We are presenting the new coda to this book with the kind permission of the author.]
We are presenting the new coda to this book with the kind permission of the author.]
This chapter replaces the one printed in the first edition. When I originally wrote 'Foundation Stone' and included, in the chapter then entitled CODA, a plea to find the adopted son of Brian Jones and my first wife, Valerie, I thought it was a long shot. After all, the book only appeals to a limited number of people and the chances of an actual reader turning out to be, or have knowledge of, the long-lost adopted son are remote. They say that truth is stranger than fiction, the reality of events being stranger than the expectations of them also seems to be true.
On Tuesday 7th December 2004 I received a letter from a lady called Isabel. The letter was addressed to me at one of my companies and marked 'Private and Confidential'. In itself this alerted me to something unusual as the writer clearly knew little of me or my business. It came from a town on the south coast where a friend of mine lived and for a fleeting moment I thought he was messing around. My suspicions having been aroused I opened the letter with some trepidation and much curiosity. However, because the company Isabel had used in the address was not associated in any way with 'Foundation Stone' I wasn't even remotely prepared for the contents. The gist of the letter was that she was writing on behalf of a friend and neighbour, a male, who was trying to find "...a lady with whom he last had contact in Aylesbury during the spring of 1960".
The lady in question was Valerie, my first wife, and they had established that sadly, Valerie had died. However, the tracking of this information had led them to the fact that Valerie and I had married in Cheltenham. The first objective of Isabel's letter was to establish that they had found the correct Graham Peter Parry Ride and the second that I would not be upset by this letter and would consent to contacting her neighbour, Simon.
Having had two or three mistaken semi-contacts with people who thought they might be Brian's adopted son I was naturally very wary. However, the signs given to me looked promising as both time and place pointed in the right direction. I was asked to contact Isabel to discuss things further. Something in the tone of her letter made me feel she worked all day and that telephoning her before the evening would not be worthwhile. This both suited and frustrated me. I really needed time to think things over and prepare some pertinent questions and how I might respond to what Isabel might tell me. I discussed the letter with my wife, Anita, and dissected the contents, looking for flaws, but it all seemed to stack up. Could Brian and Val's son have surfaced after forty four years? Was it just a hoax? Could it just be someone who knew Val at that time? I must have read the letter slowly a dozen times that day but whatever interpretation I put on it everything pointed squarely and fairly towards Simon being the missing adopted son.
I telephoned my two sons, Stephen and Martin, potentially Simon's half-brothers and they took the news in the hope that it would turn out to be genuine. My sister arrived in the afternoon as we were going to a cousin's get-together in Liverpool later that evening. So, having brought her up to speed, by the end of the day the sense of anticipation among the immediate Ride clan was nearly at bursting point. By five twenty in the afternoon I could contain myself no longer and alone in the office (we work from home) I telephoned the number Isabel had given. After only a couple of rings a lady answered and confirmed that she was Isabel. I told her I had received her letter and that I was indeed the Graham Ride she was seeking. She was so excited that she was almost breathless but prompted by my request to explain more she delicately broached the issue that my first wife had had a child who had been adopted before we married. Of course it might have been a shock for me to discover this fact but I was soon able to set Isabel's mind at rest as, if you have already read 'Foundation Stone', you will know that I knew that Valerie had had Brian's child from the moment I first met her because Brian told me so at that meeting.
In response to further probing Isabel was able to tell me Simon's names on his original birth certificate and his date of birth. Since I only knew of two people, Valerie's mother and myself, who knew that information I was now convinced that Simon really was Brian and Val's son. I asked Isabel if they were aware that we had been looking for Barry David (as he was registered by Valerie) and that I had written a book in which information about Simon had been sought. They were not aware of this although I learned from Simon later that he was just beginning to suspect a link between the book and I from some references on the World-Wide Web.
"Do you know who Simon's father was?" I asked Isabel.
"No" was the reply "the birth certificate does not say." This was correct and it was not unusual in those days for the mother not to register the father's name, especially if he was not supporting her.
"Well I think Simon will get a shock when he finds out." I said. To the inevitable "Why?" I replied, "Because his father, although sadly no longer alive, became famous."
"Am I allowed to know who he was?" came the next inevitable question.
"Yes," I replied "he was Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones." As you can imagine the sense of surprise which travelled back up the telephone wires to me was almost tangible. Isabel thought Simon would be amazed. As I had to go to Liverpool soon we discussed my contacting Simon the next evening and agreed that it would be I who told him who his father was, although Isabel would prime him that his father was no longer alive and was well-known. Isabel told me something of Simon's life and family but I was barely able to take it all in and only the salient points that he had a wife and two children, was a happy individual and worked as an independent IT consultant, seemed to sink in.
