Poland September 2019

Saturday 7th

Travel all easy with easyJet from Manchester to Krakow. Made a new friend, Vicky on the flight. Eventually found the driver who took Cathy, Richard and me from the airport to the Vienna House Easy hotel. We missed the briefing but Remi the leader left us some notes. Had a Zywiec beer in the bar. Beer was ok, a bit gassy and I’m already that way inclined! Krakow is nice and dark, I like that, reminds me of the 70s. The driver took us through what looked like the fun part of the city.

From the hotel room

Sunday 8th

Fabulous breakfast! I woke very early but didn’t hear drunken Graham and his partner who woke up the rest of our corridor so I was clearly fast asleep at that point. We are a group of 8. Plus Remi. Stowed our bags and went off for a walking tour of Krakow with Kasia, she was very good. A marathon was taking place so we dodged around it. Got cash and had lunch in a veggie and vegan cafe. Falafels, bulgur wheat, salad and mineral water for £5. Nice food but slow service. Returned to the hotel to collect 2 of the party who had already been round the city. Into a large minibus, I guess that makes it a maxibus. An hour and a half later we arrived in Zawoja to the Hotel Jawor. Straight out to hike up a little hill, very humid. Out to a local restaurant. I had beef goulash with pancake. This was a fried potato cake with a small amount of beef. It was tasty. Shared a side order of vegetables with Cathy. Bottle of beer. Whole lot for £7. I can see I’ll be ordering lots of sides of veg. Walked back in the dark. Very little going on here. Walked total of 12 km.

Monday 9th

An eclectic breakfast. I’m finding the language hard so glad we have Remi the tour leader, nothing here is dual language, oh except for last night’s menu. Anna our mountain guide for today rocked up, lovely woman who works as a midwife with premature babies. Maxibus arrived (from Krakow) and took us a whole 15 minutes up the road to an entrance to the national park. It was damp and misty and no views but the route had been adjusted to avoid the risk of lightning. Walked to a mountain hut where we lunched. I had fried egg with 2 large scoops of mashed potatoes, lots of fresh herbs on them and a bucket load of sauerkraut. Couldn’t eat it all. Everything costs so little here that at first you think great, but then there is an uncomfortable feeling that you are not paying enough. Massive contrast with a couple of weeks ago in Switzerland. Then we trotted down all the way back to the hotel. Started to rain again but not as heavily as it is doing now. We saw 5 fire salamanders, I’ve never seen one before. Lovely. Dinner in the hotel was great. I had chicken with mashed potato which had a pea purée on top, ok mushy peas but so sweet and fresh plus salad. Then apple pie and ice cream. This was enough for an entire family and delicious. I had a beer which Remi recommended. Also good. Beer only comes in half litres so one is plenty. Stair rods, I’d forgotten about them but here they are still in fashion. Walked total of 11 km.

Tuesday 10th

We packed up and left the hotel. We drove for about an hour south east into the Tatras to meet Justyna, today’s guide. From Siwa Polana we got on a little motor bus, called a train but not a train, hard seats, for a few kilometres. Then on foot up into the mountains, crossing quite fast flowing rivers which we helped each other over, guide did not check we were ok. Some of it was hard work and slippery and on which I was very careful. The high point was a col at 1459m so we climbed about 450m. From there down to a mountain hut for our lunch at Hali Ornak. Hard going down and then the hut was completely rammed. Sunny day, easy for people with pushchairs to reach from the other side. We queued for loos and food. I had a sausage with mustard and stale bread. Left the hut on an easy wide flat path following the roaring river. A quick nose into a gorgeous gorge then back on track to a shepherd selling smoked sheep’s cheese for 50p, actually pulling it off the fire, the guide set off before I had finished. We passed the sheep who were being milked. Our guide went fast a lot of the time, and then set off again soon after the slower ones had caught up which is not the way to do it IMO. So most of the day felt like a rush, no time to drink, blow nose, take photos. We got to the minibus that was waiting for us. The driver took us to Hotel Bel Ami in Zakopane. This was said to be a tired hotel but my room is less tired than the last place which had a mouldy shower, non draining washbasin and a cracked loo and something nibbled me in the night. Bel Ami has no mould or cracks and the water drains away. The shower fitting is loose and so is a fine balance to get it right and I had to move the fridge so it sticks out into the room in order to plug it in. But I have a balcony with a view and the room is ok. Wifi is pants. Out to dinner in fab resto, Barowo Zohylina, with people in traditional dress, a folk band and stuffed creatures (less good). Excellent food. I had pierogi (dumplings), mine were deep fried, like samosas without the spices. Shared a housewife salad (chicken) with Cathy. Good beer. Walked total of 14 km. Mountain kilometres.

