We walked down the long drive from Cliff's home, down the quiet lane and into the small town. It was a bright morning. We were both so full of life, and our hearts so full of joy. We skipped along the footpath like a couple of kids let out of school. Dickie was dancing backwards, facing me, laughing and singing....We're all going on a summer holiday....
Then everything went into slow motion. I saw those nimble feet (which were the envy of football clubs the world over) trip, saw him stumble back into the road, and I saw the car coming. There was nothing I could do but stop and watch in horror. The sound of Dickie falling against the oncoming car was sickening. He hit it, rolled over the bonnet and fell to the ground motionless.
I went to his side but was overtaken by others who appeared as if out of nowhere. A paramedic on a motor cycle was the first on the scene followed very quickly by the police.
"Don't die Dickie," I cried. "Don't die."
A police office was at my side and asking me questions I did not hear.
An ambulance arrived and parked. The police began clearing the road, backing cars up and an air ambulance landed. It was not a good sign that the pilot shut town the rotor blades.
"Don't die, Dickie," I cried. "Don't die."
I presume those about me knew who it was on the ground, but their professionalism prevented them making any comment.
"Don't die Dickie," I cried. "Don't die."
I could no longer see him in the crown of yellow and green fluorescent jackets.
"Don't die Dickie," I cried. "Don't die."
The air filled with the whine of the helicopter's engines but it had been on the ground so long any urgency of using an air ambulance to take my lover to hospital was lost. As I watched Dickie, now covered with tubes, lifted into the aircraft, a police officer held me back as I tried to step forward. "We'll take you to the hospital to be with him, once he's on his way."
The helicopter lifted slowly, hovered about fifty feet in the air, turned, climbed and started to fly away.
"Don't die Dickie," I cried aloud screaming after it. "Don't die - please."
But I knew he would.
I have never been so wrong about anything at all. Not before and not since.
I stood there in a daze and watched as the helicopter noisily ascended, taking my beloved Dickie away from me. The downdraft of the rotor blades rippled the shirt on my back and tore the hair about my head. I watched it until it was too small and lost in the sky to see any more. I had lost all sense of time and could not have told you even what day of the week it was. Tears flowed down my face in rivers, I had lost the most important thing in my life.
Someone was speaking to me, but their voice was an echo in a distant canyon far away. Whoever it was repeated themselves and laid a firm hand on my shoulder. They tried to steer me away from the spot where I stood transfixed. I can not tell you how long it was before I started to respond, how long before I made any sense of what was going on about me.
"He's in shock," I heard a voice say, and the next I knew, I, too, was in an ambulance on my way to hospital.
There were various words of reassurance which passed me by until one short phrase jolted me back to reality. "Dickie is going to need you, so we had better get you fixed up."
Dickie is going to need you!
Was I dreaming? NO, surely not!
Was it possible?
Could it be?
Was Dickie still alive?
Croaking the words with the greatest of effort to speak them over my emotions, I asked the question.
"He is seriously injured," was the reply, "but, yes, he is still alive."
I broke down and sobbed like a small child.
"Will he live?" I managed to ask.
"We must hope, and pray."
By the time I reached the hospital I had worked hard to regain some form of composure. The press was there waiting, but the police were keeping all outside. I had to be strong. I would be no use at all to my dear friend as a wreck of a man, and I was damned if any photographer was going to snap a picture of me looking like that!
Of course everyone at the hospital knew who I was; Dickie and I had been all over the press all week. I was taken to a small waiting room and offered coffee, which I declined. All I wanted to know was how my adored Dickie was.
"He is in theatre, it may be a long while, but as soon as anybody knows anything, we will tell you." A very young and kind nurse offered to sit with me, and I accepted her company with gratitude. Without her I don't know how I could have coped with the next few hours. She was truly wonderful.
"What's you name?" I asked.
"Anne, Anne Barber."
Eventually we were joined by a third person, the surgeon who had headed the team operating on Dickie. He was smiling. My heart rose ever so slightly.
"Is he -?"
"He's alright," was the answer, "but he is very poorly."
"Will he -?"
"He'll pull through, but there is something."
"What?" I demanded.
"His sight. The blow to his head caused a blood vessel to burst and damage some brain tissue. It was near the part which receives messages from the eyes. I am afraid that Dickie will be left blind."
"He'll not be able to play football any more."
"He doesn't want to," it was a pathetic response. My emotions were tumbling in every direction at once.
"He is in intensive care, it will be a slow but certain recovery. Do you want to see him?"
I did want to see him, to see him more than anything else.
