Equal time on the planet

Today is a significant day/date which I have sort of been waiting for for six and a half years.

Up until today I have been able to say, John still outlived me, he still had longer on the planet than me (because he was older).

But today the day has come when I have been alive the same amount of time that he had in total (59 years, 131 days). So today is the equivalent day for me, to the one where his life ended. So after today, if I’m still here (unless he ‘comes to get me’), I will be living with the awareness that I’ve actually lived longer than him. I think that will add to my grief.

I am scared for myself, because he died aged 59 – why should I not also? I don’t deserve to be the one who survived longer.

So how to pass this horrible day without being too profound, and too scared, and too sad?

At least one of the two of us is still here to have these thoughts, and make these comments.

Poor, dear John, I wish you were still here to enjoy life with me. xxx

Dear John, 6 years on

Dear John

Well, in the same way it’s so weird that you didn’t know about Brexit, you also completely missed a world-wide pandemic (tautology!), with a virus having killed well over a hundred thousand people in the UK alone.  So far I have escaped it.  I have wondered whether you would have survived it; it might have taken you just a few years later anyway.  I’ve also wondered whether it was a factor in your ‘unknown infections’ whilst in hospital; could it have been Covid back then?

We are still in a national lockdown which means no travelling round the country, no holidays abroad, no restaurants or retail outlets open, no zoos or stately homes to visit, no big events to go to like the country shows, or Crufts or racing.  Also I have not been able to socialise at all, look for new friends etc, so have felt very very isolated and often scared.

Because I’m in a new area, my grief has come back quite a bit.  If I walk by the sea on a rough and rainy day, I think, John would have liked this.  Every time I see old couples together holding hands, I think, that should have been us – we would have stayed together so I would have been in a life-long relationship, growing old together (didn’t happen).  I come across historical things locally and think, would John have known about that?  What would John have thought about everything that’s happening and where I’ve ended up?  (Well, I’ve moved but still not sure I won’t move again; it wasn’t the dream perfect location, it was just having to choose somewhere, anywhere, in a panic, because I’d moved out of the old house and had nowhere to live!)

The worst thing is living alone in a new house, with a lot of our things still around me – the same sofas, the same bed at the moment, the same pictures on the walls, the same books and CDs etc.  I can’t help thinking how sad it is that I can’t show you my house, take you on a tour.  Look, this is where I put our old bookshelves, this is where I’m keeping your artworks, our bookmarks collection.  What would you have thought of this house, John?  Would you have approved of it?  Would you be jealous to see me living here now?  Yes, of course you would have wanted more life also.  I picture you sometimes – that’s where John would have sat, in the porch, reading a newspaper, enjoying the retirement he never had.

I’m supposed to be looking forwards not back, but it’s difficult when you’re alone all the time not to feel sad and sentimental.

All my love xxx

Comparing Cinderellas

Over the past few weeks I’ve been comparing two versions of a ballet – Prokofiev’s Cinderella.  One was a traditional version from Amsterdam, Dutch National Ballet, one a recording of the Matthew Bourne version set during the war, which I saw recently at Sadlers Wells but which was also on TV over Christmas.

The music doesn’t directly correlate as you switch between the two, but I’ve certainly become very familiar with bits of it.  I don’t know if I could say which of the productions I preferred, probably the more traditional one, but only by a bit, and both had interesting scenes and ideas.  For example in the Dutch version I particularly loved the groups of four seasons dancers, in different colours, bright green for spring, yellow for summer, red for autumn, then blue/white for winter, with the trees reflecting the same colours, so pretty.  And also how the trying on of the shoe was done, with a whole row of dancers moving forward by one on a row of chairs, with each one doing something slightly different or comical when it came to their turn.  And in the Matthew Bourne I liked particular moments, like the angel all in silver suddenly appearing on a mantelpiece, and the way the stepmother and family do a funny walk together in the hospital scene, so evocative and so cleverly matching the music.

I’m only just starting to bear to be able to listen to emotional classical music again.  The music of the final scene – I’ve just watched the ending of both versions, not an actual proper dance between the couple but a staged happy ending – when it comes in is SO affecting and emotional, it’s like the Rosenkavalier duet at the end, just magical, all ‘twinkly’, stunning how a piece of music can bring out such feelings in your heart you can hardly express, well done Prokofiev!