Wednesday 11th

My ankle and leg were a bit sore after yesterday’s walk so I decided not to go out with the group today. Had to sign a release form. Today’s walk was the longest and possibly quite hard, they had to get up and have breakfast at 6 too. So I had a lie in. Breakfast not great, instant coffee! I set off about 8.30 for the Tatra museum, quiet in the town. Had a not great coffee then went round the museum. Some set pieces of rustic interiors, some stuffed animals, a lot of rocks. Next to the Wladyslaw Hasior gallery. Interesting artist, at first I felt uncomfortable then got his sense of humour. Steampunk before it was invented. Back to hotel for a freshen up then out to veggie cafe. Had beetroot burgers in mushroom sauce with salads. Ok, sauce not quite right with the beetroot. Looked in the outdoor gear shops for bargains but don’t need anything. Back to hotel to change footwear and out again to Art Gallery at Oksza villa close to hotel. Nice leisurely day and have walked a good few kilometres but slowly and have also rested leg. Met up with the gang again. Out to Barowo Zohylina Niznio restaurant with a traditional band, this time embellished with dancers. A lively meal. Much vodka on the next table. I had potato cakes with fried potatoes and carrot salad followed by tinned fruit salad and ice cream. First course disappointing because I misordered and second because not fresh. A poor day overall for food but the restaurant was fun. 10 km.

Thursday 12th

Packed up and off by minibus to a crossing over the river Dunajec. After I’d used both the men’s and the women’s loos Louise and I did some mime and acquired our lifejackets which Remi had insisted upon. Onto the wooden raft with 8 Poles and 2 punters who punted us along the river for a couple of hours. Some slightly faster bits but a lovely gentle way to travel. A short walk to the “mountain” hut where I had a sandwich I’d made and I bought an apple pie and ice cream. Yum. Soon back to sugar free and salt free. The rest of our party turned up an hour later having walked the same route. A hot walk along the river and through the town of Szczawnica and up to Hotel Polaris which despite being an ex communist hotel is in a good location with lots of trees around. It’s been refurbished so isn’t grey. The loo wasn’t working in my room but a chap came up quickly and sorted it. He said he had been many times to do that so just as well it’s only one night here! Apart from that I like this hotel the most. Out to the bier Keller for pre dinner beer. Then across the square to smart restaurant, Cafe Helenka. Had large piece of local quiche with sausage and cheese in it and salad followed by crème brulée with mini meringues. And 50 cl beer. Fortunately only a short walk back up the very steep hill. 5 km.

Friday 13th

We walked down the hill and along the river to a 3 minute ferry. First to Sokolica at 747m. Along interesting paths with some exposure but in the main with good handrails up the very steep parts. A popular area and a good lot of people out walking. I managed to keep up well and felt both my strength and my stamina returning. After a lunch break we carried on to 982m at the Three Crowns, a high point we had seen from the raft the day before. This was reached by a metal staircase with handrails that popped you out at a tiny platform with great views and a siege of flying ants, late here, we’ve already had ours. It was a tight fit on the platform so a quick photo and then off again because people came up behind, good however that up and down walkers were segregated. Felt like a good achievement for me and gave me back my confidence. Then down all the way to Kroscienko. Ice cream. Late minibus to Krakow. Quick shower and flooding of bathroom and out on foot to Kogel Mogel restaurant. Cabbage and truffles. Apple pie. Wheat beer. Very good food, very slow service. Getting up soon. Over 15 km.