"I'll take you to him. He's asleep, of course, and we'll keep him sedated until tomorrow. His mother is on her way over together with another friend, a Mr Harry Webb, but you can see him first."
He looked so lovely in spite of the tubes, wires and bleeping machinery. He was alive and that was all that mattered. My lover was alive!
I reached my hand and placed it gently on top of his and I know that he was instantly aware of my presence. Others may not have been able to see it or noticed any change in his face, but I saw him smile.
As the doctor had said, two days later he returned to consciousness, and although he could no longer see, it was the most precious gift on Earth to have him back. How I loved Dickie, and oh, how wonderfully grateful beyond measure I was, to have him back with me.
"I love you," I said. "I don't know what I would have done without you. I could not have gone on living."
"I don't give up that easy," he smiled.
My lover accepted his blindness with a bravery worthy of a medal, and showed a true depth of character that was far beyond his years. "At least I won't be able to read all those terrible tabloids any more," he giggled.
Those terrible tabloids and even the serious broadsheets were filled day after day with news of Dickie's road to recovery. The cards arrived by the sack-load and there were enough flowers sent to fill the entire hospital. Everyone was so kind. Everyone was saying what a tragic loss to English Football Dickie was. Little did any realise that he intended to quit at the end of the season when his contract was up for renewal.
The day before he was due to leave hospital and return home Dickie talked to me about the night before his accident and the things we had said that morning. "Will you still marry me?" he asked.
"I want nothing more," I replied wiping away a tear. "And I want it to happen just as soon as possible."
Our wedding took place just four weeks later. We decided to make it a very quiet affair. Not that we were ashamed of our love for one another or that we were not prepared to share our vows with the entire world and tell all how we would vow to spend the rest of our lives together. But rather that any ceremony where we invited more than just a few people to witness our love could so easily turn into a rat pack media frenzy. And so our gathering was small: both of our mothers, my sister and our special friend Harry.
Harry gave us the use of his holiday mansion on the Caribbean island of Barbados for a private ceremony of dedication, and insisted we stay on there for as long as we wanted to stay. "Take a holiday, take time to recover, and when you return home we'll talk about your career in music."
Sadly our gay wedding was not recognised in law, but I know on a higher level it was recorded in the universal register of love. Harry had found a Barbadian friend who was pleased to officiate, and he did a truly beautiful job. He stood before us in the lush gardens of Harry's mansion and spoke the words which would bind us together.
"Dearest Friends," he smiled. "It is wonderful to be here and to share in this important day in the lives of Richard and Nigel. They will today declare a love for one another which transcends the mere laws of mankind, and registers their union in the higher court of Heaven."
Everything he said was so wonderfully perfect and captured totally our feelings. And so it was our two lives became one. After the ceremony, we had a small celebration with the group of guests who had witnessed our union, with them all returning home the next day to leave us alone on that island paradise.
The beautiful warm sunshine was a true elixir for Dickie, and every day he regained more of his strength. But sadly his sight remained steadfastly switched off.
For endless hours we lay on the beach soaking up the sunshine. We would swim, laugh and splash about in that clear blue Caribbean water. Everything was so beautiful, but Dickie could see none of it.
"I want to go out to the reef," he said one day. "I want us both to go out there in a glass bottom boat and see the fish."
"But -," I could not bring myself to state the obvious.
"I want to see the fish and all their colours," he said. "I know I can not use my own eyes but you can see them for me and tell me what they look like."
He may have lost his sight, but the other four senses worked overtime to compensate. There was also something else, that it was difficult at the time for me to understand it fully. And even now, it is difficult for me to properly find the right words to tell you now exactly how it was. It was as if some kind of thought transfer was taking place between us, as if the sight patterns which registered through my eyes could also give him a picture, however faint, of what I could see.
"You know," I said one day, "I think I could stay here for ever. Just you, me and this sunshine."
"We can," Dickie said. "Paradise lasts for ever."
But we decided that we could not live our lives, no matter how lovely the island was, away from everything we knew. We were both very active people who needed a purpose in our lives. We talked and made a perfect plan.
We would return to England where Dickie would pick up his music career. I would join him, and Cliff's promotion company would do all it could to make us number one. The media was still very interested in our story, so we had a good chance of success. We would set up two homes for ourselves, one in England and one in Barbados.
"I would like to suggest something," Dickie said.
"I already have a lot of money, God knows how many times over I am a millionaire - I don't need any more money. Add to that the fact that we are both going to make even more money. But we don't need it do we? I mean providing we are comfortable and have each other what more is there?"
