Wednesday 25 May 2022

Old Loves and New

Those of you who know me, know who this is - the stroppy, indomitable, grouchy, charming Moll. I know those adjectives sound contradictory, but she was, and like most dog lovers, I loved her with every inch of my soul (if that's mixed metaphors, I don't care. I did.).

For the last 18 months though, since Moll's death, Lainy has wriggled into the canine shaped space in my heart and, despite significant challenges, has made herself a comfy nest and has to desire to leave, it seems. Nor would I wish her to.

However, I have to say my heart wobbled this morning. After an early appointment at the dentist, I took Lainy for a walk at College Woods in Penryn and on our return to the car, bumped into an old singing friend, Jilly, with her young dog, Eric. I daren't show a picture of him here, but suffice it to say that he looked so like Moll I could have scooped him up and taken him home. Instantly Thankfully, Lainy seemed unaware of the adulterous nature of my heart, and continued to sniff around for scattered items of food on the ground. I feel guilty just writing this, for it has nothing to do with my love for her, but oh - Eric. My heart is yours. though of course really it's Moll's.

That got me thinking about how life can trip us all up at the most unexpected times. And while it can be profoundly distressing, the flip side of that, once we've got over the kapow! moment, is to remember the good times we had with our loved ones. Whether it's husbands, mothers, dogs, ex-partners , sisteors, brothers or whoever, I like to think of that warm place they all occupy that is still very much a part of me.

After all, who was it said that grief is merely love in a different form?

Thursday 19 May 2022

Mum's Service - and My Special Friend

This was the setting for our family gathering for mum's memorial service - or rather, this is where we all stayed. An amazing rabbit warren of a 13th century pub that is now run as an Airbnb - so we had to provide our own food and drink. In fact I worked here as a teenager, carting trayfuls of soup and rolls through swing doors, down a flight of steep steps, through another swing door, through the dark corridors and often out into the garden over the road, which was part of an old orchard where apples lay hidden in the grass, just waiting to trip me up - and spill the soup. But that's another story.

Jac and Lainy and I arrived on Thursday late afternoon, were met by my brothers and shown to our rooms which were huge and full of light, very peaceful given the only traffic was from the field of cows outside our windows. Various members of the family arrived through the evening and Lainy coped gallantly from the safety of her crate, interspersed with long walks down grassy lanes of ancient orchards, a 13th century church and silently grazing cattle. Very bucolic.

The next day was all go - the interment of mum's ashes into dad's space was done by the vicar while we stood around on uneven plots of grass (not good for wearing heels - I sank several inches) but was made more bearable by the children shrieking and laughing in the playground next door. Then came the service attended by about 80 people, maybe more.

My brothers put a lot of work into this and so did the vicar but for someone who isn't religious, I felt that while it was important for them, the mum I loved wasn't there, in the chill of the pews, nor the feeble sunlight straining through the old, stained glass windows. My mum is in the spaces between chapters, in the pause between thoughts. My mum is in my every day, not in a cold church where sorrow mixed with guilt for those who hadn't seen enough of her, and realised it was too late.

More walks for Lainy then we had a family dinner that night which I was very apprehensive about but in fact I enjoyed it, and Lainy coped admirably. Another walk in the gathering gloom, as she'd been in the car for a few hours while we ate, then she settled in her crate while I caught up with one of my nieces.

Jac was introduced to one of my nephews as "Sue's Special Friend", so when talking to my brothers that evening about my anorexic past, she was able to say, "Well, as Sue's Significant Other, I can assure you that she eats more than me now"......There's a lot to be said for Special Friends.... We arrived home the following afternoon after a brief visit to Totnes, I had a night at home and then went down to the Lizard to see the Fella. By this time I was feeling quite dizzy, having spent no more than 2 nights in one bed for the last 10 days. I would have stayed at home for a while, but I had a meeting with the Fat Apple Cafe at Porthallow who are now stocking my books which is great news. They also gave us coffee and cake which was most generous, and we had a fascinating conversation as the mother and daughter are also writing books that they are trying to get published. We decided to help each other, which has to be the best way to do things.

Now I'm back home, trying to remind myself where I live, and glad to have some time to myself, to catch up with work and friends, and concentrate on my books once more. To my delight, these daisies that self seeded, have burst into bloom while I was away, and I just love their cheerful little faces as I walk up the steps to my front door.

Monday 9 May 2022

Two Devon trips

My dear friend Av and I meet every six months, and as she is what Mum called "my second daughter", we would meet near mum's care home for the weekend and take Mum out every day. We booked last weekend months ago, and Mum was really looking forward to it - as were we, but of course life - or rather, death - decided otherwise.

It was very strange driving up the oh so familiar route, arriving in Dartington and turning the opposite direction to where Mum was. While lovely to catch up with Av, there was a nagging awareness of something missing. It wasn't acute but a dragging sensation of loss that lingered below the surface, and simmered while I slept.

We had some great walks though, and as Av said, "Lainy is so much more confident in herself" which was lovely to see. We had to navigate Totnes High Street on Saturday morning, which was understandably busy, and she was brilliant - took it all in her stride, which she couldn't have done the last time we met Av. I got Lainy a new muzzle which is too big so we went to ask Steve the Cobbler if he could put a few more holes in the back strap so it fitted better. He did so, chatting all the while and wouldn't take any money for it. Then on to the jeweller as I couldn't put the pin back in my watch strap - he put that to rights and wouldn't take any money either.

Both wished us a lovely weekend and said what a good job I was doing with Lainy, which was very heartwarming. Mum didn't know much of Lainy's troubles, but I know she'd be delighted at her progress, though Lainy has so far always been very calm and understanding around the elderly and the ill.

I got back yesterday and on Thursday my dear mate Jac and I are off for Mum's memorial service on Friday morning, followed by drinks in the pub, and a family meal in the evening. It will be a very emotional time for us all, and well out of Lainy's comfort zone (and mine), but she has me and she regards Jac as a second mum, so while she will need to spend time in the car, we will make sure she gets lots of excercise and we will keep her as quiet as possible and I'm sure she will be fine.

Not being religious, the church service won't have as much significance for me as for others, but it will be interesting to see family that I haven't seen for thirty years, and may not see again. I know Mum would be glad that we're all meeting up, even though it's sad it's taken Mum's death to bring us all together.

There's also the fact that the day we all remember Mum will be Friday 13th. But we won't go into that. I'm sure there will be plenty of fodder for my next novel...