Island Blog – Pas pour Moi

I wake with the sun, can feel the warmth and the promise of a new day ahead. Impatient, I leave first, walking from the apartment down the little hill towards the village. Bonjour Monsieur-dame, I greet an older couple coming towards me with bags of shopping. I can smell the baguette and see it too, peeping out as baguettes always do, refusing to fit in. She, Madame, appraises me, her eyes covering my body like a touch. She is, I know, looking for an inappropriate bare of skin. She won’t find it, for I know this old fashioned place and am respectful of its rules of thumb, its unwritten laws. She, naturally, is dressed for a winter’s day in Alaska, all in black and so buttoned up as to appear more like a seal than a woman. Her face, pinched into a critical catch tells me that her smiling Monsieur will be disappointed at my coverings and also that her life has not been an easy one.

The streets that wind through the village are cobbled, worn by thousands of feet over hundreds of years, smoother around the entrance to the cafes and bars where feet have scuffled and stopped, turned around or opened the door for refreshment and friendship. Picasso painted here, as did Matisse and Dali and it is to the painters I am bound. Through the archway and down to the rocky harbour I find them, placed like buskers and probably with their own pitches considered sacrosanct. Bonjour I say and more than once as I walk by with only a glance at their work. I know the rules. No artist wants to be gawped at and most certainly do not invite comment. as they apply oils to canvas, eyes on their subject. I look out to where the sun rises pinkly perfect over a calm and submissive sea. Around the curve of the natural harbour an old stone edifice stands sentry. Much of its face is gone but once it would have stood proud as Punch. This is the way in, it would have said to the fishermen and sailors seeking sanctuary.

On the edge of a spit of rock stands a woman in white. Her long dress floats a little in the warm morning breeze but nothing else of her moves. Her hand below a bonnet of white satin is shading her eyes as she looks out to sea. Searching for her husband, says a gruff smokers voice behind me. I am startled back to myself. How did he know I was English? Ah, Madame, he says, English always look English, no matter where they go. I am momentarily disappointed but concede he is probably right. She will not move all day, he continues. She is an art student and this is how she earns money for her studies. I smile and move closer to her. She doesn’t even blink. The heat, I think, the heat! Already, at 7.30 am it is 20 degrees and she has enough clothes on to kit up the whole cast of Hamlet.

I move towards my favourite cafe and sit outside beneath the shade of a tree, one I cannot identify. Cafe Madame? Our, mercie Monsieur. In moments he returns with a small coffee, black, thick and hot. Beside it he places a tiny shot glass of something and winks at me. For the heat, Madame, he says and swings away.

Later we swim. There is a storm gathering and the waves are restless and confused. Himself, snorkelled up, is ferreting about among the rocks whilst I sun myself on the stony beach. When he returns to me I can see something is wrong. He has lost his teeth, pulling them clean out along with the snorkel tube. Lost, he lisps at me. I roll my eyes and feel a small panic rise but the storm is closer now and the waves too high and mighty for a search. I resign myself to a toothless husband who doesn’t care one bit. For three days as the storm rages he orders omelette or scrambled eggs for dinner and thinks the whole thing hilarious. I smoulder across the table. It is, after all, one thing to lose all your teeth to the ocean and quite another to think it amusing, having no intention whatsoever of either organising a new set once we get home or to have any regard for the way I feel watching him lose food through floppy lips and talking like a drunk.

After the storm has moved away and the waves, their skirts still upskittled a bit, have calmed, I move into the water. Point at the place you lost them, I call back. He looks at me as he might a crazy woman and guides me. There! he says and turns back to his book. I duck beneath the water and there they are, sitting atop a rock, complete, waiting. Triumphant I lift them to the sky and call out to him. The whole beach looks up as if I had just found gold, which, in my opinion, I have.

We are the talk of our favourite restaurant. C’est impossible! They say and I am a Cheshire Cat. Pas pour moi, Monsieur, I reply. Pas pour moi.

