Saturday, 12 April 2008

I do post such complete twaddle sometimes. It can be very embarrassing reading it on the 'morning after'. My (largely unbroken) rule is to let things stand, but I really couldn't allow that last one to pass. Not in it's entirety. I have had to edit it.

Right, now for that sheet and quilt cover.

Laundry

I attended a get-together tonight. One of my neighbours was celebrating finding her cat after it had been missing for a fortnight. Again, I am drunk.

In conversation, I discovered that it is normal to change one's bedclothes every week. Oops! That is (at least) four times more frequently than I had previously understood to be acceptable.

So, while I am airing my dirty laundry in public...

I recently bought and watched an American TV series called "Dexter". I empathized with the eponymous anti-hero, not because he is a serial-killer (you will be relieved to read) but because he is detached from the world, a mere observer.

Last week, I hitched a lift to France. I went for the sole purpose of bringing back the little car that I have owned since I courted Ann: the car that witnessed her agreeing to marry me; the car that took us to Cornwall and to Scotland. It missed not a beat as it blasted noisily across Northern France from the Mayenne to Boulogne. Now, it is parked in the narrow road outside my house here in Kent. I can see it from my bedroom window. It is raining hard and the ancient soft top leaks.

[Paragraph removed]

The day or so that I spent in France was, confusingly, entirely delightful. Spring had sprung, as they say. I mowed the grass, tended the fruit trees and immersed myself in the simple things. A little splash of bright colour on the drab walls that surround me.

Life is a strange, strange affair.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY



Happy Birthday, Darling.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter

The dogs and I have just shared some very, slow-cooked lamb with rosemary and sage. Not bad.

For some years, I have ruminated over the right thing to say when passing someone on a dog-walk.

'Hello' is not right. It was invented as a greeting by, I think, the "Bell Telephone company" at the beginning of the last century. Prior to that, it was used as an expression of surprise as in 'hello, what do we have here?', or as an inquiry, such as when one hears a strange noise in the house and calls 'hello?'. I believe that language should evolve, but I confess that I like the older usage of the word 'hello'; and I refuse to use it in its new capacity.

'How do you do?' is too formal and anticipates longer acquaintance.

'Hi' is too casual, too modern, too American. Whereas a nod, accompanied by the word 'alright?' makes the recipient think he or she is about to be robbed.

'Good morning' or 'good afternoon' both necessitate a moment's thought in order to check which time of day it is - and by then your transient, intended correspondent is behind you.

Similarly, 'nice day' and such like commentaries require an assessment of the weather.

Do you know what someone said to me today? He was a plumpish, middle-aged fellow. He made no eye-contact and hardly acknowledged me. But, as he passed, he mumbled:

"What ho!"

What ho. How bloody perfect is that? It can be said cheerily, or sullenly. It requires no thought, no analysis of time or times. It is meaningless, yet it entirely satisfies the social imperatives. Polite and self-sufficent, it demands no response. It's eccentricity facilitates potential dialogue with the open-minded, but armours the user against the small. I like it.

I shall endeavour to use it in future.

The dogs feel guilty for having eaten lamb.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Sunday, 24 February 2008

A good friend took me out tonight. We went to the flicks. 'Juno', by the way, is one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. Sharp script. If it has a fault, it is a little too... Aah, but I shall let you decide.

Afterwards, we went to the pub (actually two) and got a little drunk. Then I walked her home to her husband. She was on loan.

In my cups, I opened up a little more than I ought to have done. I have been having a bad couple of days. Guilt... I seem to have a lot of guilt. Poor theatre companion: I spilled my guilt all over her. Clumsy, drunken, selfish idiot.

Bollocks.

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Daily Grind (Part 2)

There was a bit of a flap at my Chambers on Friday. Too much work: too few barristers. The clerks feverishly worked the telephones, charming and cajoling other clerks at other chambers into taking some of the overload. Yet despite their best efforts, by seven O'clock in the evening they remained unsuccessful in finding someone to defend a young joyrider at Basildon Crown Court. And so it was that, early this morning, I found myself ironing (the front of) a shirt in readiness for my second Court appearance of the month.

It has to have been nearly a year since I last donned a wig and gown and it felt not a little odd as I strode out of the Robing Room to meet my instructing solicitor and her delinquent client.

However, it didn't feel wrong.

Later, I decided to drive to my Chambers rather than driving straight home and, once there, I soon found myself chatting and laughing with some of my old colleagues.

At the time, it didn't feel wrong.

On the way home, I had to stop the car.

Suddenly, it all felt terribly, terribly wrong.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The Daily Grind

After a hard week's work, it is lovely to relax with a glass or two of Laphroiag and a couple of attentive dogs.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

And Reality

I am sorry. The past two weeks have been almost unbearable. I have been in a 'slough of despond' and was entirely unable to see my way out of it. I just sat about the house doing nothing. I think it may have been the dream about Ann which shook me out of it. It was my first dream since her death (or, perhaps, the first dream that I was able to remember when I awoke).

I looked at my finances yesterday and realised that something had to be done rather urgently. I am therefore going to Court to try a case tomorrow. A little case: not a jury trial. I'm not sure what it's about yet, the papers will arrive here later this evening. It will be interesting to see whether I can get myself to Court by 9.30 am (sixty miles away) after first walking the dogs and ironing a shirt. I suppose this is the sort of thing single, working mothers do every day. I wonder if I shall have to apologise for having dog food on my lapel? I shall doubtless return home complaining about glass ceilings and the dearth of appropriate, local creches.

Tomorrow will be very strange indeed.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


This photograph was taken from Ann's student ID card. I think that it has a slightly surreal feel to it. It goes with my previous post, don't you think?

Dreams

I dreamed of Ann last night.

We were sitting together on a sofa, talking softly.

"I don't like not sharing a bed with you. Can we start sharing a bed again?" I said.

Ann smiled and nodded. We kissed: a tender, lingering, lovers' kiss.

"I don't even know how we came to be sleeping apart," I continued eventually. I was a little puzzled. I felt that I ought to know the reason but, somehow, it was eluding me.

My hand gently caressed her cheek as my mind sought an answer. There was something; something very obvious that I was forgetting. What was it?

"God, it was lovely being with her," I thought. "I had missed her so much.

"But, then, why had I missed her? Where had she been?


"Of course: she had been ill!" I remembered suddenly. "How could I have forgotten something like that?" I was slow, groggy. "I must only recently have awoken." I shook my head to clear it. "Yes, it had been cancer... It was such a relief that she was better now."

I hugged her tightly and she laughed, confused but pleasantly surprised by my sudden emotion.

The cancer had been aggressive, I recalled. There was a real danger that it could return and, if it did... I held her even closer.

But there was more; I knew there was more that I really ought to remember.

