the turkey on the table, ready for my husband, Stuart, to carve. But he pulled a face that contrasted with the red paper crown on his head.
‘We’re sorry for eating you, turkey,’ he intoned, solemnly brandishing the carving knife. ‘But your life wasn’t in vain – we’ll savour every mouthful.’
The kids laughed – he made the same speech every Christmas. It was one of our festive traditions, along with Stuart reading the cracker jokes and me always coming last at Scrabble.
It was 25 December 2004 and, as usual, I was relishing the festive season. This was proper family time for me, Stuart, 44, and our kids – Kate*, 17, Lindsay*, 15, Christopher, 10, and Sophie*, eight.
Stuart Eggleson and me had got together back in 1990, when I was just 21, though I’d turned him down at first... He was my friend’s next-door neighbour, always inviting himself round for a lager when I visited. Nice-enough looking, with his bright blue eyes and strawberry blond hair…
But I’d only split from my husband two months earlier, and had my hands full with a baby and a toddler. Anyway, with him being
6ft 8in and me 4ft 6in, we’d be a right odd couple!
So, we’d become mates instead. As we listened to Alison Moyet on my friend’s record player, he told me about his hobby – CB radios – and his life in the south of England before he’d moved up north.
He was from Reading, which, to a girl who’d rarely left Lincolnshire, sounded exotic!
One night, after a few vodka-and-colas, we ended up snogging. ‘I hope I won’t get stubble rash from your moustache,’
I giggled afterwards. ‘Let’s try again to find out,’ he cheered, pulling me towards him for round two. That was that.
I introduced Stuart to Kate and Lindsay and he was great with them. So, when he invited us to move into his house, I was thrilled.
I worked as a cleaner and Stuart, a laminator, built fairground rides out of fibre glass. Money was too tight for wining and dining, but sex is free and we enjoyed plenty of that.
Our son, Christopher, came along, then our daughter, Sophie. Stuart was always proposing and I was always saying no.
But then, in 1996, I changed my mind – maybe it would be nice to be Mrs Eggleson after all.
We did it with a low-key ceremony at Lincoln Register Office – then, next day, a blessing in church.
When I walked down the aisle in my big meringue of a dress, Stuart grinned, ‘You look beautiful.’ Our first dance was The Time
Of My Life from Dirty Dancing…
But it was Christmas that was really our time.
Decorating the house at the end of November was a group effort, with paper chains, tinsel and streamers hanging from the walls and a massive artificial tree in the middle of the front room.
On Christmas Eve, I cooked the turkey – then the kids woke us at dawn. ‘Santa’s been,’ they’d scream, lugging their bulging pillow cases into our bedroom.
Afterwards, I’d peel the vegetables while Stuart watched Disney DVDS with them – then we’d sit down at 1pm for our grand Christmas lunch.
The afternoon was a round of games before tea – sausage rolls and sandwiches, followed by Black Forest gateau instead of Christmas cake.
Then, after the kids were in bed, Stuart and I snuggled on the sofa and snogged.
We didn’t need a mistletoe as an excuse!
When we’d been married for two years, Stuart was offered a job in Holland.
‘Let’s go for it,’ we agreed. A new life in a foreign country– it all felt so glamorous!
We settled into Dutch life easily, learning the language and enjoying our three-storey house.
I worked as a cleaner at the train station, and at weekends we went cycling and to discos.
One day, I was rushed to hospital – slammed by stomach pain while decorating my daughter’s bedroom. I’d reached up to paint the top of the wall and felt something pop inside me, like a balloon. Terrifying...
Doctors suspected appendicitis – then, after scans, diagnosed me with ovarian cysts, one of which had burst. If I hadn’t
The only n’ we erectio
‘ going had on at our house!
He was always fiddling with knobs
got to hospital quickly, they said, I could have developed peritonitis and died.
Over the coming weeks, I was in and out of hospital, having keyhole surgery to remove some of the cysts. But there were so many that the doctors said my best option was a hysterectomy. ‘I’m going home to England,’ I told Stuart. I wanted to be near my mum.
‘I’ll follow on when my contract ends,’ he agreed.
Me and the kids moved in with Mum. When Stuart returned three months later, the council found us a big semidetached house to rent. I had a hysterectomy, but it was only a partial success. I’d developed endometriosis, doctors explained, which meant tissue that should have grown inside my ovary was growing outside and sticking to other organs. The result was that I was in constant pain. ‘I’ll look after you,’ Stuart said, taking a factory job and, when he was home, cooking the family meals.
I tried to put on a brave face – there’s no cure for endometriosis, so I had to manage it with medication – and learned to cope. There was just one issue.
