I had just hung out a load of laundry and was sitting down with a cup of tea when the doorbell went. Sighing at the interruption to my busy sitting, I got up and answered it, to find Dec standing there, looking a bit dazed. I was pleased to see him; he hadn’t called round since Matt died, and although Tom said he was handling working again, I knew it had been hard for him, hard enough that seeing me, coming to our home, had been too much. I’d seen Amy a lot, and hoped I had reassured her that I knew Dec would do things in his own time. I opened the door wider and let him in.
‘Lau … I just … here.’
He held out his hand, which contained a flash drive.
‘I won’t stay, it’s just … I read it, and it made sense, and I started it a long time ago, but when I read it, I thought I’d do some more, but it’s too much, so I’ve just done up to when it was all good, and …’
As he was speaking, tears were beginning to trickle down his face, and he started to back away, towards the door.
‘Dec, flower, come and sit down.’
He stood, undecided, still holding out the flash drive, shaking his head slightly.
‘No, it’s OK, I just wanted … oh fuck it Lau, I’m sorry.’
Tears were now streaming down his cheeks, and his face was contorted with the effort of trying not to sob.
‘Dec, it’s OK. Come and sit down, I’ve just made a cuppa.’
He nodded, breathed deeply and went into the living room, walking like he might step on a landmine, while I went into the kitchen.
When I returned with his tea, he was sitting on the sofa, staring into space. I handed him the mug.
‘Thanks, Lau. Sorry. I’m being a fucking nutter. Amy made me come, I wanted her to bring it.’
He held the flash drive out again.
‘It’s weird being here.’
‘I’m glad Amy made you come, I haven’t seen you for ages. What’s on the flash drive? I didn’t quite get everything you were saying.’
‘Sorry, I’m just not handling it, am I? And I feel like, shit, if anyone should be not handling it, it’s you, so I just didn’t want to come here, where he isn’t, and be all like I just was. Oh fuck, I’m a bloody mess.’
‘We all are, flower. People just do things differently, that’s all.’
‘How are you being so fucking normal, Lau?’
‘I’m very far from normal. The kids are helping, we’re helping each other.’
‘They’re great kids.’
‘I know. So what’s on this, then?’
Dec had stopped holding the flash drive out, and put it on the coffee table. He took a deep breath.
‘I read his story. Fuck, it was amazing. How did he remember everything?’
I shrugged, being unsure myself, but having a suspicion.
‘Well he did have a good memory, but he was also pretty good at making it sound like he knew stuff when he was at best only partly sure.’
Dec stared. ‘What, you mean it was all bullshit?’
‘No, not exactly, some of the conversations I remembered, and they were almost word for word, and to my knowledge, everything that he said happened, actually happened. But the thing with remembering who said what is that it’s so subjective, you don’t recall the specifics, just the gist. So let’s be generous and call it artistic licence.’
Dec continued to look at me, wide-eyed.
‘Fuck, I wish I’d known. I’ve been racking my brains trying to get everything bloody word perfect.’
He indicated the still unexplained flash drive.
‘So what have you been doing then?’
‘Oh, well, it’s something I started way back, years ago, when I was seeing Adam, actually, when I first started seeing him. I tried to contact him, see if I could book in some more sessions with how my head’s been recently, but he’s retired, or moved away or something. I guess I need to find someone else to clear out my box of shit.’
Dec smiled to himself.
‘Oh, that’s what me and Matt called it when we needed our heads sorting.’
I still wasn’t clear exactly what it was that Dec had brought round.
‘So what has Adam got to do with this, then?’
I pointed at the flash drive.
‘Well, he had this thing where when you were having trouble with shit, if it was just going round and round and you weren’t thinking straight because of it, or if you wanted to work something out with someone but it was hard to actually say because you weren’t sure how you felt, he’d say write it down, in a letter, or a story or something.’
‘Oh! Matt did that. He’s written things to the children, from before they were born. I think Adam suggested that too.’