"That horrific dream! It had been so vivid, that dream... A dream in which Ann had died. That was obviously why everything seemed so strange. That was why I felt that I had somehow been without her.

"But then, if we hadn't truly been apart,
if we had been separated only in my dream, why had she agreed to start sharing a bed again?

"Unless..."

I grasped Ann's upper arm as I realised the dreadful truth. Before I was able to prevent it, a wail of utter anguish escaped me.

"You died!"

I fought so hard to stay. I fixed my eyes upon Ann and refused to allow her image to dissolve. I tightened my grip on her arm and, for several seconds, I managed to defy the curse of Orpheus. Yet, in the end, it was not Ann who faded, but me. I watched in despair as my hand shimmered into nothing. I felt myself crumple. Shrinking, my body collapsed in upon itself and I was sucked away. I awoke in the dark.

Alone.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Northern Lights

On Sunday: I packed a bag, locked up the house, loaded the dogs into the back of the car and headed off for the North of Scotland. I was going to visit some very special friends.

Owing to Hudson not having a driving licence (and Ripley being a girl and therefore congenitally unable to drive), I thought it prudent to break the journey overnight. I had booked a B & B somewhere in the Lake District. By early evening, the car was splashing its way slowly along the narrow lanes to the West of Lake Windermere, through a soft, yet persistent rain that shone like silver lametta in the headlights. Warm within, I carefully scanned each farm sign as we passed until, eventually, we arrived at Esthwaite Old Hall.

Helga, whose cheery welcome belied her somewhat intimidating name, showed us to our room and, later, after a meal and a pint at the King's Head in the village below, the dogs and I curled up on the large, four-poster bed and watched an old black-and-white film on the television. Ripley thought the acting a little wooden. As always these days, my sleep was ably assisted by old Laphroaig whom I had brought with me in a hipflask: my dream genie.

In the morning, after breakfasting and settling-up with Helga, Hudson Ripley and I climbed the fell above Esthwaite Water and lost ourselves. After several hours tramping about in the rain, we eventually found the track which led us back down to where I had left the car. Much later than planned, we continued our journey North.

We sliced through Glasgow on the motorway and took the beautiful A82 which runs beside Loch Lomond, climbing slowly towards the Highlands. The last time I had been on that road had been twelve years before. With Ann.

It was the Spring of 1996 and I had managed to secrete a week between the end of my first six months' pupillage (apprenticeship) in Southampton and my "second six" at 5, Paper Buildings in the Temple. Ann had persuaded a university friend to lend us his parents' holiday cottage and I had persuaded my tired old car to carry us there.

The cottage was of the 'Canadian chalet' style; all wooden verandah and plate glass. It had been built just a few feet from the banks of Loch Fyne. Our evenings were spent on rugs in front of the log-burning stove and we passed our days walking and cycling.

One day, we had driven to some remote place and then walked for hours on the moors, exploring, following old drover's trails and sheep paths. I remember that we picnicked amongst the heather, looking down on a roofless long-house. It's clean, stone walls seemed newly-quarried, crisp grey against the rich green of the mossy grass which surrounded it, apparently immune to the hundred or so years which had passed since the last crofter had closed the door and walked away.

Later that afternoon, whilst circling back towards the car, we came upon a fast-flowing stream that cut straight across our path. The stream appeared too wide and too fast to ford and there was certainly no time left in which to retrace our steps before darkness fell. I began to worry. It was very warm for the time of year, but the nights were cold enough to preclude any possibility of spending a night on the moors.

"We'll have to try to cross," I told Ann. She looked doubtful.

"Are you sure we need to cross it?"

I spoke in a poor parody of a Native American tracker's accent.

"Car there." I pointed North. "We here; river in between." I gestured appropriately.

Ann rolled her eyes. I pretended not to notice and indicated various parts of the stream. "We could get to that rock there; then, if we could find a tree branch or something, we could bridge that bit..." I tailed off as I saw Ann shaking her head. I pursed my lips.

"Look, I'll try it. It can't be that difficult!" I scrambled down the bank and stepped gingerly out onto a wet rock. I turned back to Ann. She was staring into the distance. "See!" I exclaimed as I wobbled precariously on my perch. Ann ignored me.

"Back in a minute," she said. Then she disappeared.

"Hey!" I shouted. But there was no response. Slightly annoyed, I positioned myself for the next stage of the crossing and then leaped from one rock to the next, nearly slipping as I landed. I continued doggedly in this manner for half an hour or so, hopping, zig-zagging, advancing and retreating, never reaching further than the middle of the stream. I was about to give up when I noticed that Ann had reappeared. She was sitting on the bank , watching me.

"Oh, you're back are you?"

Ann nodded and bit into an apple.

"Well, I think I may finally have cracked it..." I started. "Hey, where did you get that apple?"

Ann grinned.

"From the car", she replied.

"What? How...? Where...? I stammered, confused. Ann pointed West, away from the stream.

"Car there; we here; river irrelevant" she replied.

If Ann had been with me on that hillside in the Lake District, I wouldn't have been nearly so lost.

At a little before eight O'clock on Monday evening, having crossed most of the snowy, Scottish Highlands, I pulled into the driveway of my friends' stone house by the sea. Although Laphroaig made an appearance that night, for the first time in a long time, I felt that his friendship might not be quite so necessary.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

An Apology

Sorry everyone. Someone should invent a piece of software which prevents drunks from posting to their Blogs. I don't even know what I was writing about.

2008

'Knock, Knock on Wood.'

Another Laphroig, I think. Back in a moment.

Now, everything that has happened... Everything (from the disappearance of little Madeleine to the assasination of Benazir Bhutto) happened last year. Will 2008 be any better?

We are a selfish lot, we humans.

I should love to have been given a time machine for Christmas. The things I could do! The lives I could save.

Not Ann's, of course. You can't pop up out of the blue and shoot cancer dead before it triggers it's deadly body belt.

'Baggy Trousers'. Madness.

Oh God! Not fucking McCartney again!

Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year

When you are drunk, it is enormously difficult to log into your Blog. Either the e-mail address is unknown, or the password is wrong. I wonder why one's password changes when one is drunk. How does it know?

New Year's Eve. Wow! I'm spending it alone for the first time in my life. Thank God for Jules Holland.

I've just watched 'True lies'. A 'truly' awful film; but terrific fun. I always had this feeling that Ann was waiting to discover that I was really a secret agent. She would have loved that.

I am alternating glasses of Laphroig with glasses of Jameson's. My Father used to say that after three or four, a person was unable to tell the difference between scotch, Irish, single malt or cold tea. He was wrong.

I am scared to post to my Blog these days. I am unable to recall my life with Ann. I am told this is normal and temporary; but it is very, very frightening. For the moment, I think I shall just use my Blog as a diary. I shan't force my memories.

