2004: How not to grieve

Wednesday 18th February 2004

I didn’t feel guilty about going to the football last night. Fiona wanted me to go and I needed something to divert my mind. Well that’s the crap I used to justify sitting in the stand and going through the motions of watching a boring draw. I was able to tell Mike and Judy the news and spin a line that she would be o.k. once we found out the full details. I  couldn’t tell them the full details of the hospice plan and Fiona’s wish to have “no more mucking about”

 Chris and Maggie will be bringing up MiL tomorrow. This will be good for Fiona but desperate for them. Will spend the afternoon cleaning the house so at least they get the idea that I am looking after myself. I don’t want MIL worrying about anything other than Fi. It’s half term so I don’t have to sort out work this week

 I think I have to write it all down so I can get it right for MiL. Will talk to the nurses again this afternoon so as to get everything straight. Fiona isn’t particularly clear in what she says she wants. Yesterday she wanted to go to the hospice. She definitely doesn’t want to go home. She doesn’t want the hospital chaplain involved in her support but wants a priest to be available at the end. She wants to be with her Dad in Tunbridge Wells but wants to be cremated. She doesn’t want to talk about it then talks constantly and won’t let me go until she has finished saying more things. I have to look after her Mum, something I want to do anyway. She is very angry with me for not seeing this coming then stupidly wants me to be angry with her for leaving me. She wants me to go home and get something  to eat then won’t let me go because she is so scared of being alone. The medication means when she does go to sleep I can get out for a fag and a sandwich.

 Notes for MIL

  •  She has cancer that has spread from her ovaries to her stomach and lungs
  • Not sure where it started, will check today.
  • She will die within the next few weeks.
  • There isn’t anything they can do.
  • She knows and wants it to be sooner not later.
  • We are planning to go to a hospice sometime next week, probably Wednesday.

2004 was the year that everything changed in my life. This is the last time these notes will talk about the events of Fiona’s death. I have been a self-styled expert on the grieving process and how not to do it. These notes are the final stage of my process and even this probably should have been done very soon after or not for another twenty years. I ignored most of the classic stages of grief and went straight to the depression, reflection and loneliness stage. No shock and denial, anger or bargaining, reconstruction was by changing everything, this was my grieving strategy. I was very very lucky. My friends saw me coming and put themselves in the line of my attempts to get the hell out of where I was. Part of the problem was a lump of money burning a hole in my bank account as my guilt money. We had always agreed that pensions and insurance would leave us comfortably off should something go wrong. In the event of it happening I really didn’t want it in my account.

My priorities as of March 1st 2004

  • Move house. I don’t want to be in College Road anytime longer than possible.
  • Get out of teaching and do something totally different. My anger was directed at the education system. At that time I hated teaching, teachers and the teaching system.
  • I rarely spent more than an hour or so at home in the evening. The teaching staff at Lealands were brilliant. I would often join the Shefford crew and join in their social circle. For a while Justin, Wendy, Steve, Bev, and Gary looked after me with copious beers and bad poker. The girls, Donna, Angie and Sarah were overly generous in changing their night outs to St Albans and inviting me out socially. And then the SMT of Ginnsy, Chris Browne Rachel Mattey and Gary again made a hard buffer to my going home to an empty house. The classic advice to avoid drinking in grief was totally ignored.
  • Andy Tooley was living in Edinburgh at the time and he invited me up on the pretence of watching a game at Murrayfield. That weekend away was perfect for me but must have been pretty grim for him and his family.


Tools at Murrayfield in May

  • In August I took advantage of Clarkie and Jenny to head to New Zealand for a head clearing holiday. A few days with him in Browns Bay then a couple of weeks travelling the South Island and then a few more days back in Auckland. It was a good way for me to get a few things clear in my mind. The Football and real Ale project was first designed on a scrap of paper in a small café in Greymouth. Half way through the train ride over Arthurs Pass I decided to go on a year-long pub research / crawl.


