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Z is purposeful

Ronan was able to unlock Tim’s computer. So I drove straight over to pick it up. That meant that I wasn’t able to do the work I’d planned yesterday evening, so got up early this morning to do it. But I’m jumping ahead. I was nearly home when the warning came up on the car, to check my tyre pressures. I was not happy. I couldn’t remember what the pressures should be and I wasn’t in a mood to find out. So I left a few minutes early to call in at the petrol station this morning and do it there, possibly accosting a friendly man who’d do the job for me.

However, as I drove out, it occurred to me that the local tyre place would, so I called round there. The owner did, but he was really grumpy and not nearly as nice as his employees. Still, embarrassing as it was, the job was done. I got here with a half hour to spare, unpacked the car, took two bites of an apple for lunch and scuttled out to the undertaker.

It was about time something went my way. My chosen date was 4th October and preferred time was sometime between 1 and 2 pm. The undertaker asked if there were dates I needed to avoid? With a hollow laugh, I said that there were only two possible days that suited everyone and one was far better than the other for me. And it needed to be in the middle of the day. So she left to make the phone call and came back with a 4th October 1pm offer. As they say, ker-ching. Booked it at once, made the other decisions and now have a funeral to plan.

I’ve had a lovely evening with Clare next door. She invited me in for dinner and I’ve been there for nearly five hours. Whoops. I had a few jobs to do when I got back this afternoon and then had a long nap on the sofa. I woke and couldn’t move for a bit, I’d slept long enough to feel zonked. With that and visiting Clare, i’ve done very little on the computer. And, since BT is playing up, I had a lot of faffing about to do, to get online. So now it’s 11 o’clock and I’m going to bed. I miss Tim so dreadfully, it’s hard to cope with or to put into words. But I don’t need to, it goes without saying.

A week since

I spent yesterday afternoon and night with Weeza and co. Though I mostly kept things light, I did say to the children – Zerlina and Gus, that is – how very much Tim had enjoyed knowing them. We took them on holiday to the caravan in Pembrokeshire several times. Gus was still four the first time, much the same age as Tim’s earliest memories of the same beach. He and his sister were immediately entranced. Scrambling on rocks (my heart in my mouth, but they weren’t careless and no accidents happened), Gus stood and held out his arms “I can see the whole world, I can see the sea, I can see everything.”

I thought I’d have to explain the magic of this place, said Tim. But they get it. He was so thrilled to see it again through a child’s eyes, who got it.

So I reminded them of that and Gus laughed a bit bashfully. And I thanked them and then said I’d not bang on about it any more.

I will visit Wisemans Bridge again, if only for a valediction. But perhaps more. Tim’s late wife’s sister and her husband have recently moved back to a family home in Narberth, which is only a few miles away. They’d love to use it and would be happy to take it on, with my carte blanche to visit or family to do so, any time. But I may keep it in my name, with similar freedom for them. I take it that Tim’s family and Viv’s family remain part of my family. Until it’s sold, which will have to happen, they are welcome to use Tim’s Reading house. Alan’s very old mother still lives in Reading and they’ll need to come back regularly. We’d been looking forward to taking Ronan’s two to Pembrokeshire and maybe that’ll happen.

I feel disorientated at present. I did a lot of work with the photos yesterday and need to start on the catalogue itself. First, I have to move the pictures to a file on the desktop and label them with the lot numbers. I have to print off lot numbers, put them on the china and lock it away in my Fort Knox-like strongroom. Russell was allowed by the police to keep his guns in there without a cabinet, it’s that secure. The house is never unoccupied, I’ve taken on Russell’s obsessive carefulness about it (and, for obvious reasons, am not giving details).

It’s only a week since Tim died; like last Sunday, I was awake (by coincidence, I’m generally awake around 3.30) at the time he called for help. Last week, yesterday, a year ago, I’ve lost all sense of time. Seven years ago today, it was Ronan and Dora’s wedding day. I read a poem – actually, I’d learnt it but I had it printed out too, in case I dried. Dora had asked me to choose a poem, I found a selection (all short enough to learn by heart) and they chose this one. Invitation to Love, by Paul Laurance Dunbar.

