I have on so many occasions in the past few months attempted to write an update to the blog. To give some kind of reason as to why my writing seemed to have just come to an abrupt halt here online. It’s as though I feel that you deserve an explanation for my absence, the hope that perhaps in all this time (dare i say it) My writing may have been ever so slightly missed.
I haven’t been doing anything spectacular. No more trips abroad for the time being. It has been a year to this week when I wrote this when I visited Corsica and the memories have come flooding back, my brother so small in stature, yet still as large as life appearing in descriptive music and favourite songs, special moments, when dragonflies, robins, butterflies and white feathers appear. Reminding me that although he is no longer here in the physical sense, he is most definitely still by my side spiritually and for this I am thankful. I am still grieving for him and dealing with that it sometimes catches me out and leaves me weak and vulnerable.
Life in its various forms has taken a bit of a backseat as ill health has stepped to the fore and rather dominated, stamping over hopes and dreams and causing mayhem at every twist and turn. I have fought again, to try to overcome the irrational fears in my head of dealing with an illness which still has yet to be given the correct diagnosis. I have tried sometimes in vain, to treat it homoeopathically without causing further health implications and at this present time, again my health is suffering. For a small part of the summer at least, I have been able to enjoy the warmth of sun on my skin and time sitting in my little garden. A small corner of solitude which has been so neglected and yet still rewards me with flowers and colour to lift the spirits and delight the senses. It is good for the soul. Despite the short bursts of scents (my sense of smell has still not returned) and colour it calms the sensory overload. There have been times, when my nerves have spasmed and dislocated joints quite often in my sleep, when I am fortunate enough to get some. These do not follow a pattern they choose randomly and I am left in pain until it reseats itself sometimes days later. My neurological symptoms have worsened over the past year and I am still waiting for the neurology appointment I was referred for in November 2018. Meanwhile the nerve pain is at times unbearable causing me to cry out in pain, sweat and shake and causes numbness which makes me clumsy. The restless legs at night are only controlled by taking Gabapentin which I’d rather not take. My pain relief these days is Tramadol and I am conscious of the fact that both of these are controlled drugs and could be highly addictive. I do not wish to take them, but since I am unable to take codeine based drugs and no other options are available to me I am left with no real choice. I am regularly covered in bruises from clumsy incidents, my hands don’t work properly and I get disorientated. It is embarrassing, I don’t have a social life, save for visiting a few understanding friends when I am able. On good days I can hardly function for a few hours and on bad days I can’t get out of bed. One of the things about how things have been is that for someone with a good command of English and grammar, it seems to have gone to pieces. I often have word blindness and brain fog, I type now since hand writing is no longer an option due to pain. I find that not only do I forget the words I intend to put down, but I often am unable to spell words which I know well. I type them the wrong way round as though some wire in my head has come loose and the short circuits caused by the spasms have dislodged the memory. It is deeply frustrating and means that typing anything now takes me twice as long and spell checking is always essential. It also happens when I read things, I see them round the wrong way too.
Anger and frustration over this time has caused me to write things which I do not feel that I should share. Personal feelings when I have been angry or upset I still write about them and hope that I have the sense not to put them into the public eye, for fear of reprisal later. Along the lines of if you don’t have anything nice to say, then you should say nothing at all. I find myself asking”When did I turn into a person who got so angry, so impatient for change and yet bitter about the cards I have been dealt”. I am fighting my own demons every day and sometimes it feels like a losing battle. It is depressing. There have been family issues and upset and health scares in my beloved, I have watched his health decline rapidly, reach a plateau where I am grateful for any small improvement in his health, whilst his pallor has turned from white to grey to tanned and everything in between until the depression has taken a hold of him and he has felt as though he was dying and I was certain that he was. His fight against cancer was getting the better of him and he became more and more depressed. His constant pain getting him down so far that he did not feel as though he could pull himself out of it and the positive mental attitude dwindling before my eyes. It took a turn for the worse in early spring he was assualted and robbed in the front garden and late spring someone else threatened him with a knife outside his own house. It seems that there are more junkies who will now do anything for their fixes and life becomes as cheap as their next fix from a schizophrenic drug dealer who thinks we are out to get him. Yes we have been angry, felt cheated by our health and unable to do a damn thing about it to improve it. We do not want to settle for a life like this, where our dreams are shattered before our eyes and we are left behind, shadows of how we once were. Life is not supposed to be this way. Our life is not cheap or worthless it is still worth fighting for. Our darling dog had surgery, he was hosting a tumour on his back which had it been left would have paralysed him. Thankfully the surgeon was able to skilfully remove it and he has now made a full recovery back to health, his skills at assisting us when we have health issues have also improved out of necessity and we are so grateful to have him in our lives.
