Blog

Rules for a new life

Widowhood is throwing up unforseen aspects for my consideration.

Loneliness. I’d read about the lonely husbands and wives deserted by their friends, especially their friends in couples. And it’s ok, that’s not an issue. The friends I want and need are those who have stepped up and some are indeed in couples. At the moment what I’m missing is someone with whom to share the trivia of my life. Well, hello Facebook!

Dog. I need a dog. Even my GP suggested a dog. What you have to know is that I don’t like dogs. I don’t want to be face licked or jumped on (by a dog) and I want to be able to come and go according to me. I’m happy for you to have a dog or even dogs. That’s not the issue.

Work. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Work mates are great, especially the ones you still really want to see when you’re not working. But driving in the dark, 4 hour meetings, endless emails about blah blah blah. I have too much to do for me and I am my own boss now.

Angels. These are vital. R said he has 2 angels who look out for him and who are there when he needs them. I have my own 2 angels.

Birthday. I worried about having a first (61st) birthday with no gifts on the day. L said “No problem, Carol will still give you a gift, just you have to buy it”. Perfect. So I have a dvd to watch, new Levi 501s and some CKs.

I can break the patterns. F said I can do just what I want. I can change my mind. F said “don’t do anything you don’t want to do”.

And that’s what friends are for. Here’s Liz reading Neil Bartlett on that very topic.

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Bereft

Bereaved, bereft. Cast adrift. The weft (and the fairly warped) are untangling.

28 days after Carol has died and of course I’m still walking around the too quiet house weeping and wailing, talking to him, he’s not saying anything, talking to the stuffed toys who talk back.

Officially this trip started on January 14th. It had already started when I didn’t know if I was coming home to dead Carol or sleeping Carol and that was back near the end of 2017. We were no longer 2 individuals but joined differently with a radically altered connection, skewed, warped.

Today I thought about baking bread, tears because I’d said I would make more bread as he liked the Christmas bread so much. And this is how it works.

Mostly my thoughts are back to the beginning, when we were young and good looking and full of life and sex.

I’m full up of labels, I became a widow(er) when I registered the death. On the same day my job ended and I became what? retired? not by choice. Unemployed? yes, but I do still have part time work. Cast adrift, in no man’s land. The space is immense. The vastness overwhelming. During the 2 weeks of Carol’s unconsciousness before he died, I became a wife and so did he. We’d never been wives before in our marriage. It wasn’t the right time to have a discussion about the labels, I was glad to be a wife that was fine in those moments. After Carol died in the hospital bed, immediately after, I was excommunicated entirely when the senior sister nominated Carol’s best friend Dave as his/her partner. And failed to apologise profusely, or even just a tiny little bit. Written out completely, no label at all. I so needed that label, just at that moment.

North Ballachulish 2

Wednesday 7th November

Fruit and yoghurt. Poached egg and beans. And a croissant. Not quite low cholesterol.

Met up with Karl Griffin who owns the Ballachulish Information Centre, the fish and chip shop and the hardware shop and is a professional photographer. It was very wet and windy. We went to 3 different locations and I learnt a few things but now feel I’ve got lots more to learn and need to keep practising.

After the session I went to the Onich red squirrel feeding post and watched squirrels for ages. I took some awful photos and then something clicked and I managed to get some half decent shots.

Back at Alltshellach, I dried off and then went out again with a view to taking more photos but it rained so hard I gave in and returned for a very hot shower and a cup of tea.

Dinner of pate, goats cheese tarts with green veg and potatoes, lemon pie with ice cream.

The HF quiz. The team I was in came second.

I’ve managed not to think too much about work today. If I’m not working there will be more time for doing all the boring domestic things and not having to cram them all into 1 day, taking photos, going hiking, hopefully leading for HF.

Thursday 8th November

Another wet looking morning. But then it cleared so I drove to Oban and had a look round. I went there on a family road trip back in 1970. It was very wet then and we went to pictures and saw Waterloo which at the age of 12 was extremely boring. Now I’d just have a nice sleep but then it seemed pointless. I looked for the cinema but it was demolished in the 70s and is now shops and flats.

I got diesel in Tescos for £1.34 a litre, better than the eye watering £1.39 elsewhere. Went to Sutherland’s Grove at Barcaldine. It has lots of Douglas firs. I walked around and went up to a reservoir – Glen Dubh Lochan, it’s quite big and has a great sluice.

Then I went to Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve and had another little walk round there. This was enough for me, I’m so tired still and Ben Nevis will have to wait for another day if at all, there are lots of lovely walks in this area.

Dinner of apple juice, braised beef, mash and veg, Scottish cheese and biscuits.

Oban

Alltshellach
Connell bridge

From Glen Dubh

Sluice at Glen Dubh. Do NOT swim here.