I have a lot to do in the next week, but I can’t make lists more than a day or two ahead yet. Today, I’ll email round the family (all three extended families) and start on the catalogue. I’ll choose clothes for Tim. Casual shirt and trousers, he wouldn’t thank me for a suit. He only had one, he disposed of all his suits when Viv died and just had one, which he bought for her funeral and wore for all formal occasions since, including our wedding (which was fine, I am matter-of-fact too). Wink has done my ironing, yay Wink. Tomorrow, the funeral arrangements, further admin on Tuesday, then home, solicitor on Wednesday. All catalogue stuff on Google Drive, so that if I have a meltdown, I can ask Ronan to take over.

Eh. If you have been, thanks for listening.

Z looks back and doesn’t like it

I talked about putting things in boxes, a few weeks ago – mental ones, that is. Blanking off a strong emotion so that you don’t have to cope with it and just letting a chink out once in a while, then slamming it shut again when it feels too much to handle.

That’s all very well if you can manage it and I’m struggling to now. Looking back, I realise that I never let grieving for Russell take its time. Ronan’s wedding was only eight days after Russell’s funeral. I led by example; I said that we had to look forward, not to allow our sadness to spoil the joy, and we just about managed it. It was a joyous day, and happiness was our focus. It helped that I knew, only too well, how awful the end stage of cancer can be and I was relieved that Russell had been spared it.

A few days after the wedding, I flew to Amsterdam, then went by train to Maastricht, to visit Irene. Her blog was called, I think, Green Stone Woman and we’d become friends, though not yet met. Earlier in the year she’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and I went to spend a week with her while it was possible. We actually had a great time. She said I’d given her strength and let her forget her illness. She died just before Christmas, by choice – while she could still laughingly drink a toast to wonderful morphine on Facebook and, afterwards, have her life ended with her family around her. The Dutch are practical people and she timed it so that the funeral could be held and her daughter and ex-husband fly back to America without having to take any extra holiday time.

After that, I was determined to have a happy Christmas. And then I started to visit Linda, or Ziggy if that’s how you remember her from her blog. Going back and forth to Wiltshire, in between clearing out barns, then holding my first auction, re-meeting Tim, Linda dying – that was 2015. I’ve never really stopped and let myself acknowledge feelings if I could smother them. I don’t see what else I could have done. And, as I said before, nothing actually goes away. But I’m not the same Z that I was seven years ago. I’m much more open and willing to acknowledge my weakness. Not the right word. Fragility, perhaps.

Enough of that.

The pandemic has accelerated change so much – online banking, cashlessness and even chequelessness, doing things online or by telephone. One can register a death by telephone now. I know some people find using the phone is an ordeal and so do I, to an extent (making phone calls, I’m okay receiving them) but then it does spare one from difficult meetings. Tim told me where to find all his passwords but he didn’t realise I didn’t know how to unlock his laptop and he hadn’t saved many passwords on his phone. So I’ve got various anxieties about knowing what bills that he paid by direct debit, so that I can take them over. Not just because of going into debt – all you have to do is explain – but having services cancelled before I’ve taken all the information I need. I don’t want his phone contract cancelled, his Spotify payments to cease, anything like that. But I trust that the bank will help with information. I can’t do anything until I have Tim’s death certificate, which I dread getting but which I need.

In the meantime, I’m going to visit the undertaker on Monday afternoon to deal with things. I know the best date, that everyone in the family can manage and I have a backup date. I have a flexible plan. I have little planning in mind for the format of the funeral itself. A church/religious funeral has a format to work within and Tim’s secular crematorium funeral won’t have that.

Rose came over yesterday and spent the night here, then Indigo Roth, officially kindest man in the world, drove two or more hours to take us out to lunch. Then he took all the photos for the catalogue for me. 96 pictures, that is, not including a few deletions. He is truly wonderful.

The elephant arrived yesterday, in a seriously heavy crate, fastened by 8 long screws. My electric screwdriver had to be recharged, it wasn’t up to the job on half battery. I removed 3 screws by hand and couldn’t quite face the rest. But Wince finished the job this morning and Tembo the elephant is currently standing in the hearth, to keep her safe from falling. I know where she’s to go, but a more sturdy hook is needed as she is surprisingly heavy. She is also beautiful. I’d been going to give her to Tim. I only gave him a few books for his birthday as I’d commissioned a painting for him, which was supposed to arrive five or six weeks ago. The artist is a friend and I won’t mention it, but I am disappointed not to have heard anything since late June. At least Tim saw a photo of Tembo and had something to look forward to.

I’m going to bed. Only half past nine, but I didn’t sleep much. I woke at 7.15 with a migraine, which I staved off with pills, but it’ll return if I don’t rest. Goodnight, dear friends and thank you for your emails and messages. It’s helped.