Bloody hell! Paul McCartney is on Jools Holland's show.

And now it's the countdown. New Year.

Happy New Year everyone.

Auld Lang Syne... Take a cup of cheer everyone...

Happy New Year Darling.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas

I have never seen such fat, lazy, good-fer-nothin' dogs. They have just eaten the better part of a whole turkey, roast potatoes and parsnips. I'm ashamed of them. They're too full even to play with the toys Tracy sent them.





MERRY CHRISTMAS DARLING

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, 19 November 2007

My Mother telephoned today. I didn't take the call.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down on the stairs for what I thought was only a moment. When I tried to get up, my legs wouldn't work. I had been sitting there for three hours.

Immediately after Ann's funeral, I went to France: a few weeks with just the dogs. Tomorrow, the three of us are going again. It sounds churlish, but I can't bear any more kindnesses. I can't understand why my friends aren't totally fed up with me.

Fuck all this.

I have an image of Ann from when she was learning to sail.

We were in a Wayfarer (a dinghy), when there was a sudden, vicious squall. Boats all around us were knocked down. We were slammed right over but, somehow, we didn't capsize. The wind ripped our hoods from our heads and boxed our ears, while the rain stabbed at our faces with a thousand, numbing botox needles. I shouted to Ann.

"We need to get to the shore!" She nodded her agreement. I watched as she fumbled with the tiller and mainsheet, her lips framing silent instructions to herself as her slitted eyes gauged angles.

"I think I'd better take the helm" I yelled, struggling to be heard above the cacophony of wind and cracking sail. Ann shook her head; once, emphatically.

"I can do it!" She responded, her voice failing to disguise her indignation at what she perceived to be my patronising suggestion. A second later, she had the little boat under control and was bringing her up into the wind, the bow swinging round to point at the distant clubhouse.

The Wayfarer heeled hard over and accelerated like a released gun dog.

I swore under my breath and quickly slid my feet under the toe straps, leaning out backwards over the side in an effort to balance the little craft. Ann hauled in on the mainsheet and we flashed past a straining motor cruiser, her lower decks bulging with sodden day-trippers. Ahead of us, choppy wave crests exploded in spume as the stem of the boat punched through them.

I swore again and leaned out further, my arms outstretched and the back of my head in the water. Recklessly yet deftly, Ann helmed the narrowest course between exhilarating speed and disasterous capsize.

We had covered perhaps half the distance back to the shore when, suddenly, I heard her scream.

Immediately, I raised my head and glanced to my right. Ann sat high above me, her body angled towards the bow and the wind. Her back was arched and her chest was thrust forward like an art deco figurine. Her hair and waterproof jacket streamed out behind her. Her cheeks glowed a vivid pink beneath the wind-whipped tear tracks which fled from the corners of her shining eyes. As I watched, she threw back her head and cried out again.

But this time, I knew it for what it was: a scream of sheer, elemental, joy.

There was a real, physical pain in the love that I felt for Ann in that moment.

And now... and now, that same pain is with me every moment of every day.

I have no pictures of Ann in a storm. Here she is on a boat though.


This will be my last Blog until I return from France. I don't have access to the internet there.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Today was a special day.

Today, in a remote place...
Ann's place...


... a few of Ann's friends gathered.

They came in ones;




and twos; and threes; and fours.


Hudson came;


and so did Ripley.


They came to celebrate Ann...


... and to gather around a bench;


the bench...


they had built...


... For Ann.

Friday, 16 November 2007

I noticed a family hatchback today as I was driving back from walking the dogs at Bewl Water. I was just about to crash into it when, mercifully, I saw the sticker in the back window: 'Baby on Board'. What a prudent thing to do! I dread to think what might have happened had I not seen the sticker in time.

Ann was a member of an internet DVD rental club. You maintain a list of about 30 films at their web-site and, one by one, they send you a film from that list.

Every now and then, a film from Ann's list arrives in the post. Today, for instance, 'Deja Vu' dropped through the letter box.

I love it when it happens. It is as though Ann is saying: "Try this, Darling."

I shall be a little lost when they stop coming.


Here's a picture I just took of the dogs -

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Compare and Contrast


It was a warm afternoon in late July when we saw Chris in the village. He was on foot; we were in a car. We hadn't seen him for a couple of months. He leaned in through my window.

"Hi! How the bloody hell are you?" he asked brightly.

I looked at Ann. A few days earlier, we had been told that she had less than three months to live.

"Oh, you know..." I started, shrugging, feigning insouciance.

"Actually, I'm not very well," Ann said, cutting across me. "My cancer's come back."

Chris's smile disappeared and his brow furrowed in concern.

"Oh, shit. That's..." He paused for a moment. "So," he continued uncertainly, "more chemo?"

Ann smiled at him and shook her head.

"No Chris, there's nothing to be done. It's in my liver." Her eyes met his. "I've had it."

"But, surely..." His voice faded away as he saw Ann continuing to shake her head.

"Oh, they can maybe delay things for a month or two," she said gently. "But I really can't go through all that again."

I couldn't look at Chris' face. Chris: such a big, ugly, beautiful man; a man of deeds; a man so unaccustomed to impotence.

"But..."

Hiding the pain it must have caused her, Ann leaned across me and put her hand upon his where it rested on the top of my door.

"There's really nothing to be done, Chris. Honestly."

A little later, as we were driving out of the village, Ann turned to me.

"I think I was a little too abrupt," she said, biting her lip anxiously. "Poor Chris."

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

I am so sorry. I'm afraid that I have been a terrible coward. This Blog is about Ann, not about me.

On y va!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Defeated

New to this business, I foolishly let one or two people know that I was Blogging.

Now, somehow, word has got back to someone with whom I would certainly not have chosen to share my innermost thoughts.

I shall miss this.
Actually, I can't leave it like that. I need to write about the row with my Mother. My own judgment in these things is a little suspect at the moment, so I'd appreciate another view.

I have spoken to my Mother on the telephone perhaps twice since last I saw her (at Ann's funeral). She called about a month ago to say that she was organising a party; and she called again today to ask whether I would be there. I told her that I would not.

But I had better go back a little. There is some necessary ground to cover.

Although it wasn't always so; my family is a mess. For reasons I don't fully understand, like some shredded, civil war casualty, it now only hobbles painfully, supporting it's fractured limbs on crutches of superficiality.

There are a number of different rifts. The most relevant for my purposes today is that which exists between me and my thirty-year-old niece. We haven't spoken since we argued at Christmas four years ago. The cause of the particular argument is unimportant. There had been a little tension between us for some months (concerning her attempt to undervalue a house she was retaining following a failed relationship). In any event, I said something which upset her; and she threw a glass of wine over me. I apologised later that evening, but...