Island Blog – Mindful Boots

I can smell the frost as I awaken, even through the dark. It slips through the open window and tingles my nose. It is calm out there, no wind, no sounds of an earthly indigestion. I burrow into my warm duvet and listen, but not for long as I am always curious to open up a new morning, to invite it in and to marvel as my eyes widen at the beauty of it. Stags, baleful autumn moaners, challenge each other from somewhere deep inside the woods on the other side of the sea-loch, one that is quiet and settled. Mistwater sprites dance across its surface, lifting into the air before disappearing altogether and the grass yonder is almost white, sparkling crystals, unearthly.

Ice clouds pink in response to the sunrise whilst Ben Mhor rises into the sky, one that promises a clear sunshine day. Later, when the frost has succumbed to the burn of it, I will open the doors and remove a layer or two, to feel the warmth against my bare skin. These are glorious autumn days and I will love them for each of their minutes, knowing they will not last, as nothing ever does.

As each season gives way to the next, I feel a discomfort at first. It seems we go from skin out to skin in or the other way around. A thick cardigan becomes an old friend even if I haven’t given it a second glance for months. I feel the shiver of autumn or the rise of warmth in spring and feel irritated. Suddenly, it seems to me, more clothes or less are required and here was I pulling out the familiar, one that no longer cooperates with the weather. Well damnit! Now I have to think about what to wear, to clad my bones in something pretty (always) but appropriate. I am always resistant to ‘appropriate’ at first. And, then, over the following days, I find a new normal and wonder at my initial resistance to change.

Yesterday I lifted the very dead flowers from his grave. The sun shone bright and there was a friend at my side. I had thought I would feel something but I felt nothing at all. I am not a sentimental woman and he is dead and he is gone and there is nothing of him below the grass but old bones. The sheep scattered as we unlatched the gate and descended the hill, cautious of their slimy green leavings, moving our boots mindfully. It is a good way to move boots wherever it is we may go. It thinks me of life itself and the best way to live it. Traversing the distance between the gate and the grave we chatted of old ones, other ones who lie here, the characters, their quirks and scallywag games, their teasing, their strength of character and we laughed over shared memories.

Change will always come however hard we may try to fend it off. Returning home I make coffee and watch the view. I never tire of it for it is in a perpetual state of change as am I, as are we all. The key is to let go and follow it in mindful boots.

Island Blog – Fog, Rapturelight and Higher Ground

There are days when I wake in a fog, one that can last all day. I stop moving and notice it, the fog, how it swirls around me, inside and out. The hills have disappeared and the sea-loch looks like it’s coming to the boil. I can’t see where I am going on days like these and I wander through the rooms doing a bit of this and straightening that right up to lunchtime. I am unfocused, muddled, unsure but not afraid, not as I would be on the M25 or as ‘on’ it as I can be when all vision is suddenly erased. Even the tail lights of the car ahead look like red biro dots. Pulling over is not an option. Where is ‘over’ anyway? It is terrifying how much we depend on 20/20 vision, both inside and out, and it thinks me.

These inside fogs seem random, disconnected, certainly from the sunshine clarity of the day before and the store I put by it. When I stop to notice my feelings there is no single line of truth. I madly try to hold on to this-is-what’s-wrong but it slips my grasp and skitters away into the murk. I swear I hear it chuckle. Over long time of study, of reading experiential wisdoms, of daily practice on inner pause and curious noticing, I know enough to know I know nothing at all and, bizarrely, this comforts me. After all, my grabbing onto ‘this-is-what’s-wrong’s has only ever fetched me up on the sharp-toothed rocks of uncertainty. The key is to stop bustling and to wait, much as I would do on the M25 were I able to pull over to safety. And, so I do.

Eventually the fog begins to lift. I watch the density thin, dissipating into powdery swirls that float around me, ghostly white but now translucent. Rapturelight. Windowless opacity is opening into an eye, one that can see, albeit through vaseline, for now, but there is such an elevating hope in that first glimpse that I almost cry out with joyful relief. It feels like the moment an awful pain eases or when you finally top the ridge, exhausted, hot and thirsty to discover an incredible view of the world down below, a vow in your mouth to never again take anything for granted. Of course, we all do. It’s natural. How human we all are!

