Janis Hetherington – Part 3: "The death"

Me and Judy

Me and Judy

Janis Hetherington was the first UK woman in an openly same-sex couple to be artificially inseminated… In this, the third part of her exclusive autobiographical series for Biscuit, Janis recalls the death of her lover, Judy.

That warm early September morning in 1972 was supposed to be such an ideal and happy day.

 I woke in Judy’s arms, so excited that my breasts had finally gone back to their previous erogenous past having finally recovered from expressing the milk that should have been feeding our  nine-month-old child. As was not unusual for working mothers (both of us) in those days, bottle feeding was a necessity rather than a luxury.

 It was a wonderful start to a busy Sunday, playing in a charity ladies’ football match and entertaining the many friends we’d invited to our Oxfordshire cottage – and hoping they’d give generously after accepting our lavish hospitality. Judy had hated my painful grimace when she fondled the bosoms that had always perked up under her expert embrace… Now it seemed we were back to normal and we took advantage of that perk before our son’s cries broke the erotic moments.

Normal? My life only had a few short hours of ‘normality’ left and yet there were no indicators, no ominous dark clouds or omens. Just a slight hangover from the wine our guests had flooded us with the previous night.

 Lisa (Judy’s seven-year-old daughter) was just stirring when Nick’s whimpering’s woke the slumbering household.

 A huge breakfast for our four friends turned into an orgy of cooking the buffet for the twenty we were expecting to cater for. We had a reputation to keep up and with the first tub of the season’s oysters on their way from London and hams and well-hung beef from Oxford market already marinating, the day was full of promise. It indeed had every indication of being a huge success. The Match itself was about as hilarious as ladies’ footy matches in those days got. Loads of naughty fouls and pulling of hair not to mention the fucking language that would have disgraced an army barracks. There were indeed several ex-army gals in the far superior opposing team!

 Just before the final whistle at 4.30 pm Judy was supposed to take a penalty kick but complained she was feeling giddy… then whacked it in to score a much needed goal. She was triumphant if slightly out of breath, lifted little Nick out of his pram (his nanny had agreed to extra weekend duties) and hugged his chubby body before he was trundled back home to hopefully sleep peacefully.

 Now for an evening of decadent fun. The tables were groaning with delicious goodies and there was certainly enough booze to refloat the Titanic. It was just after 5pm and we’d only just changed from our hotpants playing gear (we were in the rag trade so had supplied togs even if some had to stretch over 42” arses) when Judy grabbed me to say she had to lie down for a half an hour .

 I was hardly chuffed to say the least. “Shit!” (I was furious I was being left to cope even if there were plenty of helpers on hand) was my unspoken feeling but she did look terribly white and shaky.

Lisa was flitting about showing off the marzipan Petits Fours she’d spent the morning making when I grabbed her to take Mummy up a Campari and lemonade. I thought it desecration not to have it with soda but then Judy had come from a different gourmet background to me and was more into chips with everything!

Minutes later Lisa was back down: “Mummy’s making funny noises!”

My unworried response: “Well you know she snores.. She’s just having a kip.”

 “She’s on the floor not on the bed.” Lisa seemed to think it funny but immediately alarm bells rang and I managed to get hold of a guest to take Lisa for a walk before I rushed upstairs.

Me on that fateful day

Me on that fateful day

Seeing Judy beside the bed and the bedside cabinet and indeed terrible noises coming from her throat I realised she was unconscious. On autopilot I managed to get a couple of guys upstairs who I knew had medical training. They lifted her now silent body onto the bed and tried mouth to mouth. Her open but sightless eyes told me it was hopeless. For a second I glanced out the window and was sure I felt her pass through me. Life as I had known it with her flew through that same window in that brief second.

 Within an hour I had the first indication that what we had considered was our somewhat strange but safe family unit was in fact what many considered an abomination.

 The ambulance crew arrived just before the doctor, who was unknown to me. I was summoned to find Judy’s next of kin.

 “I am her next of kin… Is she dead?” I already knew the answer.

 “Are you her sister? Relative?” He was unemotionally brief.

 “I’m her lover. Can I see her?” His hitherto abrupt manner developed an unappealing frown.

 “I’m not sure you qualify to identify her. I have informed the police because of her age. Are you known to them?”

 I could hardly say known. They fucking well play poker at our house every week… We’re best mates, their wives earn pennies on the side flogging our dresses.

 “Yes, of course. If you call Dr. Gill he’ll confirm my status. I just want to see her”

 After numerous phone calls I was accepted as being in a position to identify her and I was surprised to see that she had been moved from the bed to the floor and covered with a sheet. I had seen death before but never with someone I had so loved. I knew this would be my last glimpse. I didn’t want the macabre indignity of seeing her again or knowing others were peering at her lifeless body in a mortuary coffin.

 I confirmed her name and kissed her cheek. I had expected her eyes to be open but they were shut and a strange hue around her mouth that not so many hours ago had suckled at my breast looked almost painted.

 Goodbye Jude.



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Janis Hetherington

Outrageously, rebelliously outspoken. Sexually incontinent. Avid supporter of lost causes: ever hopeful they will be transformed, ever fearful that once they are they will become the monsters that trampled them. Janis is the author of "Love Lies Bleeding: Memoirs of a Sexual Revolutionary".

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