Saturday 14th

Up at 5. This is 4am in UK. Cathy and I got straight onto the tour coach which quickly collected another 50 from various hotels. We arrived Auschwitz about 7.30. If you visit you may not eat or smoke and you are limited to a small size of bag, no rucksacks, belongings are security scanned. It would have been helpful to have had this information in advance and not just as we got off the bus. Time for a wee, then issued with headset, receiver and guide. Then we were divided up into smaller groups. The guide was the granddaughter of a local man who had died in Auschwitz. The first tour was around the Auschwitz complex. You walk round at a speed which means you don’t have time to read the displays of e.g. written evidence of the crimes. Many of the displays are harrowing, demonstrating the mechanisation of genocide. Returned the audio kit and there was enough time for a coffee in a restaurant just across the road, we were the only customers. Back onto the coach to drive the short distance to Birkenau. What is staggering is the immensity of the site. We viewed wooden huts, the selection area, the blown up gas chambers, the Soviet built memorial. We don’t have the words to express how awful it was but we must never forget especially these days when there are revisionists and the far right is growing in strength. Returned to Krakow near the main square. After putting my head in the cathedral and hearing the bugler I walked to the Jewish quarter and wandered around. Made my way back to the hotel bumping into Louise and Richard searching for an entrance to the botanical gardens. I tried to find a bakery and did find 2 but both shut. Over 11km. Remi appeared to say goodbye to those of us getting the airport transfer. Once at the airport I managed not to see any of the others again and didn’t get to say goodbye to them, for which I was sad. The flight was fine and I got home close to midnight, a very long day indeed. 2 days later I’m still tired. Over 11 km. I lasted an hour at home before missing Carol kicked in.

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Switzerland August 2019 Pt 2

Wednesday

Train from Wengen to Kleine Scheidigg. From Kleine Scheidigg to the Jungfraujoch (the col below the summit). Nice new train. The train stopped at Eismeer station (3159m) in the tunnel so everyone could get out and look through the viewing windows to the Ischmeer glacier. This station is one up from Eigerwand which was the one connected with the 1936 tragedy. Since 2016 Eigerwand is no longer in use.

At the top, 3454m at Jungfraujoch you walk round on a signposted route. It was ok and we were lucky to see the views before the weather came in and obliterated everything. I didn’t go in the ice palace or out on the snow as I am still wary of slipping. I stamped my Jungfrau passport and had a horrible and expensive sandwich. Decided to go back down. The train does not stop for viewing on the way down but the ticket person gives you a small bar of chocolate, clearly something UK train operators need to adopt. I looked around Kleine Scheidigg. Cheapest postcards! Then I walked down to Wengernalp station, nice to leave the crowds and the selfie sticks. Caught the next train down from Wengernalp. Bought an almond croissant from the nice bakery in Wengen to make up for the sandwich and ate it near the church. Dinner of salads, vegetable (spinach) roll and veg, cheese and bread. The boys (Adrian and Mark) and I are going to eat out in a Swiss resto tomorrow but W the bigot asked if he could tag along and it was not easy to say no although I was very tempted. We have recruited some more to the party so I should be able to avoid the nasty old git. Why he wants to eat with 3 queers is beyond me. I have failed to shake him off at meals.

