Diary, Reflective

Moving On. Well, Trying To…

It’s fair to say that the year has been a shitty one. Not just my shitty year, but those gentle folk around me who have not only lost Nige but suffered their own personal losses on top.

We rebuild though. We choose carefully the bricks of our new foundation and bravely forge new friendships and nurture older ones. I think I’m doing well. I am cautious by nature and so check and re-check the strength of relationships I hold dear. Then I sit in my front room, on my own and dwell.

I never dwell on mundane stuff. It has absolutely no place in my heart, my soul and my life. It’s the bigger stuff – responsibilities, I’ll call them, that pound my head and leave me shaking. When friends are here, or on the end of the phone, I can conquer everything. When Nige was here, we did together. But on my own, physically and mentally, I’m fucking useless…

So I’m checking – re-checking – my foundation. I’ve spent all of Saturday unpicking my life, or rather reorganising it a little. Nothing needs changing, I love the people I have close to me, but it all needs strengthening. I need strengthening.

Although today has been an horrendous low (and I am sure there will be others) I have realised that it takes very little to unravel a lonely soul. So, it seems obvious to me that in order to keep my soul whole, I need to make more of my relationships – to ensure that though alone for much of the time, I am never lonely.

Wow, if you read all that, thank you!

Diary, Reflective

Keep On Moving

Well, well, the last time we were all here together I had just returned from a jolly jaunt in Pembrokeshire. It was August and the weather was ace, the view spectacular and the company did much to encourage a gentle change of outlook for myself. Since that time, changes have occurred and I now find myself on the cusp of something exciting…

The end of the holidays saw another visit to Wales with my handy Welsh ‘SatNav’. We enjoyed a few light hikes, a ‘tranquil’ trip on a steam train and an incredible waterfall of sheep cascading around the van. But most of all, I developed a huge affection for the Brecon Beacons.

Pob mynydd, coedwigoedd, rhaeadrau a defaid.

I returned to work at the beginning of September. Friends and colleagues all picked up on my new, positive outlook on life and, honestly, the year could not have started better. My weight was stable, I was eating healthier and mentally I was starting to get things straight. The boys, too, looked less stressed as fewer of my problems were passed on to them and, for the first time in 2 years, I described myself as ‘happy’.


I was talking to Penny today. I was telling her about a delightful 2 bedroomed cottage in Clydach, near Abergavenny, that I’d recently looked at. Her excitement for me was palpable as we hypothesised all the scenarios at my disposal.

“You could rent it out to ramblers all year round… Or you could rent the Bath house to your boys, to pay for you to live in the Clydach cottage… Or you could rent the Bath house for twice the amount to a professional couple – and retire! You could even do nothing with it for a year and still make on it… It’s so exciting!”

At that point I could feel the tears pushing their way out.

“It is, it really is but it’s like, ‘Where are my rules?’ I was married from the beginning of my adult life and there were rules, you know? Personal rules really, like ‘all decisions to be joint ones.’ I know that this is something Nige wanted for our future; a little cottage to rent out and eventually downsize to. But to do it on my own – to downsize to a strange place where I know nobody – is that still viable? So the pressure to get it right is on me and that is massive. Working here too. I love my job, the way it sits so perfectly in my life. But that was my old life right? With Nige earning upwards of £30k a year, it was all I needed… But my new life doesn’t have that security – it hasn’t been written yet… So actually, maybe this is completely unsuitable!? Do you see what I’m trying to say? For 30 years we had a notebook full of ideas, plans and dreams. Now I just have blank pages. And I have no idea what to write.”

This, people, is why I often end my days sobbing on the end of the sofa. Not so much for the past, but for the uncertainty of my future. All I need is a few bloody words written in my new notebook. I will keep you all updated on my next big adventure! xxx






I believed I was coping – I am, I guess. But sometimes, just sometimes the world crashes in and strips me of that belief. I am left in a heap on the sofa we chose together, barely coherent whilst life continues, just continues to pass on by.

I am trying so hard to grab it with both hands and hold it tight. But not right now.




Late evening, on January 12th, 2018, we metaphorically linked arms and tentatively stepped forwards together. Together but significantly separate. We stayed this way until after the funeral, when we each found others to take our arm; what stayed the same was our steadfast eye on the future. What changed was our dependence on each other.

