See You In The
Church Times Bookshop £17.10 (Use code
WHAT do you do when you lose
your best friend, the woman to whom you have been married for 53
years, three months, two weeks, and a day? As a journalist, Barry
Norman's first instinct was to write about it, both as catharsis
and to share with the world the person he loved.
The book - part memorial,
part memoir - tells in his usual relaxed and apparently effortless
conversational style how Norman, then a gossip columnist for the
Daily Sketch, met Diana, one of the few women on Fleet
Street in the 1950s, when they both covered the same story. After a
difficult period, they moved to Hertfordshire, restored a house,
and had their two daughters.
Diana became a freelance
writer, throwing herself into historical research with the energy
she brought to everything. The result was ten quirky but accurate
historical novels, including a minor classic, Fitzempress'
Law, and later the invention of her medieval woman
pathologist, Adelia Aguilar.
She was not perfect: she
always knew best, had a talent for rows, and "could bear a grudge
like nobody else", but Norman manages to show why their marriage
worked so well. They gave each other space, often sitting together
reading in silence over a restaurant meal.
Diana loved sailing; Barry,
cricket - interests they were happy to pursue separately; but they
were bound together by a love of books, plays, and music, and a
deep respect for each other's talents.
The book does not end with
Diana's death. Norman's way of coping has been to keep busy. But
the house is very empty. "I'd give anything to have her back
nicking my cigarettes and food and infuriating the hell out of me.
Because I would also have her humour, her companionship, and her
love. I really miss those things. And I guess I always will."
Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.