When Ann fell ill, my niece remained entirely aloof.

And when Ann died, she refused to send either flowers or a card.

My Mother has invited my niece to her party and seems surprised that I am therefore refusing to attend. I, in turn, expressed my surprise that my Mother would sanction my niece's behaviour by inviting her at all.

How silly this all seems, now that I have written it. How very trivial.

But it has upset me.
I have just had a row with my mother on the telephone.

The situation in Pakistan worsens (on top of everything else).

Sir Ian Blair (London's unpleasantly arrogant top cop) hasn't yet resigned.

And Norman Mailer died yesterday.

How bloody depressing everything is.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Hmmm... The photographs which accompanied my last post keep disappearing! Let's see if they stay there this time.

Again, thank you all for being so lovely.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Honeymoon Nights


Ann and I left our wedding reception at about 11pm. The guests assembled themselves on the steps of Gray's Inn Hall to see us off; and Ann threw her corsage. My elder brother hadn't been paying attention and, as if piqued thereby, the little floral bundle floated over the field of waiting, waving wrists and fell with a peevish slap across his face. Indignant and utterly bewildered, he stood spitting petals from his mouth. As we climbed into the black cab that was to take us to our hotel in Russell Square, we heard him exclaim angrily.

"Who the bloody hell threw that? ...Could have had my eye out!"

The following day, we flew to Corsica for our honeymoon.

As the crow flies, Porto Pollo is about twenty miles from Ajaccio airport. However, fifteen years' ago, it was a three hour drive along the most twisted, indented, precipitous coast I had ever seen. At some points, the road appeared to be little more than a rock shelf cut into a sheer cliff. So it was that it was nearly midnight when Ann and I finally arrived at the romantic and remote auberge where we had chosen to spend our first Corsican night.

The pleasant, round-faced proprietress smiled indulgently when she learned that we were newly-wed. Beckoning and nodding, she insisted upon leading us along the beach and away from the mustard-yellow, crumbling building with its Juliette balconies draped with bougainvillea and jasmine.

Grandly, she gestured towards her 'bridal suite' and, as our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we saw the object of her pride. There, set high on spindly stilts, a wooden hut hovered precariously above the gently respiring Mediterranean.

The structure was accessed via a ladder and a trapdoor in the floor. A second ladder led directly into the sea from a rickety balcony. Tentatively, we followed Madame's ample rear as she clambered, grunted and snorted her way up and over the threshold.

The only real article of furniture in the room was an enormous, black bed. Its vast, spreading headboard sported an array of dials and switches that seemingly did nothing, but which obviously must once have controlled every aspect of some kitsch, seventies bachelor apartment. Ann and I looked at one another and grinned. We loved it.

Madame smiled in that particular, knowing way used exclusively by the elderly and religious on such occasions, before she retreated quietly back through the trapdoor.

A few minutes later, I went to collect our bags from the boot of our hired car. Weary from the journey, I was sadly unprepared for the weight of Ann's suitcase and staggered back into some shrubbery. Back in our little hut on stilts, I lay face down on the bed as Ann spent much of our first honeymoon night carefully plucking cactus spines from my back and buttocks.

Eventually, the task was complete.

"You need to let the sea get at these cuts," said Ann.

So, at two O'clock in the morning, we both descended the ladder from our rickety balcony and swam naked in the moonlight.

I wouldn't change one little thing about that night.



Thank you all for your concern. I am fine.

I'm afraid that, for the last week or so, I've been in a bit of a funk.

I managed to visit Ann's grave and walk the dogs every day. But that was it. Nothing else: no cleaning, no shopping, no washing, no washing-up. The place was a mess; and so was I.

I even stopped blogging for a couple of days.

Then, this morning, I shaved. I filled the dishwasher, ran it, filled it again. I cleaned the kitchen and tidied and vacuumed the sitting room. There are no longer great tumbleweeds of dog hair blowing across the floor amongst the empty wine bottles and carelessly discarded dinner plates.

There appears to be no logic to this business, no natural progression. I can function one day; and not the next.

I shall post again this afternoon.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


I am really very cross about this 'sub-prime' fiasco.

It works like this: -

The sub-prime 'market' is that proportion of a population who are either too poor or who have such a low credit-rating that they cannot ordinarily obtain a loan - the traditional hunting territory of the loan shark.

The banks notice that there are profits to be made from these people. They therefore agree to supply them with mortgages - at an inflated rate of interest.

They justify the utterly immoral by being patronising. They say:

"We are enabling these people to buy their own homes."

All the time the economy is growing healthily, these banks make enormous profits from their new 'market'. The individual investment and fund managers take home million-dollar bonuses each Christmas.

Then, of course, the inevitable happens. The economy takes a downturn, house prices stop rising (reducing the banks' ability to recover the capital they advanced) and foreclosures rocket. Suddenly, enormous profit turns to enormous loss.

And who pays for it all? Not the investment bankers and fund managers. They all retired last year to their organic farms in Dorset.

Not those innocent people who invested their money in the institutions involved. They got their money back.

No, the Bank of England steps in and mops up the mess by paying the equivalent of £750 for every tax payer in the country.

In other words, we all pay for it.

Now, would the banks have been able to make such ridiculously large profits and, ultimately, such an economy-threatening mess, if they had been honest with their investors from the start. If, for instance, they had said:

"We have identified a new 'market'. It's risky, it's exploitative, we are completely over-exposed, but it is very profitable. Invest your money with us."

Irresponsible, immoral, greedy bastards.

Some of them have knighthoods.

That was nothing about Ann - but God, it sounded like her!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Monday


Once again, I am having trouble writing about Ann.

I want to write about the good times, but all that comes to mind, at the moment, is the End.

I am not ready to write about the End.

I shall; but not yet.

Why can't I remember the times when we were happy?

Fifteen years. Gone.

I feel so terribly lost right now.

Here are some random photographs: -




Sunday, 4 November 2007

Dogs


Both the dogs are clearly missing Ann. It manifests itself in small ways. For instance, they both now insist on sleeping with me. They don't like to be in a different room. When I come home, they greet me briefly at the door and then push past me into the garden, clearly looking for someone else...

However, they are coping.

In her final month, Ann pushed them away. She refused to let them on the bed with her, she wouldn't pet them, she turned away from them when they tried to nuzzle her.

You see, she had heard that lurchers can sometimes miss an owner so badly that, afterwards, they die themselves. They pine to death.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

I have spent another afternoon looking for photographs. I fear that the attic bedroom will never recover.

I didn't find any photographs. Instead, I found a bundle of letters and cards that I had written to Ann when we were courting.

Life can be a bit tricky at times.

I don't think I shall post anything else today. I shall distract myself by reading all the lovely Blogs posted by those of you who have commented upon mine.