Dec nodded. ‘Yeah, probably. Anyway, it was a useful thing to do, especially back then when I was younger and there was a lot of shit that was unresolved, and I started this kind of story type thing, it helped me understand how I’d got to where I had with Jay and everything that went on, before and after. And then I put it away and forgot about it, but sometimes things would crop up, and I’d write about them again, but it was all just put away on the computer, for years, and then you emailed Matt’s thing, and I thought what a fucking amazing way to make us bloody remember him, the bastard, and I wanted to do something so my kids would know me, how I’d been when I was young and not an old fart like they all think I am, but then …’
He stopped again, tears welling up in his eyes. He looked at me, stricken.
‘OK, no more sorries, flower. You don’t have to tell me, it’s all here, isn’t it?’
I gestured to the table.
He nodded. ‘Yeah, but I didn’t get as far as I wanted to. It’s nowhere near as long as Matt’s. I couldn’t go past when Adam told me I didn’t need to see him any more That was kind of when everything seemed perfect – I had Amy and the kids, we were married, you and Matt were married, Rose was still here. After that … well it wasn’t exactly a downward slope, but I couldn’t go there, when he started to get ill, when Rose started to … you know. And I did this weird thing instead of he said she said, using symbols, kind of wish I hadn’t but couldn’t be arsed to go through and change it all. Nowhere near as good as his.’
‘Dec, you do know it’s not a competition, don’t you?’
‘Do you, really? Because most of your life you and Matt have had this contest thing going on – you know, I can get drunker than you, I’m madder than you, I can swear more, I can call you at a more annoying time of night, any of this sounding familiar?’
Dec laughed, and the cloud lifted from his face for a moment.
‘Yeah, I know. It kept us entertained.’
‘Well thanks for doing this, flower, and don’t worry about where you stopped, or what you’ve written. You don’t have to show me, I’m not going to mark it like a teacher. I just thought that as Matt’s had helped me, it might help someone else to give it a try. I’m going to give it a go myself.’
‘No, I want you to have it, I want you to read it. I’m going to give it to everyone, like you did. There’s …’ a cheeky grin crept over his face, ‘… there’s no porn in it, though.’
‘Thank God for that. I’m not sure I could cope with any more detailed descriptions. I probably should have cut those bits out.’
‘What? No way. Gives me a whole new perspective on Matt. And you. Bloody hell, Lau. You didn’t send it to your bloody mum, did you? Or Carol?’
I nodded, sheepishly. ‘I wanted them to read it all. I did put a note in, warning them.’
‘Yeah, I know, but still. It’s like him, though, isn’t it, to write all that and not give a shit who sees it. The whole thing was like him, it was like he was in the room telling me it sometimes.’
‘Yeah, it was. It is. I’ve read it through a few times.’
‘Have you bookmarked the naughty bits?’
‘That would be telling.’
‘Lau … I’m glad I came round.’
‘I am too. You’re welcome any time. You can even text me in the middle of the night if you like.’
‘Ha ha. I miss that, you know. Declan Charles Summers, it’s 3am and time for beer. And I’d know he needed a chat, and even though he woke me up at some ridiculous times, and so I’m getting more sleep now, I bloody miss it.’
‘You meant a lot to him.’
‘I know. It’s bizarre isn’t it, how things work out. When I was thirteen, I had no one, and here I am, part of the world’s largest weirdest family, some of the best people on the planet in my life.’
He took a breath and got to his feet.
‘You know we always had this thing, you shouldn’t be alone when you’re feeling this shit?’
I nodded, well aware of how Matt and Dec had supported each other through their respective bad times.
‘Well that’s one of the hardest things now, he always knew when I was feeling shit and when he needed to come and be an arse to make me feel better, but that’s gone now, and I feel really shit right now, and he’s not … he won’t ever … you know.’
‘Yeah, I know.’ There was nothing else to say; I had a newly formed unfillable place inside me too, which words couldn’t describe. I stood up, opening my arms for a hug, and Dec clung on tightly while taking some deep breaths, but didn’t cry again. When we let go, I looked into his eyes and saw sadness and recognition, then he straightened up and brought himself back into the present.
‘I’d better get back, Ames wants me to put a picture hook up.’
I raised an eyebrow at him.
‘Yeah, I know, be prepared for the bloody house to fall down. Got to get used to doing DIY shit for myself now.’