I knew what he was trying to say."
"How about we take what we need and rather than squander the rest or simply hoard it we give it away?"
"Sounds good to me."
"I would like to help those who saved my life: the hospital, air ambulance and now organisations who support the blind."
How perfect. Indeed how wonderfully perfect.
In time our holiday in the sunshine came to an end. We bade farewell for the time being to the beautiful island of Barbados, making a promise to return as soon as we could to buy our own home on that idyllic island paradise.
Back in England things moved so very quickly that within weeks both Dickie and I had recording contracts. Hours of tortuous work in the recording studio followed, and our first single was ready to be released. Our dear friend Harry's promotion company worked twenty-five hours a day, and it took but a few moments in the shops for us to make it to number one on both sides of the Atlantic.
Marvellous though this was, there were some special events coinciding with the successes which were even more so.
Dickie's old football club played host to a pop concert as our first fund raiser for the charities we had chosen to support. Dickie and I set an ambitious target of one million pounds but with ticket sales, TV and video rights and the marketing of souvenirs, we were confident we would achieve it.
Hours of rehearsal did not dull the excitement and as the day drew ever closer, we were like two small kids anticipating a special treat.
We didn't sleep very much at all the night before, but lay awake cuddling each other, the warmth of our bodies only surpassed by the warmth of the love we had found. How truly lucky we were.
There had simply not been the time for us to look for a new home and so we were still living in my little flat. It had become our special place, and I just could not remember what it had been like to have lived there alone and without Dickie.
I had discovered that my multi-talented lover was also a fantastic cook who loved preparing meals for us, but that morning I determined that I would the one to prepare breakfast. I awoke my lover to a full English platter followed by champagne and fresh strawberries.
Dickie placed his hands on my face, smiled and said, "I am so lucky, what have I done to be so fortunate and find you?"
A single tear rolled down my cheek and touched his finger.
"Why are you crying?"
It was a tear of joy but I have to admit to some sadness that my beloved Dickie could no longer see anything. He knew exactly what I was thinking."
"Don't cry, I can see you perfectly in my heart and that's where it counts."
"Oh Dickie you are everything to me."
We arrived at the football ground before mid-day and went into a final rehearsal. Of course we weren't the only ones performing, the line up read like a who's who of pop music over the past two generations. Every one of them gave their time free of charge to raise support for the charities.
Since I had known Dickie I had got used to being around famous celebrities, but so many together there in one place just made me nervous. The thing was they were all just supporting acts, Dickie and I were billed as the stars. How daunting. The TV was broadcasting the concert live, and since rights had been syndicated the world over, God only knew how many would be watching us.
But when Dickie and I walked out onto the stage, the roar of our wonderful fans and the warm, warm welcome they gave us quelled any fears. A sudden rush of adrenalin surged through my body, and it was terrific.
The concert began with Dickie singing that ancient old disco classic Hi Ho Silver Lining, originally recorded by Jeff Beck. When he had finished he offered the audience some poignant words.
"Thank you, thank you -," he said. "I know it is more usual to finish a party with that rather than use it as an opening number. But the thing is I was so nearly finished myself that if it had not been for the caring and skilled support of so many people I wouldn't be here, I would be dead. Tonight is about those people and raising as much money as we can to help them save the lives of many, many others. Thank you all."
The applause was phenomenal, and I guessed that those watching on television at home were clapping too.
Dickie and I then went into a harmony duet, the voice coaching and singing lessons arranged by the promotion company boys certainly paid results. Then it was my turn to sing solo. I had chosen a re-write of the Blondie song Denis singing Dickie instead. A few bars into the song it occurred to me that I was probably making the biggest statement ever in support of gay love. Millions the world over were watching and hearing me declare my love for Dickie. I could feel huge waves of support from oh so many of them.
Oh Dickie doo be do,
I'm in love with you Dickie doo be do -
I'm in love with you Dickie doo be do -
I'm in love with you.
Dickie, Dickie oh with your eyes so blue,
Dickie, Dickie I've got a crush on you,
Dickie, Dickie I'm so in love with you.
Oh when we walk it always feels so nice,
And when we talk its seems like paradise,
Dickie I'm so in love with you
I was in a dream, a wonderful beautiful dream. The rest of the concert passed that way. A magnificent finale saw Dickie and I front an extravaganza of stars to form a choir and sing John Lennon's All You Need Is Love. Such a gathering could only come together on the rarest of occasions.
