Today’s song is ‘Being with You’. This is a 1981 song that was recorded by American singer, Smokey Robinson, and is the title track from his Gold-certified album of the same name. The song spent five weeks at No. 1 on the ‘Hot Soul Single’s from March to early May 1981 and reached Number 2 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’. It also reached Number 1 on the ‘US Cash Box Top 100’ and it reached Number 1 on the ‘UK Single’s Chart’.
This song was released during a year of my life when my world was turned upside down and my emotions were being swept into a whirlpool of uncertainty for the future. It was the year when I could no longer resist the wishes of my first wife to separate from her; something that she had pressed for, ever since our two children had been born.
I left the matrimonial abode believing that we had come to an amicable agreement that suited each of us. Due to an illness after the birth of each boy we had parented (post-natal depression), their mother was unable to physically or emotionally connect with them. Since their first few weeks of life, until they were 5 and 4 years respectively, I tended to all their physical and emotional needs such as feeding, washing, nursing, changing, putting to bed and cuddling etc seven days a week, as their mother didn’t. I was helped by my mother-in-law’s baby-sitting services between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm daily (Monday to Friday), whilst I worked as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield and the children’s mother as an Infant Teacher in the school located next door to the matrimonial abode.
We jointly owned outright, a modern three bedroomed detached house. This was possible due to each of us having a few thousand pounds compensation money when we married in 1968. As my wife had never tended to the needs of the two children since their birth (due to her illness), it was agreed that they would be better living with me when we separated. In return for exercising the care and custody of our children, I agreed to my wife’s request to legally sign over my half of the matrimonial home to her. Unless I wanted a contested custody hearing before the Domestic Court, my wife insisted that the transfer of my half of the matrimonial home was an essential condition of the separation agreement between us. The children were to stay with my wife until I could secure a modest property in the locality where we would eventually live; a time anticipated to be approximately one-month maximum.
Totally trusting my wife to honour our agreement, I acquiesced to her demands. No sooner had I legally signed over the house to her, she reneged on our agreement. She refused to allow me custody of our two children and she prevented me having any access to or communication of any kind with the boys for two years. She didn’t allow me seeing them, talking to them on the phone, writing to them or even looking over the school wall as they played in the playground. The latter was easy for her to enforce as she was an infant teacher at the school they went to (she was their class teacher). Any letters I sent to my sons were returned unopened and any birthday or Christmas presents I left them on the doorstep on their birthday or Christmas was binned by their mother and the boys never received them or knew I'd sent them.
During those two years, I was sadder than I’d ever been in my life, and despite obtaining court orders granting me access to my two sons, the children’s mother refused to comply. Even when a short prison sentence was attached to the access order if she once more failed to comply, she still refused. The only way that I could have gained access to our sons, was if I was prepared to inform the County Court Judge who’d imposed the committal-in-default Order and have our two children placed in Care and their mother serve a brief period of two weeks in prison ( an action which would undoubtedly have resulted in the loss of her job as an Infant Teacher). I did not have the heart to invoke the committal order against the children’s mother, even though it meant me not seeing my children for two years.
This song spoke to everything I was feeling at the time. I just wanted to be with my children, and I would cry myself to sleep nightly. The fact that the matrimonial home where they lived with their mother was only a half-mile away seemed to make their absence all the harder to bear.
I dedicate this song to my Facebook friend, Jaqueline Allum from Ontario, Canada. Jaqueline presently lives in a lovely part of the world; a part of Canada where I spent one of the happiest years of my life at the age of twenty-two years after I’d emigrated to Canada in 1964. At the time, I lived in an Ontario flat and the flat occupant opposite me was occupied by a spinster in her 80s who treated me as a son.
Her name was Miss Sweegal and she was a woman of culture who spoke five languages fluently and played the piano beautifully, along with the flute. Miss Sweegal would cook all my meals and tend to all my needs such as washing, ironing and darning etc as I worked the night shift in 'The Glen View Terrace Hotel' as a desk receptionist. We would spend many hours talking together when I was not at work. She had never married through choice and had always preferred to travel to different countries around the world between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-five. I would spend many hours in her flat (where I tended to live more than my own flat) listening to her play classical music on her piano. She was a most accomplished pianist, and this is where my introduction to and love of classical music stemmed.
During my last seven months living in Ontario, I started courting Jenny, who was the daughter of the then British Trade Commissioner, Mr Downton. Jenny was four years younger than me, and although her parents were the loveliest of people who never once objected to our relationship, not being yet established in life with a job that could have kept us in a manner she had always been accustomed to, I thought it better for her if I ended our relationship and return back home to England. As I prepared to return to England, I was broken-hearted. I loved Jenny but genuinely believed that what I was doing was for the best. Also, I knew in my heart of hearts that I would never see Miss Sweegal again, whom I’d also come to love.
Miss Sweegal never once proffered me her advice on any serious matter, as she believed (like the British Victorian Author, Elizabeth Gaskell) that ‘people only accept the advice from others which mirror the secret oracle of their own souls’. The closest she ever came to giving me some advice was when I told her I had decided to end my relationship with Jenny and the reason why, and return to England within the month. She heard my decision and was sad that I would soon be leaving Canada. All she said was, ‘Love hurts too much, Bill’. She was probably anticipating her own loss of contact with me also.
The morning I left Ontario to fly to New York, before flying home via Ireland where I would stay a week, Miss Sweegal kissed me on the cheek (for the first time ever) and handed me one of her raspberry turnovers that were my favourite that she baked, in case I got hungry. I cried as I left her and if she cried, it was silent tears she inwardly wept, conveniently concealed behind her farewell hug. As I left her that morning, I hadn't the heart to look back. Had I done so, I would never again have mustered up the courage to leave Miss Sweegal.
I broke off all contact with Jenny when I left Canada, but I kept in contact with Miss Sweegal through our exchange of letters and seasonal cards until she died. I would gladly have returned for her funeral (which I understand was a simple one with few attenders), had I been informed at the time of her death.I did not learn of this sad event until two months after her funeral; presumably, when my letters to her former flat were opened and I was kindly informed she had passed away painlessly in her sleep.
God bless you, Miss Sweegal. I know you will be in heaven playing your piano in the presence of harp-playing angels. I never did know her first name as she initially asked me to address her as ‘Miss Sweegal’ when we first met. This was a practice adopted by me and never changed throughout our entire relationship.
On balance, I do not regret the people I met, and the love I had for them when I lived in Ontario. This was, in the main, the happiest of years in my life until it came to a speedy close.
Have a lovely day, Jaqueline, and thank you for being my Facebook friend. Bill x
Love and peace Bill xxx