Christmas in Palma

The anxiety of the last few days ended as our plane took off. Drones at Gatwick. Chaos. Planes grounded. Thousands of stories of the people who had failed to leave or arrive – weddings in Morocco, funerals in Canada, visits to Lapland, long awaited family reunions, solo adventures postponed. How lucky we were to take off especially when we heard that an hour later the airport was closed again.

It’s the first Christmas without Dad in a good number of years. The anniversary of his death looms and I’ve been anticipating this with dread for months. All too aware through October, November and December of how things were last year caring for Dad in his last days and months. All so vivid in my memory. Two months living with him before finally accepting that there was no choice but for him to move to the nursing home. So tough a move for Dad, one we tried to avoid but he knew it had to be. I will never forget how that day felt. Gratitude always to Simon who was there to ease the way. Once there, staff were so very kind and gentle with Dad. We couldn’t have wanted better but it was still so painful.

I wrote lots in those final three months and have re-read a few times of late. All those prompts of how things were – the challenges and the high points. The incredible support by Dr Murray. Lots of everyday events captured. Writing his last Christmas cards. Boiled eggs for breakfast and his feedback on how well I’d met his expectations in relation to softness of egg and well done-ness of toast. Slow games of scrabble with much laughter. Moving conversations when he talked about knowing his end was coming, reminiscing about times and people in his life, talking about what my support and love for him had meant in those last few years since Mums death. ” With you by my side ” he described it . ” I can never thank you enough for your love and care for me”. Gives me such comfort now and in the first few months after his death to be reminded of those conversations, tender loving times. It meant so much to us both.

So it’s nearly a year now. A year where grief has bubbled up and down, sometimes tears, sometimes enjoying happy memories, sometimes powerfully knocking the wind out of me, sometimes very faint and feeling far away. But always there. A loss right in the centre of me and my life. A year of getting used to life without Dad. There’s just no rushing grief. Somehow it feels that this anniversary is key. That it will be a bit easier afterwards. Or maybe just different. I do though just want it to come and then go. Christmas was also just one of Dads most favourite times of the year. So much about this time of year makes me think of him. Brandy butter spotted in the supermarket. A carol heard on the radio. Christmas cards. Memories of indoor fireworks. And many years ago a mince pie and Guineas left out for Santa. Stockings at the end of the bed. He so loved Christmas and held on to have just one more last year.

So we got away from London between drones and as I lie awake in the early hours of our first full day here I am looking forward to starting to explore our home for the next eight days. John sleeping peacefully beside me. How incredibly supportive he has been. I’m very lucky.

It’s a place to remember Dad, to mark his life and death, to miss him and our christmases together. One of his white handkerchiefs in my coat pocket gives comfort still. At the same time it’s about just being here, being present, enjoying with John the distractions of Palma and all it has to offer and starting to build another set of memories of Christmases.

Dad we will raise a glass to you on Christmas Day. A bottle of fine red wine for John that you would so love to have shared with him.


Sleepless Wednesday /Thursday

Woke for some reason and haven’t been able to fall back asleep. The anniversary of Grenfell Towers and all those stories of lost lives and futures somehow haunting me. We plan to join the silent walk tonight to pay our respects. Families have spoken with such dignity about their memories of loved ones and a year ago. Shouldn’t have happened. The inquiries continue. The search for who and how and why.

And soon it’s six months since Dad died. Feel his loss so keenly still. The grief is always there, just comes to the surface more strongly sometimes than other times prompted by a thought, a memory, a photo, his hat on the back of our front door, so many things. So many times I’ve gone to phone Dad to tell him about something I’ve been doing, seen or heard about I knew he’d like to know. ” Must tell Dad” I caught myself thinking when there was a trailer for a nature programme from East Africa just the other day and then sad all over again to be reminded of the loss of him. So long since my last kiss goodbye.

All these months and all these bits of my life I haven’t been able to share with him. All those breakfasts and chats and times I haven’t been able to have with him.

I miss him. Every day.

Steamy Thursday

It’s a spa day birthday treat. A massage done, a swim, a steam and a facial to go. Lovely relaxing treats.

In the quiet space that the spa opens up i am feeling full of grief for Dad. Waves of loss. Sparked off perhaps by the images on the estate agents site of a spruced up empty flat devoid of all that made it Dads home. Perhaps that was the spark. Or maybe it’s just that there’s been a quiet space just to be and muse … There are Dad moments every day of course. Moments of loss and sadness. And I still carry round all the time a sense of heaviness that comes with grief. And just sometimes I can get completely absorbed in doing something – making bread, taking photos, a film, a gym class- which gives a break from that heaviness. It’s a relief.

Its two and a half months now. Not long at all so all very raw still. Just going with it and giving myself what it feels like I need.

But I miss him. Every day. All those Never Agains are so tough. What I wouldn’t give for one last stay with him, one last breakfast, one last ring of the phone to see his name come up, one last watching him snooze…

Things will get easier … that I know … just not yet

End of an era

Black bin bags full of the things that are no longer needed or wanted. The accumulations of a life. Odd socks. A jacket the moths have been busy with. Broken light bulbs. Pens that no longer work. Worn sandals.

Watched the postie drive away your 24 year old Rover. A gift for his son. Another generation learning to drive as we four did with you all those decades ago.

Couldn’t quite let go of a few of your clothes to the charity shop so back to London they come with me for a while. Remind me of all those days I saw you potter down the corridor ready for breakfast, our favourite time of the day.