I watched with pride, as they rolled on with their lives and I congratulated myself on my avoidance of self-pitying rhetoric. But here’s the thing; whilst they were striding through their grief with quiet stumbles, I stayed on my safe path, too self-conscious to venture out.

The past 6 weeks, though, have taught me much; from fulfilling life-changing ambitions to embracing family and from saying ‘yes’ to things that I thought should be ‘no’ to exploring roads I’ve never been on. I feel as if I have firmly stepped off my safe path into the forward flowing traffic of life.

Down days are still aplenty but as I approach the new academic year, I feel hopeful for the first time in almost 2 years.


Assignment 1

Writing Skills

Just a Girl with her Airedale

I close my eyes, take a deep breath in… and feel the chilly air invade my nostrils, catch the back of my throat before I exhale warmth into the now driving rain. My loose, shoulder-length hair loops round and whips my eyes, causing my moist eyelids to flicker – R.E.M – that moment before you sleep, when dreams fill your subconscious mind.

The rain is lighter now, smoothing my face like a million fingers, massaging harder as the wind gets up. I smile contentedly, as the roar of an aeroplane, an ascending aeroplane, briefly disturbs the silence and I recall that we are somewhere near Bristol Airport. My mind drifts to my dad, who, for so long, worked at British Aerospace. We would watch Concord as children because he worked on it, the nose actually. Another sound, lower down…

Oddly, it’s dogs barking. I cannot tell if they are distressed or not. Django isn’t pulling at the lead so I guess they are content. Paul mentioned earlier that there’s a kennels at the bottom of the valley, so not so odd. Smells are difficult to deduce; my nose feels cold with each inhalation – does cold air have a scent, I wonder? Cold air that was recently so hot.

The damp bench penetrates my red, woollen shawl, causing a little numbness. But it’s a wide bench and feels safe and secure. I can feel Django on the end of his lead, secured by my foot, wandering gently around, his Velcro-like paws making a dull thud through the grass. Paul, too, is chatting quietly to me, expecting nothing in return. Sorry it’s raining. You can usually see the sea over there… Another deep breathe as slowly I bring myself back to wakefulness; all invisible sounds, scents and feelings implode as my eyes open. I look to where he’s looking; Oh yeah, you definitely cannot see the sea.

Still smiling, I watch the grey-black clouds move like hot-air balloons through the sky. Django is sat skew-whiff, his back right leg sticking out at a 45° angle and gently panting, barely audible. The tops of the trees a myriad of greens spread out, it seems, just below my feet. They stretch forwards as far as I can physically see. It’s beautiful, silent aside from the occasional plane overhead. Dogs have stopped barking; rain has diminished. All that is left is fresh silence, two friends and an Airedale. I’m just a girl with her Airedale. It’s a perfect moment in time.

The silence is broken by distant thunder, the magic continues with the most incredible spears of rain. Feck this! I take a moment to cast one last look over this astonishing place, hold my hands out to catch a few drops before we beat a hasty retreat back through the woods.

Dream; Past – Present

I can feel the coolness of ceramic tiles beneath my feet as I run my hands along the length of worktop as if I were playing a piano. This is not a kitchen where friends and family gather together, with wine and crudités, no, this is a kitchen of hope. I can see what it will be; smell what it will be; wait, what’s that yellow pipe down there? My auntie Sue stands by my side, younger than when I last saw her. She’s wearing a pair of bell-bottom jeans and, like me, no shoes. ‘Yellow pipes were all the rage in the ‘70s!’ she says, and starts strumming her guitar.

Sue morphs into my husband, Nigel. He’s talking but I cannot hear anything. We’re in the front room now, standing next to a huge window. I squint my eyes, lean over, strain to hear what he’s saying – no words, just him, smiling down on me, and as I move closer, I already know he isn’t there. I look out of the window. I’m sure I saw something outside but, no, there’s nothing…

I feel tense: I’ve forgotten something important. What is it? I’m in a different front room. It has an old, brown patterned carpet that smells of damp. In the corner stands an old TV, with a chunky knob you have to turn to change channels. I turn and am immediately in a tiny bathroom. I know it leads to a bedroom. ‘I know this place within another place.’ I’m on top of an oak bedstead, wearing a cardigan I knitted when I was 17. Only I’m older but it isn’t.

