Well we are sitting here, and I remember, after a so long of not remembering, because for so long I have not had the luxury of memories, all I have known for years is raw pain, and memories, especially good ones, have been buried deep inside to stop me from collapsing.
But behind the smears and lies and collaborations of the arrogant and comfortable of the Diocese of Winchester, there is another story, other stories, which would be too damaging to their hatred and judgementof me for them ever to let them be heard by the people they have taught to hate and shun me.
So we are sitting here and you are making sure I eat something and drink several hot drinks at last.
For the past weeks and especially the last few days, I haven't really known or cared about sleeping or eating or anything, I don't know what is going on in my own life, the neat lists, rotas, bill payments and other tidy and fastidious arrangements are all shattered, the little world of boxes that is the best soother for autism is all gone, and I no longer know anything, but you know I need food and drink, and just as you always have, you look after my welfare first and foremost.
As we sit, the memories bubble up, uncontainable, rich and sparkling and flowing, no rhyme or reason, and I smile for the first time in days of tears.
As you read this, remember that although it was at a time that I was struggling desparately after escaping the childhood from hell, I was part of the community, surrounded by friends and with a full life, not in any way like the desparate ruined and angry mess that I am now, back then was before the Diocese of Winchester destroyed me and took the friends that I mention by slander and interventions.
So I tell you what I remember and I smile after days of tears.
I tell you I have sat by too many hospital beds already. I tell you about Jonny in Southampton Neuro, making his miracle recovery and that day when J. said dryly 'Well he's well enough to tell his brother to shut up!'
Well it is one of the very best neurological units, what would you expect but miracles?
I remember all the hospitals, all the times I have sat by beds, but of course there is there is one that stands out, also a miracle recovery.
He was like no one I have ever met before, and I have only met one like him since, and the one I have met since is also having a break in hospital now.
He was a completely honest man who had no use for lies or deceit, he didn't want much and he didn't need people, but quietly and selflessly he worked for others, often unnoticed, he was usually polite to people face to face although he sometimes amused me by being honest to me about his feelings towards certain people, I felt honoured that he confided in me. The certain people he didn't approve of in our immediate community used alcohol and drugs and had other vices, and he had no time for them.
He had a sense of humour although he seemed so serious, and when I was going to meet him first time a certain person warned me to be careful not to upset him, so I was expecting an ogre but he was an angel.
I had to shadow him, learn from him, and although back then my mind wasn't focussed, it was a joy to work with him.
I remember when he became my friend, I had ordered a ton of gravel and was raking it into place and he came by, took a short cut through my garden as he did, and he didn't say a thing, just picked up the rake and started helping to distribute the gravel on the driveway.
He told me that I should come to tea some time, he and his wife would be pleased to see me.
I smile as I remember this because I know that made me very honoured. They didn't invite many people. They lived a simple, honest and lovely life and I really respected them.
One of my favourite stories that he always told me was when the Lord of the Manor came charging round in the range rover, and his wife opened the door, she peered out at him and said 'Oh, who are you?!' in a most dissaproving tone.
I would go to tea sometimes, not frequently but sometimes, to be friendly, they were such special people. Tea meant china cups of tea with a little bit of cake and biscuits. I was still young, so to me I wasn't quite sure of this ritual but time with them was special.
They lived simply as I said, honestly and without any pride or ego or boastfulness, indeed it took me a long time to actually realise what amazing people these were and what talent they hid.
I think the first of the surprises was when I found out that he was a believer and a churchgoer, although I never heard him mention God or call himself a Christian or even use the word. And I understand why, I really do. But another surprise was that his place in church was as organist, until his hands grew too shaky, and then in the choir.
He had left school aged 14 and had been a gardener all his life apart from his days in the navy, which he always mentioned with a slight smile, but he had taught himself music, entirely, and that wasn't his only talent.
He was an artist, and again, he was self, taught. in 'the other room' that they didn't use to sit in, but which had the piano and various jumble, the portraits he had drawn lined the walls, amazing and each with a story behind them.
What an incredible man.
And of course he was the best gardener I have ever met or ever will meet.
So he and his wife were my friends, it didn't matter that they were elderly, age is irrelevant to me, if decent human beings reach out in friendship to me, that is what matters to me. Often it is older people who have the maturity to understand my solitude battles more.
This lovely couple had no children or pets, they had their little house and the immaculate gardens, they kept themselves to themselves. And I consider myself to be very lucky to be someone who got to know them.
He had been showing plants and vegetables and flowers for more years than he cared to remember, and if I remember correctly, he had asked Fleet show to stop giving him the cup each year, was it the cost or getting it re-engraved or was it that he thought it was silly to get a cup? He never wanted his prize money or certificates. That was how he was.
But he took delight in teaching me to grow and tend plants, and more delight in taking me to shows and teaching me to show plants and compete against him.
I was already someone who competed in the show, but with floral art, under the watchful eye of Anne, I always will smile to remember her own teaching, where she got me and Fiona working on our floral art show entries, both working on our competing projects, there at the same table and under her eye.
But now it was time for me to move on to the serious stuff. The horticultural competitions.
It is funny, he had been competing for so long but he didn't know of the village show in my home village, and so I introduced him to it, the show where every year I spent days helping to set up for the show and then spent the show day and the Sunday killing myself trying to help with everything.
