As colleagues wearily count down the days, I quietly dread the fast-approaching, endless days of the Summer break. I was never a fan but now I am seriously concerned for myself…
So I have plans. Not many, but from small acorns… Keep an eye out for me and I’ll see you all on the other side! (September, obviously).
That girl I told you about, Gemma who I took to the Vintage Nostalgia Festival? She broke my heart today…
Not in the way you’re thinking; she suffered a bereavement at the start of the week and I saw her for the first time this morning. That’s what broke my heart today…
Caught up in grief (I know that feeling), single minded (I know that feeling) and loved by many, she is still my little potty-mouthed friend and talking to her today – well, I glimpsed a little of what she dealt with with me. And it’s tough.
Sitting on the aged, brown, faux-leather seats on the first floor of the Pulteney Practice this morning, awaiting my blood test. “Deep breathes, Lise…” Holding back tears as I picture Nige sat beside me; remembering our sad little conversations from the numerous appointments we had there.
A long drive into work was very much needed.
“Hey, Lise. Was wondering if you fancy going away with us? Just for a night sometime…”
“Absolutely! You give me some dates, I’ll book something up.”
Jo gave me two dates and I chose the closest. Friends recommended Castle Farm Campsite, on the Somerset Levels in Wedmore and so I booked it up.
I have worked with Jo for more years than I care to remember; she has been a presence in my life forever, it seems. Yet the only times we’ve got together socially have been end of term drinks, the occasional wedding and, recently, Nigel’s funeral. Her husband, Chris, is our ever-efficient, slightly eccentric, caretaker… Though I never really knew him well, he was the only one from work to reply to my ‘explanation’ email, back in 2016; expressing his utter disbelief and sorrow at Nigel’s prognosis – that meant everything to me, at that particular time. It’s something that I’ll never forget. Since then, and on my first few days back at work, I sought him out as a reassuring face. Jo, too, for her quiet support at the funeral. It’s the little things guys, always remember that…
Jo and Chris are dog lovers. They have three rescue mutts and I’m pretty sure they’d have more if ever another was in need of a home! I got to theirs at 11ish so we could introduce Django to Lika. It could not have gone better – right then; dog chosen, time to go.
I followed Chris all the way – via the ‘scenic route’ that men seem to prefer more often than not! However, ‘scenic’ was indeed what it was. You forget (well, I forget) how truly beautiful Somerset is. It’s right on my doorstep and takes your breathe clean away. The clear, blue, endless sky certainly helped, as did the breeze flowing through my open windows.
On arrival, I trundled down, with Django, to the farmhouse. I received such a warm welcome by the owner – another Jo – and her trio of collies! We parked up, Chris busied himself with the awning and Jo and I sat in the sunshine and chilled. Django and Lika – well, check them out! They were bloody brilliant…
For those who are familiar with my short trips away, you’ll know how I struggle with the loneliness and emotional instability. What was lovely about this trip was having company – a couple who have known me (quirks and all) for long enough to understand my ramblings and the life experience to empathise with my situation. And I never expected that. I never expected to be sat out, looking over at Glastonbury Tor with Jo and Chris from work, talking about life, death and watching the alpacas amble around nonchalantly. In truth, it probably never would have happened if Nige were here, but I can say that about almost everything these days; from getting Django to letting my hair go grey – and that’s perfectly fine. I embrace it all equally.
It’s a cool time of year to discuss work, with our new positions for the next academic year confirmed and so we did! Obviously it’s only cool because we’re both happy with our ‘lot’… so I guess it actually had the potential of being rather awkward… Macaroni was ate, wine and beer was drunk and laughs were aplenty – could it get better? Well, yes!
“Is that the moon rising over there?!”
Our view was of Glastonbury Tor: stunning in itself. But as the sun went down, a red, moody shape appeared to the left of the Tor. Chris asked the question and Jo and I duly looked. I think we both said,
“Bloody hell, that’s incredible!”
The family in the neighbouring tent woke their small children and everyone else seemed transfixed by the lunar spectacle. I am always in awe of the moon. I cannot wrap my head around the notion that we all see it. Everybody.
“And we all see the same side – that’s what I can’t wrap my head around!”
Jo added. I know we see it at different times but just check out the internet on these occasions where the moon is super or otherwise: the world over, photos are posted. If ever you needed reminding that we are all one, then it is during these beautiful moments.
After saying goodnight, at around 11.30, Django and I took up our usual tussle for the best spot in the bed. I decided to open my Wild Hare beer and check out the TV. I dismissed the football and chose “Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll” with Andy Serkis instead. I had my last wee at about 1.45am and fell asleep.