Fluffy the Alpine chough
Aletsch glacier

Thursday

Today involved a great many types and changes of transport. Train to Lauterbrunnen, cable car to Grütschalp, train to Mürren. Mürren was delightful, traffic free, high. I fancy a holiday there. Walked through the village to the cable car to the Schilthorn (2970m). You go up most of the way to Birg and switch for the final 500m. Misty. I was 11 when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out and I’ve wanted to go to Piz Gloria on the Schilthorn ever since so this was a dream come true for me. It’s all very silly but I loved it. Had a ristretto in the revolving restaurant. We stayed about an hour but it was much more relaxed than the Jungfrau so a pleasant visit. Back down in the cable cars to Mürren, ate my very nice cheese and tomato on whole-wheat sourdough sandwich from the baker’s in Wengen then a cable car to Stechelberg. Onto a bus to the Trümmelbach falls which is a touristy thing. I walked up the 140m of the falls. Ok but back with the pushing and shoving so not as enjoyable. Falls were pretty amazing, all inside the mountain. Took the lift some of the way back down. Onto bus then train to Wengen. Out to local restaurant with Adrian, Mark, Jim, Tony, Janet and Phil. I had a dark beer, rõsti, crème caramel. Janet and Tony shared fondue and Janet had a flaming ice cream. Good company and good fun. W the bigot had changed his mind about coming with us after all. Perhaps 3 really is 3 too many queers. He had to make a dig at me of course and referred to my “ostentatious hat”. When I haven’t got anything to do I’ll consider how to pimp my cap. Or not.

These get used to great effect by Diana Rigg
I should really just let James get on with sorting out Blofeld
Piz Gloria
Quite a long way up
Inside the Trümmelbach Falls
Fluffy the Alpine Chough

Friday

Cable car to Männlichen. Walked to Kleine Scheidigg, bumped into Chris and Linda going the other way round. Arrived at Kleine Scheidigg, sat in cafe and Jo and Mark pitched up going the same way round as me. I had an ice cream and some juice, back to no sugar on Sunday. Chatted with some Australians but they wanted to talk about Brexit and I just want to put my head in a bucket. Looked through the telescope at the north Face of the Eiger. I can’t imagine how Uli Steck climbed it in 2 hours and 22 minutes. Caught the train to Wengen with Jo and Mark. Shopping in co-op. Packing. A free farewell drink from the hotel (small beer for me, you can get beer in 20, 30 or 50 cl. amounts). A dinner with cheese in everything including cheese soup, reports of this were not great. I had salad starter, salad is just cold food really, nearly always cold omelette or quiche. Then further carb overload of cheesy pasta, potato, cheesy quiche, sauerkraut. Apfelstrudel and small choc meringue. Sat by the church with Jude and Chris. I have now walked the whole of the route between Männlichen and Wengen.

Eiger from Kleine Scheidegg
Toothy rocks of Männlichen

Saturday

I woke at 2.37 which was rubbish because the alarm was set for 4.30 and of course I couldn’t get back to sleep. Switzerland is an hour ahead to make matters worse. I went down just before 5.30 to find members of the group sitting in the Poirot entrance hall in the dark waiting for the call to breakfast. It really looked like we were waiting for the dénouement. I didn’t think I’d want to eat but managed my usual breakfast and made a large cheese sandwich for later in the day. We trotted off to the station in the dark, the luggage and Olive went by milk float. Train to Lauterbrunnen, train to Interlaken, train to Basel, train to Gare de Lyon. On this train we had 32 reserved seats but some people had already sat in them and didn’t want to move, however we managed to sort this out without any fighting! The train did not have any guidance as to where the seat numbers were located on the outside of the carriage so unfortunately most of us were at the wrong end of the carriage which meant we had to do a lot of passing suitcases over people’s heads as basically the selfish seat stealers had created a total log jam. We all eventually got our seats. Bus to Gare du Nord, passing Place de la Bastille and Place de la République. Very hot in Paris, over 30 degrees. Eurostar to St. Pancras, at one point there was a call for a doctor, farewell to fellow travellers (I shook W the bigot’s hand very formally). Got onto train to Leeds at King’s Cross by a whisker to find Ruchi and her mother travelling to Peterborough. They were being helped by a Millwall fan, who also helped me with my bag, He was keen to demonstrate that not all Millwall fans are racists or homophobes and actually he was a nice man! Got to Leeds, straight into M&S to get a salad as part of reverting to my high veg diet. There was a large woman who was totally off her face struggling to adjust her bra. She asked the checkout guy to help her, so he tried to but unfortunately her large breasts escaped, all mightily unnecessary. Leeds station full of very drunk people, but also quite a lot of coppers. Got onto my train to Halifax, with only a few drunks on it. Arrived Halifax and got into my taxi and home just after 9.30. I had been awake for a very long time. I was looking forward to my lovely bed but I knew it would be hard to walk in the door to the empty house but actually it was even harder than I had imagined, just wanting Carol to be here. There is nothing I can do that makes it any better, the double grief is shit. I’ve fallen back to earth.