Not only did I introduce him to the show but also to Mike and Shirley, who he became fast friends with. I remember Shirley saying to me after meeting him that she thought 'I like you' when she met him. They used to pass messages through me sometimes, usually about show schedules and cup engravings, of course, that kind of thing, and would he like some of the newly made jam? or would they like some fresh cut flowers?
We started to transform the huge wild garden at my cottage into a real plot for vegetable and flower growing, and he didn't see much point in my tree felling project but he came and helped anyway. My cats loved him, and after openly being a cat hater all his life because cats are destructive to gardens, he grew fond of my cats and their antics and for a long time I had a photo of him holding the half-siamese cat in his arms. He seemed in awe of this cat because it was clever and he didn't realise a cat could think things through like that one did.
He used to laugh that he couldn't take a nap in the hammock that I
had tied between the apple trees becase that cat of mine would be
hiding in the tree and launch itself like a missile.
He taught me about dustbin parsnips, the very best for the show, of course the growing mix had to be just right. He showed me how make rings for show vegetables and he made me read my show handbook carefully and learn.
Then one week he wasn't at work, and I was surprised, he didn't text me or phone or call round to the cottage.
All I knew at the end of the week was that the lady of the house told me he was ill.
I went round to see if I could help. Because his wife was disabled since she slipped and hurt her leg badly, so I wanted to know if I could help, but he had already been admitted to hospital.
He was in for a while that time, and I watered the plants and gave his wife lifts to the hospital.
But for some reason they sent him home when he was still very ill.
I grew increasingly concerned, and one evening I asked for a break from shift to go and speak to the hospital. I was horrified by the callousness of the nurse I spoke to. Basically she was saying he was an old man and a waste of a bed and to let him die.
But next day he was re-admitted.
He was in a bad way now, and he slept, with the tubes draining and feeding him.
I was tired and I was in pain and I didn't know why.
I went to work and worked hard, I studied my day release course and I went to counselling, I made trips too and from the hospital and I watered the plants and did anything I could to help.Then I went to work again.
The tiredness got worse and worse.
I slept on a mattress in the front room because the stairs had got too steep. The doctors did tests and muttered about M. E and fibromyalgia.
At the hospital I joined the services in the chapel and asked for prayers for him. And I put him on the prayer list in church and prayed at the afternoon prayer services made up of well-to-do ladies who never kept their voices down about me being 'odd' or 'handicapped'.
One day his wife rang me, she had been at the hospital since 5am when they had called her in, told her that he couldn't stop coughing blood and it was best that she came in now.
We sat there.
We sat and waited.
He stopped coughing blood.
He had blood all over his hospital pyjamas when he told me in a weak voice that he was OK and he was going to sleep now.
And he did.
He slept and then he started to recover, there was no more blood.
I saw a genuine miracle as he started to steadily recover.
'I sat by him at the hospital, there were times when he was grumpy and angry with me when he was recovering, I would go out to the church yard and cry, but his miracle recovery is something that will always be with me, as will the parking fees'.
You smile as I say that, and you murmer something about the hand of God on my shoulder.
How could I have forgotten, that man of such moral courage and firm unmovable convictions, a quietly selfless and inspirational man who was such an example to me?
(and he told me not to write about him too, tough cookies mate, you can't stop me!).
One day I went round to check if his wife needed anything and to water the plants, his wife answered the door 'Go round the back, there is someone there to see you!' she said, hardly able to contain her emotions.
So I did, and there he was, not long home and tending his plants.
Instead of the usual 'lifeline' of taking hold of my hands, which is what he and my other friends normally did because of my autism, he hugged me.
He was more tired than before the illness, but he did recover, even to drive his car again, and one day he drove me to the surgery and observed that my bag of prescription meds was bigger than his! I battled the metabolic illness that left me tired and in pain for a few years after that and it made work hard for me, and I left the estate and the tied cottage and moved on, but we kept in touch for years, and he still sent me silly text messages sometimes, jokes and things.
But the funniest memory, that I recounted to you and you looked astounded before laughing, was that time when the lady of the manor wouldn't stop talking about her favourite candidate for the local elections, this seemed to irritate my friend, and he took to sending me cheeky messages about the candidate, not rude of course, he was a gentleman, but he didn't share the lady of the manor's enthusiasm for this candidate.
We were working with some plants, and the lady of the manore was intervening in our greenhouses as she did sometimes, she was labelling young plants, then the bell on the house rang, meaning the phone was ringing and off she sashayed to answer it.
My friend looked at me, looked at the greenhouse, and grinned.
Into the greenhouse he sneaked, took the sophisticated label gun, and changed what the label printout would read so that it read the name of the election candidate who the lady of the manor was always raving about.
Then off we tiptoed to the other side of the wall, and fell about laughing, wondering how many plants she would label before she realised, and what she would make of it when she realised!
After that we only had to say that person's name and we would crack up laughing.
So, that is the story of me and my friend from before the darkness fell, an honest, honourable and moral man, who I always knew I was perfectly safe with because he wouldn't abuse or exploit anyone.
He was a rare character and I have only known one man that safe and moral, selfless and honourable since, another man who is now also lying in a hospital bed, but he never knew the me from before the darkness and the mad anger.
Because life circles and circles, and we relive the same things over and over.
Thank you for being there for me in this time of tears, today I smiled again because I remembered.