So after the spring upset we headed north, to our home in Scotland in the hope that it would bring us peace and comfort. I pushed him to go, thinking that it would do us both some good to get away from here. It has always been my serenity and peaceful place up until the horrors of last year and I hoped naively that that was now over. The reality however was far, far different and I am wholly responsible for the worst imaginable Summer there. Now neither of us have a wish to return there and we had such plans for the place and the things we wanted to do to our home. We had taken up furniture and things and I was hopeful that my creative streak would once again return to favour me with poetry that I could share and things that I could make.
We had a very long and exhausting journey there and once we arrived and set up the house we had been there less than a week before we were both verbally and physically assaulted by our next door neighbour. It seems that the grudge he has held for so many years since we bought the place now harbours a dangerous resentment and in his mind we need to be eradicated. So it began, almost two months of sheer hell, dangerous goons sent up to scare us away and threats to kill, a man with a knife despatched to finish us off and the daily torment of a workman who ran the engines on tractors, diggers, lawn mowers and machinery for 8 hours a day. He even left them running unattended right outside the house and clearly delighted in his work, when he wasn’t falling off them drunk. Of course we involved the police after the first incident and were advised not to confront the neighbour or his associates at any point. So we became prisoners in our home and were not even able to out in the garden without being heckled, abused or tormented for the duration. We were followed in the car, had visitors abusing us in the night time and walking about shining torches into the house throughout the night in an effort to scare us. The fully working farm at harvest time made less noise than these guys. For my part it worked I was a nervous wreck who sat up throughout the night worrying and regularly tearful, it rendered me incapable of doing things and we were around each other almost 24/7 which often caused friction. The guilt of making us go there was huge and excruciating. Our family, friends and neighbours were concerned for our safety and our family were just too far away.
By the end of July we had enough. The police are taking it seriously and we will most likely have to go to court, they were talking about witness protection for us. It was worse than a soap opera, friends were saying you couldn’t write this stuff and yet. We’re living this nightmare. Both literally sick with the worry and worn out and run down, we packed up and came back South hoping for some rest when we got back here. The journey was hellish and my man was so ill that I did not think he was going to be able to get us home, but he did. He still has not recovered, he had pneumonia and a dislocated shoulder and neck, yet still drove us back as I wasn’t able to either. He has some stubbornness and perseverance!
So this last month we have been attempting to gather our strength and rest, well he has although the concept of rest and recuperation I believe is is alien to him. My parents have finally sold and moved out of what was their family home for the last 35 years. It was extremely stressful for all concerned and distressing for my younger sister as she saw her childhood home pulled in so many directions until it was shredded. I found it less so and just pushed myself to deal with the task in hand and try and hold them all together. Trying to help go through sections of the house which had remained largely untouched for about 25 years was a voyage of discovery, that’s for sure! I moved out from there 28 years ago. Trying to do this with poor health has severely taken its toll, I damaged myself lifting heavy things and clearing out. But as of last week, they were finished and we all said Goodbye to the house in our own separate ways. I took cuttings from the garden that my mother had cherished and nurtured in the hope that it would gain a new life in some small way as she has done. Time will tell whether they are happy enough to reward me with growth. I was also allowed to give a new home to some old furniture from the garage and my grandfathers and father’s tools. So I am hoping that I will be able to use them for small projects when my health allows.
