30 July 2010


Snoopy is poorly or pawly to be precise. It started yesterday when (the world fell out of his bottom) the bottom of his world fell out, if you get my drift. After several hours of pure runny brown liquid ejecting from his rear end, I decided not to let him sleep in my bedroom, as is his wont (I have beige carpets - enough said), but to settle him down on the kitchen tile floor. I slept near him all night on the floor too. How's that for (stupidity) total dedication?

By this morning, he was still producing enough brown liquid to sink the Titanic let alone the bed he was sleeping on and was now unable to use his back legs to support himself. He just lay in his mess too weak to roll over. I rang the vet and we were in the surgery by 8am. The vet's verdict was that Snoopy was very dehydrated and needed painkillers to ease his gut and antibiotics as a precaution. We were instructed to try to get him to drink fluids - not easy when a dog does not want to drink. On getting home, Snoopy did not want to leave the car and could not use his legs at all. So Kay and I had to carry him out into the house on a makeshift stretcher made from a blanket. As the day progressed the antibiotics and painkillers made some difference, but he was still passing copious amounts of brown liquid all over every fresh bit of bedding I could muster. Our washing machine was working flat out and as soon as I had hung one load up, I was washing/disinfecting another, not to mention floors carpets and all. I was exhausted! The vet had told me to ring him back at 4pm to see how he was doing and, when I told him he was still reluctant to use his legs, he told me to bring him in again.

Kay I managed to get him into the car, but when we arrived at the vet's, we could not get him out of the car. He had no strength to stand up. Again Kay and I resorted to the blanket to carry him out, taking two corners each. We struggled to manoevre him out of the car and onto the pavement and, as I slammed the car door shut, I realised a split-second later that I had locked my car keys and handbag inside!! Not only that, but I had parked on double yellow lines. To add insult to injury, Snoopy took one look at our pathetic situation and strolled nonchalently from the confines of the blanket to the surgery. It was rapidly turning into a farce. With no time to dally, we decided to get Snoopy inside and deal with the car later.

To cut a very long story short, the vet has kept Snoopy in overnight to put on a drip to replace lost fluids. Snoopy hates to be parted from me so the vet will sedate him too. I think I'll need some sedation too after a day like today. The Automobile Association came to the rescue and got my car unlocked again (I have a spare car key - in the house - but my house keys were .... inside the car in my bag and Kay had not brought hers.) My neighbour has my spare house keys - but they are away on holiday! A lesson is to be learned from all this and I think it is that I shall leave a spare set of house and car keys with a local friend who never goes away anywhere.

We await to see how Snoopy will be in the morning, but it is all very worrying as Kay and I have been invited to Greg's aunt's 90th birthday party which is being held in Northumberland (north of Newcastle) on Monday and we are travelling up by train early on Sunday morning. All Greg's wider family will be there and we have been arranging it for months. I had organised for someone to dog-sit Snoopy in the house for three days, while we are away. So you can imagine how I am panicking, if he does not make a full recovery by tomorrow, I shall not want to leave him, yet I do not want to miss the party either. I shall definitely need that sedation tonight. A nice bottle of wine would not go amiss, methinks.

19 July 2010


Kay turned 19 last week. For the first time in 19 years, I did not have to arrange a party and pay for it agonising for weeks on what food to get, where to hold the party etc etc.. She just went up to the town centre with her friends to a club, just turned up at the venue and they all paid for themselves, got themselves home again on the night bus etc. Easy peasy! I stayed at home and put my feet up, watching my favourite soaps on TV.

She and I had gone out for a celebratory meal together the night before on her actual birthday. There is an old Italian restaurant, she ,Greg and I always used to go to, when we were celebrating something special. This time, Kay and I felt we would change the venue and go to a new Italian restaurant that has just opened, but as luck would have it (or not) the new place was so crowded and they were queuing out the door waiting for tables. Kay declared it was in any case tradition to go to the old place and we decided to head for that after all, but we ended up queuing to get in there too. For a Wednesday night, all our local restaurants seemed very busy!

I found it hard. Being in our special restaurant without Greg. Looking at the menu and just knowing what he would have chosen, as he always chose the same thing when we went there. It was hard too that I was the one doing the ordering, when he always ordered. It was hard that I paid the bill, when he always paid. The table was set for two, when it was always set for three. When Kay was very little, Greg would order chocolate fudge cake for dessert and ask them to cut it into one third for Kay and two-thirds for him, as she could not eat a whole piece by herself. Kay ordered a whole piece for herself this time. A year ago, Greg had celebrated with us, although admittedly he was so drunk before we even got there, that it was embarrassing. He kept standing up to go out for a cigarette and his trousers kept falling down. He was also uncharacteristically very rude to the waiters. So many memories sparked by every stage of the meal. At times, I felt as if Greg was watching over us from above.