Thank you.

Alice C left a question in the comments' box and I am still pondering the answer an hour later.

However, her Blog inspired me to post this picture. It was taken by Ann at our house in France; but other than that, it really oughtn't to be on my Blog at all.


I spent much of yesterday trying to find photographs to illustrate my last post. I know they exist. I've turned the house upside down and now I don't have the energy to put everything back together again. Bugger.

Here's a picture I did find: illustrative not of a trip to Cornwall, but definitely of Ann.


Friday, 2 November 2007

A Perfect Day

In the early summer of 1994, our last exam behind us, Ann and I took off for Cornwall. We stuffed a tent and some bags into the boot of my little car and roared away.

One evening, perhaps a week after leaving London, we were bumping along a narrow lane somewhere between St. Austell and Falmouth. We had passed a pleasant afternoon swimming and walking, but had then recklessly eschewed our intended campsite and pressed on westwards. Now: it was getting dark; a thick sea-mist had rolled in; the car was starting to play up; and we were lost. Worse, we were beginning to become irritable with one another.

We descended slowly into yet another fishing village, white-washed stone buildings looming eerily out of the fog.

"If this is Portloe, there ought to be an hotel here," said Ann, juggling guidebook, map and torch.

Indeed there was. With relief, I nosed the little car off the road and slotted it between two very smart, executive saloons. We looked at one another uncertainly. We had started the holiday with only £250 in cash. In those student days, there were no credit cards, no overdrafts. Once our money was gone, it was gone.

Like children peeking between the banisters when they ought to be in bed, we peered tentatively through the grand double doors at the decor within.

"It looks awfully sodding expensive," Ann whispered. I nodded.

We pushed at the doors and crept quietly, damply, across the plush carpet to the unmanned reception desk. A gentle tinkling and a soft suspiration of refined conversation escaped from the dining room. I picked up a menu and we scanned it together.

"Can I help you?"

We swiveled to see a smartly-dressed woman, her eyebrow raised. I swallowed nervously.

"Err... Do you have a table for two?" There was a lengthy pause.

"Perhaps. Let me see." As she consulted her oversize diary, Ann caught my eye and shook her head. I pressed on.

"Oh, and do you happen to have any rooms available?" Smartly-dressed woman looked up and regarded us suspiciously. Her experienced eye took in my faded jeans, Ann's lack of make-up, our salty hair. A longer pause.

"Yes, we do," she replied eventually. "Just for tonight?" I nodded.

She told us the price. More than we had. Although, to be fair, it included breakfast.

"I'll get our bags," I said.

"I'll give you a hand," said Ann

In the car park, we couldn't stop giggling.

"It's not funny," I managed eventually. "We're going to have to sleep on the beach."

Dejected, we climbed back into the car. The engine burst reluctantly back into life and we started to climb up the hill and out of the village. Suddenly, Ann leaned forward.

"What's that?"

High in the air, visible through a hole in the thick fog, we could see a brightly-lit sign. A picture of a frigate and, beneath it, the words: 'Ship Inn'.

A fire crackled in the hearth of the busy saloon bar and the landlord beamed a welcome. They had a room for the night that we could easily afford.

"You couldn't rustle us up something to eat, could you?" I asked hopefully as I took a sip of my pint and stretched out my feet.

"I should think so," the landlord replied. He nodded in the direction of one of his patrons. "Jim here just landed a load of scallops. Those suit you?"

Ann and I returned to the Ship Inn at Portloe often. However, nothing matched the pleasure of its discovery. That was a perfect day.

The perfect day, like a good life, has to have contrast. No one enjoys a book which describes only triumph; but triumph over adversity...

I have noticed that some of the lovely people who have left comments on this Blog are 'crafty' people. You knit, you sew, you weave and you spin.

But, you see, I can spin too.

Home-spun philosophy anyone?
Yesterday was a very, very bad day.

So, I sat down today in order to write about a very, very good day.

Perhaps later.

In my first post, I said that my life with Ann somehow seemed like a dream. I think that was wrong. It's my life now which feels unreal to me. It is like being at school on a Sunday.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Upon re-reading my posts today, I should like to assure everyone that whatever ultimately I decide to do, it will definitely not involve the writing of poetry.

Now, does anyone need a butler?
A 'salad day'.

I'm so tired... of being tired. All the time.

The solace of sound slumber,
snatched suddenly away,
stolen by silent, stealthy shadows
cast by the setting sun of salad days.

I think that must be 'ill-iteration'. It began by accident; and then I forced it. Still it's written now.

I can't write anything about Ann today. It's a selfish day, today.

Morning Again

The pumpkins (both the terracotta and the real) were still burning this morning. That pleased me.

On the way back from walking the dogs, I crossed my fingers when I saw a single magpie. I suppose it's a bit like buying a lottery ticket a week after you have won the jackpot.

I didn't go to Court today. However, yesterday I had a look at the paperwork my clerk sent over. Clever girl, Danielle (my clerk). Nothing important; no lives are at stake. An expensive advertising campaign hangs in the balance. "Can we...?" they ask. "Go for it", I reply. "If you think you're hard enough." It's lucky I have professional indemnity insurance.

A little foray back into my old world.

In the past, I have often thought of becoming a teacher. I made some inquiries about it a week or so ago. What a mistake! Apparently, law is not a 'national curriculum' subject. Apparently, I can't get on a teaching course without a 'national curriculum' subject. Apparently, it is preposterous that I want to teach physics. Apparently, I am very naive.

I think I'd like to be a butler. A snooty, snobby, superior butler. Like Jeeves. I might put a 'situation wanted' ad. in "The Lady". Who knows, I could get a position with someone famous.

Like Britney Spears.

"Oh no Madam", shaking my head in indulgent despair. "One should always start with the outermost line of coke and work progressively inwards."

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Hallowe'en

I nearly entitled this post: 'Hallow-Ann'. But I just stopped myself. A wee bit 'precious' don't you think?

Here are some pictures: -



And here's a picture of Ann looking beautifully silly.



I'm off now to watch the Buffy episode where they all take on the personalities of their Hallowe'en, fancy dress costumes. One of Ann's favourites.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

And The Beginning of the End

It was the end of another summer. Nearly two years had passed since Ann had first been diagnosed with cancer.

We were walking with the dogs at Bewl Water when she suddenly cried out in pain. She had stumbled on a root and pulled a muscle. A week later, she was still limping; and it still hurt.

We weren't particularly alarmed. Ann had been born with arthrogryposis, a very rare, congenital condition affecting the joints and muscles. In Ann, you could only really see it in her wrists. They curled more than they should. When she lifted a drink to her lips, she held the glass a little like you sometimes see left-handed people holding pens, swooping their wrists around from the top so that they can see what they are writing. She hated anyone noticing. At school, the other children had called her 'monkey'.