‘You could always ask Tom, couldn’t you?’
‘What, and admit to my son that I’m useless with a drill?’
‘Dec, he knows. It’s not like your, er, skills are a secret.’
‘Yeah, but that’s not the same as admitting it. Thanks, Lau. It’s good to talk, isn’t it.’
‘Yeah. Come again, soon. I like remembering Matt with you.’
Dec gave me a wistful smile, and I knew he wasn’t ready for that quite yet. Maybe if he found another psychologist, that would help. I plugged the flash drive into the laptop and saved the file with the rest them, under PP, which I had belatedly worked out stood for Philpotts.
Other people slowly got round to reading it, although Josh never has to my knowledge, and Lau got lots of memories from us all to add to her own. When, a year or so later, Lau sent her own apparently highly censored story to us all, it was another nudge for me to think about what I was going to write. My life hasn’t been filled with anywhere near so much emotional drama as Matty’s, but I started to think of it as like a photo album – little verbal snapshots of moments in time that I remember as important to me. I didn’t start writing straight away, as I still had Uni to finish. But every time I remembered something, I’d jot it down on my phone or on the laptop, so I had a store of things to write about.
I haven’t done a memory. This whole story is my memory, a tribute to what he was and what we had. I’ve been so incredibly touched and moved by what everybody has written and said to me. Matt would have loved to have heard it, although he would have covered up his pleasure with some kind of silliness. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him.
And so that’s it. That’s the complete record of Matt and Lau, start to finish and beyond. To anyone who might read this, thank you for sticking with it until the end. If anyone is offended by anything, well, I wrote it mainly for me, and anything I wrote helped me through a difficult time so, in the words of the master, ‘fuck you’. Obviously, Mum, if you’re reading this, I don’t mean you.
It’s going to be difficult to stop typing, to save the final version of this file and put it away for good, as I’ve lived it for a long time, both reading Matt’s story over and over again, and writing, re-writing, revising and editing mine. But it’s time to stop, for me.
The last words should go to Matthew Robert Scott. It’s on my wedding ring, and his:
And so now here I am, up to date. I qualified as a Physiotherapist a year ago, and after working for a year in various settings to get experience, I’m now with … Raiders. Apples don’t fall far from the tree, I guess. Ironically, Kieran, the young student who set me on this path back then, is here too, and he’s my boss. There are enough people still here from when I was a player that I get the piss taken out of me on a regular basis.
Conor is six and Lily is four, and now we have bump number three to look forward to.
Should I do the rounds of everyone, just to get you up to speed? Then someone else can take over the reins, if they have the urge.
OK, so Chrissie, me, Con, Lil and Winterbottom the Third. We’re doing great. Chrissie is just about to give up teaching, maybe for good, we haven’t decided yet. I’m at Raiders, so having set days can be problematic with games being played here there and everywhere, and Chrissie would love to be there for the children full time as long as they need her.
Mum and Dad are off on their second round the world trip – they’re doing a cruise this time, trying to fit in lots of the things they didn’t see last time. Dad has got a taste for travelling. He even goes hiking so he can see things you can’t drive to or see out of your hotel window. Sometimes, Mum has to tell him to slow down. Way to go, Dad.
Iz and Ben are still happily living in sin (oh the shame …) up in Manchester. Still no nieces or nephews, even though we’ve all had a go at persuading them, but Iz remains steadfast. I can’t understand it. She loves kids, loves Con and Lil, but she says she doesn’t want any of her own. We reckon she’ll change her mind, when it starts getting a bit more urgent, but she says no. Ben is non-committal, and I think if he were to stick his oar in, Iz might do a U-turn, but I know he won’t try to influence her. Mum is nearly beside herself, sometimes it’s all she talks about, until we forcibly change the subject. Mum loves being Nana to our two-nearly-three, but apparently your daughter’s children are different. Ah well, I’ll have to wait to find out if that’s true.
