Away Day No.2 (Volunteers’ Day)

 This time we actually got to see some football. Quite a lot of football as it turned out.

Once a year the club  (AFC Wimbledon) and one of our sponsors Cherry Red Records treat the club’s volunteers to a day out. I qualify because I go along to the Work Weekends. During the summer we give the ground a good clean up and a fresh coat of paint ready for the new season. Because we are a fan owned club, and not particularly rich, we rely on people doing stuff for free that other, larger, clubs would pay contractors to do. The volunteers’ away day is a way of thanking all the people who give their time and effort to help the club out.

The day consists of coach travel to the game, a pre-match meal, and a ticket for the game. This year’s day out was to see Wimbledon take on Walsall in what could be described as a relegation six pointer. So normal away day protocols were observed, that is breakfast at Fat Boy’s before catching the coach. Then onto the coach for a zap up the M40 to Birmingham. Lunch had been arranged at Caulderfields Golf and Country Club.   who put on a very good lunch for a hundred or so of us, Having been very well fed and watered our sponsor announced that while he was still keen to support the day out it had in fact  been nine years since we had last won on Volunteers Day. So on to the match.

Walsall’s stadium is a tidy smallish place, probably about 12000 capacity but was only about one third full today.

Pre-match predictions were fairly positive. Walsall had not been in particularly good form of late and we came into the game buoyed up by a cracking win against Charlton on Tuesday night. Six minutes in the positivity started to slip. We gave away a free kick about twenty five meters out on the right. Normally we deal with those fairly easily, but in Erhun Oztumer Walsall have probably the best dead ball player in the League. His floated free kick found the head of his player and we were 1-0 down.

We tried to get back into the game, but to be honest we looked lethargic and disjointed. Then on the stroke of half-time we gave away another goal. Our centre backs, who are normally our most reliable players, seemed to get mixed up and both left the Walsall striker for the other one to deal with. The result was he slipped through between them for an easy goal.

We were all a bit down at half time, apart from Stevie, who was predicting that we would win 3-2. However the precedents were not good. The last time  we had come from behind to win was over a year ago, and the last time we had done it away was even longer. So far this season the rule has been, if we score first we don’t lose and if the opposition score first we don’t win.

I’m not sure what was said in the dressing room, but it was effective. Within three minutes of the restart we had a goal back. Andy Barcham was tripped inside the box. Their keeper half saved the resultant penalty but Joe Piggot (Feed the Pig and he will score) was on hand to put the rebound into the net.

From then on it was all Wimbledon. Lyle Taylor hit the post, several chances scrambled away and seven hundred Wimbledon fans make far more noise than 3500 Walsall fans. Our second goal was classic old school Wimbledon. A long accurate punt upfield from our keeper George Long found Lyle Taylor who hit it first time into the back of the net. Cue minor delirium in the away end.

It was still more or less one way traffic but the decisive goal would not come. Joe Piggot was hauled down a couple of times in the penalty area for what looked like clear cut penalties, at least from where I was standing. Finally in the sixth minute of stoppage time, George Long played a ball to Lyle Taylor similar to the one that had brought about the second goal, this time though Lyle was hauled down by their defender – penalty.

Dean Parrett took the ball for the penalty, a good decision, because Lyle had hurt himself scoring his goal, and I’m not sure that he would have converted it. He placed the ball on the spot, Fred and Barry in front of me couldn’t look, took his run up and slammed it into the top left hand corner of the net.
Cue serious delirium in the away end.

Two very happy bus loads of volunteers headed back down the M40 South West London.
“It only took nine years”

A more neutral report on the match is available on the BBC Sport website


Away Day

I haven’t written very much on the blog for the past year. Possibly a good sign, in that I am beginning to get my life into some sort of order after losing Grace almost two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss her intensely and if I could I would do almost anything to have her back with me. But my life is moving on and I am learning to find my own way of living it. With that in mind I had decided to try a slightly new slant to the blog.

