At the moment I am keeping busy, partly through choice, partly because the daily post brings mountains of paperwork which needs dealing with. Much needs to be done in the house too. Over the last few years as Greg's health declined, he did not feel like doing any DIY which he had always loved doing before as a means of switching off from the stresses of his job. Nor did we have the funds to get someone else in to do it, as he drank and smoked our spare money away. So now, I am going through each room of our house very slowly, sorting though stuff in cupboards, clearing out rubbish, being ruthless about things I don't need any more and either taking it bit by bit to charity shops, the refuse dump, or selling it on ebay. It is a big job, because we have a house on six levels (a tall thin house with a room on each level) with 4 bedrooms, a cellar and a garage. It is not made easy by the fact that in the past we both were afraid to throw things away because of their sentimental value or in case they might come in handy one day. Once the clearing out is done, I intend to decorate the rooms - either doing the repairing and painting myself or in worst case scenarios getting someone else in to do it. I plan it will take a couple of years but it will keep me busy and therefore help me over the initial bereavement period. Apart from all that, I still intend to visit my mother frequently who lives sixty miles away and do the same in her house.
This week saw me making a start on what I grandiosely call "the study" - the fourth bedroom crammed from ceiling to floor with bookcases, his and hers desks, laptops and their now-defunct predecessor desk-top computers. Not to mention other stuff that has been dumped unceremoniously on the floor as there is nowhere else to dump it - such as Kay's old board games/jigsaws etc intended for sale on ebay so kept close to the computers as an aide memoire when I get around to writing the adverts. Yesterday, I tackled the five-drawer unit that stands alongside our desks. I very much doubt we have gone through the drawers since we moved into this house 22 years ago. Every time, in the past, that I have opened the drawers with the intention of tidying them, I have shut them again quickly, as the task looked too impossible. But there is one positive thing that Greg's death has done and that is to impress upon me that I must go through this process if only to spare Kay the job of doing it, if anything should ultimately happen to me. So yesterday, I attempted the impossible, opened those drawers and my whole life flashed before me. I had no idea what was in those drawers and what I would find. I found Greg's university dissertation written forty years ago; countless university membership cards with photos of him as a fresh-faced 19-year-old on them; all sorts of bits and bobs that had a story connected to them from different stages of our marriage; old batteries; paperclips of all sorts,shapes and sizes; home-made anniversary cards we had sent one another; the odd foreign coin from a range of countries: super 8 cine films of 1980s holidays; index cards or notebooks with his writing scribbled on them; business cards with contacts from his early days as a journalist; an instruction manual for something long gone. It reminded me of a sketch from the British comedian Michael McIntyre entitled "The Man Drawer". In a few hours, having emptied out the contents of the drawers either onto the desk in piles of subject matter or into the waste bin, I had wandered through 40 years of our life together. It was most unexpected and a strange feeling.