All By Myself Songs of Praise


All By Myself

Ann Widdecombe meets others who live a single life, including Roy Castle's widow, Fiona, and Benedictine monk Father Christopher Jamison.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Songs Of Praise -

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for one week only, with me, Ann Widdecombe.

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Presenting Songs Of Praise has been a bit of a dream come true for me

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and I'm going to be looking at something for which I'm famous.

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No, not as a Conservative politician

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and certainly not for my skills on the dance floor,

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but as one of Britain's well-known spinsters,

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I'm going to be exploring being single.

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On Songs Of Praise today - choosing a life of celibacy,

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life as a single parent,

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and being suddenly single after over 30 years of marriage.

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Fiona Castle talks about life after Roy.

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Plus music from Kristyna Myles and some of my favourite hymns.

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MUSIC: "Wedding March" by Mendelssohn

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When I was young, I assumed I'd marry. It was simply the norm.

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When I was a student at Oxford, I was in love and, again,

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I assumed I'd marry.

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But it just didn't happen.

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So I've never walked up a church aisle in a long white dress.

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For me, being single was a matter of chance and choice.

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Chance, because Mr Right didn't happen to come along,

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choice, because it was never a priority to go out looking for him.

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Some people are single because they want to be,

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but, for others, they just haven't found somebody,

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or they've become suddenly single as a result of life's upheavals -

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divorce, perhaps, or bereavement.

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Our first hymn reminds us

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that God is faithful through all the circumstances of our lives.

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# Great is thy faithfulness... #

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Father Christopher Jamison has been described as TV's favourite monk.

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He appeared in the BBC Two series The Monastery

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and is now the director of the National Office for Vocation.

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Literally, a vocation is a calling and the person doing the calling,

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regarding a Christian vocation, is God, so it's what God calls us to.

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The church offers four basic states of life as four basic vocations -

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the vocation to be a priest,

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the vocation to be a monk or a religious sister,

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the vocation to be married and the vocation to be a single layperson.

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You, and many like you, decided from the outset

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you were going to be single,

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you were going to consecrate your lives to God,

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you were going to forswear any relationship

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or a family or grandchildren.

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-Are you glad you did that?

-Yes, I'm absolutely delighted I did that.

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When I was 21, when I made that decision,

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my friends thought this was pretty strange and peculiar

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and they went off to get married and were full of the joys of married bliss.

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I felt called to be a monk,

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but I felt very frightened at the idea of being celibate.

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But with the support of other people

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and by the grace of God I persevered in responding to that call,

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and it's that sense of fulfilling something very special in your life

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which sustains you through moments

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that might be difficult to remain faithful.

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It doesn't supply the intimacy

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but if you are in a monastery or in a convent,

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you are surrounded by other people all the time,

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you've always got somebody to talk to, to confide in.

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The single layperson doesn't have that.

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I'm very happy in that state

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but most people think I'm quite mad. Am I?

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Well, of course, whether you're mad or not, Ann, is a separate question!

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But whether you're mad because you live on your own,

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I think the answer is no.

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Because the Christian tradition has always valued...

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Going way back to the early church you see, actually,

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pictures of the great martyrs of the church

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and then the virgins of the church

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and there was this great valuing of those who could live the single life.

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Of course, the most famous example of singleness was Christ himself.

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-Is that significant?

-Yes, it's very significant.

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We know that in our Lord's day, most people got married.

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We also know that there was a significant but small number of single people

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who saw their singleness as a very special way

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of being dedicated to God and to the coming of the kingdom.

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As a single woman, I don't think my life is in any way incomplete,

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but some people assume I can't possibly be contented,

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that I must be missing out on something, and that's nothing new.

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William Shakespeare, in both The Taming Of The Shrew

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and in Much Ado About Nothing, referred to the old saying,

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that women who died unmarried were destined to lead the apes into hell.

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And still spinsters are portrayed as lonely and bitter,

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like Miss Havisham,

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or simply as just desperate for a man, like Bridget Jones.

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Like Bridget, Julie Dunlop was keen to meet Mr Right,

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but it just hasn't happened.

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I turned 40 this summer

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and I guess if you had asked me when I was growing up,

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even when I was 25, 30, even 35,

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how I would have felt if I was single at 40,

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I would probably say the prospect would have filled me with dread.

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I was brought up in a Christian home,

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and my dad is a retired Baptist minister.

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Being in the Christian world,

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I think there is more pressure to get married

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and to have a family

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but it hasn't worked out that way.