Gran is still remarkable. She’s ninety now, and although she needs more help than she used to (or at least than she used to admit) she’s still living in her own home. She had a fall a year or so ago, and we thought she’d broken her hip, but she’d just badly bruised it. It shook her up, and she let us help her a bit more, filling her freezer up with meals, doing her washing, all the things that you just don’t have to do if someone else is willing to do it for you. After a bit of persuading, she agreed that it might be nice to have a rest from housework after all these years. She’s still got all her marbles, though, and it’s great to go and chat to her over a cup of tea (which she refuses to let anyone else make) and a slice of Mum’s cake. The kids love her, mainly because she’s always got chocolate around somewhere.
Dec and Amy are still in the same house they’ve always lived in. Various of their children come and go, and I don’t think it’s been just the two of them – well, ever I guess, as they had Charlie when they first moved there. Dec and Tom are managing the business between them, with Amy and Lau giving some admin support, and it looks like Dec and Matty built something good there.
Charlie is still in search of the perfect job. She changes her mind about what that might be at least four times a week. At the moment she’s into alternative therapies, and has filled her flat with candles, crystals and disgusting smelling incense, but she’s previously been certain she was meant to be an HGV driver, a veterinary nurse, an actor, a chocolatier, a beauty therapist and a radio DJ. Her enthusiasm waned every time, once she realised she was going to have to work pretty hard to achieve her latest dream. But let’s be generous and say she still hasn’t found the one thing that makes it worth her while. Charlie has a lot of energy and a lot to give to the career that eventually keeps her attention. Until then, she seems destined to try a bit of everything. Her romances follow the same pattern, with blokes catching her eye but not able to hold her attention for more than a couple of months. One day she’s going to fall hard for some lucky (or barking mad) man, but she hasn’t found him yet.
Tom is working hard, more than filling Matty’s shoes at Linebreak. He’s about to move out of home, and in with his lovely girlfriend Maria. They’ve bought a small flat, and Maria is already there, making it homely, with their puppy, Yips. Tom has always been the planner of the Summers family, and I have a sneaky feeling that Maria and Yips might be on a spreadsheet somewhere.
Gracie beat me to qualifying as a Physio by a few years, and is at the moment working in New Zealand on a temporary visa. We haven’t seen her for nearly a year, apart from Skyping, but she’s due home in a few weeks, and we’re going to have a huge welcome home party. We’re going to have to do it without Mum, who is on a ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, but she’s left instructions for the best way to do things, which I think we’re going to ignore. Gracie is going to stay with Dec and Amy until she finds her feet, but I doubt she’ll stick around here for long. Having talked to her, she’s realised that the whole world needs Physios, and she’s using it as her passport to travel.
Rosa is a successful jewellery designer. She didn’t go to Uni, having already decided what she wanted to do while she was at school, and taking courses from home while selling her jewellery. She is very talented, makes lovely stuff, and sells it on the internet and in her tiny shop in the city centre. Rosa hasn’t left home yet, and has converted the attic (which used to be Charlie’s room) into a studio. She has just taken on an apprentice, so she doesn’t have to spend every waking hour bent over a table going blind making masterpieces out of gold and silver. She hasn’t had time for romance, so she tells me – although Charlie, who takes after Mum in knowing everything about everyone before they even know it themselves, confidently assures me that Rosa will marry Darrin, who is her best friend from school, who adores her. Well I suppose I can vouch for the best friend approach.
Lau is amazing. She helps out at Linebreak, she volunteers at the local Age Concern day centre, she spends some time every day with Gran, making sure she’s OK without making Gran feel rubbish about not being able to do as much, she’s always popping by here and bringing pens for the kids, or some chocolate chip cookies she’s made, or just coming for a sing with Lily (who fancies herself something of a pop star). I know Lau thought about going back to work after Matty died, but I don’t know where she’d fit it in, amongst her Linebreak work, her volunteering and her Pilates. Plus, she’s got a wedding to plan across two continents.
Which brings me on to Ella. And Basty. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between England and Argentina before it finally occurred to the two of them that they would be better off both staying in one country. But which were they going to choose?
Ella didn’t have a job as such, being used to finding temp work as and when, but her family was here. Basty had his rugby in Buenos Aires, and although theoretically you can play rugby anywhere, he stood a better chance of playing for Argentina if he was living in Argentina. So for a while they were in England in the off-season, Argentina in the rugby season. This suited Ella, who loves mixing things up, hates being tied to one place. But then Basty was offered a great contract with TomCats, who are based in London, and their twice yearly globe-trotting seems to be at a temporary end.
