At 20 Mandy was drop dead gorgeous, and that didn’t change. I first met Mandy in Staveley Road in Bradford along with Bee and Deb. Mandy lived nearby in Ivanhoe Road and they were all students at Bradford Uni. The early 80s, Bradford was dark and wet, living under the shadow of the Yorkshire ripper with a curfew on women which we rallied against. We spent our time lolling about on sofas without legs, rushing into taxis to go to pubs and clubs – the Bavaria, Manningham and Oak Lane pubs, ingesting dodgy substances and dancing our socks off all night, literally on more than one occasion. Mandy had bleached blonde hair, black leather jacket, DMs and skin tight stripey trousers on her long long legs. An absolute stunner with an obsession for Stevie Nicks!
Backdrop of Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Queen and David Bowie, the Human League, Clint Eastwood and General Saint, the Specials, the Selecter, the Beat, UB40 as well as Fleetwood Mac.
Mandy moved to Brixton, we chased her latest heartthrobs at the Ace of Clubs, slept on her futon, worried about the bullet hole in the window.
Mandy supported me as I left a disastrous relationship, with mud bath therapy at Weston-super-Mare, not in a spa, just by the sea with real mud. I got together with Chris and Mandy joined us for parties in Wales. Chris and I motorbiked to Coombe Martin and we met up with Mandy and her mum, Anne. After dark we went high above the sea and barbecued mackerel we’d caught that day, so good, and drunk again. Mandy went from working with Dale Spender to restoring and creating furniture in Leeds and then to ranging the countryside and becoming a bat expert. There were times when we drifted from each other but then really reconnected about 17 years ago. It was never a friendship that meant we had to be in each other’s pockets but one that could be picked up and continued from where we had left off.
Mandy, Annette and Ros settled into West Hey Head Farm, Mandy left countryside services in Leeds and trained to do remedial massage. As I was getting into hiking and mountaineering, Mandy got into first river kayaking and then sea kayaking. We pursued our outdoor passions and shared our adventures over walks which always included a pub meal and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. The Top Brink was a regular venue, along with the Robin Hood in Cragg Vale, and the Robin Hood in Pecket Well long before Mandy moved there.
After Mandy’s first occurrence of cancer, she asked me to walk with her to help build up her strength. We walked a lot at Hardcastle Crags, with Heddy, and it worked. We walked in everything, often in the dark. I loved that she didn’t let the weather stop her. And so we continued, all through the recurrence and the treatments. We walked round Withens Clough reservoir in the dark, the only time I ever saw her very angry about the cards she had been played. She had just been told she had a year to live. Well she outdid that prophesy and outdid it in style, deciding what she wanted to do with her time, who she wanted in her life and organising her affairs.
I feel privileged to have had a part in Mandy’s life, that she trusted me and had a clear picture of what she wanted me to do. She always listened very well and came up with constructive ideas of how to approach problems, in a safe place where we could share our fears and tears. Her support stretched over our interwoven lives over a great long time. She was so loving and generous with her time for me when my soulmate Chris (one of the donkey care team) was dying. One of the things Mandy said then was that people who were dying totally had the right to choose what they do in the limited time they have left. It seems such an obvious thing to say but at that time of Chris’s illness it was a major issue. Mandy knew then that she would be doing this for herself in the not so distant future. She was very aware of her own mortality and wanting to get the most out of the time she had.
Mandy gave me so much, from her knowledge of plants and the natural world, her remedial massage skills, her practical skills, but most of all, her unconditional love and support. Paddle on, my love.