Few words

Not jolly, the opposite. Sorry.

Tim left on Friday to go to his house in Reading , where his late wife’s sister and her husband were going to stay for a few nights. He wasn’t well but he’d seen the doctor last Tuesday and it wasn’t felt there was an immediate danger.

Lynda called sometime before 6 this morning. Tim had called for help at 3.30, they’d phoned for an ambulance but he couldn’t be saved. It wasn’t a heart attack, his heart was fine. It was his aortic valve. It stopped his heart beating. After the shock of breathlessness he didn’t suffer and it was quick, though they tried to revive him for an hour.

I’m in Reading tonight, it’s all complicated. Im going to have to travel back and forth for a few weeks. There will be two funerals, at both our homes.

We knew we didn’t have time for the waiting game. We hoped for longer, though. I’ll miss him dreadfully.

The days grow short…

We had a good time at the caravan in Pembrokeshire. As Blue Witch suggested, there were a lot of people there. The beach wasn’t crowded because it’s a very big beach, but we drove to Saundersfoot to book a table for lunch and the whole town was packed. And the restaurant was closed. Joseph, who runs the caravan site, said it had never reopened after last year’s lockdown, which was a shame as it was a very good place. We went to the hotel complex up the hill and asked if their restaurant served non-residents (which it used to) but it doesn’t, so we invited our friends, who happened to be staying in North Pembrokeshire for the same week, for lunch instead. I made it easy. Smoked salmon, loch trout, cheese, roasted vegetables and cucumber salad.

Having got back here on Monday, Tim is back in Reading again now. Relations needed a bed for a few nights, so he was happy to be host. I’ve got quite a lot on here, so he’s on his own.

It seems to be a period of bad news. Several of Wink’s friends have died this year and she woke this morning to an email telling her of another and worse, asking her to kindly let some friends know. I emailed a client the other day, offering to enter some china of his into the sale – I’d sold a number of his pieces a couple of years ago, but there were a few left, which I stored as he lives in another country. I had a reply from his daughter to say that he died earlier in the year and she’d like to keep his remaining china. That’s no problem at all, I’ve packed it away for her and I hadn’t put lot numbers on yet, nor written out the descriptions. This morning, i went to pick up some china from another client. She and her husband have a beautiful collection and he died a few months ago (not unexpectedly) and I did the probate valuation.

She asked me how I’d found things a few months on and I could only offer sympathy, not comfort. I said that I thought it got worse. That was how she said she’s feeling now. I stayed quite a long time, chatting. Not just about that, we talked about dogs and family and all sorts of things. She said that people had suggested she might move to a smaller place and her reply was that she feels she’s lost quite enough already, without losing her beloved home.

Then I came home, had lunch and had a nap. I didn’t mean to go to sleep, I had a lot to do, but not much of it got done. There’s always the weekend. The self-employed are used to working at weekends (and a lot of employed people too, even if they’re not ‘at work’) and don’t think anything of it.

So, with one thing and another, although I don’t mean to sound gloomy, I suppose I am. I’ll find something jolly to write about next.

Z visits That London

We’re in Reading, heading to Pembrokeshire in the morning. I had my first train journey in nearly two years today. A double journey, of course, that is. The timing was governed by that London trip because I couldn’t face it from Norfolk. The times I’ve been delayed, for whatever reason, have made me want never to do it again, though I suppose I’ll get over it.

A Lowestoft china client had a picture exhibition and he’d invited me to the private opening. Having accepted, I was almost too tired to go, but I didn’t want to let him down, I like his work and Peter Egan was the guest opening the exhibition. Which was the clincher. I went. Tim was quite tired after a long day yesterday, so I went on my own. I’m glad I haven’t lost my London mojo. It was good to just walk around, appreciating it.

I bought a picture. I don’t yet know where we will hang it, nor even in which house. I like it, that’s enough.

Hatch, match and despatch

This is always an emotional week for me. From the 18th to the 24th, there are anniversaries within the family of two births (plus Eloise the cat), two weddings and Russell’s death. Emotional rollercoaster is an overworked term, but it’s not an unreasonable one.

I’ve come to the conclusion, over the years, that one (or maybe I) never ‘get over’ anything, it just gets put in a virtual box and is shut away. The more boxes one has and the older one gets, the harder it is to keep them all safely secured.