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Throughout my 20s and even 30s, I did date a lot of non-Christian men

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and what became very clear for me was that it was important for me

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to meet somebody that I can not only share my faith with

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but somebody who I can grow in faith with.

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It is difficult meeting Christian men.

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My dad talks about fishing in the right pools,

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and, as you get older, those pools tend to be smaller anyway, and also,

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you know, if looking for a Christian, that pool then becomes even smaller.

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'I go to a really amazing church

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'that is very inclusive.

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'Having said that, some of the churches I've been involved with

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'in the past have focused very much on the family

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'and if you are not married with children,

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'it was very difficult to feel part of the church.

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'For me, I can honestly say that I have found contentment

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'being on my own.'

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I think principally because I have realised

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the importance of the quality of relationships

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we have in our lives, as opposed to being in A relationship.

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By relationships I mean our relationship with God,

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our relationship with our families, with our friends.

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You know, I really would like to meet the right person.

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Having said that, if it is God's will for me

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to be on my own for ever, I'm OK being single.

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# Now, there have been times

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# I've felt down

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# I didn't think anything

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# Would turn me around

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# But I know

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# That your healing hand

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# Can guide me back from

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# The path from which I have strayed

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# Now, I may gain power

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# Or money on earth

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# But if I don't have you, Lord

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# What is it worth?

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# What is it worth?

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# See, I may climb

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# My way to the top

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# But if I don't come up the ladder with you

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# I will surely drop

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# Your love, it takes away all pain, all fear

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# Gives me hope

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# Your love, it gives me strength to fight the fiercest of storms

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# Your love, I can do anything in my life

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# With you by my side

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# With your love, your love

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# And I see

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# A change in me

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# How I love, how I love you

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# Tenderly

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# I know why I've got a new-found strength in me

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# Because of your love, your love

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# Your love, it takes away all pain, all fear, gives me hope

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# Your love, it gives me strength to fight the fiercest of storms

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# Your love, I can do anything in my life

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# With you by my side

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# Because of your love, your love. #

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In 1995, David McCabe was happily married

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and expecting his first child.

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He never imagined he would become a single father.

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I met my wife when I was 21 years old.

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I was in the Navy and met her on a night out and I thought,

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"Yeah, this is it."

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So I got married and nine years later we were expecting our first baby.

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-So there you were, all excited...

-Mmm.

-..rushing off to hospital...

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-Yeah.

-What happened?

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Everything was going OK for a while but then all of a sudden, Ann,

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things went seriously, seriously wrong.

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Annalise was stillborn.

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They resuscitated her,

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and the doctor had said to me,

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"We don't think she's going to survive more than a couple of hours."

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Annalise did survive but she was left with cerebral palsy

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and Irene, David's wife, found the situation unbearable.

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The pressures of that

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took its toll on the marriage

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and, as sad as it is, she...

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..left the house and...

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-..I was left holding...

-And left you?

-Yeah.

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And I was left holding the child.

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The couple divorced

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but Irene continued to help David with Annalise,

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who needed round-the-clock care.

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Then tragedy struck again when Annalise was seven.

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Irene was diagnosed with cancer and she later died.

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I felt I was completely on my own. I was isolated.

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So while you were in these dreadful circumstances,

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all on your own, how important was faith?

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At the time, Ann, I didn't have a faith.

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But it was when I went on a holiday with several other families

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in similar circumstances to myself, I met two families who were Christian.

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They had a relationship with Jesus.

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Then I realised, Ann,

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that Jesus wanted to have a relationship with me

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at a time when I felt like nobody would ever want to have a relationship with me.

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'Finding faith released me from the feelings of being in a prison

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'and I felt more like it was a privilege to be Annalise's father.'

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Is this what you want?

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It was about four years

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after we had started going to the church

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that Donna walked in

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and I just went, "Wow."

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I'm afraid to say, Ann, it took me about a year before I asked her out

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and a couple of months after we'd started dating,

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I asked her to marry me.

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And she said yes.

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# Love divine... #

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This arboreal delicacy was devoured in a record-breaking 89 hours.

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You haven't got a chocolate log, have you?

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Roy Castle was the presenter

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of the BBC children's programme Record Breakers for over 20 years

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and generations of young people grew up watching him.

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22-year-old Fiona Dickson saw him on TV

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and knew she just had to meet him.

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It was through Eric Morecambe. I was at their home,

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Joan, Eric's wife, and him,

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and Roy happened to come on the television

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and I just said to Eric, "Oh, if you ever do a show with Roy Castle,

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"can I come along? Cos I'd love to meet him."

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I was in love with him at that point!