Up to now I have been consumed by such anger about what Greg did over the last five years: the money he wasted on alcohol and cigarettes (about £600 a month, making quite a hole in our already reduced income); the mental stress he caused Kay and me; the damage he did to his own health and ultimately his life; the ruined plans for retirement together. In many ways, my anger and the events of the last five years had blocked out any feelings I had for him. But for the first time since Greg died, since the funeral and since scattering the ashes last week, I actually felt sorry for him for missing out on Kay's birthday. Just like he'll miss out on every other milestone from now on - her graduation, her marriage, the grandchildren, every birthday and Christmas, not to mention other milestones in my life and those of his sister and her family. And in his. He's missed out already on things like the general election and the Lib/Con Coalition, the World Cup and there'll be more things to come.

I went to one of my local Al-Anon meetings last week. We were talking about Forgiveness. Someone said "Forgiving does not mean you have to forget; it just means you get rid of the hurt, because storing up resentment doesn't help you to move forward." Another spoke of alcoholism being like a mental illness and not something the alcoholic can help. Suddenly it all made sense. Greg's drinking was like a form of mental illness. He could not help it. It was too big for him to deal with - like anorexia or depression can be. Being angry with him was pointless, inasmuch as telling someone who is depressed to pull themselves together is pointless. Being angry does not help me move on either. I can't forget what happened; I can't pretend it never happened; but Kay and I have to forgive him to find peace of mind and move on.

11 July 2010

How to Celebrate a Wedding Anniversary

Although Greg died and was cremated in March, we had not yet scattered his ashes. It was his wish to return to his home town in Lincolnshire and end up there. He never considered London to be his real home and certainly not his final resting place. The reason for the delay is that I had been waiting for his niece, Rhianna, to return from a year's stay in New Zealand. She was so upset she could not be there for the funeral, despite trying her might to get back. The expense and tortuous journey involved in getting back to the UK at short notice from the other side of the world proved all too impossible and Rhianna was distraught. I therefore promised her we would hold off scattering the ashes until her return.

But life is never that simple. Trying to find a date that would be suitable for several parties involved started to be worse than trying to fit in a meeting between the Queen and Barack Obama. Rhianna was dotting about here and there meeting up with her German boyfriend; then her brother also wanted to be at the scattering and he had meanwhile gone abroad; we were trying to avoid a time that clashed with Kay's exams and her forthcoming birthday; Greg's best friend from schooldays also wanted to be there too; and it had to be at the weekend, because Greg' sister would otherwise have to take time off work (and she had already taken quite a bit off to help me when Greg was dying, so I wanted to avoid that at all costs).

There were in fact very few dates that fitted the bill this side of doomsday and eventually someone suggested that Saturday 10 July might be the best date for everyone concerned. I pondered long and hard over this. It was not that I had anything else pressing to do, but the tenth of July is our wedding anniversary... thirty-four years to the day since we married. Did I want to spend it scattering Greg's ashes? Then I thought about it and I smiled. It was rather symbolic really. The day we officially got hitched would be the day we would technically part. It would be perfect.

That day was yesterday. I had collected Greg' ashes from the undertakers the day before. A strange bundle to show for a life - ashes in a sealed plastic bag inside a plastic urn, inside a plastic carrier bag inside a cardboard bag. Yesterday, as Kay and I left home, I patted the bag and told Greg we were leaving the house to go back to his home town. Every step of the journey, I was telling him where we were. I joked that it was the first time he had been on the Underground for years. At Kings Cross we caught an early train up to Lincolnshire, where Greg's sister Jill met us and drove us to the spot we had chosen. We met up with Jill's family and Greg's best friend Ross and his wife.
It was an idyllic scene The sun was beating down from a clear blue sky, the air was very warm, the river sparkled and the townsfolk wandered slowly in the heat to their destinations. The town skyline looked magnificent, the spires and towers of the many churches reaching for the sky and the crumpled uneven rooftops of the ancient houses settling down for a nap in the heat. The town Greg loved and never left mentally. There were eight of us all together. All there for one purpose - to find Greg his final resting place. We walked away from the town into the quiet of the surounding countryside across the land Greg had walked as a boy with a dog as his companion. It is common public land, where other people now walk their dogs or rest to admire the beautiful view of the town.
We found the ideal spot, under the shade of a spreading tree. I read a poem and then a few of us took turns to scatter the ashes. It was an emotional moment. We took photos to record the spot. Later we ended up at a cafe for a refreshing drink and headed back to Jill's for lunch.
A while ago, I had lent Ross Greg's old cine films as he knows how to transfer them to DVD and edit them with music and titles etc. He had transfered to DVD and edited a 30-minute film of our wedding and honeymoon,which we viewed after lunch. It was strangely comforting to see Greg as a young man again and so happy and free from the struggles of recent years.
All in all it was a wonderful day and when Kay and I got back to London in the extremely humid evening, we were exhausted but happy. Greg was now at rest in his favourite place. Happy Anniversary!