Thursday, 30 December 2010

A year in the death: December

I was a little worried that I wouldn't manage to visit R in December due to a combination of weather, work and guests. Fortunately the thaw set in with a vengeance a couple of days ago, and the snow disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived.

Having sailed through my first two Christmases alone, I expected to do the same this year, but it proved to be a long hard slog. It was difficult to derive any pleasure from the preparations - almost everything I did emphasised his absence. Not having him there to discuss the menu, share in the gift wrapping or even rush around getting the rooms ready seemed to suck out every last vestige of enjoyment from the process. It is many months since I was last so consistently weepy and for such a sustained period.

The inevitable meltdown came on the morning of Christmas Eve when I came to dress the turkeys that had been hanging in the porch for a few days and were thus semi-frozen. Standing there with my hand up the rear end of a frigid turkey in a chaotic kitchen and totally unprepared house proved just too much. An hour or so of railing at the gods about the bloody unfairness of it all, and how this wasn't my job and I should be happily faffing around with my lavender beeswax polish at this point helped a bit. That and a stiff talking-to.
I am thinking of having one of those posters made up with "Have a Good Cry and Carry On", as it seems to be my motto these days.

Once people started arriving it got better, even though R's absence from the room is still huge for everyone. Talking to his family on the 'phone on Christmas Day was difficult; all of us putting on our best jolly voices as we always do and pretending that nothing is amiss. But we all got through it - as we always do.

My no. 1 niece stopped on for a couple of days after the others had left.
Up to a month ago she had been living in Finland with her partner, but the relationship had gone pear-shaped and she has returned to the UK - and is currently both homeless and jobless as well. So she deserved a little TLC, and it was good to think and talk about someone else's misery for a change!

So I didn't get to visit R until today.
When I arrived at the field I wasn't alone. Had I turned up an hour beforehand there would have been a funeral in progress. Fortunately I missed that, but Eira and Ifor (the owners of the field) were about to start filling in the grave. The wooden frame holding the mound of slatey soil excavated from the ground brought back bitter memories of an August afternoon two years ago.
We had a little chat - about mutual friends, about the weather and about their young Collie who had had to have a leg amputated, but was still charging about like a mad thing on three legs - then they tactfully withdrew to give me some time alone.

It was a dull, damp, grey morning as I stood and told R how much I missed him. R's normal view had almost entirely been swallowed up by the fog, and Cefn-Bryntalch - the big house that was once the home of composer Peter Warlock - was barely visible. This was where he composed his haunting song cycle, The Curlew, a piece that suits my current mood very well.

It will be a few months before the curlews return, however. This morning I would have been satisfied with an elusive glimpse of the sun, but it was not to be. The wind farm that is normally all too present through the gap in the trees was nowhere to be seen either. With the fog pressing in on all sides and filling up the valley, it was as though this hillside was the only place left on earth.


  1. So the thaw came for you and the countryside and there was some water flowing. A virtual arm around the shoulders to you J.

  2. J,
    Fog while in the field with seems fitting to be enclosed in your own little universe for a time. I hope that 2011 brings some sun. And I love the idea for posters with your motto "Have a Good Cry and Carry On". I could see those brilliant words on t-shirts, bumper stickers, note pad paper, pens and pencils, sticky notes... the possibilities are endless.