Mount Cook


Arthur’s Pass


Clarkie and Jenny

  • I completed the N.P.Q.H in May with a ceremony where the paperweights were handed out at the Walker Stadium and then of course I decided to leave teaching the next morning.
  • I took a new job at Prestwood School while Fiona was still in hospital. It would normally have been a good move, a chance to be a senior teacher in a school that suited my strengths. It had staff I knew well in Ian McCaul, Jez Yelland and Mike McCourt and it gave me the impetus to move house. It was a total disaster. The job on offer was nothing like it was described to me. The atmosphere at Prestwood was markedly different than that at Wendover. I was not in the right frame of mind to get into a new culture and I soon left. In fact I took compassionate leave at the end of the summer term. Teaching was now a chore and painful. I did do some supply teaching at Risborough School for a while but finished that at the end of the year.


Prestwood campus

Teresa Parsons came to help me look at houses in Princes Risborough. This was the good decision I made in the mess of 2004. My new house in Poppy Road was perfect for me. It was big enough to accommodate friends. It was big enough project to occupy my spare time with redecorating or redesigning garden or rooms. I would have to make new friends that had no contact with Fiona. There was a local pub around the corner that I could use with anonymity for a while. I moved there in June.


Moving in to Poppy Road in June



New Project in June

Luckily I fell on my feet when bumping into and becoming friends with Woody. Richard Wood lived around the corner, a couple of doors down from the Bird in Hand and he would come to be central to the next few years of the Stedders rehabilitation to life project. He was a new friend with no connection to my old life and teaching. Woody, and the expanding circle of friends who were to gather in his house and the Bird were life savers to me as I plotted a different non-teaching course.



If I was to leave teaching I needed to start a new enterprise. To get the business started I did take some advice. The bank manager, while not offering financial support, did suggest I combined the two things in life that I enjoyed when making my new enterprise. He also suggested buying out a printing business to get a full time support to the idea. I then had to get involved in writing business plans and new business accounts.

A plan for the real ale guide for football fans.

  • Find the best pubs to visit before a football fan like me who likes a pint of real ale and no hassle before a game.
  • Write the guide in the format of a glove compartment sized football programme.
  • Create a team of like-minded people to help write consequent editions and updating of then guides.
  • Find a publisher for the second year.
  • Plan to do two days research a week, two days writing, two days’ supply teaching and one day off a week.

The initial timetable of visits



  • 21 Darlington
  • 25 Southampton


  • 21 Norwich Ipswich


  • 15 – 17 Hull Lincoln
  • 22 Luton


  • 2 Oxford Wycombe
  • 5 Cardiff
  • 10 Rushden
  • 15 – 17 Leicester Northampton Scunthorpe Grimsby
  • 19 Shrewsbury
  • 22 – 23 Preston Blackburn Blackpool


  • 5 Swansea
  • 6 Barnet London
  • 9 Milton Keynes
  • 14 Derby
  • 16 -18 Bury Rochdale Burnley Manchester
  • 20 London
  • 29 Cheltenham



  • 12 – 14 Newcastle Hartlepool Sunderland
  • 25 London


  • 2 Norwich Colchester
  • 9 Bournemouth Portsmouth
  • 10 Torquay Yeovil
  • 11 Plymouth
  • 20 – 22 Coventry Birmingham Wolverhampton Walsall West Bromwich
  • 26 -28 Macclesfield Chester Wrexham Tranmere Liverpool


  • 1 Bolton Wigan
  • 10 Stoke and Burslem Crewe
  • 11 – 12 Stockport Oldham Manchester
  • 13 – 16 Leeds Huddersfield Sheffield Bradford Bradford Rotherham Barnsley Doncaster
  • 23 – 24 Nottingham Mansfield Chesterfield
  • 30 Milton Keynes
  • 31 Watford


  • 1 Southend
  • 4 Reading
  • 6 Gillingham
  • 7 Milton Keynes
  • 11 – 12 Swindon Bristol
  • 17 – 18 Boston Peterborough


  • 2 Ipswich
  • 5 Brighton
  • 17 Brentford
  • 18 Carlisle

FIrst pub was the Bay Horse in Hurworth near Darlington

The last pub was the Kings Head in Carlisle


  • 1984       2nds Towcestrians A W 10-3
  • 1995       Oxford A 0-0
  • 2006       Stockport H 2-2
  • 2012       Oxford H 0-0


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