Saturday, 31 December 2011

Old Year's Night

I guess today is as good a time as any to formally bring this blog to a close.

The last day of the year is for taking stock of what has gone by and planning for the future.

This time last year I was still alone. Still trying to make sense of a world that had spun out of control. Still asking the question, “What now?”.

Now I find myself on the brink of a new life. One which will, I think, be very different to what has gone before. It is exciting, a little bit scary and very, very good.

Much has happened on the way from there to here. I don’t know why, but these pages didn’t seem to be the right place to talk about it – this is and always has been a space just for R.

And learning to love again perhaps should be a private thing. Whatever the reason, I seem to have dropped off the edge of the world for a time. I think I needed to do it, but thank you to those who have cared enough to try to get in touch over the past few months. I haven’t been a good correspondent, for which I apologise.

The closing of the year seems to have resurrected my desire to write, though. So it is time to create a new space, one where the emphasis is on life, not death. I still miss R. I still talk to his picture, visit his grave and shed tears over it. But I have at long last fully absorbed the fact that he has gone. A line seems to have been drawn. A sort of Year Zero.

Now it is time to live again.

In closing, I think I can do no better than quote the last few lines of Natalie Merchant’s beautiful and uplifting song and hope that all those who read them will eventually come to the same conclusion.
Oh, they told you that life is long
Be thankful when it's done
Don't ask for more
Be grateful

But, I'll tell you life is short
Be thankful
Because before you know
It will be over
'Cause life is sweet
Life is, oh, so very short
Life is sweet
And life is, oh, so very short
Life is sweet

Judith xx

Friday, 22 April 2011

Fighting talk

For almost as long as I have been writing this blog, I have talked about the little village in the hills in which we made our home and how much it means to me.

This area is of negligible economic significance.
There is a small amount of light industry down in the Severn valley. Once you rise into the upland areas there are sheep and very little else.

Apart from wind.
There is certainly no shortage of that.
As a result, there have been wind farms springing up on the hills all around the area. There is one that I can see out of my office window, up on Mynydd Clogau, on land owned by my friend Angie and her husband. I remember the day that the turbine blades were fitted, seemingly all at once, and in that instant the view from my window changed forever.

That feeling of shock took me by surprise as I had always previously been in favour of wind power as a source of alternative energy. Over the years, I have grown accustomed to seeing them, and although a jarring sight, they are now familiar friends.

But the battle to have that wind farm erected nearly tore this village apart. When we moved here, it was a topic that was generally best avoided as there was still an undercurrent of bad feeling on both sides of the argument. And as the Welsh Assembly Government has earmarked this as a strategic area for alternative power generation, permission has been granted for several more wind farms, each bigger than the last.

Early in the New Year, we all received a large envelope through the post from the National Grid. The contents outlined in very vague terms their plans to build a substation for the wind farms to feed into, three incoming 132 kV power lines and a main 400 kV outgoing line to feed into the grid.

The two suggested locations for this 20-acre substation site and the 160 foot high pylons needed for the 400 kV line are either just outside my own little no-horse village or about a mile from the place that R is buried. The thought of either of these beautiful places being desecrated in this way just breaks my heart.

For the last few weeks there has been talk about little else around here, and the rounds of public meetings, collecting signatures, writing letters, etc. have started.
It is a long time since I have done any political agitating. We moved here for a quiet life and to leave the 'dirty' aspects of the world behind. But it appears that the world has followed me with its clumsy boots and greedy ways. There aren't really enough hours in the day already, but I think this is one fight worth making time for.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

A year in the death: March

It was R's birthday on Sunday. He would have been 49.
That's no age to be absent from the party, is it?

It is still difficult to fully take in the fact that he has gone. Even though to the outside world I think I appear pretty together these days, I still walk around with that massive R-shaped hole in my heart.

This year I turned down the couple of offers of company I received. It seemed like the right time to get through a birthday on my own.

In the event, though, I didn't have to go through the day alone. No, Bunny, WomanNShadow's travelling Ambassador of Grief and Whimsy arrived the day before. (And many, many thanks to Boo for making sure she arrived on time). I shall talk about Bunny's magical effect in another post, but suffice to say she was a gentle and calming influence on the way over there.

There were daffodils to take from the garden, of course. R's favourite flowers.

Bunny listened all the way as I told her about birthdays long past - both his and mine. We had to take the long way around as the bridge is out on my normal route, but it didn't seem to matter. We were not in a hurry.
We sat by his grave for a long time.

I talked. Bunny listened.
I cried. She understood.

Moose came and sat down and whispered in her ear too!

Then we went up the hill to look at the view.
It was a grey, cold day. The mist had descended and the lack of sun meant that it didn't clear at all. But somehow the dense mist in the valley bottom had an ethereal feel to it, cutting off the hillside from the rest of the world.
For one day at least.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Running to stand still

It is a real struggle to keep up with everything at this time of year.

Clients have their end of year budget to use up, so are sending me work like there's no tomorrow. This is also a busy time for me family-wise, with a whole spate of birthdays coming in quick succession. The Facebook experiment has been declared an Official Failure, so has been shut down to the merest skeleton presence (although it did turn up one friend from university I lost touch with years ago, which was nice).