Back in the front room with the smelly carpet; an old Philips record player sits under the window. I know straightaway that it’s broken; all the wires to the speakers are missing because my brother, Ben, took them for his hi-fi in 1986.

Back in the bedroom, on the edge of the bed. I look over at the tallboy in the corner. Oh my God! It’s in the drawer; I’ve left the baby in the drawer! As I think it, it is. The drawer is open and lying amongst the linen is a baby boy. All smiles and gurgles, it lifts it’s arms out towards me. I hold him; hug him to my chest; plant small kisses on his head.


A dream about a new home isn’t unusual for somebody who has been through what I have been through – I have wondered whether moving would be the best thing for me, but I love my home and I know in time the memories that are so painful now will be consoling later. The new home in my dream was soulless; promising a view but giving none and although Nigel was there, I couldn’t hear him. I ‘hear’ him all the time here… The kitchen didn’t belong to that house, but to this one. Everything else was Victoria Terrace, our first home. It was condemned and pulled down a week after we left…

The baby was a baby Nige, saying, ‘Look, when you need to move on, I’m coming with you… Always.’

Thought of the Day


“It’s lonely. The evenings, you know? That time when historically you’d chat about the day, make plans for the weekend, year, life… Now I’m mainly just flitting from laptop to iPad, TV to puppy with a glass of something on the arm of the sofa…

It will get better – I just need to learn to live with it….”


Keep On Moving

“Shall we go camping?”

“We should you know! My ancestors are from Trevethin, Pontypool, Newport… Maybe Nantyglo at some point.”

“Trevethin is a shit heap. Let’s just go to Pembrokeshire!”

“True. Okay.”

“Feckin’ ace!”

Before you judge, my friend’s Welsh and from Newport – he’s as offended as you!

Paul’s an old friend of Nigel’s and since I met him (on a plane to Barcelona) we have all got on well. He and his wife have a cool pub in Bristol and Nige and I would spend the occasional Sunday evening there, not to mention the Hallowe’en parties… So when I lost Nige, Paul was instantly there. He helped me with the order of service and read an emotional eulogy at the funeral. Isn’t it amazing how friends, when the need occurs, can become like family?

Anyway, I digress. The above messages were exchanged some weeks ago but finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, I booked us into The Celtic Camp Site, near St Davids. Paul gave it his seal of approval and, well I thought the pictures looked nice!

Wednesday, 8th August

We left Bristol just before 10 – the traffic from Bath wasn’t great. Although I had the Sat Nav on, I really didn’t need it. Paul’s travelled almost to the exact spot week in, week out for years. I must say, it was rather lovely having a bloke in the van, chatting away. The fact he could direct me flawlessly too was a real bonus! As I’ve said many times, I do struggle with female chit-chat and so the journey to Pembrokeshire was wonderfully refreshing.

We got to the campsite around lunchtime – maybe a bit later. The site was stunning; the most incredible view of the coast, peppered with rural landscape and rugged coves: just beautiful…

We chose a spot on the edge (retrospectively, I think we should have moved up to higher ground – that’s where the view was at its best). With the hedge on one side of Paul’s wee tent, and Wendy on the other, at least the wind was reduced a little. Obviously, Django and I were fine. In our solid VW!

As I sorted out Wendy and strategically placed the fairy lights, windbreak, stove and flag pole; Paul started to sort out his ‘caterpillar’ tent.

“At the pub, they all wanted me to do a time-lapse video of me putting up the tent. They think I’ll be really bad at it…” 

He was but there isn’t any proof. You’ll just have to take my word for it!


For our first walk, Paul took us onto the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path to Abereiddy. Django bounced effortlessly along the pathway, occasionally making my bum go a bit tight as he bounded up to the precipice! But, overall, it was an easy stroll. We came out by some beautiful cottages and then wound our way down a narrow road, to Abereiddy Bay Beach. It was packed; huge vehicles trying to negotiate the bend at the bottom of the road (forcing us onto the grass verge), only to be told there was no room in the car park. So back up the way they came… So glad we walked! Once we got onto the beach, tranquility descended. It’s odd, isn’t it, how tranquil life can be, even when amongst a crowd of people.


Back at the camp site I cooked us some haloumi. We ate pretty much everything we had brought with us for the whole trip… and drank all the wine! Still, it had to be done; conversation was had, tears and laughter flowed naturally and it just felt perfect.