When I am inside a fog I no longer expect me to clear it by turning from it, ignoring it or pretending it isn’t there, thus crashing blindly through the morning. Nowadays I just stop and wait for it to pass, for guidance to come in, guidance that can permeate any fog effortlessly. It always comes, eventually and much quicker than I expect. This is being vulnerable, having enough courage to be vulnerable, to be open to something far greater than I and to allow it to guide me. When we are sick, our body warns us. When we are heading down the wrong path we are also warned. Something makes us stop, a fog, a drastic change in circumstance, a loss, an uncomfortable encounter or just something someone says. We stop, arrested, frightened, lost. It is deeply scary, such a place, but only if we don’t pay attention to it. Just sitting in that deeply scary place may sound like the last thing anyone would want to do but it is key to healing, to finding new direction, to 20/20 vision.

We try to keep our lives in order, predictable, organised, rigidly planned. However, this is not what life has in mind, not at all. Learning to surf the waves, to look within when a fog descends upon us, to remain curious and patient will bring us a new way of seeing. It will bring us rapturelight.

And we will find our way to higher ground.

Island Blog – Fractal Fracas

There are many F words that are ok falling out of a mouth and these two capture me, for they aptly describe my thoughts and feelings just now. As I wander along the sunlit track in a strappy frock and jack boots, I know my eyes are hungry. They dart like swallows over the ground, up through the leaf canopy that divides the sky, fractal like geometry. I watch the shapes, the movement as the breeze catches the leaves, which, I swear, tinkle. The Turning. Dappled ground leads my looking deep into the overblown rhododendrons making me wish I could drink and shrink, like Alice. Then I could just walk in to the darkling promise of adventure. What will I find in there? Spider, mice, birds, slow worms what? Small quiet things that hide a lot, I’m guessing. I wonder how deep I will go before the dark closes behind me. And that, my friends, is a life question.

It is a month since he died. Since then various and manifold emotions have barrelled me into the shrubbery. Along with the understandable sense of loss and emptiness tinged with a brief snatch of guilt at the moving on of his mobility aids (so quickly), what has made me stop in my tracks is that I am finally able to see who he really was. He was a pioneer, a forger of new paths, new businesses, new this new that and he was also the most complex and difficult man I ever met. He used to tell anyone who was listening that he was a simple man. At this, I snorted. He was far from simple. It thinks me.

We are all the result of our parental guidance/neglect/control, for sure. We also carry within our bodies any trauma our forbears have experienced, even if we cannot ever explain it, never mind know it is there at all. Then Life gets her grabby mitts on us and there is even more shaping and moulding. We meet troubles, challenges, disasters and loss during our adult lives, within which we are expected to be authoritative and decisive. Well, that’s a big ask, don’t you think? Most of us are children in adult bodies at such times, feeling the fear, the loss, the impotence in the face of an onslaught way bigger than we are, and, yet, we, standing taller than the rest are required to make it better.

Living all those years with a paragon of brilliance meant something. A lot of somethings. I know only too well how valuable I was. The gofer, the runner, the doer. To be a visionary, a dreamer, means nothing without a me. It didn’t mean I didn’t have my own dreams and visions, not at all, but it did mean, for me, for us, that my own plans took the back seat. Some of them got bored and left the building, many did not. I value their loyalty and thank them daily. Now, it seems I have a chance. I can unhook my wagon from his star and that feels fine. I can miss his presence and still remember all that he was, all the demands and difficulties, all the fun and the parties, the spontaneity of everything, the immediacy required for action.

This is what is real. This fractal fracas.

Island Blog – Animation

This night my African son tells me he is going out for dinner with his wife and her folks. I know the place. Its all sand drives and security controlled, a sort of housing estate but without living too close to anyone else. In the mornings and evenings, they watch giraffe, zebra, warthog and a million rainbow birds who come by in their search for water and possible food. The local shop sells wild animal food pellets and, although none of the above agree with feeding wildlife, it is tempting. It means the animals stay awhile and I get that. Did it myself when I was there.

