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A great life – but a dreadful death!

His was a warm rich Yorkshire accent and was best described as cheeky and full of confidence, which compelled you to listen carefully. As I enjoyed his stories, I pictured somebody of formidable strength and physical stature. I couldn’t have been more wrong; he was hobbit-sized with an enormous personality.

I immediately knew that this was going to be an interesting conversation, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“Is that Kevin?” The voice inquired. I affirmed it was.

“I’m Ian, Ian Lloyd. My fiancé Annabel and your girlfriend are best friends!” I was surprised to hear this as I had never heard Tess a.k.a. the Dragon Lady mention a best friend, and certainly not one called Annabel.

At the time Ian’s call came in I was writing to a deadline, but this friendly man sounded interesting and he was a true storyteller which made listening to him quite easy and it was a further two hours before our call was concluded. And as a result, I had to work late into the night.

These were pre-Internet days and both Ian and I were involved in correspondence relationships with ladies from the Philippines. Although it became immediately obvious that we shared more in common than just a desire for dark-skinned maidens with long shiny black hair and beautiful brown eyes.

I instinctively knew that Ian was someone I would get on with because he shared my unusual sense of sarcasm and weird sense of humour. He had a love of stories and conversation, and also enjoyed real ale, and coming from Bradford, he also appreciated Indian curries.

As our long conversation came to an end, I think we both realised we had merely scratched the surface of our developing relationship. A vein of true nugget rich friendship lay just below and demanded exploring further.

As it happened, Ian, who was a school OFSTED inspector was working in my area for two weeks, and rather than travelling 400 miles to Yorkshire and back, I offered him the use of my washing machine and the comfort of my spare room that very weekend which started just two days later.

I have written extensively about Ian and his lovely wife Annabel in my first autobiography “Vanishing Pigs and Meeting Jesus” so I’ll share the link for you to read it if you wish. Here is the link…

Our UK friendship was quite wonderful!

For a while, and before the girls arrived to join us, we shared each other’s weekends and free time. We soon figured out the fortunate mix-up which had brought us together was Ian’s fiancé’s best friend. A lady who I had written to twice. This had caused her to consider me her boyfriend, and why Ian contacted me. This was highly embarrassing because at that time getting a letter to Mindanao and reply back could easily take 4 to 6 weeks, and sometimes took MUCH longer. Although she didn’t yet know it, I had already concluded any possibility of this relationship going further, and below is the reason why.

I had begun writing to a few ladies, and it was slow and hard work except for one correspondence with the Dragon Lady who, fortunately for us, both lived and worked in Singapore. I say fortunately because she was as keen as me to find a loving partner in life, and also was a tenacious writer of letters.

More importantly, it only took twenty-four to forty-eight hours to get a letter to Singapore and a reply back, rather than the 4 to 8 weeks to get a reply from Mindanao. We both corresponded enthusiastically with long letters on a daily basis. In just a few months, I think that we knew more about each other than most couples learn in a lifetime. We seemed mutually compatible, and for that reason, came to an arrangement. We stopped writing to other people, would meet quite shortly and if we got on well, we would get married.

As for me, at the age of thirty-nine, I had never had a close friend before. I’ll openly admit I am a challenging and difficult person who enjoys my own company as well as arguments and overindulging in equal quantities. But in Ian, who was nine years older than me, I had met my adversary. Although we argued and constantly quarrelled and bickered worse than a room full of politicians, we never fell out.

It was often mentioned that we should have married each other. Then Annabel arrived who is the loveliest of ladies you could ever wish to meet, and I went to welcome and greet her in their small, attractive village home near Skipton the weekend after she arrived in the UK.

I found it so amusing that this very traditional, perfectly mannered Philippine beauty referred to Ian at all times as Mr Lloyd.

She was more wonderful than Ian had described and could truly murder the English language, which kept us very entertained. Ian had done well for himself and I hoped I would be as fortunate with the Dragon Lady – I was. Tess arrived the following April and she and Annabel became immediate best friends.

Tess arrived pregnantly, unfortunately, Annabel had just lost her first baby, but was there to help and support Tess when our little girl arrived.

Ian became noticeably uneasy; he disliked his work and although he was only forty-eight; he had a STRONG desire to finish working and go and live in Mindanao. I don’t think Annabel really wanted to go, but being a faithful and committed wife agreed.

I’m not sure how Ian managed it, but shortly afterwards they left UK forever with a pension and enough money to buy a house and live comfortably in the sun and I envied him. This was twenty-five years ago, and we soon learned from Annabel that all was not well and that Ian had a strong ulterior motive.