Basty proposed the day he found out, and Ella said yes immediately, and we all wondered what they’d been waiting for. So now they’re looking for somewhere to live in London, and Lau and Lis are joining forces to outdo Beth in the wedding planner stakes, because they’re going to get married twice – once in Devon and once in Buenos Aires, to satisfy both sets of friends and family. Although having said that, most of us are going out to Argentina for the second wedding too, because we’re all sadly obsessed.
Josh has left Raiders. It feels wrong (just kidding Joshy – you made the right decision). He plays for Warriors, who are also based in London, and broke the mould of Scott men staying with Raiders until they were too old and toothless to do anything else. He’s been playing out of his skin this season, and has been called up to the England squad for the Autumn Internationals. He might play against Basty, at both league and international level. Josh is loving life in London; he’s really enjoying the team he’s playing for, they have a great ethos, and have introduced him to the London clubbing scene, which he was never particularly into down here. He’s been out with actresses, TV hosts and pop stars, and is currently playing the field. Sometimes, just for a laugh, I tell him he ought to think about what he does when he finishes rugby, but he just gives me a look, one I think he learned from Matty, and laughs.
Ayesh and Sam have two kids, Bonnie and Georgia. They live not far from me and Chrissie, and we see each other all the time. Our children all get on really well, and Chrissie and Ayesh are best mates. We’ve even been on holiday together – just to Centre Parcs. Never would have imagined that happening ten years ago or so.
Baggo – well, Baggo and Jen got divorced, but it was all fairly civilised, and he’s still in London, still sees Daisy, still sees Jen actually. I think it was just one of those ‘can’t live with you, can’t live without you’ things, and they’ll always be in each other’s lives, I think, in one way or another. He comes down to stay every so often, usually sleeping on the couch, usually disappearing for a night in the middle of his stay then turning up looking rough half way through the morning. The kids love him, because he has a mental age of a three year old anyway, and spends half his time here putting chips up his nose or farting loudly. But when the kids have gone to bed, and Chrissie has made herself scarce, we still have really good chats, about everything. He’s my best mate, always will be.
So that’s it, really. This has been the life of Calum James Scott so far. I wanted to see if I could do it, because Matty showed the way, and I still miss him, and writing about him brought him closer for a while, although I missed being able to ask him about spelling and grammar. I’ve read Lau’s and Dec’s stories, and whether this has added or taken anything away from them is for you to decide.
The next chapter is down to you …
And there we have it. Start to finish, everything everybody wrote. I have so loved putting this together, it’s been a real eye-opener seeing some mythical family events, like ‘that Christmas’, through the eyes of three different people, but extremely frustrating that the same three people chose to stay silent on some equally significant Scott family escapades. I guess we all see different things as important.
I feel like I know everyone so much better, especially the ‘authors’. I’ve enjoyed correcting my big brother’s appalling spelling and grammar, even though he wanted it all left in for ‘authenticity’; Lau made me blush with her no holds barred explicitness; Dec made me cry because I never knew him when he was that fucked up teenager, and it explained a lot; Julia – well do you know, I looked her up, managed to find her, and told her what she’d started when she sent her story to Matty. She didn’t want to read all this, but she’s lovely, still in Norfolk, never married – I have a kind of feeling that she loved Matty after all.
It’s been great reading different versions of people I know too – Baggo, Gran, Amy, Mum and Dad, Andrew, even me – when you see people through someone else’s eyes, it gives you a different perspective, helps you understand them.
And Matty. I know and understand Matty so much better. I always loved him, he was a huge presence all my life, but I don’t think I ever truly understood him until I read both what he had to say, and what Lau, Cal, Dec and Julia had to say about him. I wish I could have talked to him about it, but even if I’d been able to try he would have deflected it away from the serious by arsing about.
It’s time to put this away now. Life goes on, and sometimes it makes a story, but more often than not it just makes life. Make sure you appreciate it.