Tuesday 22 February 2011

Uplifting News

First of all, I have some good news on the non-fiction front. I can't say what yet because I don't want to jinx anything, but it sounds promising – so keep your fingers crossed and I will update you when I can......

And moving on to the second piece of Uplifting News -

Tears take me by surprise, caused by the most innocuous of events – a piece of music, a chance comment – but I'm relieved to find that my sense of humour is still intact. Last weekend one of those free brochures fell out of the weekend papers, so I flicked through it while drinking my mug of tea.

“Repairs leaks instantly!” announced one product. Having discovered damp walls near the washing machine, I read on. Decided that for £12.99 I could get something half the price from Trago which would do the trick.

Then I looked down the page and read, “Stronger/larger erections.” I blinked. Thought scaffolding. (This was a DIY magazine, after all.) But no – this vacuum pump has “satisfied thousands of customers”. Apparently.

Now who, I wonder, would volunteer to give that information? And who would buy one of these pumps? Actually - having lived with someone with prostate cancer, I can think who - but in that instance, there are various things available on the NHS. But I digress...

It's not the sort of thing you give for Valentine's Day is it? Neither would a mother buy it for her son (I would imagine). Nor a father for his son. Etc. You can imagine the conversation - "I thought you needed a bit of help in this department, darling......" and the response that would get. So who are these supposed customers who have been satisfied?

Reading on, I learned that this product also comes supplied with an exercise programme and is available in three sizes....

When I finished crying (with laughter this time), I began to wonder who I could give one to. If you pardon the expression.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Happy Valentine

Several years ago, Pip designed and made these swans as a love token necklace. For some reason they didn't sell too well – a shame as I think they're a lovely piece – but being the generous soul he was, he gave them away to our friends, and I wore mine whenever we went out.

I don't know what happened to my swans, and unfortunately, he was in the middle of hanging some more on chains when he got poorly, so I was left with none to wear and lots in bits. I didn't discover this until the morning of his service, which meant the air was black with fury and blue with misery as I cursed his generosity. “What about me, Pip?” I screeched, angry tears splashing down my face, blobbing my glasses (I'm a very messy crier).

As you might imagine, I was feeling somewhat Bah Humbug over Valentine's Day. I kept thinking Pip would send me a card – or something – though I hadn't quite worked out how, or what. But no cards arrived, not even a bill.

I closed my eyes to the endless messages on facebook, ignored the repeated emails read out on radio and TV and reminded myself that we never did anything on 14th February anyway. We bemoaned the commercialisation and decided that we didn't need a date in the diary to remind us how much we loved each other. But still....

On Sunday I was rummaging in a tray in the kitchen full of bits and bobs. I discovered his wallet that makes my heart lurch every time I see it. Old photos that I have to cover up. An ancient bottle of nail varnish. Then – buried at the bottom of this muddle I found one of the Swans, on a chain, nestling in a polybag.

Just in time for Valentine's.

The second thing happened on Monday itself as I was leaving the house to meet a friend. One of the builders from next door gave me a shout. “We've got some wood for you,” he said. “I'll chop it up so it can go in your woodburner. You'll have it later on today.”

It's now Wednesday and I still haven't got it, but the thought of that wood cheers me up no end.

So all in all, I had two lovely surprises for Valentine's. Thank you, darling.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Six weeks on

This has nothing to do with today's post, but I felt like a bit of sea. This is Bedruthan Steps, taken on a walk last summer.

I have managed 6 weeks and 3 days so far and I think Pip would be – is – relieved. I have not starved, I have not drowned myself in wine nor a sea of self pity. I have continued to work (thank god for work), walk Molls, go to singing and meet friends.
I have started to collect my own wood.

My metabolism has changed. I am nearly always cold, and have chilblains on my little fingers. Contrary to what everyone thinks, I am eating hugely, as I'm constantly hungry. Don't ask me where all this food goes.

Some people ask me, nervously, if I'm all right. But often, if I'm not all right, I can't tell them, for at the first sign of my incipient tears, their eyes flicker like a startled horse and they start to cry themselves. So I end up consoling them.

Alternatively, there are those that rush to console me when I want to be left alone. These friends mean well, but sometimes I just need to deal with it by myself. Grief is difficult for all of us to manage.

I have discovered that sometimes, I really don't want to be with my nearest and dearest. Anyone over-emotional is a no-no. Whereas people I don't know well, or new friends, turn out to be just the right people to be with. It's an intuitive thing and one that the great writer Joan Didion has written about, to my relief. It's not just me! I thought, when I read her book, A Year Of Magical Thinking.

My friend Anne at the Farmers Market is a great source of comfort. Before Christmas, when Pip had just developed pneumonia, she said, “You'll be in my thoughts and prayers over Christmas.” Ignoring the growing queue at her veg stall, she declared, “I'm going to give you a Christmas hug,” and enveloped me in her cosy arms.

I met someone from singing at Anne's stall yesterday, and asked her if she was OK. She shook her head and tears sprang to her eyes. She told me what was the matter and we hugged each other, weeping over the polyanthus. We laughed, shakily, and compared notes on grief. We decided to go for a drink and cheer each other up. And we both went our ways with tears in our eyes and a smile on our faces.

Grief is a private matter, and not always meant for sharing. A close friend asked me how I felt, as she wanted to empathise. It varies from minute to minute, I said. Sometimes, when I think of the last three months, a great foot presses on my chest so I can't breathe. At others, I wonder if I've dreamt the last 14 years.

When I looked at Pip's watch the other day, my stomach plummeted, as if I was descending in a very fast lift. Walking Mollie the other day I felt as if my heart had slipped – and then I realised that this is exactly what it's done.

Yesterday, I saw light over the sea and my heart lifted. That's my Pip, I thought, out on the horizon, waving to me. Later I played football with Molls and I giggled like a child. On Friday we had a gig at the Poly in Falmouth and I stood on stage and sang my heart out, and I didn't miss Pip because he was right there with me, cheering us along.

Wednesday 2 February 2011


I am writing this to Calm Down, having spent about an hour trying to sort out Claims.

The first concerns two payments from Paypal that were taken from Pip's bank account in January. Admittedly they were only of £7.81 but it's the principle that matters. It's taking so long to close his bank account (nearly 6 weeks so far) of red tape that I am about to explode. Now I have to ring Paypal and try and sort it out. You can see the fume coming out of my ears, can't you?

The second concerns an application for Bereavement Benefit that I completed over the phone 3 weeks ago but haven't heard anything about. (It used to be called a Widow's Pension. At least I think it did. I've got so confused now, I could hardly tell you my name, though I can tell you my National Insurance number as, in the last half hour, I have run 7 different numbers to do with the Job Centre, and had to recite it every time. Now, why would the Jobcentre handle Bereavement benefits? I have to say that stumps me.) It turns out there is no record of my claim, so they are having to send all the paper work once more.....

But on a lighter note, I was out with my friend Viv and her dog Titch the other day having a breather, sitting on a bench, when Titch bounced on Viv's lap. “I could marry you, Titch,” she said happily.

“I know what you mean,” I said. “I don't know what I'd do without Mollie.” I stroked her thoughtfully. “I suppose I could marry Mollie now.”

“Well, you could,” said the ever practical Viv. “But it'd have to be a civil partnership. And you couldn't wear a white dress.”

Since when has tradition ever stopped me? So watch out - I will be sending out invitations when I have allowed a decent interlude to elapse.