New Years Eve

30th December, day before New Years Eve. I feel like the condemned man eating his last meal. No, it’s not, but that’s what it feels like. Not that I’ve ever been, oh you know what I mean. Don’t get all pedantic on me.

Dauphinoise potatoes, roast chicken with spinach, leeks and peas in butter. Seeing as I haven’t eaten much the last few days, a cholesterol hit and a dose of white wine should balance things out. Oh come on, I’m trying my best to be optimistic here, strewth. Give me a break.

Why do I feel like the condemned man? well this New Years Eve is another first. My first without my soulmate. Christmas Day was fairly easy, a lovely start with my very special daughter, Roannah and her mum Annie, a friend indeed. That was followed by two days in York with Amy, Dave, Lucy and Matthew. All made life a little easier.

The Saturday before was a different story. That would have been mine and Sallys anniversary. I lost the plot a touch. Not for the first time. It was always a significant day, we celebrated it with a pot of tea and shortbread biscuits. Just like our first date. Significant, but not something we particularly celebrated. So I put up the Christmas tree, decorated it and had a pot of tea. Think she would have liked that.

New Years Eve was something else altogether.

It was a day of reflection and looking ahead, pretty normal for most people. A good long afternoon dog walk, a pot of tea. Relax, prepare food and then a few pints at the Brown Cow, early, before it got busy. Home. Soak in a hot bath with a glass of champagne.

Lots of good food, a buffet of delights. More champagne, hugs, kisses and above all, music. Lots of music. Dancing too. We liked a bit of a bop in the kitchen while we cooked. More music. We looked back on our year, the highs and the lows, laughed a lot, sometimes cried, but not too often. Got silly, giggled and looked into each others eyes. We planned our future, holidays, visits, inviting visitors, meals and our garden. At midnight we would raise a glass to absent friends and open the front door to let in the New Year. And so to bed. Our time.

So, what happens tomorrow? I have no idea. I really don’t. Neither of us liked noise and crowds much, so we never went in for pubs and parties. Home alone? Long night and enough drink to sink a small boat, hmm could get very unpleasant. Early night, try and sleep through the noise? Always a first time. Don’t want company, don’t want to be alone. Not everyday I use the word, but today, it is perfect. A dichotomy.

Whatever happens, it wont be the same. It will never be the same.

For any of us.

 

The bath

My favourite kind of gardening day? Full on physical, big stuff, Earth moving. The kind of day that makes you ache a bit, but in a way that is satisfying, does that make sense?
That was today.
What better end than to sit in the summer house with a very large G&T and some nibbles, two small dogs eager for a snack and a slowly setting sun. With someone, that’s how it could be better. Lonely.
Hot bath, that’s what I need, aching a bit more than is comfortable, getting older is a shit. I must remind myself that I am not thirty and at the peak of my physical strength.
Not done a hot bath for myself for a very long time, a very long time.
Taps on, bubbles stuff in, extractor fan (noisy) off. Heating on, I like a warm towel. Music, iPad and some of our favourite chillout sounds courtesy of Mr Nils Frahm. Lovely.
Taps off, downstairs for a fresh G@T, large again, naturally.
I’m ready for this, a long soak, some relaxing sounds and a delicious drink. Bliss.
And then I open the bathroom door and walk in. Mellow and ready for a muscle easing dip.

What I wasn’t ready for was the sharp stab of reality. The bath was empty. Oh it was full of hot water and bubbly stuff. But it was empty. Why was it empty, why wasn’t my nursey in it? Sally loved her long hot soak in the bath. Too hot for me, she used to laugh at my facial expression if I got into it with her. Usually I would hop in after it was too “cold” for her. Perfect for me and still, in my opinion, hot enough to cook a lobster.

I climbed in, sat down and the tears just flowed. And flowed. I lasted a minute, if that. What a dreadful waste of hot water.

The memories. All, bar one, good. Always the end of a perfect day together. Always after a delicious meal. Always ending in a warm embrace. Always a perfect night.
The one? A few days before the end. I carried her in and bathed her. We knew it was close to our last goodbye.