Your flat is now empty, almost. Those things that made it so much yours are no longer there. It’s an empty space, an echo of your home but no longer that. Painters come in tomorrow. Fresh white and new carpets. A blank canvas for those who’ll live there next and like we did they will enjoy the view over the boats and the early morning sun streaming in.

A rushed practical sorting things couple of days overlaid with so much emotion. Memories aplenty. Thoughts of things that will never be again. The end of an era. Dad doesn’t live here any more.

Getting used to it…

So now it’s getting used to:

living without you there

not worrying about you

not hearing your voice

not phoning you when I arrive somewhere

not buying little things I think you’d like or that would make your life easier ( though Amazon doesn’t yet know you’re no longer around and keeps on making recommendations)

planning my time around Devon visits

not needing to have my phone with me always just in case you call and want a chat

not being able to share happy experiences with you

It’s just getting used to the start of a life without you. I knew it was coming but it’s still been such a shock. Life with a hole in the middle. Starting to get used to that.

And for the first time today since you died I felt happy. Sunshine on my face, eating fish and chips on Lyme Regis Beach watching the walkers, the waves, the light. Just for a little while I was completely present and was just there on the beach, your loss wasn’t there and I felt happy. It was good to feel happy again. Sadness and grief crept back in soon enough and wrapped themselves around me again but that’s ok. More simple happy times will come and will continue to catch me by surprise for a while yet until one day they just come and go and it’s not surprising any more.

Another farewell

Today a call to say our much loved friend Martin had died in the early hours this morning. 75, his birthday just celebrated in style at one of his favourite spots in Edinburgh, live jazz playing as people ate fine food, drank too much wine and told tall tales.

We knew all of him – his light and his shade. He hid nothing. He was exasperating, rude, combative and thoughtless. He was a tremendously loyal friend, wonderfully charming, funny, quick witted, irreverent, generous, full of life and mischief, a man who seized life and got the most out of every last drop of it.

A brickie to trade from a Scottish working class family he got involved in the communist party and then trade unions and through that got an education finally at university. He loved the arts, theatre, dance, music and generously took us all to see shows with him. He wore outrageous red suits, purple suits with dragon flies on them, suits with alternating blacks and whites on jacket and trousers. He loved being the centre of attention. Everyone in Edinburgh knew M and those that didn’t often found him introducing himself.

He had such a zest for life, for company, for fun.

Everyone has a tale to tell about M that makes them laugh.

And he came to stay in China with me for two weeks at the end of my marriage – he came to show support. Amazing loyalty and caring.

So this morning his heart finally gave out and my friend of 30 years, this larger than life,unique, incredibly brilliant man ended his 75 years on earth. What a life he led and how he will be missed by many.

I mourn my friend and feel keenly the loss of all he was.

Bye pal.


A farewell

And so the day started. Sunshine over Sutton Harbour. Dad always liked such days as the sun rose over the boats and poured in through the window.

He would have enjoyed his farewell. Lots of people came to mark his long life and to say goodbye. His military service recognised by a standard bearer who followed him in to the church and stood respectfully by his side throughout. My sisters poem and words reminding all of his passions. My brother’s eulogy, beautifully crafted to bring to life Dads humour, his spirit of adventure and zest for life, his hard work and his love for and support of his family and friends. The vicar got tangled in overcomplicated analogies about departures, airports and prisons but that was but a small blip really – surprisingly some others seemed to find it helpful. Wine, sandwiches and stories about Dad were shared.

I cried at almost everything of course. One of Dad’s pressed white handkerchiefs came in handy. John held my hand tight at my most wobbly moments. Following Dad in and out of the church was incredibly emotional. My Dad, my much loved Dad. We four so very different individuals said farewell and he would have been proud of our combined efforts to make a fitting farewell for him, such a very fine man, our father.

The sun held til our return back to Dad’s flat. Perhaps appropriate that the earlier bright scene was replaced by rolling clouds and later rain.

Bye Dad. I shall miss you always.

It’s the little things

It’s the little things I miss:

Hearing you potter down the corridor to the loo in the night

Listening to you say you didn’t sleep a wink when enthusiastic snoring was there to be heard loud and clear that night

Breakfast with the sun’s rays pouring in – the red table cloth I bought you for Christmas one year that you so loved, grapefruit always, bacon sometimes, an egg boiled just the right amount of time mostly, sliced brown warburton bread a must

Watching you consult your diary for what was coming up and to check you had the right day and time for my next visit

Coming in to say goodnight at the end of the day and a last sleepy conversation

Watching you put your favourite checked cap on as we left the house and making sure you had your keys in your back pocket

Chatting in the Rover as we headed out for yet another medical thing or much better a drive up to park on the Hooe for a coffee with a view, a meal out at some of your favourite haunts, a visit to see Nick or Geoff, a trip out over Dartmoor.

Watching you tuck into a Moules dish – complete silence and ultimate concentration

Listening to some of the same familiar stories and being surprised now and then by a new one

Watching you open the morning’s post with your silver letter opener

Looking up from the sofa to see you there

Trying to see how many Mastermind questions we could answer between us

Our mutual teasing over the differing versions of the news of the day as shown in your Telegraph and my Guardian

Hearing you say ” it’s been a good day”

I miss all those little things and more

Lots of tears but that’s ok because I’m missing you


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