My sister of course. A week of drinking, catching up and being a foreigner, what more could you ask for.
Chasing the sun and wet weather, though of course I will quickly learn to regret this decision, in my sun burnt water logged agony.
Long drives, hot weather, serial killers and dust, dust and more dust. hopefully somewhere a large red rock.
After far too long travelling, I am now somewhere that I want to be, and more importantly wants me to be here too.
I have always been a firm believer in choices, yours, mine, our responsibility in making them and living with the consequences there of. Tash made the bigger choices when she met and stayed with me and I made similar ones when cancer became part of our life. Natasha and I made the hardest decisions during those four years and we lived for, and from that position. The decisions that I found myself making during the last months and in particular her last three weeks I stick by, I find that I am not a man for regret or what if's.
This year, my 37th, the same age that my parents where when I was born, has by any standards, contained all the heights I am ever likely to reach as a human, most of the lows, all the emotion and change I care to take in 12 months and provided an insight in to how the world is, and occasionally, if only momentary, can be.
I have learnt in the last eight months that you should offer your help to strangers as well as friends, even in a metropolis such as London many people who would I would normally just pass on the street have been so caring, of course acquaintances can be friends and friends can be acquaintances, but for the most part people are far stronger, loving and resilient than they thought they could be.
In a very short time after Tash died I saw that there were two paths, one of acceptance and the other of denial, pain or protection, if you want to look at it another way. I am no Johnny Cash, so this will not be a lecture about walking any line, but nothing is ever straight forward for me, from posting a letter to bereavement, not hard or difficult, I am 4 wheel drive for that, but nothing ever happens on the first attempt. The lessons learnt directed me towards letting go of everything and accepting the catastrophe that has happened. I have been asked quizzically many times already, how I can do this; but you are this (referring to personal items, or where we lived, or the life we used to lead) and that (a further identifier, rather oddly usually used in reference to multiple purchased items, or holidays ), these are only material things, admittedly I have ownership of a lot, but Tash remains in no real physical sense now and can travel as freely as me. After leaving the flat and London, it feels that I have already set sail, and in no small poetic sense will eventually make land in the new world, where ever it may eventually be (the current betting is on Australia).
So for now, here I am, Lesley, my sister has given me a roof; I would say a bed, but as she owns a bed & breakfast sometimes it is a full house and then my home is their sofa. My plan is simple, get some time and space, repair and fix and then start the transitional journey that will take me to Sydney by Christmas.
To be honest, it is a fucking nightmare trying to condense and process an entire flat, no, more than that, two people's life down into more portable proportions. Jason, who some of you will remember is my sister's partner, gave up his time to come and help with the move and I thought that I had done a good job of processing the flat until we realised that the 20 packed boxes were not all there was. It would seem that in my focusing on what was to make the trip to Australia I had ignored the considerable flotsam and jetsam that we had accumulated over the years. It was very difficult to know what to do with all the extra crap she had accumulated and then it seems, expertly hidden; the two unopened packets of paper butterflies I found in the Christmas box curiously posing the most difficult decision making criteria, not least because it took a day or two to work out what the hell they were in the first place. That is not necessarily a gift to give away; Here you are, something of Tash's, I have no idea what it is or why she brought it - thinking about it perhaps that would be the most Tash present of all.
The last ten days in the flat most certainly had a different feel, I have been very careful about the language I use, believing (as I still do) that positivity where possible should come out of this situation and that an abundance of the negative will stifle that. However I caught myself describing the final packing as "destroying our life", which in some respects it was.
Eventually we packed the transit van and again realised that there had been a miscalculation, so I had to rent another truck to get all the rest of our crap in, why I had not considered that we would be taking the hoover I'll never know and drove off down to my new home (on the sofa) in Swanage.
For those of you, in the majority, that are not au fait with British geography, Swanage is on a stubby land outcrop on the south coast that encircles Poole harbour. Part of the Purbeck peninsula that ends in Studland, home of Purbeck stone and Blue Circle cement as well being on the right side of Brownsea Island, the formative camp site used by Baden Powel perpetrator of the scouting movement (bringing militarism to the infant masses of the world). All this great heritage did not stop it being immediately re-christened as Swanage: Gateway to nowhere, this is almost true, as the next town out of the bay is in France.
There are two ways into Swanage, three if you are exceedingly buoyant or are part boat, both are by road, though one has the interest of being intersected by the main channel to Poole harbour and is transversed by a beautifully clanky chain ferry. The other, fully non-amphibious, is the one I spend most of my time getting lost on, there is now time for detours I remind myself as I frequently head to Dorchester (the main town in the area and completely in the wrong direction, but oh it attracts me like a moth up a vacuum). This road, the gloriously named "Swanageawaydayroadway", I lie, it is just the A351, passes though Corfe, home of Corfe Castle ("There is more to Corfe than a castle", says the website and then displays a really big picture of the castle), or "the ruin on top of of a really steep hill that you'll stupidly run up only once".