Today, Weeza and co went to Banham Zoo to celebrate Gus’s birthday, which was yesterday. When asked what he wanted to do, he wanted to go to the zoo with Rufus, the cousin he adores. So Tim and I went during the afternoon to walk Izzy the dog, who was left on her own all day if not. I suggested going out for lunch, which turned out to be a mistake. We wanted to go to a nice restaurant in Cromer – probably would be wise to book but we decided to wing it. They have an upstairs smart restaurant, where there was a good chance of a lunchtime table, a downstairs fish restaurant where there would probably be a queue and a takeaway chippie. Surely we’d be lucky with one of them?

I daresay we would have been. However, Cromer was stacked with cars. We tried three car parks and couldn’t get in to any of them. Nor was there space on any of the roadsides. We searched for half an hour and gave up. We hoped to find a roadside pub or café – but no. So we thought we’d call in at a supermarket in North Walsham – there’s a Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose, apparently – well, we drove past the Waitrose with too many cars behind to stop suddenly, as it wasn’t visible until we were right there, and we couldn’t find the other two, not even with the satnav. Finally, we went back to Weeza’s and raided her supplies of cheese, biscuits and pickles. And Phil’s beer, which he thought he’d squirrelled away but we have a nose for that sort of thing.

Izzy was very happy to see us; no guard dog is she and I took her for walks. She didn’t want to go far, so I didn’t take the wild flower photos I’d wanted. It was starting to rain by 4 o’clock, so her final walk was a short one – her decision, not mine.

Weeza and co are coming over tomorrow, we’ll have seen each other as much this week as we have all year.

Z dogsits

I spent yesterday with Augustus, whose tenth birthday is tomorrow, and with Izzy the pup. It was Zerlina’s 13th birthday and she was going to Go Ape in Thetford Forest with friends. Gus is too young. We had a very good day. Didn’t do a lot, took Izzy for several walks, watched a film, played on the X-Box.

The verges and hedgerows around their way are really lovely. There are quite a number of flowers that we don’t have growing wild here. I wish I’d taken photos, I’ll have to check a wildflower book. Certainly honeysuckle, scabious, a vetch that is darker and prettier than the (pretty but rampant weed) one I have in my garden, old man’s beard, broom and – I’m going back on Saturday and I will take photos.

Gus wanted to take me to a wood, where there’s a big oak tree he’s climbed in the past. We were very startled to find it had completely collapsed. Sort of exploded in three directions. We wondered if it had been struck by lighting but have concluded that the stress of one huge bough falling had been too much for the rest of the tree and it had split completely. The two other main branches had not parted from the root and leaves are still growing, but the third had fallen off and died, in full leaf. So now it’s a balancing beam rather than a climbing tree.

I took a panoramic shot.

Izzy, who can’t help looking cute.

The wood is a delight. It’s privately owned but clearly not used for any commercial coppicing or felling. Space has been cleared around some big oak trees but, otherwise, it seems to be left to itself. There were several shades of heather and a wide range of other wild flowers, leaf mould left to nurture the soil and a few oak and holly saplings left to grow. Seeing the destroyed tree made me thankful that I’d had the old oak tree by the drive carefully pruned last year. One big bough had fallen ten years or so ago and we’d meant to have it attended to by a tree surgeon, but Russell was not in the best of health by then and things became so worrying that I forgot all about it. I’m just glad to have got to it in time. The tree surgeon thanked me for having it attended to while it was healthy, he said I’d saved it. It had huge branches growing out horizontally, which place a great strain on the core of the tree and this one was the same. Tom just took out some of the weight and reduced the stress, very carefully so that you couldn’t really see what had been done. He suggested that checking and possibly pruning it every five years or so would be a good idea.

While I was over there yesterday, Tim had an appointment at the eye clinic at the hospital near Gt Yarmouth, so Wink took him. They had a long wait. Three quarters of an hour before seeing the first person, then there were two others, with lengthy spells sitting glumly in between. In contrast, his appointment (for another purpose) at the Norwich hospital today was much more efficiently done. Just as well because it’s been a busy day. First fetched Wink back from the garage, where she’d delivered her car for its MOT, then over to Norwich, then home, then went back to Norwich with Wink for another engagement, then back to fetch her car. Tomorrow, Squiffany is coming over to help turn out the study and then we’re dog sitting again on Saturday, then Weeza and co here on Sunday. I’m not used to this and being busy is tiring, nowadays. Still, more fun than faffing around, innit.