Place de la République
Gare du Nord
Welcoming us to Eurostar

Switzerland August 2019 Pt 1

Friday

It took me hours to pack my bags. It felt very strange to be setting off for a holiday with no Carol to see me off. No-one to give the contact details to.

I went on the Grand Central train from Halifax to King’s Cross. I sat with a couple of actively retired vicars from Halifax. They told me about their 4 sons. The wife vicar was Swiss and delighted that I was travelling to Switzerland!

I walked to my hotel on the edge of Russell Square in the heat. My room was on the top, 7th floor and was even hotter than outside, no air con but noisy from lots of huge air con units in the courtyard below. Also smelly from frying in the kitchen.

The first thing I noticed in the room was that a person could climb out of the window. Not a good way to go.

I got on the bed and promptly fell fast asleep.

Then I went to Waitrose in the Brunswick centre to buy breakfast. I have to leave too early to get the hotel breakfast.

Back for more dozing then out to Carluccio’s for beer, cheese and pea salad and veggie balls with hummous, broccoli, tomato and a very thin crispy bread thing. All very nice. This ended up as the best dinner of the holiday. They asked me if I had any allergies. Guess this is after the Pret mess.

If I ever do anything like this again I’ll book my own hotel, a Premier Inn would have been fine.

Opposite the President hotel off Russell Square
Delicious!

Saturday

I was too hot to sleep well. Got up at 5 and took a taxi to St. Pancreas. The driver was way too chatty for so early.

Met the tour leader, Philip and some of the party of 31. First of several reminders to be vigilant, a lesson from being gay for 40 years is that you always have eyes in the back of your head and assess situations quickly, at least I do, survival.

Sat next to Jim from Kansas. Ate my fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Once at the Gare du Nord we walked round to the Gare de l’Est. I bought a salad in M&S which I had on the TGV, still sitting next to Jim.

Arrived mid afternoon in Strasbourg. Nice clean and cool hotel Mercure opposite station. The room was on the 4th floor and was even easier to fall out of than the President in London.

I went and looked at the cathedral which was heaving. Got told off for not taking my cap off. I suspect God has better things to worry about but of course I apologised and took it off. I find people taking selfies more bothersome. Some people had gone in just to sit and fiddle with their phones.

We went to a restaurant very near to the hotel called Le Dix. I sat at the wrong table with an 80 year old bigot. What fun. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who found his opinions didn’t go down well. He was anti vegetarians and vegans. Kept repeating the same “joke” endlessly, about 10 times. Made unsatisfactory comments about queers.

For my dinner I had veggie quiche, aubergine tomato cheese thing, would be great on cold winter day! Fruit tart. Small glass of beer courtesy of my new Welsh friend Adrian.

On Eurostar
Never forget

Strasbourg

Strasbourg cathedral

Sunday

Nice buffet breakfast. Fruit, yoghurt, rye bread, cheese, tomato, juice, coffee. This turned out to be the best breakfast of the holiday.

Trotted off to Les Ponts Couverts which I expected to be enclosed but they were not. Perhaps they had been in the past. It was nice walking before it got too hot. I tagged onto a random tour group briefly. At a bakery the leader said this is where I buy my bread, it’s very good, there was a queue out the door so I got a sandwich from them which was ok.