When we eventually got home in the tiny small hours of the morning the last thing I could possibly have done was to sleep. So for a second night we lay together in bed just holding each other. We savoured that fantastic evening, made wonderful love to each other and finally dozed in each other's embrace. How I loved Dickie, and how he loved me.
We awoke to the phone ringing, that special mobile phone Dickie had where only his closest friends, associates and family knew the number. It never left him and he never turned it off. I heard it calling faintly in the distance and awoke properly to hear Dickie talking.
"What time is it?" I yawned.
Of course Dickie did not know, how could he see the clock? I looked across the bed and saw it was a little short of one o'clock. One in the afternoon. I kissed my lover. "Who was that?"
"He wants us to go round to his home tonight."
"Something special," he said.
"Don't know, he didn't say. He was a bit strange and vague."
"Well it will be good to see him, we can thank him properly for last night."
"Yes, it was good wasn't it?"
"Wonderful Dickie, wonderful."
The rest of the day was one of the laziest I can ever remember, we didn't even get out of bed until late afternoon, breakfast was at tea time and then it was time to make the drive to Harry's.
We pulled into that long driveway leading down to Harry's mansion at five minutes to eight. The large gates which normally had to be opened electronically from within the house were already wide ajar. I though that was strange and said so to Dickie.
"Something is going on," I said as we neared the house.
"What?" Dickie asked. "What can you see?"
"There are lights on everywhere," I said, "and cars - lots of cars. Everywhere."
Not only that but there were guys who were obviously security managers hovering discretely yet obviously. One approached us and opened the car door.
"Good evening Sirs. If you would care to leave your car here, we will take care of it. Come this way, everyone is waiting for you."
Harry, wonderful Harry - bless him - had arranged a special party in our honour.
"What's this for?" I asked dazed and a little confused.
"Do I need a reason," he smiled. "Because if I do, I can think of more than a million."
And that actually was what the party made. One thousand guests crammed Harry's house and garden that evening and every one of them had paid £1,000 to be there as a donation to our charity efforts.
I think we spent most of the time trying to speak with every one of the guests: film stars, singers, sportsmen, politicians and even a couple of minor royals. But there were some extra special guests for whom Harry himself had paid to give them tickets. There was the air ambulance crew who had attended Dickie at his accident, there was the surgical team and that lovely, lovely young nurse who had sat so patiently and comforting with me while Dickie had been in theatre. I was so happy to see her. The poor thing was so out of her depth among such a gathering, I just took her by the hand and insisted she stay with Dickie and I all evening.
Thanks to Harry's party our charity fund raising made a magnificent two and a half million pounds. We did not want to burden ourselves with administrations, trust funds and grants so we simply divided the money into three giving equal shares to the hospital, the ambulance service and the Royal Institute for the Blind. We fully intended to raise more money and made plans. We also managed another number one hit and began work on an album. A property agent sent us some details of houses on the market in Barbados and so we were kept very busy indeed.
Time sped past and the weeks turned into months. The hospital used our cheque to fund its much needed development of a new intensive care ward. We received a letter from the chief executive which I opened and read to Dickie.
"They want to name the intensive care ward the Dickie Williams Unit."
"No way!" He said firmly. "No way!"
I knew how he felt. Neither of us were in it for glory and the last thing I would have wanted was for them to have used my name. But what to do? How to diplomatically change their minds and come up with a new name?
"I know," I said. "Let them call it the Anne Barber Unit. Name it after Anne."
Dear, dear Anne. That little young nurse who had sat with me and who we had taken under our wing at Harry's party. Young Anne had now become one of our special friends and we just loved having her and her boyfriend round to see us.
"Yes! The Anne Barber Unit."
And so that was decided.
We agreed to be with Anne as she formally declared the unit open. Dickie did make a speech, he is so much better at that kind of thing than I, where he said how he knew many more lives would now be saved though the dedication of the staff working there.
My life had been turned upside down since meeting Dickie. Not just because I had fallen madly in love with him but also because of everything surrounding it. I was no longer a manager with a chain store but instead a pop star and becoming something of a fashion idol in my own right. Life was a roller coaster of incredible things, but for me the opening of the Anne Barber Unit was the most special day of all.
After that most special day, we took some time to ourselves and returned to our island paradise of Barbados where we found the perfect home. We were lucky to be able to speed things through and managed to move in very quickly, Our idea was to keep on my little flat in England from which we would work but to make Barbados our real home together and to spend as much time there as possible.