Django woke me up at 6.20am – about right, I thought. Only, as I walked him around the field, I realised it was actually 5.20… Ah well, a lie-in is only a lie-in when you know it’s a lie-in, right? Back to bed, up at 7ish to start packing bits away.
Jo and Chris, being that their van is very much more luxurious than mine, rose at about 8 or 9 I think – instantly forgiven as they had the breakfast! Chris went for a run whilst Jo and I enjoyed coffee and croissants. See, we absolutely know how to camp! Next the long, awaited trip to see the Sea Harrier! Oh my goodness, what a stunner… Of course, I blame my dad for my obsession with planes…
I have to thank Jo for the wonderful shot of me in the Harrier… Pretty damn awesome.
“Thank you for the last 24 hours!”
And so we left – almost precisely 24 hours after we’d left Bath. We wended our way through the stunning villages and countryside. Briefly stopped for an ice-cream at Chew Valley Lakes and said ‘cheerio’… Odd because I’ll see them both tomorrow at work. But precious because we’ll have the past 24 hours in common.
As usual, I cried buckets as I followed Jo and Chris in their mobile-home. I talked out my emotions aloud and came to the sad conclusion that I just don’t enjoy anything. At the Kiefer Sutherland gig earlier in the week, I willed it to end, so I could chalk it up as another experience done. And I do that with my trips away. All of them. I know that at some point I will genuinely have a wonderful time, but enjoyment is hard to come by at present. That isn’t to say I don’t get anything from it; I truly do, I move further along that road of grief for starters. But uncomplicated ‘enjoyment’ is something I aspire to and with every journey I’m getting closer… I promise. Thank you so, so much Jo, for opening the door on this weekend – I loved every minute! xxx
“I’m okay with photos from when you were both young… It’s the ones when he was ill; they just remind me how fucking unfair it all was.”
Harry Lee, 2018
This isn’t a rant; more musings whilst being dragged through the meadow by the pup. But it might feel like one. Honestly though, take my word for it, it isn’t.
“He must be a great comfort to you.”
I have been told this a couple of times by lovely, well-meaning folk and though initially it was Harry and Gabe who were the ‘great comfort’, it is now Django. I find the phrase odd; it just doesn’t seem to go with my situation. You hear it often in classic fiction, I think, like Pride and Prejudice or Poldark: Aunt Agatha, for example, was only against poor Verity’s fated marriage because she was a ‘great comfort’ to her and she’d miss that. But wasn’t that because Verity made her comfortable? She brought her food, her clothes. She sat with her and talked or read to her – she quite literally made her life more comfortable. So is Django a comfort to me? Does he make my life more comfortable? Well, as I sit here, sweat causing my hair to frizz-out manically, boots caked in all manner of livestock shit and my hands tingling from nettle stings and that slight swelling heat brings on; ‘comfort’ is not the word that springs to mind!
Now, ‘bearable’ is a good word. Django definitely makes this lonely life bearable. As does the gin I’m holding right now!
“You’ll feel anger – it’s perfectly normal.”
A stage of grief is ‘anger’ I am told, though I’m not sure what this means. For some time now I have wondered when I will experience this and what form it will take. I’m considered to be logical and practical – even cold and as such, I cannot see where my anger will be directed. I have said, of course, “Why Nige? Why not his shit of a brother? Or Brent?” but my next thought is always, “Because. Because cancer is indiscriminate, taking the lives of children who are just learning about the world, taking away the hope from young adults when they have only just glimpsed their place in it – why not Nige? Why not me? You?”
So it’s a circle, and I don’t view anger in that way; I see anger as an explosion, with fallout, repercussions and a resolution. If Nige had been killed by someone, then I would be angry with that someone. If he had taken his own life, I guess I would hold some anger against him for choosing to leave me and the boys but the enemy here is a disease; it has no face or tangible force. Basically, I can’t punch and kick it can I? Again, that’s anger to me.
In short, my way of thinking is a circle and after you’ve gone round once and realised it’s a circle, you don’t go round again. Because, like one of those cheap garden features, after being regurgitated through a pump a dozen times, it becomes stagnant and mouldy. Unhealthy.
I strive, I do, to be more like the natural cycle of water: to careen down mountainsides, crash over obstacles to find the simplest way forward with the hope of landing in a calm, clear lake; still and free from turmoil, warmed by the sun.
So I think instead of feeling anger, I feel philosophical. It’s equally exhausting but just not so pointless; it’s widening my perception of the world and when I do flow into that placid lake, I will be a whole lot wiser.