So as we settle back in down South after the changes have taken place and hope that we remain safe and are able to get well, or at least not any worse I hope that I get the chance to welcome my creativity back with open arms. I am looking forward to once I have the space and have cleared the debris of the summer and my parents house, found new homes for acquired items and disposed of others which are no longer wanted. I am hoping that the peace I have regarding their home now being gone remains and does not turn to grief, I think that despite my sentimentality, that part of me is firmly in the past and I moved on from there a long time ago. They have new homes now and are living their lives differently, we have all grown. I can then return to the task of getting my own house in order and going through the rest of my brother’s belongings. It has been over a year since we lost him now and although I feel his presence, it is not necessary to keep every thing that he owned, there are things which can be of use to others. I just need to sort them out.
I realise that as time goes on our dreams and our priorities change. Sometimes these changes are forced by circumstances beyond our control. Those changes seem to be the hardest ones to accept and I will be dragged through them kicking and screaming and hopefully come out the other side intact. I am still writing, it is sometimes the only sanity that I have in all the madness around me, giving me a moment of clarity especially when I am awake throughout the night in pain. It is my therapy, helping me to adapt and grow. I just hope that I am strong enough to keep up the fight, to nurture and cherish those around me who show me love and friendship, who have my back when I have theirs, who listen when I need them to and who speak when they need to. The give and take friends, my tribe.
I will once again share my poems with you. Carefully selected of course and I hope to stop writing what I refer to as “whine poetry” and make a return to the happy, grateful side of my personality. Perhaps I will find a new place that will become my muse, some fabulous life experience which brings back happiness, some joie de vivre.
Just one week in a new place, one of the last holidays I remember us having all together as a family.
That home from home we didn’t want to leave.
Where we arrived and Mum began to bake,
The farmhouse kitchen just begging to be used. A basement store its dark cavern, full of unknown but interesting jars of produce waiting to be discovered.
A big pine table we could all sit around for breakfast overlooking the apple tree, laden with fruit as the tractors went about their business.
The big wooden bed with the patchwork quilt that you had to climb up onto and window seats to while away the time with a book.
The room I shared with my sister, looking out at the cows who came to the back wall to the cottage curious as to what we were doing laying on the floor looking out over the fields.
Memories of a Summer Holiday and the new friends we made.
A farm with barns and hay and animals, freedom to run wild and free in nature.
A true country farm cottage in the place with a very strange name.
This is a true story, we stayed in a holiday cottage at a place named Normanby-by-Spital, in Lincolnshire when my sister was very young, my brother and I were teenagers and although he was bored by the idea, we soon made new friends and explored the countryside. It turned out to be one of our most favourite holidays together.
I have awoken once again as I have done for as long as I can remember in the past few months, exactly two and a half hours after I had gone to bed. It seems to be such a regular occurrence now, part of the new normal forcing its way into my life. Again I am compelled to write about what has happened in the past few months and get it out of my head in the hope that it will not spend more time there and that I will be able to move on from it in some small way. I do not know if that is forcing something which is not ready to leave, or just stop it from occupying most of my thoughts.
I have been quietly writing in the background the past few months, so much has gone on in my private life which needs to remain private for now, but the difficulties of the past few years seem to pale into almost insignificance in comparison. I have sat and purposefully written in a bid to explain, but those posts will not be shared publicly, there has been so much pain to deal with and I have been fighting still despite feeling ill equipped to do so. I have also written a few more poems, some of which I’ve posted here on the blog.
It is difficult to know where to begin so I guess it will just have to come right out and say it, that which I am able to share with you. My brother passed away, he died suddenly and although it was a huge shock to us all. I am struggling to deal with it. The past almost three months since his passing, have felt like a year, endless in its quest and dragging onward. It is not over yet, since the grieving process has really only just begun due to the delays caused by legal formalities. He is not gone from my thoughts and remains very much a part of me. In my home I am surrounded by his things which bring back memories all of the time. Of course this does not just affect me, the rest of the family are left reeling from the shock of it all, he was a relatively young man at 48 years old and this was totally unexpected.