Swanage was once a fishing town, but like many places doesn't even now have a fishmonger. All of the revenue for the town is now tourism based, of which my sister is one capacious three bedroomed part. The town follows the bay up onto the opposing heads so the ends are thicker than the middle, like a deformed banana (I've included this because it amuses me, recognising that I have over described in the last paragraph), populated with empty second homes, guest houses and hotels, all the paraphernalia of a town that sees its population swell from 12 to 120 thousand for the holiday season. Swanage is not London, the capital at least has a fishmonger and more than one supermarket, but after so long being in the bang and crash, this is the place for me to be. I take time, dawdle, clean rooms and pack the breakfast crockery away, there is also some occasional guest conversation.
Ahh the guests, there is nothing better for someone in my position than traveling without moving, better except that the shyness of my youth is revisiting and crippling most attempts at being talkative. The constant flow of guests through the place has been in some way cathartic, I try not to discuss my reasons for being the third wheel in the home, my widowhood is a vocabulary that I am still constructing, but sometimes is comes out, as I guess it will always do.
The first week in town was Carnival, I liked to think that it was for me, but suspect with the good weather that was had that week, that it was really for the lobster coloured holiday makers that were populating the beaches, sitting territorially outside of their beach huts and generally reinforcing the image that British holiday makers are worthy of constant ridicule. I missed the Saturday procession (umm a bit lo-fi apparently according to Lesley) and the Red Arrows (very good, would see them again, again according to my reporter on the spot), or the Red Arroews (sic) to quote the "you really should have proof read it again before printing" carnival catalogue because of a prior London appointment.
There were seven days of activities of the finest "It's a knockout" (Jeux Sans Frontières) tradition, music on the sea front every night and a beer tent, ohh the beer tent.
On the Monday a band billed as "The south coasts number one Genesis tribute band" played on the main stage, quite how many other Genesis tribute bands there are around here and how they arrange their seeding I am at the moment not so sure, but I knew it would be entertaining when four middle aged school teachers and one fire alarm fitter took to the stage, the lead singer, I was thinking year 8 Science, had thoughtfully donned a black cape for the occasion and the alarm fitter had fashioned a parachute into a fetching blouson. The fake elctro organ music started, smoke filled the stage and the first bars of early 1970's experimental rock filled our ears...... as we made an exit stage left to the Carnival beer tent. Fighting our way though the sunburnt underdressed hordes on the quayside and up through the decidedly compact traveling funfair, we targeted the tent only to find that it also was packed, this time with more fully dressed "groggles" (the local term for holidaymaker's), seated and playing bingo. They all looked grumpy, but then again the bingo caller had all the charisma of a Lufthansa pilot. Considering the circumstance, I couldn't have been happier.
As I stood there 4.5% of Purbeck's best local beer in hand, watching the fireworks fizzle off into the night, yes I wished that Tash could be with me to experience the simplicity and freedom I was feeling, but with Tash would come the whole world that I have just left behind, all the problems, so I let her be.
The 4th August marked the three month's since she died and I have to report that I was remarkable buoyant (the day before and after were less so however), Lesley stayed at home just in case and the moment was marked (2:10 in the afternoon should you ever have a need to know this piece of information) by buying two very expensive and beautiful whole Wild Bass's for dinner that night; I might not be good with shoe shopping, but I can still show Tash my love for her by putting my hand in my pocket. "She would have appreciated that" was Lesley's comment. Archie and Arnold (we always named the fish) provided the centre piece for dinner, I am an easy house guest and am training myself to cook with love whenever I feel upset. Lesley and Jason are not complaining.
Tuesday nights gigging entertainment was a band of youngsters who "Rocked Out!" in fine style, replete with the guitarist pulling off quite audacious legs akimbo guitar straddling crutch thrusting moves, made all the better by typical teenager centric between song banter delivered in full "awright my love" local accent.
At the moment things are still very busy, my idyllic hope of having time to relax has not yet happened. There have been accounts to pay, debts to settle (Tash's, not mine, even this long after her passing I am still supporting her) and contracts to finish. The biggest amount of my time goes in to my continual relationship with eBay, our life just keeps passing though it's hallowed auction pages, as bigger drain on my time as this is, I remind myself the other option is the charity shop and I'll be dammed if Tash's finely collected wardrobe is going there without a fight.
The weather has not helped things either, I was hoping for a glorious summer to learn how to cycle again, but it rains most days and when it is not, it is overcast so my second preferred option of photography also suffers. Still the Olympics are on.
That's enough for now.