From the life of Jane Boyle
By Emerald Wild
Jane Boyle was born in East London, and has always felt a strong tie to the place. Her parents already had a son, and would go on to have three more daughters after her. By the age of nine, Jane was filling the maternal role of primary caregiver for her siblings. Their father worked away a lot, and this was particularly hard on their mother, who struggled to cope with five children all aged five and under. Her siblings all helped with the housework, but the majority of the cooking was left up to her. Jane claims, with a smile, that this is because she was the only one tall enough to reach the stove.
When Jane met Pete, she was going through a rough stage in her life. Her home life was turbulent due to her and her mother not getting on. They regularly argued, and it caused a real rift in the family. Another stress factor was her current boyfriend, who was not a suitable match for the sixteen-year-old girl. Jane was volunteering at St Mark’s Church, Beckton, in connection with the youth club that was based there. This gave her a sense of accomplishment and stability, and she was already more than capable of the culinary tasks being set for her.
It was clear that she fancied the young man before they started seeing each other. Pete was cute, tattooed, and around her age, so the two quickly become friends. Things were complicated slightly by one of Pete’s friends thinking it was him that she liked, and not Pete. This was obviously enough to urge Pete into action. While standing outside the church having a cigarette, Jane said goodbye to the boys for the day. In front of her youth worker Andrew, Pete circled back and kissed her goodbye, full on the mouth. Those who know Jane know how rarely she is lost for words, but it seems that this was one of those occasions.
They started courting, but Jane’s relationship with her mother did not improve, and eventually she had to move out of the family home. There was a scheme that was running at the time that helped young people move out of home if they were not welcome there. For Jane, one of the hardest things to cope with at this point was having a meeting with her mother and one of the scheme employees. The meeting was to establish what to do about her situation, but hearing her mother discuss how they did not get on and how she did not like living with Jane was very difficult. She was given a flat, and was living on her own in Stratford by the age of seventeen. This is where she was raised, so moving back gave her a real sense of familiarity and comfort.
When he was fresh out of school at sixteen, Pete had joined the armed forces. By the time Jane was living in her flat, he was stationed at a military base in Cambridgeshire. He would come down every week on the train to visit her, and would always do her shopping, as well. The long distance made things difficult for the two, especially since they were now engaged.
Jane is a woman who knows what she wants; she always has been. She had been talking for ages about wanting a necklace, and had finally worn Pete down. They went into town together to a jeweller’s, where she started looking to find the one she wanted. After a while, she realised that he was not looking with her, and was over by the engagement rings. She went over and asked him who was getting married. Finally, the penny dropped, and she sulked and said she didn’t want one at all, she just wanted a necklace. After a bit more of a tantrum, she said she didn’t care, and pointed at a random ring, not thinking that he would actually buy it. He called her bluff, bought it, and the two became engaged. Jane knew that Pete was the only man in the world who knew how to handle her when she was being like that.
When Pete was not with her, he would phone. She would wait down in the foyer of the building she lived in for him to call. Their conversations would normally go something like this…
Pete: Can we please just get married soon?
Jane: I’m not ready to get married! I don’t want to move out of the flat and have babies yet.
Pete: Oh pleeeeeeeease?
At that time, the army discouraged young men from having girlfriends because of the potential distraction from duty. Pete told Jane that regardless of this there was no way he was ending it with her. She found this very endearing, and it made her feel like he was the first person to ever see her for who she was. Not as a burden. Being part of a large family can sometimes feel like you get lost in it, but Pete just saw her as her.
After some months of this long-distance, Pete had a few weeks where he was finding things very tough. He would always try to make light of it, but Jane could tell that he was having a bad time on the base. One day when they were talking on the phone, he told her about how much better he would feel if she was there for him to come home to, just to be able to see her and hold her. When he asked that time if they could get married anytime soon, she said yes. Her mother planned her wedding because their relationship had improved vastly since Jane moved out, and they had a small registry office union because Pete could not get any time off work. Jane’s oldest younger sister was her matron of honour, and she had two of her cousins as bridesmaids.
A few weeks after this, she moved to Cambridgeshire to live with Pete. She loved how beautiful the kitchen was at the house they lived in on base, but was only allowed to take a few things with her from the flat when she moved (she says that she still has the saucepan somewhere because she is a self-confessed “sentimental old fart”). There was a clique of army wives at the base, but Jane was never part of it. She was only nineteen when she married, and had no interest in joining the knitting club they were running.