Thursday, 9th August

As usual, Django and I were awake by about 5.30… It just always happens that way. Anyway, we laid in for an hour, until we saw Paul poking his head out of his cocoon-like tent. It was about 6.30. We needed a plan for breakfast. I needed a coffee!

The brilliant thing about having a tent is that your pitch is saved; which means you can drive your VW camper away… Well, that’s a first for me!

“They’ll be lots of places to get breakfast in St Davids.”

Just four miles up the road, and definitely on my ‘bucket list’, St Davids was the obvious choice for coffee.

We didn’t end up with the best coffee but we did drink it whilst looking at the best view. Paul took me down to see the famous St Davids Cathedral and the ruins of St Davids Bishop’s Palace. Wow! Just, really didn’t expect to see anything so grand and as magisterial as that – breathtaking. I vow to revisit and go inside…

Next; we found a friendly hotel that served breakfast to non-residents and was dog-friendly – perfect. We sat there for quite some time, watching the Friday market set up and soaking in the hub-bub that is everyday life in beautiful St Davids.

Back to the van, via Oriel y Parc; an ecological visitors centre by the carpark. Again, I’d have liked to have stayed longer but Paul wanted to take us on another coastal walk. This time, through Solva and into Manorbier and time was marching on.


On to Solva then. There didn’t appear to be much there, if I’m honest, but the high street was incredibly pretty and I do like me a pretty high street!



The road to Manorbier was brilliant; lots of windy lanes, narrow roads and stunning sea views. Then, as you come into the town, you’re faced with the most incredible castle. Today, though, we were focused on walking. So I parked up and we set off on a 4km Coastal Path Walk to Swanlake Bay. It looked much worse than it was – you could see people like ants winding their way ahead and it felt for the world that you would never get there. But, yeah, not too tricky at all. I worried a little about Django as it was hot and he was panting a fair amount.

“There’s fresh water for dogs at the beach. You’ll see…”

After a tiring hike up, came the precarious stroll down. Django was perfect – not once landing me on my arse! As we came down to the entrance onto the beach, there was a pile of rubbish. Amongst the rubbish were four plastic milk cartons, full of fresh water:



Paul told me that it’s from a guy who also collects up all the rubbish, and then when there’s a pile, he takes it to the tip. I looked up to the top of the cliff,

“How on earth does he do that?” I asked.

“No idea…”

We sat on the beach for a while, I was particularly enjoying the view of a young guy bouncing naked into the waves. If I had my costume (and the courage), I’d have jumped in too! Paul, however, decided that maybe he wouldn’t take a dip after all, ha, ha! Anyway, we only had an hour left on the car so we set off back, filling Django up with more water before we started.


On our way back to the camp site, we stopped off at St Davids for food; a mash-up of veggie burgers, Pringles and Black Olive Hummus… Perfect with the two bottles of Italian wine and four bottles of Welsh ale! As we sat eating, drinking and chatting, the wind continued to battle with the windbreak and flag pole – the windbreak gave up pretty damn quickly. So I decided to rescue the flag pole before it did the same. Then we retired to comfort of the van, finishing the wine and our chat. Django was shattered – until I tried to get a picture of Paul for the van, that is… Such a diva!

By half 10, we were done in. Paul crawled into his tent and Django and I fell asleep. That’s the benefit of the Welsh sea air!

Friday, 10th August

We awoke at about 5am to rain! It’s always then that you need to pee… I walked the endless walk up to the toilets between the storm, leaving Django in the dry. Shortly after I got back, Paul emerged from his wind-battered tent – honestly, I’m impressed it was still standing! Tired, we tried to catch a few more zzzs, but the heavens opened and so Django and I sat in the van, watching Paul’s little tent get battered by the incessant wind and rain.

As soon as the rain stopped we packed up the site. It really didn’t take that long and by the time we were sat in the breakfast room (with everyone else), the weather was brighter and there was even a rainbow in the sky. After two beautiful, sunny days, it seemed the perfect time to go home.


So that was Pembrokeshire. Well, a bit of it anyway. Such a beautiful place and certainly somewhere I’d love to revisit. Maybe next time I’ll bring a Bell tent; I loved being able to leave the camp site and I think a freestanding tent – as opposed to a drive-away awning – is a little more flexible. Hmm, I’m seriously getting into this camping malarkey!