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So eventually Eric did ring me

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and said he was doing television with Roy, would I like to go along?

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Just before the show started, Eric introduced me

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and I thought it was going to be the best moment of my life

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and it turned out to be the worst cos he just said, "Roy, this is Fiona, she's in love with you."

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It was so embarrassing.

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And then you were married for 31 years, you had a family in that time.

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We had four children, yes.

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It was a very happy marriage

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until at one time I got really low in my spirit,

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my self-esteem was rock bottom,

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and it was then that I cried out to God and just said,

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"Help, I can't go on like this any longer."

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I was, really, almost suicidal.

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And that day I invited Jesus into my life

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and everything totally was transformed from that moment onwards.

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In 1992, aged just 59,

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Roy found out he had terminal lung cancer.

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Roy was very matter-of-fact when he came home and told me about it,

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but I just felt as if I'd turned to stone, I couldn't move,

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and I started to pray and I just said, "God, what are you doing?"

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And it was almost as if I heard an audible voice at that moment,

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saying, "Stand back and see what I'm going to do through this."

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And suddenly I realised that God hadn't abandoned us,

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he still loved us and he was just going to see us through.

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# Lead, kindly light... #

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When TV presenter Roy Castle died in 1994, aged just 62,

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his wife Fiona found herself single

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after over 30 years of happy marriage.

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Two days after Roy died I had to do an interview for GMTV

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and I'd never done anything like that in my life.

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And I panicked and I thought, "Oh, no,

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"I stammer and I can't get my words out and I'll make a mess of it."

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And so I started to pray, "God, you can't be expecting me to do this."

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And again it was like God spoke into my heart and just said,

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"Rise to the challenge."

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And it was a defining moment in my life,

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and I realised that I needed to rise to all the challenges,

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and it keeps me out of my comfort zone.

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I was absolutely hopeless at doing anything DIY,

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couldn't even knock a nail in a wall,

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and I was hopeless at paying any of the bills

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and those sort of things,

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and suddenly I was having to do all of that,

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as well as cope with a very busy life that that I had at that time.

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And also I found that, you know,

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when I'd had an interesting day, I'd come home and want to share it -

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there's nobody there to share it with.

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So those are the things you have to learn to deal with

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once you're single again.

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Not only must you have felt so alone when Roy died,

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but suddenly everything changes.

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What do you do now?

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I'm still as busy as I ever was.

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But if I do have time to relax, I love to run.

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To just get out in the fresh air and I can pray

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and look at the sunshine or the showers.

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Do you believe you're going to see Roy again?

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That's an interesting question, Ann, because I believe in heaven,

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I believe in eternal life.

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The Bible does say we'll have new bodies

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so whether we'll recognise each other or not, I don't know.

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But I think we'll be so taken up with Jesus and Heaven

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that we won't have to worry about things like that.

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Are you expecting to stay single?

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Yes.

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I've had a few opportunities not to,

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but it just doesn't interest me at all.

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I'm totally content as I am right now.

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One of the things that I learnt through Roy was, he said,

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"We must never grumble. We've had a wonderful marriage, we've had a wonderful life together,

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"we've got nothing to complain about.

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"Let's be grateful for all we've had."

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And I followed that on after I was widowed

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and realised I had so much to be grateful for.

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And whenever I've looked, "Oh, poor old me,"

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I've turned it round to, "But thank you, Lord,

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"I've had this, this and this. I've had such a wonderful life."

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Father, we thank you that even in those times

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when we find ourselves alone, we are not alone if we know you.

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Thank you for supporting us through break-ups and bereavements

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and leading us when we don't know in which direction our lives are going.

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And, Father, show us how to fill our lives,

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and those of others, with friendship and love.

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Amen.

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There's no doubt that missing someone can be difficult,

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whether it's the soulmate you've never found,

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the spouse who's passed away

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or the partner with whom things just didn't work out.

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Our final hymn was written by a son wanting to comfort the mother

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who was missing him.

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Joseph Scriven was in Canada

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when he sent these words to his mother in Ireland.

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What A Friend We Have In Jesus.

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Next week, on Remembrance Sunday, Eamonn is in Enniskillen

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where an IRA bomb exploded at the town's cenotaph 25 years ago.

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Local churches and choirs come together

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at St Macartin's Cathedral to sing hymns

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and remember those killed or injured in all conflicts, past and present.

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Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Ann Widdecombe meets others who live a single life, including Roy Castle's widow, Fiona, and Benedictine monk Father Christopher Jamison. Ann also introduces some favourite hymns and singer Kristyna Myles.


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