The grief of losing my ex-husband has totally floored me

JENNI MURRAY: The grief of losing my ex-husband has totally floored me

  • Jenni Murray is going to the funeral of her ex-husband Brian Murray tomorrow
  • It has been more than 40 years since divorce, after being married for six years
  • UK-based columnist says she was deeply upset by Brian’s death at age only 74 

Tomorrow will be a very sad day for me. Sadder, than I ever imagined it would be, even though I had long known it might happen eventually. Two weeks ago I had a call from Caroline, the long term partner of Brian Murray, and mother of his three children.

Brian, who was only 74, had died. I was shocked and deeply upset at the news and surprised to find tears streaming down my face. Grieving the death of a former husband is strange. Particularly if you are happily remarried with a family of your own as I am.

There’s no ‘correct’ way to react. Some people may not give two hoots for past loves; others, like myself, are often surprised at the depth of feeling that exists — even decades after a marriage is over, even if, as Brian and I, you never had children together. The fact remains that you once loved this person and they were an important part of your life. And now they no longer will be.

Jenni Murray (pictured) said the news that her ex-husband Brian Murray died at only 74, left her shocked and deeply upset

It’s 50 years since I married my handsome Robert Redford look-alike, and more than 40 since our divorce, but we remained friends. He was my first love, the first man with whom I set up house and thought I would be with for the rest of my life.

It was not to be, but those years we spent together were full of excitement, energy and ambition. We helped each other grow up and get on and, even though we proved to be incompatible in the long run, I don’t think we ever stopped caring deeply for each other.

Brian and I had met at university. He was studying architecture and was required to spend a year in practice. I, a bit behind him in age, decided to spend a year out between my second and third years. We travelled to Israel for his benefit, where some wonderful architecture was being practised. Then we spent the rest of the year in Paris to improve my French.

In Paris we got engaged and planned our wedding. It was 1971, a time when ‘living in sin’, as we had been doing, was considered a disgrace, particularly by my mother. I was only 21 and returned to university as Mrs Jenni Murray rather than Miss Jenni Bailey.

Paris was great for me, but tough for Brian whose French was non-existent, apart from a perfectly pronounced ‘Un ballon rouge et un sandwich pate, s’il vous plait.’ He always got his glass of red wine and pate sandwich, but astonished the waiters when he couldn’t carry on any conversation. Then, I had a month’s course at the University of Montpellier. Brian came down to join me for the last couple of days. To my astonishment, out for a farewell dinner with fellow students, I caught him chatting animatedly with some of the French students perfectly. Amazing to go from virtually zero to fluent in only a month.

 Jenni (pictured) said things in her marriage to Brian began to fall apart after they bought their first house 

We graduated together and moved to Bristol which is where I got my start in broadcasting in BBC local radio.

It was when we bought our first house that things started to fall apart. It needed an awful lot of work. Brian was perfectly qualified to design the renovations, but things went very slowly. The crunch for me came when I was given the job of renovating the ornate cornices and ceiling roses.

Ever the perfectionist, Brian insisted I do it with a toothbrush and a bucket of warm water. Night after night, standing at the top of a ladder, while trying to build a career as a broadcast journalist was just too much.

I walked away to a tiny flat and, after six years of marriage, we agreed to a very civilised DIY divorce.

I’ve never understood how people who’ve loved each other and grown together can remain angry and bitter. We became great friends. When my second husband and I needed a new property surveyed, it was Brian who did the job. We would socialise with each other, I got to know Caroline and met Brian’s children as he met mine. And now we all feel grief at his loss.

Tomorrow I shall go to the funeral. Caroline invited me. There should be so many old friends and relatives there to mourn him, but we are three days short of the relaxing of the 30 guests rule. It will be a small but heartfelt gathering. Brian Murray: RIP.

Am I the only one who hated The Pursuit Of Love?

Jenni admits she was left disappointed by the new BBC serial of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. Pictured: Lily James as Linda

I had so looked forward to the new Sunday night BBC serial of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love as an entertaining replacement for Line Of Duty — with no violence and no acronyms.

Despite all the disappointment some have expressed at the revelation of Ian Buckells as H, I loved LOD to the very end.

This time, I was the disappointed one. Andrew Scott’s demented dancing made me laugh, but everyone else seemed desperately over the top and just a bit hysterical, especially Dominic West who barked out every line.

But I quickly began to wonder if I’d become profoundly deaf. I couldn’t hear a single word uttered by Lily James and Emily Beecham, playing Linda and Fanny. I reached for the hearing aids. Still nothing.

Is it the fault of the sound recordists or have young actors never been taught to articulate and project?

  • I do wish senior police officers would stop trying to reassure us that being murdered is ‘thankfully incredibly rare’ as was said in the cases of Sarah Everard and PCSO Julia James. Twenty-one women have been killed since early March and WIs in East Kent are meeting in the afternoon rather than the evening because women are so frightened. It’s clearly not rare at all.
  • I read that listening to Dave Brubeck or Miles Davis would help you choose fresh fruit over doughnuts and leafy greens over pizzas. I tried it. Two chocolate digestives later, I decided it didn’t work.

The Queen really is a lifesaver

Jenni said it was lovely to see the Queen (pictured) smiling after she was pictured sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral 

So lovely to see the Queen smiling after that sad picture of her sitting alone at Prince Philip’s funeral. Like her, I did lifesaving with the Girl Guides and loved it. My mother, the Queen’s contemporary, was learning to swim when she volunteered to be the guinea pig for another girl to practise.

She was dropped, nearly drowned, but was saved by my gran.

My mother never went inside a swimming pool again.

Oui to the word police

How sensible of the French to have an Academie to enforce the rules on language. No woke playing about with masculine and feminine. Le and la are not sexist, it says, and amis or amies are traditional and correct, not to be expressed as ami.e.s. How I wish we had such a guardian of English. 

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