A hidden aspect of the condition was that her joints were weaker generally. She would 'pull a muscle' quite often; and, sometimes, she would take a few days to recover fully.

Yet, as August turned to September, I started to become concerned. It wasn't a rational fear; nothing I could annunciate. Just a deep disquiet.

Throughout the autumn and all the way up to Christmas, Ann was usually fine. Just now and then, her left leg ached and she would favour it. "I keep hurting the same leg." she said.

In January, Ann had a routine scan. Two weeks later, we went along to hear the results. "Everything is fine", said the cheerful oncologist, looking at his computer screen. "Nothing to worry about." As we left his little room, I hung back a little.

"Did you do a whole body scan?" I asked quickly. He shook his head, distracted, riffling through medical notes, preparing for his next patient.

"I don't think so. It's not usual."

Winter turned to spring and things were much the same. Ann's leg was still not right, but she put it down to the arthrogryposis and that bad stumble. I was involved in a big fraud case which took me off to Birmingham a lot of the time. Ann was having to do all the dog walking and her leg just wasn't being given the time to recover.

In early May, Ann's right shoulder began to hurt.

At first, she thought she had slept badly on it. But the pain got worse. We went to the doctor and were referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. He examined Ann's shoulder and didn't appear particularly concerned. We mentioned her leg.

"We'd better have a look at that too," he said, adding a little squiggle to a card on his desk. "I'm arranging for you to have a scan. Then we'll have you back."

On 21st June, at about 5 pm, Ann went to see the doctor again. She wanted some pain killers for her shoulder. The scan had already been done and we were waiting for our next appointment. I was just arriving home when she 'phoned me.

"Can you come and get me? I'm at the surgery."

When I got there, she was standing on the path outside the door. Silently, she handed me a piece of crumpled paper. It was a typed note from the radiologist who had performed the scan. When I close my eyes, I can still see the words:

"...lucency... extremely worrying for a focal bony matastis..."

Ann had secondary cancer in her left hip. She looked at me.

"I'm so sorry Philip," she said.
Today is Hallowe'en.

Ann adored Hallowe'en. She delighted in the recently adopted 'pumpkin' custom. I have prepared a pumpkin and, this evening, I shall ceremoniously place it upon Ann's grave.

I hope she likes it.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Obviously, I won't tell Tracy. Otherwise she'll never come to dinner again.
Bollocks! I've just used the vegetarian chopping board to slice some chicken! Ann would be livid.

The End of the Beginning

1994. It was a little over a year after we first started going out that Ann went off to China with her father. Ann's mother had died of breast cancer two years previously (at the age of 59) and Ann had become her father's traveling companion.

I saw them off at the airport, waving furiously as they passed through the security barrier. Ann kept poking her head back around the corner, grinning at me.

It was going to be a wrench. We hadn't been apart for more than a long weekend since the night of the uneaten lasagne. Now she was off for three and a half weeks. Still, I had their itinerary. I could follow her journey day-by-day as they toured around Cathay. I checked that itinerary each night when I went to bed.

About a week or so into their tour, before I switched off the bedroom light and fell asleep, I noticed that the following morning Ann was due to fly from Xian to Nanjing.

As I recall it now, I awoke already rigidly upright. It was morning and my clock-radio had turned itself on. The News. The announcer had said something about a 'plane, Xian, Nanjing. I waited, breathless. And then, there it was again: "... there has been a 'plane crash in Northern China. This morning's scheduled flight from Xian to Nanjing, carrying 178 passengers, is reported to have crashed shortly after take-off. There are said to be only two survivors..."

It was 48 hours before the embassy was able to tell us that Ann and her tour party had been on an earlier flight.

Something like that can concentrate the mind.

Two days later, I sent a telegram asking Ann to marry me. It read: "Missing you terribly - stop - Love you incredibly - stop - Marry me?.

A week or so afterwards, I was waiting for Ann to clear the baggage hall and customs, urgently scanning each trolley, suitcase, foot and face as they emerged sequentially from behind the wall. I had heard nothing from Ann since I had sent the telegram. I didn't even know whether or not it had reached her hotel before she had moved on to the next.

Is that her? Is that? That...? And, then, there she was. That snare drum kick to my diaphragm again. It was a moment before she saw me, penned behind the barriers. God, that smile. I moved parallel to her, unconsciously weaving between others still awaiting sight of their loved ones, my pace quickening with my pulse. And then there were no barriers.

Other members of Ann's family were there to pick up her father. I managed to bear the necessary exchanges: the greetings, the pleasantries and the partings. Eventually, we found ourselves standing alone in the middle of the busy airport - and then we were suddenly, strangely, awkward with one another.

After a moment or two, we started slowly for the exit. In complete silence we traversed the concourse, passed along corridors and negotiated ramps. I had left my ancient little car parked cheekily outside the Arrivals Terminal, it's top down. As it came in sight, I could stand to wait no longer. I stopped pushing the trolley.

"Listen... Did you happen to get...?"

She stopped me with a hand to my lips.

"Yes."

"You got it?" A smile and a nod. "The Telegram?"

"Yes." She stepped away from me, moving towards the car.

"Well?" I called after her, a little exasperated.

She turned, resting her bottom against the car's door.

"Well what?" She smiled mischievously.

"Will you...?" I stopped; the words wouldn't come.

"Will I what?" Her eyes flashed a challenge.

I threw my hands out, palms open.

"Will you fucking marry me?"

She pushed herself away from the car, put her hands behind my neck and kissed me. Softly.

"Yes, I fucking will," she whispered.



Here's a picture of Ann with her father from June 2004.

Couples often have pet names for one another, I'm told. Ours were unimaginative. Ann was 'Little Baby'; and I was 'Big Baby'. Together, we were the 'Babies'. During the lean times (which happen surprisingly often in my profession, especially in the first few years), when we hadn't been paid for months, when the credit cards were full, we would look at one another, smile and say:

"What are the Babies going to eat?"

Then, we would joke about pressing our faces to the windows of strangers' houses and crying:

"Feed us, feed us!"

Towards the end, when the drugs and lymph oedema had made her swell, Ann would smile at me and say that she was the Big Baby now.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Reading my last post, I think I may have given a false impression of my clerk. She is sweet, well-meaning, efficient. To her, it has been two months since Ann died. To me, it was yesterday - and a lifetime ago.

Astray

I managed to deal with some things today. Mundane things: a few bits of paperwork, a couple of bills, things to keep 'the wolf from the door' for a little longer. For the last few weeks, I've been very bad at 'things'. Luckily, nearly everything is paid by direct debit.