Football and AFC Wimbledon in particular have taken on an importance in my life that is probably greater than it really should be. However with that in mind I thought that I would start writing about the games that I attend. Starting with today’s (April 2nd) game away to Doncaster.

The day started out well. Stevie suggested that we get a train up to Doncaster about 10:30 so that we would have time to get lunch before the game. I thought that was a reasonable idea and agreed. We met as we usually do before away games at a café for breakfast this time at Rosy Lee’s in Morden, because we were getting the train. Usually we get the Club Coach and we meet at Fat Boy’s just outside Kingsmeadow. With a pretty good (but not up to Fat Boy’s standard) full English inside us we got the Tube up to Kings Cross.

We met John at the station, decided that the Leeds train looked less crowded than the Edinburgh train, so we hopped on that instead. We had decided to pay the extra £10 to get open tickets so it didn’t matter what train we caught. This turned out to be a very good decision.

There were a fair few fellow Wombles on the train, so the conversation was mainly about our prospects for today. I thought that we could come away with a point. Stevie, who is an eternal optimist, was predicting a 5-0 win for us. The others weren’t quite so confident. To be fair we haven’t had a great season and we are seriously flirting with relegation to League 2 so I fully understood where they were coming from.

It all turned out to be academic though. John got a text message from a mate saying that the game was off. He sent one back saying that he was a day late for April Fool’s day. Unfortunately after a bit of searching the BBC, Doncaster and Wimbledon web sites, we found out that it was true. The game was off due to a waterlogged pitch. After Friday’s game which resembled water polo rather than football, we wondered how bad it really was. All the other games in the area had been called off as well, so it probably was the correct decision. It left us with a decision to make as well,  what to do with the rest of the day.

Our first thought was Plan “B”.  Peterborough were playing at home so we could get off the train at Peterborough and we would at least get to see some football. This was squashed by the man in the seat in front of us who pointed out that this train did not stop in Peterborough. OK plan “C” then. We couldn’t think of a plan “C” at least  not one that suited us all. We eventually settled on plan “Z”  and caught the next train back to London.

Blessing When the World is Ending; by Jan Richardson

This was taken from my friends Paul and Sally Nash’s blog It spoke to me on a day last December when I had been remembering Grace at St Raphael’s Light Up a Life celebration.

Look, the world
is always ending
the sun has come
crashing down.
it has gone
completely dark.
it has ended
with the gun
the knife
the fist.
it has ended
with the slammed door
the shattered hope.
it has ended
with the utter quiet
that follows the news
from the phone
the television
the hospital room.
it has ended
with a tenderness
that will break
your heart.
But, listen,
this blessing means
to be anything
but morose.
It has not come
to cause despair.
It is simply here
because there is nothing
a blessing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.
This blessing
will not fix you
will not mend you
will not give you
false comfort;
it will not talk to you
about one door opening
when another one closes.
It will simply
sit itself beside you
among the shards
and gently turn your face
toward the direction
from which the light
will come,
gathering itself
about you
as the world begins

The original post by Jan Richardson with this poem in can be found here.

Have You Seen The Stars Tonight – Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship

The title of the song, just of it’s own, generates images and memories by the dozen.

When I was young I lived on a sheep farm in the hills of the Scottish Borders. There was hardly any light pollution, so on a clear moonless night the whole of the Universe was on display overhead. Being young and, I suppose overfamiliar with it, didn’t really appreciate it. Like another song says “You don’t always know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” Now living in London where, on a good night you can make out a couple of dozen stars, I long for the dark skies of my childhood.

Later in life I went to sea for a living. Sitting on the fo’c’sle, on a warm tropical night, gazing up at the strange (to my northern eyes) stars of the Southern Hemisphere, remains one of my most cherished memories.

If you want to see the stars tonight these are the top 5 Dark Sky locations in Great Britain.

It has been a year.