Returned to hotel to reconvene. We got on a very comfortable train to Basel, then crossed on foot into Switzerland at last, got stern looks from the frontier guards.

Train 2 took us Interlaken Ost. From there train 3 to Lauterbrunnen and then the smallest train up up up to Wengen. No vehicles are allowed in the village except for the electric truck that took all the bags and some of the less mobile people up to the Grand Hotel Belvedere which is grand to look at. They let a few small vans in but no private vehicles.

My room is on the top floor, fabulous views, top notch for cleanliness, lovely clean air, smell of woodsmoke. I actually felt something like happy. The first time. The windows are the worst yet for safety.

Dinner was a help yourself buffet, I had salad, pasta and creamy veg, cheese and dark bread. Ok but not haut cuisine.

Monday

Breakfast buffet, I had fruit (tinned, WTF?!) and yoghurt, cheese and bread and coffee.

I walked through the village, getting cash on the way. The co-op for salad and a nectarine.

I set off for Wengernalp but it was hot so I got halfway and hopped on the train at Allmend. Had a conversation entirely in German giving some directions to an elderly woman. At Wengernalp (1880 m) I wandered about until I found a quiet bench to eat my salad. The salad was very boring, needed a dressing. I found the dressing sachet at the bottom of the box, so the last third was ok. I started to walk back down and chatted to a Swiss woman keen to practise her English. Then I met a young Canadian who was an absolute delight. We took photos for each other. She restored my faith in humanity. I got back to Allmend and got the train back from there.

Bimbled about. Lipton’s apple and cinnamon tea in my room.

Dinner: salads, quiche and gnocchi and green beans, fruit mousse.

Went with Jude and Chris to sit near the church and watch the sun go down on the mountain. Popped in church, immediate feeling of calm and peace. Watched hang glider come down off mountain in rapidly failing light, bit scary to watch but we think they landed ok.

Enormous fireplace in the hotel

Allmend station

Tuesday

After breakfast of fruit and yoghurt and a boiled egg, we went up to Männlichen by big cable car from Wengen. I then walked another 100m of ascent to the peak at 2345m. Back down to the village to catch the train to Lauterbrunnen. From Lauterbrunnen to Zweilütschinen, from Zweilütschinen to Grindelwald. I popped in the co-op for another salad and then through the village to the small but very long cable car rising from 1034m to 2168m. I had my picnic at the top, did a bit of the “cliff walk” a metal path dangling over precipitous drops and then back down, getting a car to myself. As I got into the car an alarm went off and a man ran across to the controls. The alarm stopped and I went off down the mountain. A car coming up contained Tony and we waved at each other. He later told me that on his descent, there was an announcement about a problem and that passengers were to remain calm in the cars. The upshot of this story is that nothing further happened and he was safely brought to land without having to dangle. However this is one of my worst nightmares!

Back in Grindelwald I had my first ever iced coffee, it was ok, not sure if I want lots more of them but it worked well in the heat.

Too hot so I, and others from our party, took the train to Kleine Scheidigg and then another back to Wengen.

Salad, goulash, mousse. Sat with Adrian and Mark outside.

Indeed!

Falling

I am falling. Falling about, falling down, falling out, falling over, falling to pieces, falling to bits, falling apart. Falling through, falling in love, falling out of love. Falling to my death. La chute. I am felled. Falling off, falling out. Fall back. Falling away, falling asleep. Fallen by the wayside. Fall behind, fall in. Falling from grace, falling from disgrace. Fell for you.

Half a year

Bruce is singing Living in the Future, from 2009, about what was going on in the USA then. Catchy song, good for dancing.

