Dear John, 4 years on


Dear John

Went to the Cemetery today and took flowers to your grave and the flower room.  Put a card saying I miss you and think about you.  Feel very sad that there’s no-one else to visit or care, so no-one will even see the flowers or the card but me.

What’s news here?  My (our) house is under offer and I’ve been househunting, but am still very confused and undecided about where to go and what to do with my future.

I’ve just come back from Pembroke, John, where I looked at 6 beautiful houses.  I can see myself starting a new life there, but it’s not going to happen.  Nothing feels right.

Little John – your proxy – came to Wales with me.  I even took him out as I drove over the Severn bridge to show him the view – dangerous and silly in many ways; you’d’ve been annoyed with me.

I keep seeing things I want to tell you about.

There’s one particular house down a path which I often drive past, that we looked at years ago when we were househunting, and I just saw it’s been extended hugely.  It was shared history, something I would’ve wanted to update you on.

The weirdest thing is that on the site of the Pizzaland opposite East Croydon Station, where we actually first met all those years ago, they are building a giant building – there are two ‘cores’ that keep getting higher and higher.  I want to tell you – hey, can you believe what they’re doing at our special spot?  All the people who might live or work in that building will never know that there used to be a Pizzaland there where a couple once met, and stayed together 29 years, til he d….  Every time I see those two tall cores, it’s like they are a (secret/private) memorial to our relationship.

It’s very weird that you missed the whole Brexit thing.  I think you would have been so interested cos you were into politics and it’s all ‘history in the making’ – which is why you said you liked watching live football matches!  It’s bothered me a bit that whilst I think I know what your position/opinion on Brexit would have been (same as mine) – I can’t be 100% sure.  I’ll never know.

I went to Italy for Christmas, John, and left a copy of A Widow’s Words in the hotel library/bookshelf.  I noticed the next day it was gone already, so someone at least has perhaps been reading about you.  I’ve also done the legal deposit thing, so at least there are six copies lying in libraries for posterity.  Maybe someone will read about you in 100 years time.

My plan for the rest of today is to start packing our 4000 books.  Everyone tells me I can’t keep so many, but they (most of them) are your property, things you acquired and wanted over the years.  It will be painful to be putting them in boxes and thinking how you should still be here to enjoy them.  But I’ve been so ‘stuck’.  I haven’t touched the nice ones in the front room for 4 years, they are still as you arranged them.  Probably if you were here you would be amazed I hadn’t moved house sooner.

So, still struggling on with my own problems, pretty depressed, John, and realising how much of it is still grief.  Have stopped adding to this site cos of crushing bad feeling that no-one looks at it anyway, so I guess it’s just a private diary.

Missing you.  xx

(Little John sends his love.)

(He says he’s trying to look after me but it’s a big job.)

PS The cuddly red dragon in the photo is called Henry because Henry VII was born in Pembroke Castle, which fact the probability of your having known I would estimate at about 70%.




The Wild Heart my version

I picked up an old children’s book I found amongst my stuff, to re-read.  The Wild Heart, by Helen Griffiths.  Published 1953.  I reckon it’s around, or at least, 40 years since I read it.  I was so hit with familiarity as I read the first couple of sentences, and saw a word that had not been in my mind all that time, that I burst into tears.

“The gauchos say that there is a heaven for horses.  They call it Trapalanda.”

I wonder how many other people know or have heard that magical word.

It is a very beautifully written book telling the story of a wild horse, and all she suffers as various men try to capture her, for her speed.  It creates such an atmosphere and is in the end so sad; I have really enjoyed reading it again.

Last night, before I’d finished it, a phrase came into my head, which turns out to be the last phrase of the book.  I am beyond astonished that this has been buried in the depths of my mind, un-accessed, for 40 years, and yet it has leapt into my brain whilst reading the book, and now feels so, so familiar – it’s a phrase that must have had a profound effect on me all that time ago.

“… for surely in Trapalanda, La Bruja deserved to be.”


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.

Wet monkeys in Gibraltar

(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.

A few nice photos of monkeys, though!

You can see some more on the bottom of this page:




I thought the world should know about this amazing fish I bought, with markings on its side that look like a heart!

It caught my eye in a big tank of Comets in an aquarium shop.  You should have seen me trying to point out this one (as opposed to all the others) as the one I particularly wanted.  No-one seemed to see the heart, or care that it was anything special.

He is alive and well, and the heart is keeping its shape as he grows.

His name is Valentine.


Jungle Book

Panther and Wolf 2

Just went to see the new 3D Jungle Book film.

Well I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a film that makes me feel like it should be one of the ‘seven wonders of the modern world’.  The fact that we’re able to create such a thing – imagine what all previous generations would have thought if they’d seen it.  It’s magical, wonderful.