On the ‘estate’ that flanks a big croc busy river, lies Kruger park on the other side and fenced high. From viewpoints we can see elephants, leopard (if we are lucky), crocs, hippos, kudu, giraffe, zebra and so much more. It is quite intoxicating. They seem so near and so safe and yet not one of them is either. There are a few restaurants, all a big sandy drive away, and some offering eventide views of the big five coming for water, for it overlooks a freshwater pool (when there is rain, which is not often). Some restaurants are nestled in the bush, and the sounds of cracking branches and birdsong, like we never hear in the UK, interrupt and cause us to look here, or there for a catch of rainbow or the big butt of a rhino just minding her own business, for we are are on her territory.

It thinks me. It has been a very long time since I felt that flutter of anticipation, knowing I was going out for dinner; what dress to wear after a shower, what boots to wear, what perfume? Like an electric pulse but not one that hurts. If I knew in the morning, it fizzed me all day long. If, as was often the case with me and Popz, it was 30 minutes warning but nonetheless the electricity fizzled. He might say (way back in the day) What’s for supper? I might say Ah I don’t feel like cooking tonight and he would respond immediately with Let’s go out and I was hooked, line and sinker. We have…..had…. superb restaurants on the island, brilliant ambience and excellent chefs and I knew he was driving so I could just enjoy my wine. We went oft in the summer months. I loved that. Needless to say we didn’t go out (for some time) once he became compromised with what he could eat, the amount of voice ‘noise’ he could bear and the whole faff of driving out when he was really ready for bed. It happened like a season. Slow, gradual, almost not noticed.

Looking back I remember the wild times. The suddenness of action. Pick up your bed and walk, kind of thing. I got really good at looking marvellous in minutes. I can do it now, but now there is covid and fear and all restaurants closed and the ferry a threat and, although I thank this isolation time for the chance he and I had to re-connect as friends, I would choose it gone.

Once, on my chance for escape, when day time carers were enough for him, I took myself to Glasgow, to the river and to a flat on the quayside. It was a few minutes walk to about four excellent restaurants. In the morning I wandered out to choose my place for the evening meal, the lights, the buzz, the life. I had no problem at all booking a table for one.

I wonder if I will find this place again, this animation, this lift of independent life.

Island Blog – This Day

This day I would like to wander through a wood. Looking up at the map of the sky, fragmented by the leaves of the canopy, and then down at the dappled light on the autumn ground, I see my boots, one step at a time. And I love them all over again, for they are my favourites despite the chunk ripped out of one of them by an excited puppy with razor teeth and fast legs for running away. I can see him now with my boot clamped in his jaws, looking back to see if the puffing shouter was keeping up. She wasn’t.

In the wood I look for fairy homes, little round holes in the tree moss and I whisper a hallo. It’s always best not to irate the fairies I find, so a polite acknowledgement of their whereabouts is quite enough. I hear the sound of a wind combing the pines, singing with them, perfect harmony. Beyond the wood the tide rushes in, funnelled through nip-tuck lines of granite and basalt, ancient and immovable. Butter yellow lichen coats the faces of these rocks, as if the sun just landed there for a while, for me to see. Bubble, burble, swish and tumble, the mussels cling on tight. There are hundreds of them and, at low tide, I can slither across the slipper rocks to garner a feast. Wild thyme still blooms, scabious too and the flash of blood shows me where the rowans grow, their shout for attention, their hallo to the sky.

After my wander, I know where I’m going. There is a delightful tapas bar down a skinny side street, tucked in between a second hand shop and someone’s front door. The patron is big and very Spanish and his welcoming warmth greets me as I push through the door. Tables line the wall and tapas dishes, the counter. Bright smiles, a proffered glass of dry white with olives and crusty bread Señora? Si, gracias. I wait for friends to join me, for I am a bit early. As I sit my eyes roam the walls. There is a big painting of the bull run through Pamplona streets, the festival colours bright and full of sunshine. A portrait of the patron’s wife, now deceased, fills a side wall. She is very beautiful and there’s a sass in her eyes. Her hair is tumble free and dark around elegant shoulders. He has spoken of her with me, probably with everyone, for she was his one true love.