I started dancing then remembered and felt guilty. I thought about dancing outside, dancing on the beach. The final scene of Longtime Companion. I’ve also been singing but the guilt rushes in, I shouldn’t be singing and dancing. I don’t want the pain, I want the pain. I’m messy, confused. Longtime Companion caused buckets of tears when I first saw it in the 90s. I still think it’s a good movie and was needed then and no not perfect but what is?

I’m grateful for the love of family and friends that has kept me alive, literally. It feels odd that I am alive and Carol is not. I still have not really got used to this truth. It jars.

I took my first multi day trip away. Bathed in the loving kindness of Sophy, Jo, Liz, Ariel and Tracey. I can do this. It was good to be away from the house which is so bound up with Carol, how could it not be? Coming home and she was neither with me nor waiting for me. I had 6 days with few tears but they didn’t take long to reappear. Home is also full of Chris so it’s quite a sad place to be. I wouldn’t want them not to be here.

Now I’m almost bored with bereavement blues blog. Not sure I have anything much more to say. Time to ease off a bit. Maybe.

Dave Royle

Dave died the day the Manchester bomb went off (15th June 1996). I was in the bath in my 6th floor flat in Salford. The bath literally wobbled from side to side. I asked Carol what had happened and she said “there was a gust of wind”. Not a leaf was moving outside.

Dave had been caught up in the Harrods bomb and I think he died pretty much around the time the Manchester bomb went off. One of his books was called “A Controlled Explosion“.

When I met Dave he was firing on all cylinders, fired up and fiery. In 1976 we both rocked up to West Suffolk College of Further Education or Bury Tech, with friends Jo and Tom. I was in awe of them because they were already a very established couple then and they really really are today.

Dave and I had an intense short fling. We were both hot for each other. Lots of fireworks. We played Joni Mitchell’s Hejira and Abba’s Knowing me, knowing you. I didn’t know what a Dancing Queen was but I was about to find out. I was heartbroken on the other Queen’s Silver Jubilee to find out Dave didn’t want to continue with our affair, I thought my world had come to an end. The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen was not to be played at Bury Corn Exchange that year because they were banned. In the Tech we were spinning Steve Miller Fly like an Eagle and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

We remained friends, we wandered round Bury, drinking beer, sometimes with Rodney and others from the Tech. We had a brief, very brief spell with the Liberal party. He bought me tiny China cups from a junk shop and I still have them. Dave was tall, handsome and slightly bandy legged. I was a long haired hippy with a maroon cord jacket, jeans and cowboy boots, not even sure how to do a halfway house to queer. I wanted boys and I wanted girls.

One time, in Great Livermere, we entered the unoccupied vicarage (which had once been home to M. R. James, ghost story writer and of whom I was later to find that Carol was a great devotee). I got hit on the nose by a jack in the box disguised as a tin of cigars.

After Tech, Dave set off for Cambridge to continue with his love of English and wanting to write. He introduced me to the 451 club on Newmarket Road. I saw drag queens for the first time plus the rowers on the floor for The Gap Band’s Oops Upside Your Head (I didn’t want to get on the floor then, let alone at any time after). By this time it was obvious what Dave was wanting and getting.

We’d meet up at Christmas, Pat and Ken, Dave and Helen’s parents always so welcoming to me. Dave would grumble away in the background, always wanting something more, something else. After Dave died Pat and Ken continued to invite me to their home until they themselves died. I miss them too.

During the Cambridge years, Dave and I took a trip to Ireland. We hitchhiked, got drunk, picked up a stray dog, got soaked many times and had an experience with Dermot near Shannon airport, nylon sheets, and masses of generosity to complete strangers. On the way back, we were extensively searched and questioned by border controls because it was the day that Mountbatten was murdered, 27th August 1979. Dave later wrote up this trip into a novel called I Smell Burning. It was his last book and we tried unsuccessfully to get it published. It took a while to convert Dave’s Amstrad floppy disks to that printer paper on a reel with holes down the sides then from that to regular A4. Once on that I scanned it all in and then had usable files, however I had to use optical character recognition to tidy them up as they’d got a bit scrambled in all the conversions. Eventually I got it onto Kindle. It hasn’t made any money but it’s there.