So, Jurassic Park had occasional computer-generated dinosaurs.  Things like the Narnia films had some talking animals – Aslan, etc, and lots of animals in the battle scenes.  The Life of Pi had a very realistic tiger, but it was only in the second part of the film.  The Golden Compass has lifelike talking Polar Bears, but they still share the screen with a mostly human cast of characters.  But this films is pure CGI animals beginning to end.  The only live character is the boy Mowgli (and glimpses of other humans).  Probably the backdrops were all computer-generated as well.  Certainly I don’t think there’s even a glimpse of a real animal in it.  They are pure technology, and yet these days so very cleverly, perfectly done.  The way the panther walks and leaps, the fur of the bear and of the wolves.  Fantastic fight scenes between the animals, and the monkeys in the temple, all different sizes, scurrying about.

There must be some reason that there aren’t films featuring deceased human actors yet.  If they can make such a perfect panther and bear out of bits of computer program, surely they can make a passable Elvis Prestley or Marilyn Monroe?

As soon as I realised it was all computer-generated animals though, I had a dreadful feeling that, that’s it – now we can create whatever creatures we like on the screen, the real animals out there are doomed.  That will be the future.  Real tigers and wolves and bears will be extinct, and there will only be electronic versions.  They will become like dinosaurs – recreations only.  Children won’t know the difference between a real panther and one in a film that talks – they’ll think they were all like that.

Anyway, I thought it was a very impressive film.  Loved the 3D touches, especially when something is ‘pointing’ right out of the screen at you, like a snake’s head or a pangolin’s nose.

It slightly jarred that the boy had such a broad American accent – in old live-action versions of the film he’s always an Indian boy with an Indian accent, but I guess that’s old-fashioned and defunct; and it’s so far removed from reality anyway, that he’s actually conversing with the animals.

Don’t leave before the credits, which are fun.

Panther and Wolf

Me and Plato


I’m always struggling with food issues and a few years ago came up with this idea of two horses in a chariot pulling in different directions – please see my poem The Compromise Chariot.

Like there’s one horse that wants to go on the correct, sensible route, but the other is out of control and pulls off in a different direction.  I am the charioteer who has to control them both and achieve some sort of compromise between their needs.

Now I’ve been sorting out books and by chance the other day came across the following regarding the philosopher Plato (429 – 347 BC), in a book called ‘A Classical Education – The stuff you wish you’d been taught at school’ by Caroline Taggart.

 “Plato … considered humans as … beings in whom reason was always fighting to control desire and emotion (he uses the image of the charioteer – reason – struggling to control two horses, one of whom – emotion – will listen to reason while the other – desire – can be restrained only by force.)”

I was amazed by this.  I absolutely swear I wasn’t aware of it and hadn’t ever come across it before.  So I am now rather stunned and proud of myself – because I have independently come up with the same (or a similar) metaphor to a famous philosopher, writing two and a half thousand years ago!  Okay, perhaps it’s rather an obvious idea for a metaphor and I’m sure lots of other people have thought of it too.

But now I feel like there’s a connection between Plato and me!  (I’ll have to look him up – I’m afraid I didn’t get a classical education.)



So I find myself in the beautiful English countryside, walking along a path through the fields, and for the first time in years, possibly since childhood, I hear a skylark singing.

I scan the sky to try to spot him, so as to watch him plunge, like I used to years ago when I went on walks through the country with my (late) father.  I don’t see him, but the sound is so clear, and like a shock to my system.  In my brain, a dormant file is accessed.  This is such a familiar sound, though I haven’t heard it for decades.

I had a conversation with one of my hosts about city dwellers who have genuinely never seen a cow before; about children who think a cow is one inch high because they’ve only ever seen pictures in books.  I find myself wondering how many Londoners would recognise and identify the sound of a skylark.

My customary profundity kicks in.  Thirty years living in London and never hearing skylarks – and yet the sound feeling so familiar and so special when heard again.  It’s like a sudden reminder that – wow, the countryside is still here!  It’s been here all long, like a parallel universe.  That I can choose to visit, or return to, whenever I wish.

A skylark singing – a joyful, continuous, trilling song, high up in the air, so unlike any other British bird.

The sound of the countryside.
The sound of England.
The sound of Spring.
The sound of my childhood.
The sound of forgotten memories.
The sound of the past.
The sound of life.


Skylark poem

A skylark sings high in the sky
Reminding me of times gone by.
How many men, long years ago,
Have stopped to hear him singing so?
What does he think, as he looks down,
At people heading off to town?
Perhaps he calls on them to stay,
So they can hear him every day.
And as for me, I’ll be back soon
To hear his joyful country tune.