Dear John

I have at last found the ‘Bulgaria Video’ I was looking for – in fact it’s a DVD as I’d suspected.  I know it had some video of us on it, having been made on a day trip during our Bulgaria holiday.  It was in the front room, I just looked down and saw it in the front of a box as I was moving things around.  It’s been right there in front of me near the sofa all this time.

This means I can now throw away the boxes and boxes of old videos I have come across which were recorded off the TV over the years – now I know I have the recording I was looking for, they can all go.

Oh John, you would laugh if you saw it – well, I suppose you must have watched it at the time, but not more than once, I’m sure.  It’s unutterably dull and boring.  Long, long shots of the tourist guide giving boring talks in dull boring places – a not very impressive ruin in the middle of nowhere, some sort of honey demonstration in a little village, a tiny church with a screen and icons (we don’t even look around it, just sit and sit and listen to him drone on), and a ride on carts pulled by donkeys.

The thing is, everyone looks bored out of their minds, no-one looks happy or interested in any of it (including us).  Clearly listening to the endless talks was boring at the time, it’s impossible to watch it back on tape, especially when the person making it keeps focusing on the same people, and includes loads of footage of things like a calf in a field and a dog lying down in a corner.  (Loads of boring footage of someone making pottery on a wheel, for example, or weaving or kneading bread – when what people really would have wanted was more footage of themselves – they should have focused more on getting lots of good shots of all the actual tourists!)

But in terms of it yielding more precious video footage of you, John, I’m very pleased.  I had remembered that it was us riding on a donkey cart (how embarrassing, we have one between the two of us, when all the others are six people to a cart), but there are other bits of you walking around the site of the ruins, and sitting trying a spoonful of honey, and walking into another place and trying something to eat as you walk in, and walking down a pathway by a house, and at the end sitting at a table tasting some wine.  They are only glimpses, but it’s captured you still alive – I so wish I had loads more, I would watch it all the time.  It makes me feel you are so dear to me.  (You were dear to me, and now the memory of you is dear to me.)  You were alive then, at that moment, hopefully enjoying yourself – in fact I think even those few glimpses catch your good nature, with little smiles and laughs.  (You certainly have a better – more tolerant and friendly – expression on your face than I do!)  When you get on the donkey cart you say something like “I’m driving”, pretending to take the reins, and you reach out to pat the donkey’s bottom.  And when we get off it, you say clearly, “Get a photograph of the donkey,” and then pose beside it (I’ll have to dig out that photo, I haven’t seen it).

It was just about at that point that we both saw a Golden Oriole, an interesting wildlife moment that we sometimes referred to.

Oh dear, it’s so difficult to look back on that moment of life when we were still together.  I look really grumpy and fed up all the time (probably more so than I felt, because I remember enjoying the various experiences and atmospheres of that trip).  I look at myself and think, you didn’t know at that point that one day you’d been watching the video of this moment as something unutterably precious, being one of the few records of John walking round alive, and talking.

You’re wearing a particular top John, which unfortunately is one that I think I’ve already given away, or I would have kept it.  How annoying.

And what a shame all I have is glimpses of you on a recording like this, when mainly you’re sitting there doing nothing and trying not to look bored while some guy drones on.  All the many conversations you had in your life – what a shame I never videoed any of them, to see you talking, being animated, expressing your opinions, being yourself.

There should have been more holidays, John.  More shared moments.  It’s too painful to bear.

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