Dawn was one of my best friends at school. We were in a band together. Sophie sang and played bass, I played guitar and sang backing vocals, and Dawn played the drums. We were called ‘LizardSkin’ and were a lo-fi punk rock band. This was 1993 and Grunge had hit the U.K. We would always meet at Dawns house, whose parents didn’t seem to mind their daughter having a full size drum kit in her bedroom. It was a small bedroom and after the single bed, drum kit and a wardrobe you couldn’t fit anything else in it. As it was so small, Sophie and I couldn’t even fit in the same room. We stood in the landing and played our hearts out, recording our noise into a hand-held cassette recorder. We were as lo-fi as you could get. We wrote songs about anything that came into our heads, whether it be a song that we learnt in our Chinese lesson (yes, we studied Mandarin at school) or a song about ‘Nuclear Chocolate’, named after the time that we bought a giant bar of Dairy Milk which we then constantly spilt equally between ourselves until there was nothing left, just one atom of chocolate. An atom which we would have to split between us. The chocolate atom bomb. Simple times.
We played lots of gigs in the local area, and even ventured up to London to do a gig at a pub in Camden. It was my favourite band. There was something so naive and innocent about us. We would constantly turn up to gigs without any instruments, borrowing kit from the other bands. I don’t think we would have gotten away with the stuff we did if we were band made up of egotistical pretentious young boys. But we weren’t, we were Riot Grrrls… Well Riot Grrls and Boy. Being the boy in a band with two girls was probably the best thing about being in the band. It was like I had two sisters. Two sisters who I loved very much and two sisters who could kick my ass if they wanted to. It was no secret at the time that Dawn had a crush on me. When she asked me out or got someone else to ask me out I would always say no. I would turn her down by saying that it would get too complicated with us being in a band. It was very flattering. I’ve never seen myself as someone who was attractive to opposite sex and I had no confidence with girls when I could sense that there anything more than friendship. I would never chase after a girl because If I did chase them, then they might know that I liked them. I was much happier listening to The Smiths in my bedroom, whimsically waiting for the day that the girl of my dreams would come along and notice me. Dawn was not the girl of my dreams but had noticed me. Dawn had confidence. She had broken that playground rule that it’s only the boys who do the chasing, and knowing that she thought I was good-looking gave me confidence.
After school, priorities changed. I was now in college and had other bands on the go. Priorities changed for everyone and although we were still friends rehearsals became few and far between until the band became just a memory. In 1998 I left Bracknell and moved to Chichester, in West Sussex. Years would pass but Dawn and Sophie were friends who were burnt into my heart. They were friends who to me would always be my friends and every time I saw them it felt like we had never spent a day apart. But we had spent time apart and our lives had moved on. Sophie got married in 1998 and I got to be her Best Man/Maid of Honour. They have since separated and Sophie is now with Matt, and has recently given birth to little girl, Dawn had also got married & had two children. Everyone was growing up, everyone except me, as I seemed to living my life in a time loop.
Earlier this year I went to see the film ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’. The film is based on a comic about a young man called Scott who has to fight against the seven evil exes of the girl of his dreams. This part of the story didn’t remind me of Dawn but the fact that Scott was in a lo-fi band with a female drummer with attitude, did. Dawn had attitude. Watching this film made me reminisce about the old days, and the good times we had growing up. I would chat to Dawn on Facebook now and then whenever she was on but recently I had lost interest with site and something that I used to use everyday a few years ago became a once a month occurrence. The last Facebook message I got from Dawn was on October 25th this year. She was wishing me Happy Birthday.
On Tuesday 16th November I came home from work and found several missed calls on my phone from my brother. There was also a message to say that an old school friend had left me a message on Facebook. The news from both was that yesterday Dawn had been murdered. It was news that didn’t sink in. I was in shock. I looked on the internet for further information, but there was none, only that a Bracknell woman had been found dead. That could be anyone, sure the photo attached to the article showed Dawns house but just because it shows Dawns house it doesn’t mean that the woman was Dawn. Maybe it was a neighbour and as her house was shown in the article it had people jumping to conclusions. I looked at Dawns Facebook profile. She had only updated it the day before. The day she was murdered. Maybe she is staying at her parents house and she would soon update the page to show that news of her death was a little premature. I was still in shock. I need to phone Sophie, I thought. I pressed the ‘S’ on my phone and Dawn’s name was one of the first names that came up. I still had her down as Dawn Simms and not Dawn Clinton. Simms being her maiden name, and as Simms started with a ‘S’ it was listed in my search. I paused for a moment. Should I ring Dawn? What if I call and no one answers? I decided against calling her and called Sophie. Sophie didn’t answer but Matt did. I had never spoken to Matt before but explained my reason for calling. He too had heard the news but Sophie was out with their daughter and as far as he knew she hadn’t heard. I needed to speak to someone so I spoke Lynsey on the phone. She was the old friend from school who had sent me the message about Dawn on Facebook. I was still in shock. Lynsey confirmed that it was Dawn and that Jon her husband had been arrested for her murder.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I sat at my computer and tried to find more information.
When I did sleep I had a dream that Dawn sent me a message on Facebook telling me she was ok, and that like I had thought earlier that she wasn’t at home and it was a neighbour who had been killed and she had only just managed to get online to tell everyone that it wasn’t her. This dream gave me false hope until they finally released the name of the victim. It was indeed Dawn.
Dawn has been in my thoughts ever since. I had not seen Dawn face to face for almost 10 years but I have this huge feeling of loss. I don’t know how to deal with it, I assumed I would know her forever. I look at her Facebook profile and see messages from friends, and messages from strangers. Is my grief too much? How do you grieve for someone you haven’t seen for years? Someone who was such a big part of my life as teenager but who had little input in my adult years. I have been reading articles about her everyday since I heard. My thoughts going out to her family and friends.
Dawn was amazing. She is part of who I am and my life has been forever changed for knowing her. On Facebook she summarizes herself with these words;
“I will skid broadside into Hell, thoroughly used up and worn out, with a fag in one hand and a coffee in the other screaming ‘Whoa, what a ride’!”
What a ride indeed. Dawn, you rawk. I love you x
24th May 2011 – Jon Clinton has been jailed for life with a minimum 26-year term after being convicted of murdering Dawn and 2 years for arson, with the two sentences to run concurrently.
( BBC NEWS / Bracknell News / getbracknell.co.uk )