At that time Simon was working away from home so it was decided that Isabel would go and see Simon's wife and tell her something of what had transpired so that she could relay all this to Simon when he made his customary nightly call. Finally she would tell Simon to expect a call from me at 7pm the following evening. Having quickly caught my breath I relayed around the family the serendipitous fact that Simon had found us when we had been looking for him! All were amazed and excited by the news and looked forward to hearing more after I had spoken to Simon for the first time. Trying to concentrate on work during the Wednesday was no easy matter. Only the fact that there was plenty to do kept me from wearing out the carpet. I could hardly wait for seven o'clock to arrive but managed somehow to keep my patience to the end.
As you can imagine Simon's mobile phone was not allowed to ring too many times before it was answered. On the other end was my ex-step-son (if there is such a relationship), well-spoken and as it turned out with a good sense of humour. I mentioned to him that he appeared to have the right credentials as far as time and place were concerned and therefore seemed genuine. He said "If it helps at all, I have a zip in my stomach!"
"Aaaaah!" I said "That really seals it for me."
For I knew, and again I was convinced that only two of us did so, that baby Barry David had had an emergency stomach operation to save his life. The few doubts I had up to that point melted away and I was pleased to welcome Simon as Val and Brian's son. Then it was my turn to spring the surprise! He took the news that his father was Brian Jones with as much equanimity as one could expect at the dropping of such a bombshell. Simon remarked that he had always liked the Rolling Stones and could indeed remember when Brian died even though he was only nine years old at the time. I remember thinking that I looked like him later when I was a teenager, even though he had already died. We then swapped information about himself and about his mother. I think it is fair to say that Simon is a well-balanced individual, he has always known he was adopted even though when very young he clearly didn't know what this meant. His adoptive parents have always been totally supportive of Simon and given him many wonderful opportunities.
I asked Simon how long he had been searching for us and what prompted him to do so after all this time. He told me they had been looking for only eight weeks and that during that time they had had several letters returned 'address unknown'. I explained that Stephen, Martin and myself had all moved within the last eighteen months to five years which obviously had made Simon's search that bit harder. Simon said that the reason he had decided to look now for his mother was conditioned to a degree by a small health matter which made him wonder about his medical background. In addition he had also begun to feel that he would like to be able to tell his children more about his history. Only Simon's adoptive parents where consulted about this as it directly concerned them, they were able to assist with as much information as they could find or remember. What made the information gathering more difficult was that Simon had been adopted twice!
Simon was brought up in the Evesham area and even went to school in Cheltenham as Brian for a time. After a period in retail management, again in Cheltenham Spa, Simon decided that this was not the career for him and he headed up to Yorkshire to study Information Technology and business studies. Following a successful completion of these Simon began work for a large organisation in Manchester. It was here that he met his future wife, and they married in 1987 after a move to the south coast where they settled down and remain to this day. Children were born in 1993 and 1997 and just to make the nineties a really busy and hectic time for Simon and his wife, Simon decided to go freelance as a business systems analyst. This has been a very successful move and he very much enjoys the independence and flexibility this brings even though it does demand a fair degree of working away from home at times.
Outside of his regular work Simon is fanatical about Morgan sports cars, interested in rock-climbing and has a part-time involvement with legal issues. Simon claims to have no musical talent (despite the genes of both of his natural parents) but both his children do. Maybe there is something in the old adage about traits skipping a generation. In all we spoke for fifty minutes before we needed some respite in order to absorb all the new information and emotions. To close we agreed that I would provide further information about Valerie via email (for the time our lives were entwined), send Simon a copy of 'Foundation Stone' and write draft letters to Simon's three living grandparents.
Over the next week we swapped emails and information and we agreed on the letters to the grandparents. The one to Brian's parents I sent to their (and formerly Brian's) solicitor for onward transmission as I was aware that they had moved but did not know their new address. I received a response from Val's mother almost immediately. She telephoned to say how delighted she was and that she would welcome Simon contacting her. As more than half-expected I never received even the courtesy of a reply from Brian's parents or their solicitor. The least I expected was acknowledgment from the solicitor but well over a month later nothing has yet arrived. Still we can but hope!