After a long and merry lunch, I wander through the streets, watching little gardens pass by. Voices lift in the air around me, ordinary people talking ordinary things. Where did we park? What’s for dinner? Where’s Wally? And yet not one of them is ordinary for we are, each one of us, unique, with our own life to live and our own frustrations, our own dreams. Who will live that dream? Only the brave.

I find my way home. Opening the door I smell the familiar smells and I breathe them in. This is where I live, where I am entirely myself. I may be alone now but I know who I am. Softly I relinquish the ties that bind, hanging them over a chair like a well loved cardigan. I put on some music, Sibelius. The swan of Tuanela was his favourite. Sinking into a chair I watch the day fade into dusk and I am filled with memories and gratitude as the beautiful and evocative melodies flow through the room, through me.

It is good, this day. And all is well.

Island Blog – Inspiradiation and Adventures

Days roll on, some good, some ok, some awful. Now that I have my independency I have no idea what to do with it. I know about baby steps and how to eat an elephant but the reality of being so thrown into empty space is not something I really understood, till now. Perhaps ‘understood’ is the wrong word because I don’t really understand it yet. Yesterday I crawled along with the hours, lost and jumpy, itching and pacing the silent rooms. I washed this, swept that, emptied something and filled another thing up. I sewed a bit whilst listening to a talking book, relieved to be inside someone else’s story, thus avoiding my own for an hour or so.

I know these days will keep coming as will the okay days and the good days. It is all part of grieving, I am told. When a person has been a part of ‘We’ for as long as he or she can remember, the longed for ‘I’ can feel like a stick of ice down a warm back. I know that I fought hard for my independency from day one of marriage, furious it was not offered as a personal freedom and eventually accepting that, in a traditional pairing, the wife is required to always play second fiddle. I remember himself saying to me, quite seriously, that I was allowed to make the small decisions in life whilst the big ones were his alone. I also remember searching his face for the joke in this and finding none.

Finding acceptance in such a situation was not a breeze for me. I have too much Amazon in me, too much feist, bite and suffragette to find this acceptable. Part of him loved this in me but not if it stood tall against him and his big decisions, implacable, square, solid. I often backed down, however, feeling stupid and pointless and full of impotent rage. Now, in the light of survival and with the emergence of kindness, companionship and history in the latter years, I know it was just the way it was, he was, we were.

I inhabit this new space like a wide eyed child. I am curious, interested, sometimes puzzled, sometimes lost, sometimes found but not by anyone else. Just by myself. Trusting in my own decisions, saying ‘I’ instead of ‘we’, moving independently and with confidence, feels okay. After all, who was it who played second fiddle so well for so long, developing his visions, walking them out, repairing door knobs and hurt children? Who was it who went the extra mile, worked all the hours, cared for endless guests and found 100 inventive ways to cook mince? Who was it who kept everyone warm, who made the calls, drove the miles, sorted the troubles out and had a ‘Yes we can’ attitude to pretty much everything?

Well, that was me. That was I. and there is is no ‘was’ about it. I am still that woman, one who now must turn to herself for answers. A new learning, a new day in the life of me. It smiles me. There is the smell of adventure on the wind and my nose is twitching. He taught me, despite his need to control everything, and, perhaps because of that need, that I did have my independency all along; that although I will miss his presence sorely inside this little island home, I am that strong Amazon and I will find those adventures he always looked for, found and loved. But, this time, they will be my adventures.

Island Blog – Silence, a Woodland Choir and the Moon

It’s raining today. It should have rained for the funeral, spilling into the next day, the day we sent his wreath out on a rip tide, and on into day 3 when we all cried and hugged and farewelled in sunshine. So it is perfectly okay for the rain to rain today. In fact, it must be a relief for all those Cumulus clouds, pregnant with 1.1 million pounds of water, the equivalent of 100 elephants. Thank you, I tell them and get soaked, as I wander down the Tapselteerie track heading for the woods.