And the garden is waking up.
Every spare moment seems to be spent digging, and I have only just started to sow my seeds. Normally the windowsills are filling up by now. I feel as though I am pedalling at full tilt, but the chain has fallen off so I am getting nowhere.

So is it any wonder that I have to enlist a little help to get the job done?

Friday, 4 March 2011

Information overload

So, after much prodding from various people, I set up a Facebook account.

Oh my. Now my head is about to explode. I'm not sure my poor widow brain can cope with exponential messages. Who are all these people, and why do they want to talk to me all at once?

Maybe I should crawl back into my cave and evolve for a little longer!

Monday, 28 February 2011

Cost-benefit analysis

The streamlining continues.

Yesterday I parted with my stock trailer.
This wasn't as much of a wrench as I thought it would be. I decided to sell it because it is too heavy for me to manoeuvre alone and I just cannot hitch it up without assistance. It also needs a jolly good clean. My original plan was to buy another, smaller trailer that I can easily handle - I only ever need to carry two or three animals at a time - but I have had a couple of offers of loans, so I might not need to at all.

This feels like a positive step. The trailer was just sitting there, slowly deteriorating and turning green from algae, and it was another symbol of the things I could not do any more. Clearing it out felt like a breath of fresh air.

And the best part was that it sold for a tenner more than I paid for it!

I am finding that this acceptance and jettisoning of what I cannot cope with on my own brings a real sense of peace. Heaven knows I have fought against it for long enough.

I was talking to my sister-in-law the other evening. She has some significant health issues, including having had major back surgery. Although she is still working, she finds anything like gardening, which involves pulling and bending, to simply be too painful. Their garden is beautiful, and they put so much work into turning it into a little haven of loveliness. But over the past year they have gradually accepted that she can no longer do what is necessary to keep it looking that way, and have taken the decision to turn it into much more of a low-maintenance garden.

This was a heart-breaking decision for them and is the sort of little domestic loss that needs to be mourned. But she can also see the possibilities that the new garden will open up for them. More time to travel, for example, and certainly not being tied to the place during peak sowing and planting season. More cash to spend on other things, and no longer feeling a need to shoot rabbits from the upstairs windows to keep them off their newly-planted seedlings!

I started feeling the benefits of this simplification process myself this weekend. With just one henhouse to clean out, and no large smelly duck house, I had a lot more spare time. This meant I could make a start on clearing the decks for my new flower cutting garden, and just generally tidying that part of the garden which tends to be the dumping ground for all sorts of things I can't find a home for. The mess around there has been seeping into my consciousness for a long time now, despite my best efforts to ignore it.

The picture was taken last year, so I would like to clear it properly before the nettles and brambles spring back into growth with a vengeance. Then I can perhaps get a path laid and the flower bed edging in place. This will have the knock-on effect of not having to control the triffid-like weed growth in that area during the summer - which will hopefully save me more time.

It is all good.

This little fellow wasn't keen on being exposed though!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Thoughts on watching the cricket

I have just been sitting here watching the highlights of the World Cup match between Australia and New Zealand. I guess the Kiwis can be forgiven for a lacklustre performance today.

It took me back to 2003.
We had tickets that year for the World Cup in South Africa. I had bought the tickets about 6 months ahead of time when they were still quite cheap. Then we started house-hunting, and decided to buy this place. Had all gone to plan we would have been settled in here by the November and could have travelled, but it all went haywire and turned into the move from hell.

As the whole sale process dragged on and on, we ended up having to cancel the trip, much to our huge disappointment. Ultimately we moved house right in the middle of the competition.

Although we cancelled because of the house move, it also proved to have been the right decision in another way - my Dad died right in the middle of the time we would have been in Cape Town. He had been living with leukaemia for many years, and his health was up and down all the time, but his death came right out of the blue. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I had been a 12-hour flight away. I think there was less than 2 weeks between his death and our move, with his funeral in the middle of it all.

It is funny how things like conveyancing and packing, which seemed incredibly stressful before, suddenly became of no importance whatsoever. We had brought Dad up to see the house the Christmas before he died, but only from the outside. He never got to see it inside, or the land that goes with it, which he would have loved. We never got to ride together on the steam train that sets off from my nearest town. So many things we were unable to do together.

After missing out on South Africa, R and I talked a lot about going to the West Indies for the 2007 event. But by that time he was contracting and was reluctant to commit to going, just in case it would have prevented him picking up work.
I wish we had gone. I know the whole event was rather chaotic and the cricket wasn't great that year, but he could have at least ticked off a few more 1st class grounds from his bucket list.

When you think you have a 'normal' lifespan stretching in front of you, it is so easy to let things slip or pass by because there will be plenty of time to do them later.

If only that were true for everyone.

In my new life I am much more inclined to seize the day. It is hard not to regret the missed moments. All I can do, though, is to ensure that there aren't so many in the future. I just wish R were here to share the unmissed ones.