A year ago today, the thirtieth of April 2016, just as the sun was setting, my beloved Grace slipped free from the boundaries of this world. Her three and a half year struggle against Ovarian Cancer was over and she was at peace. There would be no more pain and no more tears, at least not for her.

I’m still not quite sure what I felt. I think initially there was a sense of relief that it was over. Possibly as much for myself as for Grace. It is the hardest thing in the world watching the person you love die. Thanks to the wonderful care from St Raphael’s Hospice, Grace was never in any significant pain. But even so sitting beside her, reading to her, holding her hand, telling her I loved her and generally talking all sorts of rubbish, while her life force slipped away took it out of me.  So relief that that part of the journey was over, was, I think, my first emotion.

Then the tears came.

I sat with her for quite a while, crying, still holding her hand while I remembered the wonderful life we had together. After a while, probably about half an hour, it occurred to me that I had best tell the medical staff that she had gone. I pushed the call button, they came in and very gently did what they had to do. Someone got me a cup of tea. One of the nursing assistants asked me if I would like something stronger and I accepted a glass of whisky.

After I had drunk the tea and the whisky I was together enough to call the people who needed to know.

Two friends, who lived close to the hospice came round. I was grateful, but it might not have seemed that way to them at the time. They offered me a bed for the night, as did the hospice, but I knew that at some stage I would have to go back to an empty house and an empty bed, so it might as well be tonight.

I knew the house was tidy and that there was clean linen on the bed because I had done all that the week before, the day that Grace went back to St Raphael’s. After she was settled, I went back home to pick up a few bits and pieces that we had forgotten. I decided to change the bed linen and tidy the house up. I was feeling quite happy. Grace was in a safe place, where the people looking after her, unlike me, knew what they were doing. She would like the clean and tidy house when she came home…… then it hit me, Grace wouldn’t be coming home. In the whole three and a half years of hopes raised and dashed that was, for me, the worst half an hour. Worse than the day we got the diagnosis, worse than when I had to leave her when she had her surgery, worse than when the Marsden told us “Sorry , but we don’t think there is anything else we can do.”, worse even than the night she died.

Sheila and Christine gave me a lift home and reluctantly left me on my own. I poured myself another whisky and drank it. I thought about finishing the bottle, but decided that it probably wasn’t the best idea and went to bed. Tomorrow when I got up I would have to face life on my own.

That was a year ago. This past week has brought back the memories and the pain of losing Grace. The hurt and the grief are not as acute as they were a year ago. We humans are resilient creatures, we learn how to adapt. We learn to fill our lives with other things. Not, I think, to block out the grief nor to replace the missing partner. We do it to expand our horizons so that the grief and sense of loss are not the only thing in our lives.

I thought that I was going to have to face life on my own. That turned out to be wrong. Friends, family and even in their own way, the company I work for have rallied round. Little things, like asking me if I would like to go along to an exhibition or go out for a meal make me feel included. My sister flying down from Scotland they day after Grace died so I wouldn’t have to be on my own. My friend Toby volunteering to come with me when I had to register Graces death. They would probably say that it was the least they could do, but to me it meant everything.

So where am I one year on? I’m still standing. I am more and more grateful for the wonderful thirty and a bit years we had together. Memories keep popping back to make me smile, or cry, or more often both.

The current “Humus Crisis” brought back memories of the “Great Humus Disaster of 2007”. Grace decided that she would like to make her own humus. She blended the chickpeas, garlic and oil together. She removed the cover from the blender to add the tahini and inexplicably forgot to replace it before switching the blender back on again. If you look carefully at the kitchen ceiling you can still see the evidence.

I am gradually finding homes for her stuff. One of her keyboards and the PA equipment are being used by Oasis Church and the other went to friend who had moved to a new house with thin walls. Bashing away on his piano at 10 pm, he thought, might upset the new neighbours. So he now bashes away at the keyboard (with headphones). Her bike is currently transporting his daughter to and from school. I have kept her e-bike for when I am feeling lazy. I am also still pootling around in her Little Lilac Car.