He lived his life in the enviable position of having no responsibilities in fact he positively shied away from them, left no will and made me his next of kin. Suddenly, there was a policeman on the telephone, faced with the duty of informing me that there had been an accident and that I was to contact his employer urgently. At that point, he was in a critical ward of a hospital in Corsica and it was my job to inform Mum. We spoke on the phone since I was also away at the time, and only a couple of hours later, he was dead. Gone forever it felt surreal. He had been working away for most of the last five years, returning only for short periods in between and staying with friends, who were extended family, whenever he was back in the UK we tried to catch up, but during his trips he would call me at length and tell me all about where he was living and the people he was working with. He was excited by life and new experiences and I loved those conversations. I was lucky to have had one such conversation the afternoon before he passed away, which made me wrack my brains and replay every moment in my mind to see if I could have sensed that something was wrong, if it could in some way have forewarned me of what was to come. But it did not. What happened was just an awful accident, cardiac arrest brought on by shock of the extreme heat of the climate, to cold water in an outdoor swimming pool. One misjudged moment in time, deciding to go for a swim and he drowned. It was awful and it still is. To think of a life so suddenly gone, I am still coming to terms with how final that is. He was just getting to do the things that he wanted to and living the life he felt that he should. He had plans and was excited by what the future may hold.
I still can’t believe that he is gone and not coming back, as a seasonnaire chef, his summer stint would be over and he would be back by now. I like so many others, his friends and his family are waiting for that phone call we would normally have had by now, saying “Hello, I’m back”. He stopped calling it home a couple of years ago, when he decided that he wanted to live in Italy and began looking for a flat there, alas that was not to be. But here was where he returned to, his roots and the extended family he had chosen, lifelong friendships with people who anticipated his return.
It was August when he passed away. It took two months to get him home and have the funeral since there was an inquest and repatriation to deal with. I am relieved that his employers were a reputable company who had insurance, otherwise I for one could not have coped with it all and the costs of bringing him back and dealing with it all would have been impossible. It would have been a very different situation since as far as I can find out he had no insurance to cover him for his death. He had not written a will and had no savings whatsoever surviving from one pay check to the next and never quite managing it consistently living beyond his means.
Thankfully, from a leaving people behind point of view, he did not have a wife or children, just parents and siblings, me and his sister. He also had literally hundreds of friends, dotted around the world. I honestly feel that he never lost touch with anyone he ever met, leaving a lasting impression upon them, they stayed in touch or he would walk into a place somewhere in the world and someone would know someone who knew him, or an old acquaintance would reappear. It was uncanny. He was a loveable rogue and when we planned his party for him, in celebration of his life it only then became clear to us how loved he was. He did not want a funeral where everyone was sad, he wanted a party where everyone could gather and talk about the good times, drink and dance and talk. Throughout the planning I was worried, wondering if I would make him proud. It had been many years since I had planned an event, but I wanted it to be perfect for him. Nothing would spoil it and as it turned out it was a wonderful night, which a month later people are still speaking about with fondness, cherishing new memories along with the old and rekindled friendships. It was a wonderful compliment to be told that if he had made it to fifty and had a party, then this would have been exactly what he would have wanted to do and it couldn’t have gone any better.
We picked a location he loved as fate would have it there was a real ale festival at the first pub. A local place where he always returned to, it was the perfect setting on a beautiful warm and sunny day. A refreshing seaside breeze after a funeral service packed out with around 400 people. It was massive and although emotionally exhausting, it was filled with love and tributes. We spoke, which was something I knew that I had to do, anecdotes from growing up together and then I read a poem I had written just after his passing, called My Brother. (You can read it here) It was a first for me, reading something I had written out loud in front of an audience but it was very well received. Our sister, who is a musician, sang a song live which she had written, also a first for her and it was emotional and beautiful. Our Mum told everyone stories from his past which had everyone laughing and smiling at the memories. My partner got up and spoke, thanking all of the people who had helped and been there for my brother and for us and the tribute from his friend, reliving the memories growing up, were both entertaining and captivating.