Just another musical comment.  It’s a well known thing in classical music and opera for example, that the tempo at which things were taken used to be slower in the past and in modern productions can be faster.  John and I used to discuss this a lot, he had an amazing feel for tempo and we both tended to agree about a preferred tempo.  In general, personally, I often prefer the more ‘old fashioned’ speed, and sometimes find things taken much too fast (many examples I could give in opera).  But listening to the main Cinderella theme repeated at the end of these two ballets – in the traditional one it was played over the credits, in the Bourne there was a wonderful danced curtain call – I really felt the traditional tempo was just that bit too slow and laborious, whereas it was much better, to my ears ‘right’, in the more modern version.

I felt so so sad that my partner that I used to be able to talk to about this sort of thing was gone – and so so sure that he would have agreed with me about the tempo, and about the astonishing musical beauty of the ending.

Walking and talking

I’ve been trying to walk more, to get exercise for my own health, and have been regularly walking up and down a long straight path which I call my ‘exercise path’.  It is in a rather deserted place, by a playing field.  Occasionally there are other people there walking dogs, but generally it is a lonely and dismal place.

I prefer it when it is sunny – I have got rather hooked on walking in winter sunshine, on cold days. Quite often though, when the weather is just dull and overcast, I find it depressing – countered only by the fact that by exercising I know I’m doing something positive for myself.

I can’t help feeling very reflective when I walk on this path.  I find myself sometimes talking as if to John, telling him what’s been happening and what my current state of mind is like.  Oddly I don’t think I ever walked there with him, so it’s not a place he would have known.

It’s three years now and I do feel very very lonely, and miss so much having someone intelligent and caring and supportive to talk to every day.

It’s true that some things get easier, that things aren’t so raw, but it’s also true that it never goes away – the loss is always there.  I will never be able to speak to him again, listen to him again. Every time I walk on the path is another memory made without him.  Every sunny, or dull, day is a day he hasn’t seen – every leaf, every cloud, every bird, something he’ll never see.

I never expected to be feeling loneliness like this again.


Winter Wonderland

Well I’ve got seriously hooked on Winter Wonderland (a giant funfair and christmas market) in London’s Hyde Park this year.

I’ve been four times.

The first time I went alone and was so aware of everyone around me being in couples and groups, I don’t think I saw one other person on their own.  So I contrived to go back a couple of times with people I didn’t know very well, which was better in a way but didn’t feel great.  (I guess what you really want is to be there with the person you loved and enjoyed the company of and who you knew so well, but that’s no longer possible.)  I went back again yesterday on my own and felt a bit better.  Clinging onto my idea that although he’s no longer here, there’s still ‘me and the world’, and why can’t I enjoy what the world has to offer even though I’m on my own.

I had another profound revelation, that I’ll have to ‘compartmentalise’ my life more now.  Whereas he, my dear life partner, covered several aspects, maybe now I’ll just have to separate things.  Not expect ‘intellectual stimulation’ along with ‘companionship’.  Find ‘humour’ in one place and ‘emotional support’ in another.

I’ve just written a page long list of all the rides and attractions I can remember at Winter Wonderland – there is so much to look at and to do.  I went on the observation tower and to the ice show, and would really have loved to go on one of the fast things, like the main roller coaster that goes upside down five times.  But I can’t judge whether I’d like it or hate it – maybe next year I’ll pluck up courage.

I listened to live music in six different places, and also drank mulled wine and ate bratwurst, spit roast chicken, sweedish meatballs, and waffles (not all on the same day!)

One feature of Winter Wonderland is my favourite – I fell in love with the giant christmas tree children’s ride, where you sit in a spherical ‘bauble’ that goes round and up and down gently.  I just loved watching the various coloured lights at night – it’s programmed to run through so many options and is just a beautiful thing.  First it’s all red lights, then flashing white, then maybe green and purple (various combinations of two colours), then it’s all blue, then twinkling yellow and pink, then every branch a different colour…  Mesmerising, and so pretty.

Those of us still on the planet should cling onto and enjoy places like this – as they are so full of LIFE.


Fear of grief

This is why I have had to look through every piece of paper that is in the house – amongst all the junk, I occasionally find a treasure!  Have come across some early writing of mine including a poem which I must have written at the time of my wedding on the Isle of Wight in 1988.  I don’t think I’ve seen it since then.

Difficult to read and retype, the particularly poignant verse being:

I will work through pain and problems,
Lean to live with fear of grief.
What we’ve had is worth a lifetime,
Even should our time be brief.

Well, our time wasn’t that brief (29 years), but I did end up experiencing grief at the end of it.

Link to complete poem here:  Wedding

Casablanca Steps


These are the Casablanca Steps, which I have written about in A Widow’s Words.

A jazz band that plays cheerful, humorous songs at the country shows – I have seen them often.  It was horribly difficult the first time I saw them after my loss – knowing that the person I had watched them with before would never see them again.

They can’t know how poignant they have become for me.