When I sent the copy of 'Foundation Stone' to Simon I alerted him to the relevant section concerning his mother, Brian and the adoption (Chapter Title: ...And Then It's All Over Now) because I felt there were things in there that might well upset any adopted child. Eventually Simon's response to this was one of deep sympathy for his blood mother and her family and one of indifference to Brian. This is tempered, however, with a certain fascination for Brian and his way of life and Simon has begun the process of finding out more about him. When reading books about Brian, he does feel some regret about the way Brian later tried to have some contact with his children albeit driven by some of the mothers of his children. However, Simon has no regrets about what happened to himself because he was fortunate enough to have adoptive parents who have been, and remain, totally loving and supportive. Simon is sorry to have missed Valerie but he really wasn't ready to look for his natural mother all those years before she had passed away. I have told Simon that I believe Val would have loved to have seen him again, would have been relieved that things turned out alright and would have been proud of her eldest son.
Since the early hectic days of discovery Simon and his wife have been able to visit us and also to meet with Stephen. This took place on Christmas Eve and must have been one of the best and most unusual Christmas gifts we ever had. To see your thirty-nine year old son meet with his elder half-brother for the first time is, to say the least, rather strange and moving. I can report that facially, Simon looks like his mother from the nose down but has a striking and, for me, an uncanny, resemblence to Brian from the eyes upwards. Simon has also been in contact with Martin and they plan to meet in the not too distant future. He has also visited his grandmother, Valerie's mother and spoken with his half-brother John (the son of Brian Jones and Dawn Molloy). He hopes to be able to contact his other half-brothers, Mark and Julian soon. Simon wishes to remain incognito but might be prepared to answer reasonable questions put through the publisher. Click on email@example.com
And what might Brian have to say of this find if he was alive today? Pure conjecture of course, but if his attitude to his women and children remained largely unaltered I believe he would be singularly unmoved by Simon turning up. However, if he mellowed over time, as many of us do, then possibly he might have set the record straight and acknowledged all his children and seen them right. That is giving him the benefit of a very large doubt.
Brian's attitude to his children seems reprehensible. In the context of the social mores of the time I believe it was more the exception than the rule. You must remember that contraception was less sophisticated and heavily male-oriented at that time. Teenage pregnancy was often sorted out either via back-street or self-inflicted abortion or alternatively by the shotgun wedding. The route Brian took was to walk away from his responsibilities, that does seem reprehensible. But is it any more reprehensible than the alternatives above? I think not. In Simon's case the actual outcome was the best result but sadly for Val and her family they just failed to deal with the problem themselves due to a tragic change in circumstances. But, of course, if they had been able to bring Barry David up Simon's adoptive parents would have lost out on bringing him up. Not everyone can win in such cases, the least we can do is to afford the losers the dignity they deserve. It is very slightly easier to understand or sympathise with Brian's attitude in the case of the sons of Linda Lawrence and Dawn Molloy (and any others he might have sired in that period) because at that time he was a big star under pressure from the management, fans and the expectations of others. It was incompatible with the group image for Brian to be seen as a caring father and husband. That could come later in a pop star's life! It is perhaps equally understandable that this attitude spilled over onto Pat Andrews and her son Julian Mark after the point when fame struck Brian in 1963. However in the case of the children fathered by him during his Cheltenham days, namely the possible child of a fourteen-year-old, Valerie's son Barry David and Pat Andrews's Julian Mark the same reasons for reprehensibility do not apply. In those days Brian was not famous, he was not under any of those extraordinary pressures, indeed he didn't even dream of being famous. To be a fine musician, yes, but a desire for fame was not an essential ingredient in his make-up. In this case he could simply be said to be selfish and unwilling to encumber himself with the extra responsibilities of a child and mother to house, feed and clothe. All of this could be seen to to get in the way of the life of Brian which was, even when I knew him, the very self-centred, self-indulgent life that often goes with being a dedicated artist.
But, I don't think it is as simple as that. Brian was an extremely inconsistent person, I have seen him holding Julian Mark Andrews with the devoted tenderness I'd expect from any father yet at the same time I have known that he previously wanted Valerie to have an abortion despite being prepared to marry her. Clearly he wasn't able to sustain that fatherliness he showed to Mark, as witness the many struggles Pat had with Brian and the eventual turning of the back by Brian. Why could he not sustain the tenderness which was clearly in him? Perhaps, and this is only a very personal view, it was that he felt ill-prepared and ill-fated to be a father. Given his own father's treatment of him perhaps the whole concept of fatherhood and parental responsibility was anathema to Brian. I feel I may be making excuses for him here but there is a very strong feeling at the back of my emotional memory, if there is such a thing, that cries out of something very strange in the Jones household which was severely damaging to parts of Brian's soul.
Whatever the truth may be, it is relieving to be able to report that in Simon's case all's well that ends well. Let us hope that sometime in the not too distant future some truth and justice will prevail over the strange circumstances of Brian's death.