I still miss Grace, I always will, but I am also seeing that I could have a life that is as wonderful as the one we had together, a very different life, but one that I can love.
On that positive note I’ll end.

I hope that today will bring back your joyful memories of Grace as well. It doesn’t matter if they come with a tear as well as a smile.

The Therapeutic Quality of Football

I have recently started to watch live football again. I did go along to watch Wimbledon before Grace became ill, but after her diagnosis, I stopped. Most Saturdays, if Grace felt well we would do something together and if she wasn’t then I didn’t like to go off and leave her for longer than it took to do the shopping.

I think I have mentioned before that this came about because my brother persuaded me to go along to watch Hibs on Christmas Eve. It is probably worth mentioning that I am a Hearts supporter (the other Edinburgh team). I enjoyed the game, and the thought occurred  that if I could enjoy watching Hibs then surely I would enjoy watching AFC Wimbledon even more. So I dusted off my old scarf, splashed out on this years replica top, and bought a ticket for the game against Oxford United on the 14th of January. Fortunately, it turned out to be a good entertaining game, with Wimbledon winning 2-1.  I have since gone along to a few more games, all of which I have enjoyed, strangely enough even the ones we lost.

I  know that football has helped me in the process of grieving. What I am trying in this post is to work out how and why.

Saturdays, especially during the winter had a tendency to drag. Because I went to working a three-day week after I turned sixty and because I normally do all the domestic stuff, shopping, washing and etc., on a Friday I don’t have much to do on a Saturday. Also on Saturdays most people (who work five days a week) are doing other things. Going to the football is an enjoyable way of filling that gap.

What I have found is that it gives me ninety minutes when the only thing that is important in the world is what is happening on the pitch. That helps. The feel good factor of winning helps as well. Strangely enough so does the disappointment of losing. Setting it against losing Grace, losing a football match doesn’t seem to be quite so important. Supporting the Wombles means that (unlike say supporting Chelsea or Celtic) losing a game doesn’t come as a surprise. I was going to say that no one dies, but as this is the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Hillsbourgh disaster we know unfortunately that occasionally this isn’t true.

AFC Wimbledon has given me something to be part of, something to love even. For that I can only be grateful. (So much so that I have invested in a season ticket for next year)

Moving Forward

We are now well into 2017. The first year I have had to face without Grace by my side since 1985. I know it is just a change of one number on the calendar but for me it felt more significant. I felt it as a signal to start moving forward. Moving to what exactly I don’t know yet, but I do know that I have to begin to create a new life for myself. I can’t go on living a pale imitation of my previous life with Grace.

The first time that I said the words “Grace died last year”, shocked me. I think that they brought home the fact that Grace is gone and that there is, much as I might wish it were otherwise, nothing I can do to change that. After I had let them sink in, I found them to be liberating as well. Not liberating in the sense of no longer grieving, but liberating in the sense of giving me some distance from the actual event of Grace’s death, freeing me to move forward and begin to reshape my life. Which I am sure she would want me to do.

Part of it is finding out who the new me is.
This is something I wrote back in July last year but never published:

quote_marks_941_166johnm55 was who I used to be, (as far as this blog was concerned) before I morphed into “A Scotsman in Suburbia” a couple of years ago.

There have been many adjustments that I have had to make to my life in the weeks since Grace passed away. Getting used to being on my own, cooking just for one, working out what to do with my time are some of them. The biggest one has been trying to find out who exactly I am.

When you are in a relationship, especially a long-lasting one ,there is a tendency to define who I am as who we are. I don’t think that is wrong. Grace and I did not live in each other’s pockets. We each had our own friends and our own interests. However there was a lot more that we did together. We might at times have been Grace and John, separate people, but even more so we were Grace&John partners.