That winter we took our holidays in Cebu, the Dragon Lady’s home island, and no sooner had we arrived than Ian and Anabel came to visit, and strangely brought another man along with them who I took a deep and immediate dislike to.

Ian, who knew me well, immediately read this fact and, due to my volatile and unpredictable nature, kept him well away from me. I serious couldn’t understand how Ian could even stand to be close to him with his bad, boastful attitude. He didn’t have the wit or conversation and wasn’t Ian’s type at all – he was just a foul-mouthed idiot and Ian had already figured out what was about to happen if he stayed too close to me.

What he was trying to prove I was uncertain, but he liked to drive home the fact that we live here in the sun surrounded by beautiful ladies in the lap of luxury. And that it costs a tenth of our lifestyle in the UK! He was easy to dislike and would have been wonderful to punch, but I resisted. It wasn’t so much I was jealous, as I didn’t need a boastful tit like him rubbing the fact in.

Ian and his new friend disappeared, and I discovered Annabel in our room crying her heart out. Apparently, Ian had proved to be a pallicaro, which in English meant he was a philanderer and had big eyes for other women. Although he had been married before, I had never seen this trait in him in the UK.

Apparently, no sooner he arrived in the Philippines than he became like a hungry child who had just been released unsupervised into a sweet shop. In the short time they had been living in Mindanao, he had already proved himself to be a repeat untrustworthy offender.

I was disgusted and felt angry towards Ian all at the same time!

This was far less than Annabel deserved, and typical of my confrontational nature, I asked, rather I shouted at Ian, “why could you do this to such a lovely person?” He simply shrugged and didn’t have an answer. This was who he was, the true Ian Lloyd, and until a year ago we never spoke again. I really MISSED my friend, but this was one way in which we were very different and it would keep us apart.

The Internet arrived and the Dragon Lady and Annabel renewed their friendship via social media, and from that point forward, Anabel kept us updated. Before their divorce, we learned she gave twin son’s which was still not enough to keep Ian faithful. Ian apparently quickly remarried and had a daughter by his second wife. Ian, it seemed, was faithful to her either and was living a wonderful lifestyle and slept with vast volumes of nubile young willing girls. He drank to excess most nights and apparently had begun smoking like a chimney. To him, this obviously was the perfect lifestyle living in Paradise and the constantly warm Philippine climate.

One day Ian popped back up on my Facebook messenger radar.

I had considered ignoring his offer of friendship until the Dragon Lady told me Annabel had shared; he had colon cancer and had just undergone an operation.

This must’ve been an exceptionally low point in his life. Now, what are you going to do when someone with cancer calls? His ex-wife had forgiven him, so there was no point in me bearing a grudge and I accepted the call and an image of someone appeared on the screen.

Who was this I wondered?

“Hello Kevin, said a very familiar voice!”

MY GOD! He may have lived a wonderful life, but time had shown extreme cruelty to him, as he was hard to recognise. He had become an old, OLD unshaven man, the type you would have felt awkward around and avoided as well as expecting him to smell. He was sitting awkwardly in a wheelchair because he could no longer walk. His face was pulled close to the screen, so close that one of his eyes filled most all of my screen. This was how closed he had to get to see me and he said “you look well?”

I was horrified.

“I can’t see very well,” he revealed, and we chatted for a while until the feed dropped. It was like chatting to a stranger.

I learned he was about to begin a course of chemotherapy, so every day I sent him a few words of encouragement and a bit of sarcasm by messenger, which I know he appreciated, and occasionally, when he felt well enough, he responded with equally acidic comments and insults.

However, he opened his messenger account less and less and was obviously feeling dreadful. So, I asked Annabel to pass on my compliments to him when she saw him and keep me informed of what was going on.

Unfortunately, his decline was slow and particularly cruel.

He’s going to have a second course of chemotherapy, Annabel informed me. The Dragon Lady, who is a nurse, said he wouldn’t live very long. After seeing him, I was amazed he was still with us at all.

However, life hadn’t finished with him yet. After his second course of chemotherapy, he lost circulation in his foot and they amputated his toes. His children were the ones who spent time with him and apparently, he cried with the pain. It was painful news to receive. Shortly afterwards, the day after his 74th birthday, I learned they were going to amputate all of his leg. It wasn’t much of a present.

He seemed to be dying in bits.

I just wish that he had died some months before when he had a little dignity left. Then came the final straw, he contracted covid 19. Apparently, he was expected to die at any time, but he still didn’t want to leave and it tortured him for nearly a week until today at 10 am Philippine time he stopped suffering.

His death has made me feel extremely mortal, and I felt I just had to write a few words about this wonderful storyteller who, for most of his life, had a wonderful time.

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