In the September of 1997, after the two had been married for only six months, Pete was posted to the Falkland Islands. He bought Jane a puppy in case she got lonely; a Jack Russell called Knasher. This ties in with the Dennis the Menace tattoo she made him get when they were younger.
While Pete was away in the Falkland Islands, his grandfather passed away. The two men were very close, so Pete’s mother did not think it would be a good idea to tell him. She also did not allow Jane to inform him. This meant that by the time Pete returned to England, his grandfather’s funeral had already been held and he had missed his opportunity to say goodbye. This was a really difficult piece of information for Jane to keep from him, especially because they were writing to each other regularly. Jane still has all of their letters, but doesn’t read them.
Upon his return to England, Jane bought Pete a Staffordshire bull terrier that the pair named Leah. This turned out to be a fortunate choice. A few weeks after he had come back from the Falkland Islands, life changed permanently for the couple. Pete is a man who likes things organised; he enjoys structure. Jane does not, and so, when she was a few days late for her period, she thought nothing of it. Pete was more realistic about the situation, apparently telling her she was pregnant before she had even checked the calendar.
One day when Pete was at work, Jane put on some chips to heat up. In a fit of what she refers to as “pregnant brain”, she left them in the oven for too long, and by the time she returned to the kitchen the smoke was overpowering. She fell to the floor, unable to breathe or move from the kitchen, but luckily Leah was there. The dog proceeded to pull her across the kitchen floor and into the living room, saving her life, and the life of the couple’s first son, in the process.
Danny was not an easy birth for Jane. She had to have an emergency C-section (with her mother in the operating theatre with her, claiming that her insides looked better than her outsides), and the baby came out a dark blue colour. Due to the huge amount of anaesthetic that was used during the procedure, Jane has not fully recovered feeling in her stomach, and claims that there are still areas that she would not be able to tell if they were being touched.
A few weeks after the birth, she felt something wet on her legs, but assumed this was a normal side effect of the anaesthetic used for the operation. Continuing on with her day as normal, she only realised something was wrong when she went to the toilet and discovered her entire lower torso and legs were covered in blood. Her stitches had opened, and parts of her that she knew shouldn’t see the light of day were hanging out of the wound. She tried to remain calm, and gently poked whatever section of organ it was back into the cut.
She then dressed the opening with some gauze that the hospital had given her, and stuck it all together with sanitary pads. She picked the sleeping Danny up, and walked to the doctors on base. This journey should have taken five to ten minutes, but instead took her over an hour. When asked how she managed it, she simply replied “I’m a Cockney, what can I say?” Danny stayed asleep throughout the whole ordeal. A while after this, Pete bought himself out of the army, and the family moved back to London. They then had another son, Donnie.
Pete has always been very protective of Jane, and it is obvious that she loves him for this. He’s never liked her smoking, even though she picked up the habit before the two met (she has recently given up completely, and chews a lot of gum). Upon moving back to London, he would not allow her and the boys to move into the house they had bought until he had cleaned and whitewashed the whole place from top to bottom. It took him three days to do.
Back in London, Pete found employment as a PSCO. This was a position he maintained for around five years before becoming a postman, a traffic warden, and finally a bus driver. His previous job in the army means that he has a full driving license, and is legally permitted to drive any type of vehicle. Jane has been working at a café in East London, and knows that she could not have asked for a better man to spend her life with. Every single day Pete tells her he loves her, and that she is his beautiful angel. He is covered in tattoos now, and has their right-handed son’s name tattooed on his right arm, and their left-handed son’s name tattooed on his left arm. Jane will not let him get her name tattooed; she feels that the wedding ring he wears is proof enough of her existence, although he still keeps asking.
Being somewhat of a sceptical romantic (I think it comes with being a writer), I wanted to know what advice Jane would give on the topic of marriage. She smiles at me when I ask her how she knew that Pete would be the man she would marry. She said that she loves everything about him, that he was her first everything, that she had never wanted anyone like she wanted him. She told me that the key to a lasting marriage is to not expect too much from the other person. To be prepared to grow together. The beginning of your relationship should not feel like a chore, it should be easy, effortless even. She told me that you don’t have to have anything in common to be in love. The most important thing of all is to have consideration. To understand that it is not just about you anymore.
I am a firm believer that there are some things in our lives that are pre-destined, that certain events have to occur in order for us to become the people that we have to be. Jane Boyle is positive that meeting the man who became her husband was one of her pre-determined, set-in-stone happenings. The pair celebrated their eighteenth wedding anniversary in April 2015, and their sons are turning fifteen and seventeen this year.