Sex. It felt as if a carving knife was being driven into me every time we did it, and there was no putting a brave face on that... ‘Ow!’ I screamed. Afterwards, my stomach would swell up as if I was nine months pregnant and I’d be bedridden for 48 hours.
At first, Stuart was sympathetic. But, as the months wore on, he grew impatient.
‘The doctors must be able to fix it,’ he grumbled.
But I’d spoken to my GP and he didn’t have any advice.
A distance grew between me and Stuart – far greater than the 2ft in height that separated us.
I realised that our once-banging sex life had made us close not just physically but emotionally, too.
Without it, we drifted and, instead of chatting to me, Stuart turned to the company of strangers in CB Radio Land.
‘Peddler here!’ he’d say, twisting dials on the radio. ‘Anyone there? Over and out!’
‘Can we watch The X-files,
Dad?’ the kids asked. It was his favourite, and they used to spend hours watching it on DVD...
‘I just need to try a different band width,’ he’d mutter to himself, ignoring them.
It was annoying – none of us could watch TV in the front room because he was always in there, fiddling with knobs. Still, given I wasn’t fiddling with his, could I really begrudge him his hobby?
So, ‘Why don’t you set up your radio in the wash house?’ I suggested to Stuart.
The wash house was an outbuilding, only 5ft by 7ft, joined to the house by a long, cold, brick passage, leading from a door in the kitchen. Stuart moved his radio out there. Then he lugged an old single bed in.
Soon, he was sleeping most nights in the wash house. He even moved his toothbrush to the outside loo!
‘Come to bed, Stuart,’ I’d say. I missed the warmth of his body, next to me at night in our big, comfy double bed.
‘I can’t put up with your snoring,’ he’d scoff.
I was hurt...
Come winter, I was sure he’d return to the house.
It was freezing!
But he solved that problem by buying an oil-filled radiator.
‘It’s cosy in the wash house now,’ he told me proudly.
‘Can I have a look?’ I asked. He always kept the door locked – even our dogs, Ozzie and Ben, the Jack Russells, and Marvin the greyhound, weren’t welcome. I’d tried to peer in the window from the garden, but I was too short!
‘No, it’s my private space
– my radio room,’ he said.
I’d seen him buying more CB equipment and squirrelling it away in there. It must have looked like Mission Control at NASA.
And, Houston, we definitely had a problem!
Still, I hoped Christmas – our special time – would fix things. But, when I asked Stuart to help decorate the tree, he shrugged and said he was too busy.
And so much for Silent Night – as I bunged the turkey in the oven on Christmas Eve, I heard him shouting, drunk, in his radio room to his CB radio friends across the land.
He didn’t appear Christmas morning to open presents with the kids – probably hung-over.
I felt like crying but I carried on as normal, peeling sprouts and laying the table with crackers.
Finally, at 1pm, as I heaped mashed potato on to plates,
I said to Christopher, ‘Knock on the door of the wash house and tell your dad dinner’s ready.’
Then I put bow ties and antlers on the dogs – that normally made Stuart chuckle – and plonked our favourite Christmas Hits Of The
80s CD into the stereo. Hopefully,
this would remind him of all he was missing, locked away in his washroom…
‘Happy Christmas!’ we all cheered when Stuart appeared.
‘Is it?’ he grunted, sitting down and stuffing a sprout in his mouth.
‘Let’s pull our crackers,’ the kids chimed.
‘OK,’ Stuart huffed. But, like a child, he refused to wear a paper crown or read out the jokes.
Then, he shovelled his dinner down and stood up to leave.
‘Thank you, Dawn,’ he said stiffly, before taking his leave.
As Last Christmas by Wham! played, I fought back tears.
Tell me, baby – do you recognise
me? George sang.
I was surprised Stuart had recognised me – we saw so little of him!
‘Dad’s just having a difficult time,’ I told the kids. ‘He’ll be back to normal soon. Let’s play Scrabble.’
But, while Stuart didn’t have time for us, he had plenty of other festive visitors. I’d open the front door to find a stranger asking for him, clutching a six-pack of cider.
Pride stopped me quizzing them on how they knew Stu, so I’d lead them to the wash house and knocked on the door.
‘Thanks, Dawn,’ Stuart always said, ushering his visitor in, slamming the door in my face. I was like his butler! Bumping into him in the kitchen, I’d ask who the friend had been.
‘Someone I know through CB,’ he always snapped in response.
Months turned into years, and Stuart stayed in the wash house. He raised a 30ft radio antenna in the garden and joked to me, ‘What do you think of my erection?’
It wasn’t funny. It seemed to represent everything we’d lost.
My Stuart was a Christmas cracker back in the day
We just weren’t on the same wavelength any more Stuart was tuned into his own little world