I have never been in a relationship that ended before,(unless you count drifting apart and mutually agreed “It’s not really working” episodes with a few girlfriends thirty-five or forty years ago) so I have no experience to fall back on. Even so I suspect that the emotional impact of a long-term relationship that ends with the death of your partner is different to that of a relationship that ends in separation.

I’m still working on who I am, and what my new life might be, though it is becoming clearer. I’m building a picture of who I would like to become, or to be more exact some of the characteristics that I want to build into my life. I want to be a kinder person. Not just someone who tries not to hurt people, but someone who actively tries to make the world, or at least my small corner of it, a happier place.  Grace lived her life that way.

I want – need to become a bit more adventurous. I have always had a tendency to retreat to what I feel are my safe spaces. Even more so since Grace passed away. I need to break out of that.

I am discovering that not having to take into account what Grace would have liked or wanted opens up new possibilities. I don’t mean that in the negative way that it could sound. We made our decisions together, she would take my likes and desires into account as much as I would hers. Just two small examples of what I mean; the first is going to the cinema.

Because we liked to go to the cinema together we would almost always choose a film that Grace would like. She hated violence or more than the very occasional four letter word. So it normally had to be a 12A certificate or better. For example T2:Trainspotting would definitely have been ruled out and probably Rogue 1. Just before Christmas I realised that I hadn’t gone to the cinema since Grace died, not because I hadn’t wanted to, but because I hadn’t seen a film that I thought that she would have liked. I decided that was being stupid, because our taste in films may have overlapped but there was a large section of the Venn Diagram that said John’s film choice that didn’t fit into the overlap. I have started going back to the cinema.

The second is bed linen. I decided that I needed some new bed linen last weekend. Normally that would have been something that Grace chose with little or no input from me. My theory was that it didn’t really matter what it looked like, because most of the time I wouldn’t see it because I would be asleep. I chose my new duvet cover with sheets and pillow cases to match. I like them. The cover is mid grey with thin satiny stripes with lighter grey sheets and pillowcases. Grace would not have chosen them. “Too dark” she would have said and gone off to pick something a lot lighter  and probably with flowers.  I realised that for better or worse that sort of thing is now my call.

Also while football (or sport other tennis) weren’t really Grace’s thing she didn’t mind me going along occasionally to watch AFC Wimbledon but she didn’t encourage it either. I stopped going completely after she became ill. If she was feeling well we would go out and do something and if she wasn’t I didn’t like to leave her. Thanks to my brother Jim persuading me to go along to watch Hibs, of all the football teams in the world, on Christmas Eve, and my finding that I actually enjoyed the game, I have started going along to watch AFC Wimbledon on a regular basis. It gives me ninety minutes of existential escapism. where – for that period of time – all that matters is what is happening on the pitch. It also gives a chance to connect with friends over a beer after the match.

Reading this article in The Guardian a few weeks ago nudged me along the way. The author (Adam Golightly is a pseudonym) lost his wife to cancer about the same time that I lost Grace. He is younger than me and has a couple of kids, so his situation is not the same as mine.  but never the less I have found his story interesting and helpful. One bit in particular jumped out and grabbed me;

quote_marks_941_166“You’ve been recalibrating normality – not just to a future in which you’re only OK without Helen but to the thought that you might have a new life as fantastic as the old one. The weight for you, mate, is not that the future could be bright but that you’ll feel guilty if it is.”

I stop chewing and stare at him, questioning but calm. To those unused to Pete’s caring nature, this link between Indian appetisers and my beautiful late wife might seem crass – but it’s the man, and doesn’t offend.

He munches on. “Also, your survivor’s guilt has been getting worse, not at being left alive but that you might waste that privilege. What’s happening now is these two forces are meeting with the fear of failing to create a brilliant new life for you all being greater than the fear of the guilt if you succeed.”

The sense that I will feel guilty if I do manage to create a new life that is just as wonderful as the life I had with Grace is real for me as well. Equally I don’t think she would want me to live a life where I am just OK without her. I don’t know what my future holds but I do know that I need to move forward into it.

