Friday, 25 January 2013


Our first winter in Spain was spent marvelling at the fact that there wasn’t any to speak of, except for occasional bursts of torrential rain which caused water to cascade down from the gutterless rooves flooding the cobbled streets. The whitewashed houses turned grey, which would have been depressing if the sun hadn’t come out within a few hours, and the only inconvenience suffered was the resulting rising damp which one just had to accept, that and, in our case, the too soon visit of Eve’s parents who came to check up on our chosen way of life. They thankfully thought we were demented to live in such a primitive environment  but unfortunately liked Nerja enough to rent a holiday apartment down there for an early summer holiday. They were never going to leave us alone.
 Eve had an older sister Joey ( Josephine ) whom I have not mentioned before as she hardly played a part in our lives, she was an aloof young woman who took no interest in her younger sibling and seemed to me to only judge everyone and everything by the mores of the social set she admired.  She preferred to frequent titled people, Debretts was her bible, the Tatler, Country Life and Queen magazines her main source of information about the world.
 A year or so before our own wedding she married the heir to a shipping line, gave birth to a daughter but suffered a more than usually severe post natal depression which resulted in her coming under the care of various psycho analysts. She managed to get through a few unhappy years pf domesticity but these ended in an unhappy divorce and she returned home to live with her parents.
 So it was that in May, Major Bill and Doris came down to stay in their rented flat with Joey for six weeks.
 Eve and I went to collect the three of them at Malaga airport and were appalled by her condition. Joey behaved like a perplexed, troubled child, lifeless, unaware of her surroundings, totally devoid of energy or conversation. When I attempted to talk to Major Bill about what the doctors thought of her state of mind, he categorically denied that she was ill and that those who said she was were talking utter rubbish. He claimed that, as a child, she had always lacked energy and that all this business of sending her to psychiatrists was only the unnecessary meddling of her ex husband.
  Concerned, Eve suggested Joey should stay with us up in Frigiliana where she could judge for herself the seriousness of the situation and, for the next few weeks, the poor girl lay inert on her bed not wanting to eat and only talking about an impending disaster from which she would not be able to escape, her feelings of distress and persecution becoming increasingly delusional.
 Aware that Doris was incapable of standing up to her husband’s insistence that nothing was wrong, Eve and I attempted to drum some sense into Major Bill facing him with the fact that Joey was suffering from Manic Depression and should be flown back to London as soon as possible for treatment.
 'Nonsense, nonsense, you’re all talking nonsense,' was his reply,  'Our flight back is booked for the 30th June and we’re not leaving till then.'
 Unfortunately Joey perked up shortly after this confrontation which, as far as he was concerned, proved that we were all dramatising a minor problem and that he had been right all the time while we feared that her recovery was a clear symptom of Manic Depressive psychosis in which there are alternating moods of elation and depression.
  With only two weeks to go before their departure date and Joey livening up, eating normally, wanting to go shopping with Eve and even insisting on going down to the beach to get a sun tan to please her psychiatrist with whom she suddenly claimed she was having an affair, we let things be and saw them off at the airport, all much happier than when they had arrived.
 Four weeks later Major Bill rang from London to tell us that Joey had unaccountably fallen out of a 5th storey window of their apartment in Westbourne Terrace and died.

 Eve went to London to attend the Coroner’s inquest, returning two weeks later with a full account of the appalling tragedy.
 Joey’s death at the age of 43, was recorded as 'suicide while of unsound mind'. At about nine o’clock on the evening of July 24th, she had left the sitting room where she was watching television with her parents, gone to her own room, opened the window wide, taken off her shoes, arranged these neatly side by side on the floor, climbed up on the window sill and hurled herself into oblivion.
 At the inquest Major Bill denied that she had ever been mentally ill, though she had been in psychiatric care for five years. He just could not bear the thought that people would think there was madness in his family - a 19th century man with Victorian values who was never to be forgiven by his younger daughter.
 Eve’s guilt at not having argued Joey’s case more forcefully with her parents or taken her sister back to London herself, could not be shaken off easily and this, in turn, became a serious problem for us. She understandably found relief in the company of partying people down in Nerja, but the demons in the bottles she consumed slowly but surely took her over.

Photo of Joey


  1. Sad story... sometimes I wish this blog was fiction...

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