There is a wind blowing. Nothing whooshy that might tip me over and send my wheelie bins into Lucy’s garden, but just a woowoo sort of wind, warm and damp. It shivers the woodland canopy, making it sing. All those leaves twiddling, catching the air on their dying surfaces, lifting it into sound, into music, into song. I am walking underneath a choir and the piece they are singing is delightful. My moving feet create the percussion in dry spots where the fallen leaves and stalks are dry, and a marvellous squelch where they are not. It’s danceable to. I don’t, however. I never found it easy to dance in waterproofs. I am more of a lycra/bare foot sort of girl when it comes to dance.

I stop to stare up at the vanishing point, where the trees appear to bend towards each other in their final moment before touching Sky. Clouds move without argument, pushed by the wind and birds tilt and skitter among the fir trees, picking at cones, chattering to each other. Flit, chatter, chat, flitter. The wood is alive with life. And so am I. For I am not the one who died, the one who had marvelled at this natural magic for 77 years, captivated by that over which he had no control. The one who now rests in the goodly ground he tended, planted, developed and cared for all his life.

The sea chops, ruffled by the wind, catspaws. The rain on my face is soft as I push into it. Lichen abounds on the trees lining the track and star moss fills the ditches, sparkling with droplets, a diamond catch. Back home the fire warms the rooms even if the towels still aren’t dry on the kitchen pulley. I am resisting the autumn re-light of the range, holding on to the full tank of fuel, for the winters here linger longer than in other places. We can have snow at Easter and the cold finds its way into every crack and cranny for many months. By the time I have exposed my arms to sunshine, the rest of the country is tanned bronze. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Seasons here are magical, natural, and the land beyond the busy tourist season is left to itself, not needing to submit to human will nor to compete with the sounds of vehicles, sirens, bells, elevated voices.

He loved all of this too. Peaceful is the way to live, he said. And, in the end, peaceful was the way to die. A perfect circle, like the moon, the moon who decided his every single day. What she says, goes, he said. Tides, weather, wind, rain, all of it. Even the Father Sun backs down when she decides to rise.

Sounds like a fine plan to me.

Island Blog – And….Rest

I remember that being the end game in some ballet practice. It was always a relief. All that agonised teetering en point and those two words meant heels to the floor and the exhale of tense breath.

Much like it was as we lowered the big man into the earth. Wouldn’t want to have fallen in. It looked dark down there and a hard landing, but not for the Admiral, Popz, Dad, Fairbs, Grandad, Topz et lala. I am relieved that I only have 3 names, my own, Mum and Granny/Gaga (that’s Lady Gaga, not gaga to you).

Today we all feel a great sense of relief. After many years of angst, intensified over the past 2 or three and racked up to a state of nuclear fission in the last 3 months, we can all breathe again. Father James said to us that this time heralds the freedom of a new beginning and it sounds right to me. Although nothing and nobody will fill the hole he left, nothing and nobody needs to. We will all grieve at times, for times; in the lyrics of a song, the kindness of a friend, a view and, for us in particular, out at sea among the wild things because that is where they are, and out there was music to the Father of Whales.

Today we all meet at the shore with a flask of tea, a barbecue and sausages, music and the wreath we ordered for the purpose. We pick an ebbing tide for obvious reasons, We don’t want it to end up stuck under the village bridge but, instead, floating way out where the wild things are. Perhaps someone will spot the colours through binoculars, or pass by it in a boat and they will wonder. We like that, for we are all wild things too.

Yesterday was made perfect by so many people and so much thought. Even a pair of sea eagles flew overhead as we walked from the grave, as if they knew. We all know his spirit left him with his last breath. There is no sign of him here and that feels fine. I believe that he is safe now, out of suffering and doubt, fear and pain and in a world which isn’t even a world. It is way bigger than that. Bigger than anyone could ever conceive. Bigger that our imaginations. He has done his work on earth. He has grown five extraordinary wild things and they their own. This house is a-bubble with chaos, laughter, goes on the chairlift and the electric chair. They play the piano, laugh loudly, call out like birds, paint pictures on the windows, run free. There has been none of that for years, perhaps for always. We like it, we wild things.