A United Kingdom

I haven’t done a film review for a while, mainly because I haven’t been to the cinema for a while. When Grace was ill we more or less stopped going because it took too much out of her. Until recently I think that the last film I saw on the big screen was “Paddington”.

I have decided that I should take myself along on a more regular basis. I like film and as far as I am concerned the best place to see a film is at the cinema. Two weeks ago I went to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” which was an entertaining two and a bit hours, with effective CGI and some pretty decent acting from Eddie Redmayne and Co. Last week on the recommendation of a friend I went to see “Arrival” in which Amy Adams gives a beautifully restrained performance as a linguist asked to communicate with aliens who have landed on earth.

This week I went  to see “A United Kingdom”.

It is based on a true story, set in Botswana (at the time called Bechuanaland) and London in the period after World War II. It tells the story of Prince Seretse Khama sent to the United Kingdon to study law before taking up his duties as king, who fell in love with and married a white British woman Ruth Williams.

The film stars David Oyelowo as Seretse and Rosamund Pike as Ruth.

The heart of the film is a love story. A love story set against a backdrop of racism, political maneuvering and rejection from all sides. The film exposes the duplicity and racism prevalent in the British establishment at the time. Nominally driven by a desire to appease South Africa, the British government did everything they could to prevent their marriage.

On returning to Botswana, the couple find themselves opposed not only by the colonial bureaucracy,  Jack Davenport playing Sir Alistair Canning a Colonial Office Mandarin and Tom Felton, drawing a bit on Draco Malfoy, as his underling are suitably repellant. They also find themselves opposed by Seretse’s uncle, who has been acting as regent since Seretse’s fathers death.

David Oyelowo is the main character and delivers a powerful performance as Seretse, including one amazing set piece speech before an assembly of tribal elders staking his claim to lead his people. Rosamund Pike, while having less to say, gives an equally compelling performance as Ruth, not quite sure how she fits into anything, but wanting to support the man she loves and find how she can be part of the society that he belongs to.

It is an excellent film on all levels. It succeeds in telling what Julius Nyerere described as “one of the great love stories of the world”. It also succeeds in telling the story of one of the British Government’s less than glorious episodes.

I thoroughly recommend the film, if you want to see it on the big screen you will probably need to be quick, otherwise wait for it to come out on DVD.

Six Months On

Grace left us six months ago today. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that she is no longer around. To be honest I’m not sure that I’ll ever fully come to terms with that.

Looking back over these past six months, I know that I am not the same person that I was so what have I learned about myself and what have I learned about coping with losing the person I love the most?

What do I know? Not a lot but…..

  • I’m not sure whether it actually gets any easier, but the nature of grief changes over time.
  • I’m glad that Grace and I had time to say goodbye to each other. How people who lose a partner unexpectedly cope I have no idea.
  • I still sometimes expect/hope to hear the front door open and a voice to shout up the stairs “Hi Johnnie, I’m home.”
  • Sleeping is still a problem.
  • I haven’t got used to going to bed on my own or waking up to find the other half of the bed empty ; especially when I wake up at three in the morning.
  • I can find all sorts reasons/distractions to avoid going to bed, the internet is probably the best most effective.
    • Likewise box sets.
  • Cooking is very therapeutic.
  • Remembering what mum used to do, cooking four or six portions of something and freezing the surplus is just as easy, probably easier in fact; than cooking a single portion.
  • Remembering what mum didn’t always do, labeling what I am freezing avoids mum’s mystery soup roulette.
  • Big decisions can be made incredibly quickly.
  • Small decisions can take forever.
  • Changing the cover on a duvet is an awful lot easier when there are two of you.
  • Folding the sheets was more fun when I got a kiss when we brought the ends together.
  • A glass or two of wine can help take the edge of things.
    • Too much alcohol does not help at all.
  • Having been my only car for the past two months, I now understand why Grace loved her Little Lilac Car so much, and point-blank refused to even think about trading it in for something newer.
  • gracecar
    Little Lilac Car
  • Something about it brings a smile to my  face – maybe because it says “Hello, Happy to see you” when I put the key in the ignition.
  • Using a shopping list can sometimes prevent me arriving home with a basket containing beer, biscuits and crisps, but lacking bread, milk and toilet paper.
  • I still have no idea what to do with most of Grace’s things.
  • When I do find the right person for something of Grace’s it makes me extremely happy.
  • It took a while before I could go out and enjoy myself without feeling guilty.
    • That doesn’t mean that I don’t wish that Grace could be there to share the fun.
  • If the tears come, it’s usually because of a happy memory, and happy memories far outnumber any other kind.
  • While losing Grace was and is the central feature in my life, I have to accept that others, while I am sure they miss Grace, do have their own lives and priorities.
  • Probably only people who have lost a long-term partner fully understand what I’m going through.
  • I am glad that I kept on working part-time, even though I didn’t need to financially.
    • I can always give the extra money away
  • I don’t know if another relationship would be a good idea or not.
    • But definitely not at the moment, maybe in a couple of years time.

