As Time Goes By…

gold colored chain necklace with watch pendant
Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

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.

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Distraction

The momentary distraction,
of sitting on a train,
in pain.
The people that surround me,
living out their lives,
it thrives.
Working, Dreaming, Sleeping.
the memories spring to mind,
not weeping.
A thought or treasured memory,
unjust circumstances in time,
not feeling fine.
Anger and frustration,
While in grief from sudden loss,
Now life has changed forever,
As I stop to count the cost.
That interesting point in the middle distance,
to fix my eyes upon.
The horror and realisation,
that he really is gone.

 

Well Here We Are….

So we flew in last night for a few days a little visit to Barcelona for my Birthday. Something else to tick off the bucket list. I am looking forward to getting out and about and us seeing some of the sights. Especially the Barcelona Pavilion by Ludwig Mies Van der Roe.

I must admit that on looking out of the window last night and being met by beautiful twinkly lights on a balcony opposite I thought, this looks nice and this morning I have apartment envy as there is a huge rooftop terrace which is rather lovely. One lucky man is wandering about on it with his coffee this morning.


Today we will get our bearings and tickets for travel and might save the Pavilion for tomorrow. We are tired today, the hotel is on a very busy city corner, so we were wide awake till 3am and didn’t sleep much after that either. I haven’t slept in a city for a few years now, it takes some getting used to. But I find that the first 24 hours we are always adjusting. It feels strange not being able to speak the language. My partner would be fine he used to live in Spain.

So as we wandered about for almost 8 hours of yesterday. We basked in Sunshine and blue skies on this fine January day, were serenaded by beautiful green parrots surrounded by fabulous architecture and surprises around almost every corner. My Birthday was wonderful. 

We are staying in the Gothic Quarter and it is a short walk to Port Vell which had some fantastic yachts in the harbour and a pirate ship!


It was the perfect day to wander along the quayside. 


My weakness is for the architecture and it doesn’t disappoint at all. Art Deco and Nouveau at every corner and beauty that jumps out at you. 

It was quite warm and the horses looked hot, we decided not to make them walk anywhere on our behalf. 

I had to photograph this Lion it reminded me so much of my Roki at home having a stretch.
In the late afternoon we were tired so stopped for some good food. After which we wandered around replenished and as we turned a corner of a side street were met with a beautiful sound. A man playing the violin in a square directly in front of the Cathedral all lit up and a full moon overhead. My phone had run flat earlier and I had switched it off and at that moment prayed for a photograph of what stood before me. I was blessed and got this one then listened to the music and went on my merry way. 


Although I had the grand idea of us dressing up for our meal out we were just too tired after walking all day so had coffee and cake late evening and went to bed.

Transport 

I love it when a blog post takes you to a place where you have never been before and just for a brief time you are transported wherever it may be. It is so descriptive that you are there enjoying that moment along with the author. All the sights and sounds that surround them are playing on the senses and your own imagination kicks in. Perhaps you are noticing other things for the first time too. It is what I subconsciously aim for when I write a story. I don’t always feel that I manage it, but when it comes together, Ah success!

I don’t often read books, it is not a luxury I’m often able to afford myself, you see I’ll let you into a secret. They aren’t something I can put down again. I get so wrapped up in them, transported I guess that I am unable to switch off until I have reached the end. On the last two occasions I actually read books it was cover to cover and nothing got done for the day. Thankful for small mercies that I read pretty quickly though. Quite often even then I have considered what might happen next, another chapter. I’ve often considered writing one at the end of a book I’ve particularly enjoyed.  I do the same with a film the concentration is immense. But if anything breaks that for me and I miss a bit then quite often I will walk away mid film and watch it another time, much to the annoyance of my partner.

One such post transported me there is this one Helen Hayward Going Home for Christmas which I read tonight. It got me thinking about the places which have been home over the years, she quoted a friend “Never go back to the place where you were happiest as a child’, a friend once told me. ‘The place you went on holiday to, a garden from childhood, a tree house in the woods. It’s gone, lost’, she said firmly, ‘and you can’t refind it’.”

Revisiting them is not always a good idea. Crossing back to the time before we became grown up, when we looked at everything so differently. First off we often expect it to be the same and it just isn’t the same. Not when you have grown up but still we have a fondness for the familiar don’t we. The inspiration following a memory we once had.

I walked down the high street where I grew up as a teenager and later lived in the town nearby. It has changed so much, I did not recognise it and yet it still somehow brought me comfort in the memories that I hold of the place. We all grow up one day, people and places in an ever changing world.

The Daily Post – Crossing

 Sisters

I am not talking about the ones you cannot choose the ones you are bonded to by birth and blood. Although I love her dearly, I am also lucky enough to have other sisters of my choosing. They are treasure to the soul and I am totally blessed to have known them and loved them.

For instance there is the girl who I have known since I was 18 months old and saw her moving in up the road, she has been a sister of mine ever since.  Sure over the years we have fought, when we were on our way to school with each other as small children, we regularly argued.  When I see or speak with her, time stands still, we are six again, chattering and laughing and always pleased to be around each other. When she went away to college and I moved away in our teenage years, I missed her so much. I am glad that I am able to see her and her family more often nowadays.

Then there is another lovely lady, with whom I have been through so much over the years. When we were 13 or 14 years old, we became blood sisters, you know where you are so close that a part of you wants to never lose that. You ceremoniously cut yourselves and say something like “your blood, my blood, our blood” and swear that you will be sisters forever.