All of these memories hit me. I don’t think I will be in a hurry to have another hot bath anytime soon.

Three Sundays

For the first time in my life I went on to Whitby beach on my own, I have always had a companion, Sally. Even when I went for a run, Sally would be there with the dogs, waiting for my return.
This run was different, very different. I had a rucksack. The contents were very special. Sally’s ashes.
At 4pm, on a very windy and near deserted beach, I sent Sally’s ashes on their final journey. On the incoming tide line, I said my last goodbye, the wind carried her ashes along the beach towards Whitby, the waves washing over them.

This was the place we walked on our last visit, we talked at length of our future together. I proposed, again, and as before, Sally said yes. The intention was to marry in 2015, the year of our sixtieth birthdays.
We spoke of our love for each other, our children, grandchildren, possible grandchildren, parents, siblings and life. We always talked.

The tears flowed, as the rain started to fall, a light rain but blown on the gusting wind. It was time to head back to Whitby, I was starting to feel the cold.
Back to the empty house, her picture on the wall, her memory in my heart, I thanked her for the time together, for the love we shared and for welcoming me into her life.
After a hot bath I carried out another wish, that I should have a gin and tonic for her at The Moon and Sixpence. A Whitby tradition. The empty seat beside me brought the tears, of loss, of happiness and of the joy of having spent an all to brief time with such a beautiful person.
Whitby will never, can never, be the same.

The following Sunday was cool and the evening saw the wind drop, I decided to carry out the second part of my farewell to Sally. It was time to light the garden fire pit and burn the cardboard tube containing the last of her ashes. I could not bare the thought of putting the tube in the recycling bin. As the flames rose, I raised my glass to her, yes it was gin and tonic time again, it was a Sunday after all. I sat under the garden shelter and watched as the fire subsided and the embers glowed in the dark. More tears, more than the previous week, much more. This was our place, our shelter, our garden, our fire pit. Our life together. I cried like a baby. The dogs sensed there was something wrong, both came and sat with me. Audrey jumped up onto my lap, quivering. My little companion. We sat for hours.

Another week, another Sunday. Time to scatter the ashes from the fire pit round the garden. Another gin and tonic, naturally. This time I sat on our bench and looked at the fruits of our work, the full borders, productive fruit trees and a relaxing place to be in. Emotional waves washed over me, as always when I think of Sally. I wondered what she would make of my ideas for the future of the garden, the plans for the outside store, my decisions on what to plant next year. I looked at the summer house, her summer house, the summer house she never saw. It was where she wanted to sit and spend her last days, looking at the garden, sadly it was not to be. It was delivered and erected on the day she died.

So, we continue. The garden still needs attention, produce to harvest, grass to cut. All so bitter sweet. Empty. Quiet.

Her roses bloom. For as long as they flower I will keep cutting them and placing the fresh blooms by her picture.

It’s the silence

So many things. So much missing. But it’s the silence that I notice most.

No background noise, the sounds of someone cooking, the clatter and occasional mumble. The sound of a breakage or mishap.

No sound of breathing (snoring) at night. That’s the worst thing. Never thought I would miss that so much.

The radio, once a constant companion, now a fleeting friend. The Archers were a source of amusement to me, Sally was a huge fan. The theme tune alone sends me off. I avoid Radio 4 after 9am, just in case.  BBC6 Music likewise, too many bloody good tunes that we both loved. I daren’t listen to Craig Charles on Saturday.

The chats, conversations, comments. All gone. Silence reigns supreme. Apart from the occasional dog fart and traffic noise.

Gone are the cheeky text messages, heralded by a Sally chosen alert sound. The phones rarely ring.

Never was a big fan of the idiot lantern. So that stays silent too, mostly. Unless there is a safe film on, one that doesn’t have any connection. Old black and white films are best, especially war films. They are my connection to another time, not with Sally, to my childhood and youth.

So that’s silence.

Let’s not talk about touch.