In A Widow’s Words I wrote about the several significant places where I scattered some of my dear John’s hair – for example at Hever Castle, and in St Moritz. There was one more place I wanted to do it, and I finally addressed this the other day.
It’s a place we loved at Wakehurst Place, a clearing in the woods where birds come to feed. I saw that it’s really called the Himalayan Glade, but we called it Nuthatch Grove.
So I went and did it, managed to spend some time there alone (though it was quite busy with people despite being quite isolated). I took ‘Little John’ and got some photos. All very sad and sentimental.
Amazingly, I really did get several sightings of a nuthatch, so it’s a pretty reliable place to see them. It’s a tiny bird that flits about so quickly and never seems to rest long in one place, so even if I’d had a proper camera it would have been difficult to get a good shot – below is the best I got on my phone camera.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go there again… too painful. Very beautiful though.
Well the snow and cold weather are over (I hope) and I’ve suddenly been surprised by Spring! These are daffodils in St James’s Park.
It’s brought with it a resurgence of grief – back to that horror of thinking that the person who was closest to you, who you were sharing your life with, has been snatched away, and will never see a spring again, will never see daffodils again.
I was shocked to think that it’s my fourth spring already since it happened – that I’ve seen four springs now on my own – and cried over the fact he’s no longer here with me.
We used to sit and look at blue skies together, and comment on how the enjoyment of the sky and nice weather didn’t depend on one’s wealth, how anyone could have that pleasure. Now looking at a blue sky is difficult, because of feeling my loss of him, and his loss of being able to ever see the sky again.
It’s such a morbid thought, but for every one of us there will be the spring after we’ve gone, the first of those that we’ll never see.
Somebody else will be looking at daffodils (and maybe remembering us).
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.
I went to the Chelsea Flower Show this year. I think I’ve only ever been once before, a long time ago. I did enjoy it, though it was very busy and noticeably expensive to get in.
I wandered round for hours, looking at stuff, eating, buying things – most notably a little picture of seven sparrows from the ‘Moorcroft’ stall. (John would have liked it – see Sparrows.)
The main thing that struck me about the show was how different it actually feels to be there, compared to how it appears on the television programmes. Of course they film when it’s quiet, but I think a lot of close ups and careful angles are employed to give an impression that the show gardens are bigger, there are far more flowers and beautiful vistas in general, and far fewer people!
Very pleased to find there was a shuttle bus right outside the exit which went to Victoria station, though, as it was an exhausting day.
(Aha! I seem to have accidentally – belatedly – found a way to present photos a bit smaller, good.)
So one of my urges has been to go on safari and animal-themed holidays – to enjoy the natural world and go back to one of my early interests (having studied Biology).
Since I didn’t feel ready to go on a ‘proper’ safari on my own, I thought I’d start with the only wild monkeys in Europe and booked a few days in Gibraltar, earlier this year.
I reckoned, as a British place, it would be a safe location to travel to alone. I chose a decent (famous) hotel and anticipated that I might meet and chat to some interesting people.
Well, the reality was that the weather was awful – very wet and very windy – everywhere was deserted and the hotel was virtually empty. I ended up wandering around windswept streets alone in the rain, having done what there was to do (the whole place was much smaller than I’d expected, and none of the tourist excursions were running, eg to Morocco, because it was out of season) – feeling lonely and miserable. So it wasn’t a great success.
Went on a short cruise from London Tilbury, just before Christmas 2016. Amsterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp (Netherlands, Germany and Belgium), featuring Christmas markets. Was shocked of course hearing about the Berlin incident, when I’d just been on a similar market in Hamburg.
I went on my own with the intention of being sociable, but it was difficult, it was mainly all couples or groups of friends and I felt rather awkward chatting to strangers and very much feeling the loss of my life partner, who would so much have loved to have been on the ship and seen all the things I saw.
There was a stunning sunset as we set off, and I bought lots of nice things including some clothes, and ate the most wonderful Belgian waffle I’ve ever tasted. I discovered a lovely little zoo in the middle of Antwerp which had a wonderful exhibition of chinese (japanese?) lanterns in the shapes of different animals. What I chose as my favourite photo on return, was one of these – the elephants below – which seems to have captured a nice variety of ‘texture’.
(I stopped doing this photo blog a while ago because I don’t believe many people are looking at it and it just seemed too sad to continue writing stuff no-one’s reading. Nevertheless, with the new year, I thought I’d do a couple of posts with photos I liked.)
