No. 49 The Samaritan Conference

Every year the Samaritans held a conference.  A handful of volunteers from each Samaritan branch in the UK congregated for a weekend of talks, workshops and massive piss ups.  At 4pm on the Friday, York University car park was full with volunteers arriving and unloading cans of lager and boxes of wine from their car boots.

The conference was exhilarating.  Early evening I listened to a talk by a woman who was now a man.  He spoke of isolation and suicidal feelings, being a man trapped in a woman’s body and how he was happy now.  He’d had the hormones, talked like a man and had a beard, I was fascinated.  I took part in a workshop on bereavement after suicide and decided definitely not to kill myself at 25 – then I began drinking and socialising.

Matthew was at least 10 years older than me, a bit like the Matthew from the Jamboree (No. 9-15) but I was older too, age gaps mattered less and less and this Matthew had a BMW convertible. We ran out of booze on the last night at York, I got in the car with Matthew and we trawled York to find an offie that was open.  I’d never been in a convertible, I  loved it and I think Matthew drove further than he would have liked drunk, but I was hysterically excited and he knew he would he rewarded.  We resorted to buying a bottle of vodka and some beer from a pub.  Matthew paid, he was loaded, he worked in computers and lived half in Fulham and half in Bermuda.

After the conference we kept in touch and saw each other for a few months but I didn’t fit in with his friends and  felt uncomfortable at the parties he took me to.  He felt uncomfortable as he knew I corresponded with a man in prison.

That Christmas Matthew persuaded me to go to his works party.  He took me to the West End and bought me a dress, earrings and matching bracelet to wear.  The do was at London Zoo in the reptile house. I’d been to a gig at the London Dungeons before but this was a far cry from getting off my head with fans of ‘The Godfathers’ at a Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre gig – this was dull men in suits, posher than at my old office, talking about computers while their wives got excited over snakes in glass cases, I presumed.

“Come with me” Matthew asked before he was off on his next trip to Bermuda.
“I’m still in love with Fraser” I’d received a blue prison letter that morning. “I’m sorry”.

I felt bad, Matthew had donated his previous weekend driving my friend to a Marie Stopes abortion clinic and supporting her.  Matthew was a lovely, kind, generous man – too good, too old and too rich for me at this time.

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