After the initial meet up where the beer festival was held, we moved onto another pub, where we had organised a buffet, some of his school friends who are DJ’s played the music he loved for a packed out pub full of people from all walks of life and all age groups who were there to say goodbye. Our sister played live with her bands and we were fortunate that the entertainment that the pub had already booked for that night flowed effortlessly from what we had done for him. Everyone had a great time it was not like a funeral at all. It was a day and a night filled with love for someone who has left a wide gaping hole in our lives by his sudden departure. We had guest books and reading them after the funeral was lovely. We encouraged people to write their memories of him and are planning to publish his story at some point, the book he didn’t quite get to write. I am sure that he was still too busy living his life to write it all down. I have spent two months looking for the book he always spoke about writing one day, but have not yet found any evidence of it. We decided that the stories should not die with him. They are too funny, heart-warming and vivid to let go.
I was sent out to Corsica by his employers, they arranged for me to attend where he lived and worked and meet the team, his working family and the ones who had tried to save him. It was cathartic towards the end of the trip, I was so pleased to be able to do that and it helped immensely to piece together the time before his death and share some wonderful memories with those who surrounded him. I returned only six weeks ago, it feels much longer. Time seems to drag on and all of a sudden it will be three months since he died, this weekend it has been a month since his funeral. The seasons have changed and with them so have I. Although I am not sure whether it is for the better or worse and I am so far out of my comfort zone lately that I can’t remember where it is any more.
As I deal with his affairs in the line of duty, my own personal grief has kicked in it catches me out at the most awkward of moments, creating havoc in the day to day. Having dealt with the formality of the funeral now, it no longer consumes my every moment, I am still dealing with formalities as this will take some time to do. I have time to think now and remember and those memories which fall as tears when I think of him, of that lump in my throat which arrives when I get to thinking about the fact that I will never again get to hug my infuriatingly haphazard, but very endearing and loving brother. Meanwhile I am surrounded by the belongings which I am still gathering in able to sort them out and share out amongst family and his closest friends. He left his things all over Europe and even now I am not quite sure where, some are only just coming to light now. I do not know if I will be able to recover it all. Despite my daily routine being somewhat relaxed, insomnia and concerns are wearing and damaging to the health and mine has suffered, along with that of my partner who has been at my side, supporting me every step of the way. He is tired, for that read exhausted and already suffering ill health it has really taken its toll upon him, I must look after my rock and not let it crumble. As he pointed out to me, life is for the living and we are still here.
Last night I visited one of his close friends, I called round on the off chance and we talked for over an hour about the funeral and how he would normally be home by now. That he still shows up now and then, in the strangest of ways. She has been married to his best friend for over 20 years and they were a very large part of my brother’s life, always there for him come what may. Only 3 months ago I had never met her. It was the case for so many of his friends throughout his life he kept them and his family separate. But the love and warmth that they had for him has been extended to me and the rest of us and never fails to move me. I came home happy but emotional it was good to talk about my brother, but I am conscious that we also talked about other things in our lives such as making plans for the future. It was just what was needed after a week where I have been going stir crazy at home, seemingly chasing my tail to get things done, although I have made small progress nevertheless.
As time goes by, things are slowly changing, things which are forcing me to re-evaluate and make new plans. I need to concentrate on improving our health and moving us onward. I hope that down the line I can begin to follow some of my dreams with regard to work and I want to be able to write again, not just poetry but other things. The future could be a long time, there is much to do.
It has been a really tough time lately and although I’ve been writing occasionally little of it has made it to the blog. But on a happier note, it was our 23rd Anniversary yesterday. This is for my darling who has been there for me all of this time. Thank you!