It wasn't a mansion but it was truly lovely and had its own small private beach which we could walk down to when ever we wanted. Most people visiting Barbados tend to stay on the Caribbean side of the island where the water is calm and deep azure blue. Our home was on the other side facing the Atlantic where the sea was just as vivid in colour but roaring with surf and breakers as it rushed to the beach over a coral reef.
The descent to the beach was down a rough path through a small glade of trees. The walk was not easy for me and I had to watch my step with care, for Dickie who could not see it was quite tortuous. He was so independent and refused my help, insisting he could walk unaided. I knew we would have to get a contractor in to build us some proper steps and I mentally made a note that it was a priority.
After breakfast earlier today, we left the house to spend the morning on the sands and soak up some more sun. We were near the top of the path when Dickie stumbled, missed his footing and fell. He tumbled all the way to the very bottom as I watched in horror. I snatched to grab him and save him but was momentarily too late. I cried out after him "Dickie!!!!!!"
I ran as fast as I could after him. I just knew he was going to be badly hurt. Not again! Oh Dickie no! Please no!!
When I reached his side he rolled and turned to face me.
"Are you hurt?" I asked begging that he was alright.
"I'm fine, don't think that I have broken anything but I guess I'll have some bruises."
His face was cut and so were both of his arms.
"Let's get you back up to the house."
"No," I insisted and I got my way, although he refused all my attempts to have him see a doctor.
Dickie complained of a headache, he was lucky his head was not broken, and when I resolutely demanded that he lay down and rest he did agree to that. I knew then that he had to be hurt some how and prayed that he would feel better after sleeping a while. I thought I would leave him alone for a few hours then prepare a light mid afternoon snack. While I was alone I decided to put into action something I had been planning for some time.
I have always loved writing and as our relationship deepened I had this desire to sit down and write a special story for Dickie telling of our life together. A bit silly in a way because, of course, he could not read it but perhaps I could read it to him.
I got out my laptop computer and began to type but some how it did not feel right committing a work of such importance to a micro chip, and so I set it aside in favour of a pen and pad of paper. I sat at the dining table and began to write. As I reached the bottom of each page I tore off the used sheet and set it to my side.
I don't know how long I was writing for, but when I paused and counted the number of sheets there were fifty-six of them. If there was an average of 300 words on each sheet that was an amazing 17,000 words. Wow! But the writing came so easy, it was a labour of love and I poured the love that existed between us into every stroke of the pen. This was going to be a very special gift for my lover, I would read it to him in bed that night.
I continued writing for at least another hour when I became aware that Dickie was in the room. I had not heard him come in, so engrossed was I in what I was doing, and I did not know how long he had been there. I turned to look at him and smiled that he was alright.
"What are you doing?"
I briefly explained.
"Why are you writing by hand and not using the computer?"
I told him how it did not feel right not to do it by hand.
"Well that's good then."
He walked to my side and picked up the papers, shuffled them together and said, "There's a lot here; you've been busy."
"It's nearly finished," I said.
"Finish it now," he said. "I'll just sit here and wait."
Another thirty minutes I thought would conclude the tale, so returned to my scribbling.
"This is good," Dickie said.
"Want me to read it to you?"
"No you finish writing, I'll just sit here and read what you have written so far."
I guess I wasn't listening properly, so keen I was to finish that I did not see what Dickie was doing and the content of his words passed me by."
"I like the opening bit," he said.
Then he began to read the words I had written earlier, to read them aloud.
I am not sure if I heard it first or if I felt it. The impact was certainly violent as I was thrust forward with so much force it made the restraining seat belt punch my chest with the force of a boxing world champion.
I stopped. How did he know what the words were? He could not read them; he could not see! A shiver ran through me, and I dropped the pen, stood up and faced him.
Dickie continued to read before tears just flowed from his eyes.
"Do you believe in miracles?" he said. "I do Nigel, I do. I can see! I can see again! It must have happened when I fell earlier, God alone knows how or why but I can see!"
He may have been able to see, but I could not for tears of sheer, absolute joy were filling my own eyes. "Thank you God," I called aloud, directing my word to who ever it was that controls the destiny of the universe. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!"
We held each other and sobbed, daring not to question the miracle that had restored Dickie his sight.
"I love you," he said. "I can't say how much I love you."
"But I know how much you love me," I cried. "Because that's just the same way I love you."
"I know. I can not tell you just how much I know."
© Nigel Nationwide Authors
The model in these pictures is Jerry. If you'd like to see more photos of him, click here.
The Badpuppy.com model in these pictures is Jerry
© Badpuppy Enterprises, Inc. 1995 - 2017