Z is ready for bed

I noted the other day that Thursday morning would be free. It isn’t now. This week will be the busiest in more than two years, I think. In fact, I’m double-booked on Wednesday, so Wink is kindly stepping in to help.

I don’t yet know whether this is stimulating or simply exhausting, so will have to judge in retrospect. I do know that I was so tired last night that I was in bed by 10 o’clock, whereupon sleepiness left me and I was still awake at 1 am.

Lovely Mike and Zoe were great company as always. They live an hour and three quarters away, which is a disadvantage, especially as the journey time can be doubled by bad traffic, as it was on Friday. I really do not miss travel. I like to be in other places, but the getting there has been dire for decades. I’m due to be in London one evening, the week after next, but simply can’t face the London to Liverpool Street line. We will go to Reading and I’ll travel from there. I probably should not have accepted the invitation (private view of an art exhibition) but I like the artist and admire his work and it seemed a good idea at the time. Anyway. Hope I’ll get there. And hope that we’ll then get over to Pembrokeshire.

Mike’s border collie, Scout, is a lovely dog. Very beautiful as that breed always is, he’s also intelligent, supremely well-behaved and loves to play. Sadly, Eloise cat is not impressed. She hates and is afraid of dogs. Linda would be puzzled, because she was her hostess (I am not sure anyone ‘owns’ a cat) until she was ten months old and Linda had two dogs as well as four other cats. Eloise relishes being an only cat now and guards her home against other felines and hides from visiting dogs. After Mike, Zoe and Scout had left, I went to search for Eloise. She wasn’t outside or with Wink, nor in the study, nor in any of the bedrooms. I called. Eloise miaowed. I looked round and finally spotted her, sitting on the leopard’s cage. Safety with a big cat. She has been very loving ever since and quite hungry, as her meals were hurried and nervous.

The escaped cockerel is still out. He wants to rejoin the flock but is too nervous to enter through a wide-open door. i’ve named him Pillock. I put food out for him and otherwise ignore him. Poor Mehitabel, mother cat, is afraid of him, though he is unaggressive and she was also nervous of Scout, so I didn’t see her for a couple of days. I was glad when she returned tonight and made a big fuss of her. I love that little cat and hope she doesn’t vanish for years again – though she is a feral cat and will do whatever she chooses.

A glut of vegetables, though I’m hardly growing any. I made ratatouille tonight.

Life is the rose’s hope while yet unblown

There’s a local guy who has started up a meal delivery service. As I mentioned the other day, it’s Indian food, just on Friday and Saturday. He uses local ingredients and it’s been recommended by friends. We tried it a couple of weeks ago and it was very good, home cooked food (rather than Indian restaurant/takeaway food). He’s really nice to talk to, as well. The delivery time is given as 4.30 – 7.30pm and today, he just squeaked in at 7.25. It didn’t matter at all; as it happens I’d ordered a day early but we eat later anyway.

Rose and I caught up with each other’s (should that be others’? Tell me, grammar people) news yesterday. She is joining my lunch club for, quirkily, afternoon tea next week. It really is a pleasure to be gently sociable again, though I haven’t honestly missed much. Except friendship. It’s been less easy to be relaxedly friendly for the last year and – what, four months? It really is the small things. Also with masks, the shared smile with a stranger has vanished. We try to smile with our eyes but we don’t know if it’s gone through. Rather like P*nk T*ff*n’s meal this evening, we weren’t entirely sure, at 7.24, if it was going to turn up.

Really looking forward to seeing Mike and Zoë tomorrow. They should been our first overnight guests but, as it is, they come second to Rufus. I’ll take any vaccination they offer me, I just want to be gently (second use of the word) normal without worrying that I’ll infect and possibly kill anyone. I’m less bothered about myself, for whatever reason.

I went into town this afternoon. Last time I drove, I’d been listening to downloaded programmes on my phone, but I hadn’t plugged it in this time and the default (largely because it was what I found that was acceptable – I do not like my present car phone set-up) is ClassicFM. It was playing Mozart clarinet quintet. I used to play that. I used to play it all through and I wasn’t bad. I grieve that I let my ability go and I don’t know if I’ll ever play that well again. I’ll try but I’m over twenty years older and I don’t know if I can pull myself up again. I realise that I hope for some sort of a breakthrough, simply by virtue of buying a better clarinet and I also know that I’m deluding myself. But hope is a start. If I can hold on to that, the work may feel worthwhile.