I went to Krakow in late summer 2016, and stayed on my own in an apartment in the old town for a week. It was very noisy all night with people talking, drinking, and laughing – particularly on the Friday and Saturday when the noise really didn’t die down until about 6am. Difficult when it’s hot and you want the window open.
There are horses and carts giving rides to tourists in the main square, and I would keep hearing the sound of horses hooves from my room as they passed along the street below, all day and until late at night, and I would go and look out of the window at what colour the horses were. I’m a bit obsessed with horse colours for some reason, and I liked the way they were so nicely paired up – two white, two dapple grey, two brown, two skewbald etc. I particularly liked this unusual appaloosa colour on the photo – big brown spots. I’ve never seen a horse that colour in England.
I do recommend Krakow as an introduction to Poland – it’s a lovely old city with lots of historical stuff to see, plus wonderful shops and loads of cafes and restaurants to try. Right at the end of the week I discovered the more modern side of the city – a huge three storey shopping centre near the railway station that I thought was more impressive than any I can think of in London!
The trumpet call that is played from the main church every hour is so interesting and impressive – to think that it has sounded every single hour for something like 700 or 800 years to commemorate the death by arrow of the person sounding an alarm call. Very profound to think that the poor man himself could never have guessed that that would happen for so very long after his death.
Today I put on a brand new light green top I bought at the South of England Show, but forgot that I changed from my black to a red handbag a couple of days ago, because a strap broke (and then I couldn’t be bothered to change my top). I’m not exactly fashion conscious, but I felt like it was a mistake going out with this clash of green and red, and I was feeling self-conscious about it. I thought to myself that what I needed was a scarf with red and green on it, which would bring the two colours together, and at the V&A shop (I keep going back to the V&A Museum cos I find the familiarity of it comforting and I like the cafe!) – I found just the thing, in fact I had a choice of two different red and green designs. So I paid rather a lot of money to treat myself and make myself feel better about the red and green thing. I asked them to cut the label off and wore the scarf straight away.
I don’t really see what’s wrong with red and green. Red roses with green leaves. Poppies in a field. Wild strawberries. It’s quite a ‘natural’ combination. Anyway, I think my lovely new scarf saved the day. The question is – will I ever deliberately wear that combination again? Guess I’ll have to now.
(I’m aware that this is a pretty inane topic to write about. What I need is a metaphor. The scarf should symbolise something, bringing two extremes together. Suggestions welcome!)
I am so proud of myself! I have worked for 30 years full time in various jobs, but nothing I’ve ever done at work has given me as much satisfaction as having built a big 5×5 Ikea Kallax shelving unit successfully, on my own. Took me 2½ hours.
I hesitated and deliberated for ages before buying it. I studied the instructions online, and watched a couple of assembly videos on YouTube, and decided I thought I could do it. I reckoned if I got stuck, I could pay someone to help then. Anyway, it went exactly as I expected, with the most difficult stages being the later ones. Getting the second side and the top on is hardest, where you have to line up eight rods at the same time, and I can see where a second person would be useful at this stage (you’re told it needs two people to do it). The very final bit, where you are supposed to screw together the final corner by tipping the whole thing one way and then the other, was the only bit I knew I wouldn’t be able to do alone, and though I tried leaning it against a wall and attempting to do one of the screws from underneath, it just wouldn’t go in, so basically I gave up and decided I’d just have to leave one out of four corners not screwed together.
But I’m surprised, I’ve really got a buzz out of doing it. Having to think hard, work out which bit is which, consider whether the pieces have a front and a back, think ahead to how you’re going to manage the next bit, discover as you go along exactly how far you have to hammer the rods in – and problem solving when things aren’t quite as expected. It’s like when I’ve been singing classical pieces recently, and thinking to myself that the relationship is between me and the composer who wrote the music hundreds of years ago. Here, you are alone in a room, and the relationship is with the unknown person somewhere who designed the thing, who anticipated what you would have to do, maybe who tested it to check that it worked, and that it was as simple as possible. It’s a little piece of engineering, and so clever! Thank goodness there was no major problem and I managed to finish it successfully and without hurting myself.
Now I can enjoy filling it up with my various collectibles!
I so loved this cow, standing on a viewing platform high above Interlaken in the Swiss Alps, looking down at the town and the lakes. And once you know it’s there, you can see it from down below, a tiny speck in the distance. The sign affixed to it also made me laugh – in English but not quite the right translation. ‘Do not go up the cow!’
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