We shared our first boyfriend, but that was not intentional, he was just a rat! We moved on from that and remained very close. Then a while later we lost touch for several years. During that time I honestly felt that a part of me was missing and I often thought about her, but did not know where to find her, or even if I should. I did not know if she would be the same girl underneath or even if she should be, but when we met up again and I met her wonderful family for the first time. It was as though no time had passed and they all were part of my family too. I am writing this as I think about the years since then and the fact that I am about to be parted from this family again as they emigrate to Australia on Christmas Day. Yes the other side of the world and wonder when I will see her again. Notice I say when, not if. You see I have a wonderful man who knows and loves me and makes things happen for me. He has driven across the countryside just to make sure that I see my friend whenever we are en route back to the South from Scotland. He knows that I will feel such loss when she is gone again, as I did before. So he has given me yet another wonderful gift. His Christmas gift to me is that yesterday told me to call her and tell her I was going to visit her and her family before she leaves next week and I am heading off on the train to see them all for a couple of days. I am so thrilled to be able to do this. We are looking forward to walking those hills together and her showing off the sights in her pretty part of Yorkshire. 

Her children when we last visited said that they would like to see me for Christmas so I have sworn her to secrecy and will just turn up at their house to surprise them. We are all excited about this unplanned visit as it was beyond my wildest dreams to see them all again since they weren’t able to visit us.

I have a treasure that is priceless. It is the people who surround me with Love and I am truly blessed and grateful.  

The Daily Post – Treasure

I’d Lost My Marbles!

This is not a metaphor, but it’s not necessarily what you’d think either.

I have not been writing much lately. Instead I have been quietly storing away to memory hoping that I will remember it and write it later. I have not even written notes to jog the memory, so I hope that I don’t forget. My partner told me I “had far more important things to do” as he does from time to time when he wants me to stop what I’m doing and do something different. We had storage which needed to be emptied out on a deadline and with it memories of the past, so many moments lost in that room for years and years. Many people  have wondered why I keep stuff, I am sentimental and it started out as a habit. Those who know me have often asked. I used to collect the things that people did not want, or maybe I just found them interesting. I have furniture and things handed down to me by other family members.  I’d also kept all the books which I had as a child, some I had made as projects at school. I did not throw them away, wanting to share their wonders with children of mine some day, or ones I’d been lucky to look after in the early years, waiting for my time to come as a mother. I kept the books and as time went by I stored them away.

When I had to move out of my large flat and had no where to go, many of my belongings went into a storage facility and when I had filled that up, we talked a neighbour into lending us their storeroom, in the basement where I used to live.

And there it has stayed… For several years now, it’s amazing how time flies isn’t it?

For the past three years getting into the building has been impossible. Prior to which we used to go in there get things out and store other stuff, but basically things were left there. Many of them have been quietly rotting away, ravaged by time and flood water. I hoped that some at least could be salvaged before it was too late.

The anticipation of finding things again after all this time, was mounting in my mind.  My partner was dreading the whole process but did it with me. All my toot, as he referred to had to be moved.

So should we have cleared it all out and disposed of it all years ago?  I have to say that there have been times over the past fortnight when we both felt that we should have done, it was a horrible job to do, it was smelly and damp which got right on your chest and everywhere else.   We pulled muscles in the process but it is done and now we are sorting through, having moved what remained.

But there was some good news, there were things that I thought were long gone.  I had assumed that they had been taken when the storage facility moved my belongings leaving them out in a corridor for passers by to walk off with. From the numerous burglaries in the basement, or lost when I could not remember which place they had been put in. I thought I may have got confused and donated the wrong bags to charity shops. I had doubted that I had many of these items still, whilst others I would fondly look forward to finding again.

Unfortunately,  I lost most of my childrens’ books, all of my photograph albums from when I was growing up. During the clearance I picked up a box of books which were stored at floor level, hoping to keep them. They had obviously been placed there hurriedly. It looked fine from the top but as I moved it, the bottom fell out of it and water, so much water.  I took it towards the bin and as I put the box in there, I realised that it held the photos and the children’s books. The photo’s destroyed and the colours running from the pages in multi coloured rivers. These were my first photos from when as a teenager I had saved my pocket money to buy my first camera and develop the film.  I also found my art folder from my school days, the work was damp and mouldy and something I thought was there for years, is not. These were the low points but in the midst of it all, I found other things.

Among them was a bag which had been preserved containing the blue dress I bought when my Nan died and was wearing the first day that I met my partner.  I found the favourite dress which I had when I was 18 and wore on many a night out and other new/old dresses which I had not yet worn.  I found childhood collections, Love letters, letters and cards from friends. So many things, prized sentimental possessions from many years ago and after all these years I found my marbles!

My marble collection was won when I moved to this Southern town, new to the last year at Junior school. I was worried about settling in and making friends having been bullied at my previous school, there was a craze in the new school and I would learn how to play, then win a collection of marbles. I spent my meagre pocket money on marbles from the local toy shop and played every break time.  I won most of the marbles in this container that year.  I thought that the pasta jar (another of the things which had been stored away) was the perfect place in which to store them, on the kitchen windowsill where the light can bounce through them and I can enjoy them again.

Although I am a self-confessed hoarder and it will take me a while to get through it all. I will be working on my clutter and I have realised it is quite exhilarating to throw things out which are broken, or damaged and finding new homes for things which are no longer needed. As I enjoy finding other items from our past, no doubt there will be other things which put a smile on my face.

As I spoke to my oldest friend and also my mother after we had finished. I wondered out loud whether I would finally stop dreaming of the flat I’d had years earlier. Dreaming that I still lived there and that other people had taken over the place and my life along with it, holding parties that I did not want, with people I did not invite. That happened a lot. Mum told me that chapter is now over, now that things have gone from there I can finally stop living in the basement and be free at last. It seemed to mark the turning point, as I have been going through things with fervour throwing out decayed pieces of the past as I look towards the future. Maybe that is my metaphor and meanwhile, the strange dreams seem to have stopped.

 

The Daily Post – Anticipation