Farewell Big Man. Rest Easy. We have this now.

Island Blog – Ups and Downs

Changing the furniture. That’s what I am doing. I am free now to make this little house more homely. For years it has looked like a nursing home with most of the tables and chairs stacked in what used to be the office, out of the way of your wheelchair manoeuvres. The carpet cleaners came to lift the tracks across the sitting room with a big noisy machine. The painter came to re-decorate your room and it smells quite different now. Your hand prints are painted over, so only I will remember all those times you held on to the wall for support. Your favourite mug is at the back of the cupboard and our little dog no longer sleeps in what was your room. She doesn’t sleep in mine, either, choosing instead to curl up on a chair downstairs. When you were dying, she wanted to be close and spent many nights tip-tapping between us, bothered, pacing, if a border terrier could ever manage anything as big as a ‘pace’.

Music plays all day now, all sorts, classical, country, ballads, blue grass and as loud as I want for there is no-one here to yell at me to pipe down. I even play women singers, screechers to you, even repeating a song three or four times. That would have driven you to eruption, as you did erupt, Vesuvius, suddenly, and at full volume, causing Poppy to bark and me to drop something that probably broke.

I light the fire, no longer concerned that you will be too hot within minutes, demanding open windows and water to put it out again. There are no wires across the cleaned carpet, no phone chargers, of which, by the way, you seem to have been the proud owner of about ten, all plugged into an plug bank, all ready for active duty. You had one phone. No, that’s not true. You had 6 phones but 5 of them lie, rejected, in the cupboard under the stairs, along with enough wiring and enough headphones for a large choir in an even larger recording studio. What will I do with all this stuff? Nothing, for now.

The washing machine is bored. She has enjoyed a lot of spinning and sloshing for months and she stares at me, open mouthed each time I pass her by. It takes a few days for me to fill her maw, but when I do, when I pour in the wash liquid, add the conditioner, select the cycle and press Go, I swear she squeaks with delight. The fridge is almost empty, the draining board very quiet and I only have to sweep the floors every four days instead of four times a day. It all feels both great and sad, for who am I now? What do I do with my lack of purpose, the one that has driven me (to distraction at times) for years? I suspect it will come to me, over time.

The children are beginning to gather, the first arriving later today and the others tomorrow, for your laying to ground on Friday. The weather forecast promises rain and wind so we are searching for wellies and umbrellas. You always loved the wild weather, we all remember that, especially at sea when the waves rose to the clouds and the clouds answered back, soaking everything including everyone’s sandwiches. You just laughed. In your element, you were. The wilder the better. However, it might have been kinder on us to have organised something sunny and soft for Friday, for we will all be on that hill for as long as it takes to lower your body back down into the arms of Mother Earth. We are even discussing how to waterproof our readings because, as you know, rain on the island never falls straight. It curves and whips and flips and shoots up noses and skirts and kilts. I can hear you say ‘So?’. And it makes me smile.

When the children leave, I will stay. The Autumn will come, and then the Winter bringing darkness and cold and long spaces in between everything. And I will miss your wisdom. ‘We must close the garage door tonight. The wind is in this direction.’ Or ‘That drain needs scraping out’. Or ‘The gutters will need a clean now.’ Even when you couldn’t do these tasks yourself, you knew when they needed doing. Now I will have to work them out for myself and that feels scary. I tell myself I am no fool, that I will learn new ropes, that I am strong and independent and practical. And it’s true, I am, but there is always that little voice of doubt in my head.

So, my old gone husband, I will keep missing you, even though I know life will be easier from now, even though I can do what I want to do whenever I want to do it. After we lay you down whilst we stay up, keep an eye on us from your new home in Neverland. I’ll wave at you on a starry night. We all will.