This is sort of where I am six months on. Life goes on around me, even if, at times I wish that there was a pause button that I could press. The only way  that I can see to get through all of this is to walk on through it. I don’t see any short-cuts or bypasses. I’m not sure that I would want them even if they existed. I cope most of the time. Being able to talk about Grace and write about Grace really does help.

How’s it going?

It’s a question that most of us get asked half a dozen times per day. The normal answer is “Fine”, “Not too bad” or a similar non answer. I don’t always find it an easy question to answer anymore. When someone who doesn’t know me asks I’ll still give the standard non-answer. It’s when someone close who knows my situation asks it I find it difficult, in fact, I find it difficult to ask myself the question.

It`s now just over four months since Grace passed away and the short answer I suppose is “I’m coping, but some days I cope better than others.”

It’s little things that throw me. Like, a few weeks ago. I had bought some flowers to put on Grace`s grave and the man behind me in the queue made a joke about “Had a row with the wife then?” All I could think was “If only” before dissolving into a puddle of tears. Or looking for something in the wardrobe and finding her “Huggy Bear” warmer, that kept her warm when she was putting up with the side effects of chemotherapy.

My birthday turned out to be surprisingly OK. Yes I missed being woken with a tickle, “Happy birthday Johnnie” a birthday card and present. Grace always planned something interesting and exciting for us to do, like a trip along the Regent’s canal on a narrow boat or a day trip to Paris or an art exhibition and lunch at the Tate. I missed all of that.

My friend Toby (aka Lord Wallington) and I share a birthday – though he will point out that he is eleven years younger than me. He and his family had a barbecue to celebrate and invited me along.  It turned what could have been a strange, sad and lonely evening into a very pleasant one. Good friends definitely help.

Family does as well. I am writing this on the train to Scotland to see my brother and sister. On the Saturday before my birthday my other sister, brother in law and my niece had a lovely day down in Brighton. One of Grace’s instructions to me was that I should take all of my and her brothers and sisters to her favourite restaurant Terre a Terre and that “she would pay”. We had a lovely veggie meal followed by a walk along the prom and the pier, where my adrenaline junkie niece wanted to go on everything but was partially dissuaded by her mum and dad.

So did being asked to do a Facebook #spousechallenge which involved posting a photo of yourself and your partner on your timeline every day for a week. I found going through all the photos of myself and Grace a cathartic experience.

So yes I’m coping, I can go out and enjoy myself without feeling guilty, even if especially, at Terre a Terre, we all missed Grace.  Sometimes the evenings can get a bit lonely. I will always love her and will always miss her and there will almost certainly be other unexpected things that will reduce me to tears, but that’s OK. I’ll cope.

Random thoughts, ramblings and rants

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