Dave went to London to pursue his dreams, writing for magazines, proper writing, and politicking and having sex all over the place. I’d gone to uni in Cardiff and was having lots of sex with guys and then with girls. We drifted apart. Our meetups became much more occasional.

It must have been ’94 or early ’95 when I got the phone call from him. I knew what he was going to say before he said it.

I spent a weekend with Dave a few months before he died. He’d said to me way back when that he didn’t want to have anything wrong with his brain. So that’s what AIDS did for him, a bloody bomb in his head. That weekend he was seriously out of control, partly AIDS, partly fear. He was funny, he was awful. He was beautiful, he was scared.

After Dave died, some of Dave’s long term friends and his family kept up a June picnic on Hampstead Heath for 10 years. We’d scattered his ashes there in a place that gave him pleasure on a very windy day, some of us getting eyefuls and mouthfuls of Dave. What’s new pussycat?

Dave wrote:

Maybe, a short story in Oranges and Lemons 1987

Pleasing the Punters 1990

Pictures of Sand, a short story in Fabulous Tricks 1992, which he co-edited

A Controlled Explosion 1993

I Smell Burning probably written in 1995

Five months

What a surprise, five months, stuck on my eyes

(apology to David Bowie)

Some good and some less good things

I was with Carol’s brother, Paul and I said one of Carol’s catchphrases and it was like she was there. Funny and sad, mostly funny.

I no longer have to compromise, I now make all my own decisions, good or bad, quickly or slowly, big or small.

I can do anything I want, if I wanted to get on a plane tomorrow I can do that.

I am sleeping a bit better, my new bed is really comfy.

The leg forced me to slow down and I think I’ve learnt that I don’t need to rush round like a “demented pootle” (Victoria Wood). Things will happen in their own good time.

I know what I don’t want: a dog, a cat, to do Airbnb, to have a lodger.

I love my house and am going to stay in it as long as I want.

I’ve still got quite a lot of things to do in the house, sorting out both Carol’s and my books, other assorted objects and reconfiguring how I use the space. It will take a while and that’s good as I need and want to be occupied. But I don’t want a job!

I’ve been thinking about friends who died too soon, Dave Royle 15th June 1996 and Wendy Ingham 17th June 1997. Both 36, Dave to AIDS, Wendy to nut poisoning. They both changed the world. Dave gave us books reflecting our gay lives and Wendy’s death directly led to nut allergy labelling and a wider public awareness about food allergies.

Rehabilitating my badly injured ankle has got me out walking every single day. I’ve started to meet my neighbours and that’s been very pleasant. The ones I’ve talked to all knew and liked Carol. I’ve done a bit of litter picking along the routes I travel and today was thanked by a passer by.

Dave and Paul and I planted some of Carol’s ashes yesterday. It felt like the right time and it was just us which was right too. We put them next to the ashes of Dave’s mother, Joyce, and Dave’s sister, Liz. Liz was Joyce’s second child to die before she did. So many people who have gone, the people who made up our lives.

Because Carol was not well and I was working we didn’t have much of a social life especially not in the last few years so now I have to build one up and that’s quite hard and sometimes I think I can’t be arsed.

I’m so very tired a lot of the time. In the past I would just keep going, I felt I had no choice when I was trying to keep us in a semblance of normality. Now I have to stop, I can’t plough on relentlessly. Crash instead.

Every day that passes is a day further away from Carol. It’s inevitable but I don’t want it. Carol gave me one of Tristan Gooley‘s books last Christmas, I want her to know that I met him on Friday and what a nice guy he is.

I miss physical contact.

I’m lonely. Sometimes I’m lonely when I’m with people.

Thankfully I like my own company.

My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people.

David Bowie

Three wise monkeys at Dove Stone reservoir, having just planted some of Carol’s ashes