The day after Ann died: I rose. And I showered. And I shaved. And I dressed. I picked up the doctor's Certificate and I took it to the Registrar in Tunbridge Wells. In the afternoon, I found a firm of undertakers and I arranged the funeral.

And then I stopped.

My clerk (the person who arranges work for me) sent some papers round for me last week. A case. Not court work, she said. They just want your advice, she said. Very interesting, she said. Just have a look at them. They sit in my study, unopened. The ribbon intact. They haunt me.

Today, I told her I would look at them tomorrow. Now, I look at an e-mail from her. She is asking whether I might go to court on Thursday. Another case. Very interesting, she says.

Is this how it happens? Is this how people get to carry on their lives? A slippery slope back to 'normality'.

I won't have it.

Ann stopped. And then I stopped. Why hasn't the world stopped?

More Strays

The police don't attend RTAs (Road Traffic Accidents) any more. They will only attend RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions). Chief Constables who have risen to be appointed under recent administrations are passionate about labels, if nothing else. The term road traffic accident implies no fault. If the police attend even a minor bump these days, it is more likely than not that someone will be prosecuted.

I suppose it is a reflection of our society's need to attribute blame. What none of us can bear is the random, the unguided hand of fate. We can't control it. We can't plan for it. We can't ensure that we avoid it.

I wish I had someone to blame.

I don't much care for Thomas Hardy. Ann liked him though.

Hap

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: "Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!"
Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

A Different Morning

It's a beautiful morning - this morning. Bright, autumnal, sharp but not too cold. At the cemetery, the light was pure, ethereal. Artists' light: like St. Ives sometimes is and, perhaps, as Los Angeles once was, before the smog.

Cooking for one (when that one is oneself) is hard. There's no love in it. I've taken to cooking for the dogs. Nothing spicy, of course. Hudson has an English palate. Last night, for instance, they had meatballs. I may have overdone the garlic. Oh well, the flat-leaf parsley will have compensated.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

More of the Beginning

Almost exactly two weeks after our first meeting, Ann came to supper at my flat. We had seen one another in between, of course: smiling and nodding as we passed in the corridors, occasionally exchanging a word or two. Every time, every time, my diaphragm lurched like a struck drum. Once, hurriedly, almost shyly, she had asked: "Are you going to Gary's party?" I didn't go. Deliberately. I already had an inkling that I was playing for keeps. I wanted everything to be just right.

I had sent flowers the day after we met. The note thanked her for a lovely night. Ann had a friend with her when they arrived. She enjoyed her friend's curiosity. She enjoyed being coy.

I spent a student's fortune on ingredients and the afternoon cooking: lasagne, waldorf salad, something clever with peaches from a recipe book. Neither of us ate very much. We were both too tense, too expectant. We drank, but not excessively.
"Coffee?" I asked. Suddenly, she smiled. God, that smile.
"I'm sorry", she said, "but I just have to do this." And then she kissed me. Soft, sensuous, enthralling. Just right.

Strays

It's peculiar, what comes to mind when you least expect it. That last post, for instance. I wish I hadn't posted it now. It arose out of self-pity: and so I changed its direction. That's why it is so contrived.

If we had had children, there would be something of Ann remaining. Something tangible, I mean. Something for me. If we had had children, there would be something of Ann continuing. Something of me. Something for me. If we had had children, there would be a reason not to fall apart. Or do I mean an excuse not to fall apart? I feel guilty if I laugh. I feel guilty when I eat. I feel guilty that I feel a little better for writing this Blog.

And now it's fucking all about me again.

I might have said that the fertility treatment involved pumping Ann full of oestrogen.

The cancer was oestrogen-fed, they said.
Ann didn't want to have children. Until, suddenly, she did - desperately. And then we couldn't. She loved her friends' children instead.
I don't seem to be able to write about Ann today. I sat down to write more of the beginning. And I can't.

Here's a picture from near the beginning.

'So very drunk now. Strange how it helps'. Strange how it helps? I must have been very drunk indeed! It's not strange at all.
I couldn't understand why I was a little the worse for wear last night. I don't think I drank more than usual. It came to me in the night. I hadn't eaten anything all day. I'm normally good about eating. At least visiting Ann wasn't the only thing I forgot to do yesterday.
So very drunk now. Strange how it helps.

Some neighbours took me out for a drink: Una, Jenny, Ali and Chris...etc. I went; easier than constantly refusing. I knocked my drink over. It splashed on Jenny's top. Fuck!

Saturday, 27 October 2007


Odd thing, I nearly forgot to visit Ann's grave today. It was a terrible shock, realising the time. What does that mean?

I usually visit early every morning. I cycle down. I talk to her.

Whenever I used to leave for work, I would call up to our bedroom window: "Lots of love, darling. Ciao." It was a ritual, a superstition, always observed. Without overt agreement, we never used the word 'goodbye' to one another.

Now, when I leave her graveside, I call back to her: "Lots of love, darling. Ciao."

The Beginning

It was a late afternoon in February 1993 and I had just entered the dingy, Student Union bar. I saw her coming towards me across the 1930s parquet floor: orange, green and mustard striped jeans, red lips, auburn hair. She greeted the friend I was with. A moment; and then we were introduced. Much later, Ann told me she had only come over because of me. She thought I looked like William Shatner when I smiled.

The three of us sat and chatted. In the manner of these things, three became four, four became seven and, eventually, there must have been fifteen of us grouped around a couple of chipped tables. Amongst the overflowing ashtrays, plastic pint glasses and circulating spliffs, comfortable within the security of the raucous babble, Ann and I began our journey.

The idea was to go to the King's Head in Upper Street, then on to a tiny, all-night, salsa club above Ronnie Scott's in the West End. The King's Head still spoke in 'old money' - a pint was thirty shillings. But Ann and I fell back from the group almost as soon as we emerged from the basement on to Highbury Barn. I remember that we looked at one another and smiled.

"Where did you two disappear to last night?" My friend asked the following day as we waited for a seminar to begin. I think I shrugged noncommittally.

In fact, as the others were doubtless shouting their drink orders above the din in the King's Head, Ann and I were chatting easily in a little Turkish restaurant opposite the college. I don't recall the name of the place, but it served good food and was cheap enough for students to dine occasionally. I hope it's still there.

Ann lived in Finsbury Park. At about midnight, we left the restaurant and I walked her home. I had never seen such a compact flat. The door opened on to a small room, perhaps 10' by 12'. To the right, a kitchen area: a two-ring hob, a sink and a free-standing fridge which was clearly designed to be built-in to a cabinet. That same fridge finally fulfilled its manufacturer's ambitions when it was built into our kitchen here in Kent. What was left of the room was filled with a double futon bed. A doorway led to a lavatory and shower-stall. Everywhere, there were books. Every wall supported shelves brimming with books. Books were stacked dangerously high in pile after pile around the floor. A stack of books served as a bedside table. But it was clean.