News update

Dear John

It will be three years soon, and I’m still living in the same house, the same area.

I need to move and am working towards ‘letting go’.  I don’t want to be faced with difficult spots, painful memories wherever I go.  I think a fresh start would be a good idea now.

But I’ve lived in the same house for 20 years.  I’ve spent 2 years tidying and sorting and now know every corner and where everything is.

I’m attached to it, I’m comforted by the familiarity, and I don’t fancy the disruption of a move.

Nevertheless, it has to be done.

In other news –

I keep seeing things in my local area that I want to tell you about, that you would have been interested in.

That new school has opened already, by the station, which you thought was in such a bad spot because it would add to already ridiculous traffic.

They have added more ‘street furniture’ everywhere in the form of benches, which promptly become used by large groups of vagrants drinking beer all day.  (I remember your opinions on street furniture!)

Yet another place we knew well has closed – the Indian takeaway ‘Depa’ which we used for so many years for deliveries.   I don’t like things that provided me with comfort not being available any more (!!!)

You would hardly recognise the area around Victoria station – so much new building, huge new office blocks and new bars and restaurants (which we could have explored).

And finally –

I saw a small dead black and white bird on the pavement right in front of me today, in the town centre.  Must have been a pied wagtail, hit by a car.

Unusual.  Not nice.  I refuse to give it any significance.

St John’s Passion

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Went to a performance of St John’s Passion in a lovely big church in Kensington recently.  The choir was very good, well worth listening to, with a lovely rich sound.  I wasn’t that impressed with the tenor though; I thought his diction wasn’t clear enough, and also there was no engagement with the audience.  It’s such a central role, ‘The Evangelist’, such a focal point for the piece, I would have thought it was an opportunity to really make your presence felt, and deliver it in a way that keeps the audience’s attention on you and on the story.  Basically, I don’t think the Evangelist was Evangelical enough.

I enjoyed it all though.  The penultimate chorus is a piece that, rather morbidly, I sometimes have to stop myself singing because I’ve always thought I’d have it played at my funeral.  I sung it years ago at school and it’s got itself deep in my soul.  I’ve always known it as ‘Lie still… (oh sacred limbs lie sleeping, and I will lay aside my weeping…)’.  But in this translation it was ‘Sleep well’.  Oh dear.  I don’t think ‘Sleep well’ has anything like the power of ‘Lie still’ in that context.

I went on my own and of course it was impossible not to think about my partner (and his absence) the whole time.  When I go to things like this I’m experiencing what they say about how people can be lonely in a crowd.  There were loads of people there who were all obviously interested enough to listen to a serious classical piece like that, and I felt like I had something in common with them, and I belonged.  At yet of course everyone is in couples or family groups, and though you sort of look at people with a smile on your face in the hope of striking up a conversation, no-one spoke to me at all.

In fact the whole of that day, my only attempt at interacting with someone was to make a comment to a guy walking a little white dog just like the one that’s recently won Crufts.  I said something like, ‘Oh look, it’s the Crufts winner!  Any relation?’  He didn’t really respond and the dog just pooed right in front of me.


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Now I am definitely NOT going to get myself a dog.  I have no experience of having had pets like dogs or cats in my life (only budgies and goldfish).  It’s too much commitment.  It would be cruel in the inner city – I’ve always thought I would never consider it unless I had some sort of huge country farmhouse with outbuildings.  And no way am I doing the poo collecting thing – seriously not me.

However, I don’t see what’s wrong with speculating about what breed of dog one might have IF one was going to have a dog.  I love dogs – aesthetically.  I like some better than others.  Hence my decision to go to Crufts; in order to visit the area where you can see and ‘meet’ different breeds of dog (200 according to the website).

I really enjoyed it.  I saw it as an opportunity to maximise hands-on dog experience.  I amused myself by considering what my top three favourite breeds are.  In fact there are two different top threes – one for the dream/fantasy scenario (said huge farmhouse), where size isn’t an issue.  And another more realistic shortlist.  One that I just might conceivably, if I moved out of London and was living somewhere by the seaside where I could take a dog out for walks, consider as a possibility.

Fantasy top three breeds: Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Australian Shepherd, Golden Retriever.
Realistic top three breeds: Lancashire Heeler, Swedish Valhund, Pomeranian.

Last time I went to Crufts (on my own, some years ago), I fell in love with something called an Irish Water Spaniel, because of the way it FELT rather than looked, such lovely soft cuddly fur.

This year, of all the dogs I saw, I would make my personal overall winner a (I think it was) German Shepherd with a beautiful all over deep grey coat, which was doing amazing tricks and generally being charming.  He won me over completely.