We sat on the futon, drank coffee and talked. In the years since, Ann delighted in telling people that I tricked her that night. Ann knew her art and she knew her literature. I know just enough to fool some of the people, some of the time. But, that night, I was lucky. I got away with it.

I left at about 9 the following morning. We had talked all night. We hadn't touched. Our first kiss was like our last: a kiss goodbye.

Correction

That's not quite right. I think I am starting to write for effect. Effect upon others, effect upon me. "Sometimes I manage to read it all the way to the end." That sounded better than the truth. A neat sound-bite. In fact, I always manage to read it to the end. Sometimes, I look away when I see it, propped up on the kitchen counter where Jan left it. Sometimes, I read it: all the way to the end. Always, it fucks me up.
A friend, Jan, wrote this. It was read at Ann's funeral. Afterwards, she put a copy into a pretty frame and left it for me to find. Sometimes, I manage to read it all the way to the end.

One day I went a-walking,
around the reservoir,
strolling along, strutting my stuff,
it was the best day of the year, by far.

Then around the corner, came this girl,
long auburn hair a-flowing,
she had a mac on down to her knees,
and a hat from which she was glowing.

From that day on we became good mates,
we would walk our dogs together,
Hudson and Ripley would run off,
and we would stand and wait, for ever...!

Hud...Hud...Hud...you would hear,
echoing around the rezzie,
and for all their hunting that they did,
they would never come back with a prezzie.

Now when I go walking,
there is part of Ann with me,
I'm now the proud owner
of the mac that came to her knees.

But as I'm only 5 foot 1
the difference is plain to see,
it drags along the floor behind
and picks up all the leaves.

And as I return to my car,
look back and you will see,
a path where we've been walking,
my best friend Ann, and me.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Ann


As summer 1995 (correction: 2005) turned to autumn, Ann and I returned to England with our dogs. I went back to work, slowly re-building my practice. Things weren't quite the same, though. Ann seemed cheerful enough, but she wasn't as fiery. Always quick-witted and quick-tempered, she was oddly calmer. It was almost as though someone had turned her volume down.

I, on the other hand... I was angrier. It affected my driving, my job, everything. In court, my cross-examination had become more sarcastic, occasionally vicious, certainly less effective...

I think I am taking this thing too fast. The original idea was to intersperse my contemporary diary with Ann's story. Perhaps relate one to the other. Should I write more detail? I'd better leave it for tonight. I've drunk too much. I don't want this to turn into my story. Even now I'm egocentric.

Photograph

I've just taken a photograph of myself to put on my profile. I didn't mean to look so frightening. Oh well. Can't seem to get rid of it now.

Afternoon

Afternoons are the worst, I think. In the mornings, I have chores. I do the housework, I walk the dogs, I read and answer the mail. In the evenings, I can have a few glasses of wine, cook, watch tv... What the fuck do I do in the afternoons? What does anybody do with their afternoons? Dead space between the morning and the evening. Radio 4? Blogs? Anything but think.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Ann


Ok - So I met Ann at university in 1993. We were married on 8th July 1995.

It was in September 2004 that we noticed a lump in her right breast. We weren't particularly worried. She had had a couple of lumps checked out before and had been told that she was 'prone to cysts'. In fact, a day or two later, when she went to the doctor's (just to be on the safe side), I didn't go with her. I went to work.

She got home shortly after me - about 4.30pm. I knew immediately by the look on her face that something was terribly wrong. She hadn't wanted to 'phone me because she knew that I had a difficult speech to deliver in court.

The lump was a cancerous tumour. The hospital were making arrangements to take her in the following week so that it could be removed. That evening, I think we sat in almost total silence, side by side on the sofa.

The lump was removed, along with her lymph gland. A week later we were told the news. It was a Grade 4 cancer. They didn't tell us what that meant and we didn't ask. I looked it up on the internet; and then kept the results of my research to myself. The lump had been very close to the nipple and they couldn't be sure that they had removed it all. Ann would have to have a mastectomy, they said.

Before the operation, we went to a Greek island for a few days. We swam, Ann sunbathed topless.


The chemotherapy began just before Christmas. In February, when she started to lose her beautiful hair, Ann went to my barber and had her head shaved.

After each chemotherapy session, Ann would be ill for days. By the time the course was only half over, she was suffering from almost permanent, violent nausea and profound, impenetrable lethargy. I stopped going to work completely. We would watch DVDs together: 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', 'Overboard', 'Housesitter', 'Grosse Pointe Blank', 'Independence Day'.

Radiotherapy followed. Unpleasant, but an enormous relief after the dreaded, horrific chemotherapy.

We spent most of the summer at our house in France: gardening, sunbathing, recovering. We had previously hired a builder to make the house bigger by knocking through into the barn, but we didn't mind him being there during the week. Secretly though, I was worrying about money. We didn't have any.

Morning

Funny thing - living on your own. This morning, I dropped a jar of coffee which shattered on the tiled floor of the kitchen. A piece of glass cut my foot and it bled profusely. I couldn't stop the bleeding. The medical kit is kept upstairs in the bathroom and I didn't want to bleed all over the carpet on the stairs and landings. A dilemma it took me a while to resolve.

I have just opened a letter from the VAT man (revenue and customs) which a colleague brought around last night. It had been sent to my chambers (my offices) which I haven't visited in months. It seems that I owe them quite a lot of money and I have been penalized for not filling out the correct forms on time. Ann used to do all that. The demand is an estimate based on my previous earnings. Of course, I haven't been to work for five months, not since Ann became too ill for me to leave her. Oh well, I'll stick it on a credit card. Nothing seems to matter very much any more.

Friends keep inviting me to dinner and I keep turning them down. I don't know why.

I have made plans to sell the house (in England - not the one in France). I have thoughts of buying a yacht with the equity and sailing off round the world. I wonder? At the moment I just sit and do nothing.

Well, here goes!

On September 3rd 2007, my wife Ann died of cancer. She was 43. I have started this blog (my first blog) as a record of my emotions and, perhaps, as a sort of therapy. I also hope that it will be a form of immortality for her. I am still not sure I am going to get through the next few months, so it ought to be interesting. Of course, as I never know how I might be feeling from day to day, this might be my only post...

It's an odd thing. It's not yet been two months since she died and, already, my life with her seems like a dream. Did it really happen?
Where do I go from here? Do I go back to work as though nothing has happened, or do I make a complete change? I don't think I shall return to my old job - it's too much like 'business as usual'. And I can't really see me addressing a jury again in the foreseeable future. I lose the plot too much these days; hardly fair on the poor sod I'm defending!

Enough for now - about to lose battery on my laptop.