North Ballachulish November 2018

5th November

7 hour journey including 4 stops. It took 2 hours (usually just 1) to get to Lancaster services where I had double espresso and granola yoghurt breakfast. Then another double espresso at Abington services. A woman tapped on my car door and asked if I liked my car! Once I’d recovered from the shock she was very friendly if a bit odd. Stopped for lunch somewhere on the side of Loch Lomond and then the loo at Tyndrum. Arrived at HF Glen Coe at 14.45.

Huge room with en suite bathroom. Tea and small piece of cake and one small shortbread. Out for little walk around the grounds and Loch Leven with Steve (leader, but everyone is doing self guided).

Back to house. I am now officially at risk of redundancy. Past caring.

Dinner: apple juice, grilled chicken salad, cheese and oatcakes.

Quiz but didn’t win.

Not one firework to be heard, bliss!

Tuesday 6th

Muesli, apple and yoghurt. Sausage, poached egg and beans.

Drove back along the A82 and parked up. I cut the walk route by not walking along the side of the A82, saved lots of kilometres. Walked up the West Highland Way about 350m to a col, this is part of the old military road network made by General Wade, although this section was done by his successor. The road is over 250 years old and was part of the Brits exerting control over the pesky highlanders. I turned right at the col onto a less distinct path to the summit of Beinn Bheag. Good views although a lot of low cloud around. Back down and then an espresso in the Clachaig Inn which is/was used by mountaineers. Drove through old Glencoe village, and Ballachulish village. I now know where the diesel and the Coop are. Then a scenic drive along and around Loch Leven and through Kinlochleven (another Coop and a leisure centre with a climbing wall and an ice wall).

I’ve seen more about the restructures at work and am cross. 15 years of loyal service and now I’m surplus to requirements. It’s not personal, of course it bloody is.

The house has an indoor pool so I popped in for a swim. It was nearly dark and there was a man in the pool. He told me he was naked and asked if I minded and I said I didn’t so we just chatted away. It was nice of him to tell me, I can’t actually see much without my specs on so I probably wouldn’t have noticed unless I’d seen him get out with his dingly dangly bits.

Missing Chris as much as ever. It’s when I’m out in the mountains that I feel it a lot. She would have gone a bit quiet over the boggy bits though, she hated bog and boy did we get in a lot of bogs.

Dinner of Scotch broth, sausages with veg and mash, hot plums and berries with a tiny bit of a sort of custard.

Quiz, the group I was in didn’t win again.

Looking back up towards Rannoch Moor

Footpath to Beinn Bheag

Loch Leven, towards Kinlochleven

Loch Leven looking towards Ballachulish

Loch Leven

GPS Training 13/10/2018

Carol was in hospital waiting for surgery to repair her failed new fistula graft. Storm Callum and I was on my way to the Lake District after work. On the way I passed a tree that had fallen and squashed a car, miraculously no-one was hurt. Because I had to pass Tebay services, I also had to get out in the teeming rain and buy provisions for the next day. And also because it was a ritual that Chris and I stopped at Tebay whenever we could.

I got to Mosedale End Farm B&B just after 6. It’s beyond Mungrisdale (pronounced mung as in bean and Grizedale as in Grizedale). There is more road beyond the farm but it felt like the end of the line. The farm backs onto Carrock Fell which looms steeply over it. I’d like to return to climb the fell especially as the B&B is fully geared up for walkers with an honesty fridge full of sandwiches and various other snacks, and a boot room.

I rang Carol who had finally had the surgery. After settling in, I drove the 2 km back to Mungrisdale. It was very dark by then and very wet. The Mill Inn was quiet. Chris and I came here back in 2011 but it felt like yesterday despite the weather being totally different. And that time we stopped at Tebay on the way home after summitting Grisedale (with an s) Pike! I had a chicken curry which was fine and some Cumbria Way beer, very good beer. Carol and I came to Bowscale Tarn in 2010 but not the pub.

Back to the B&B to watch Never Say Never Again. And never watch it again either. Twice is too many times.

Good breakfast is somewhat dark and gloomy room. Lots to eat, homemade bread. I had a poached egg and baked beans. JoAnne was a good hostess and let me get on with what I needed to do, i.e. get to the course on time.

It was still raining very heavily but I only had to go the 2km to Mungrisdale Village Hall. There were 6 of us on the course, run by Andy of GPS Training. I’d recently bought a Satmap GPS device and the course was just for Satmap GPS units. Andy was excellent and knew his way round the 3 different models. It was raining so much the river rose during the day so we only went out briefly a couple of times. I can’t fault the training and now feel much more in command of the unit and what it can do. There’s also a year of access to an online resource. Andy has done loads of video resources to answer any possible question you might have!!

I had a short chat with Carol before leaving for home. It had been a good use of my time as she was out of action, but I was nagged by the underlying anxiety of the surgery.

I got home Saturday evening and then broke Carol out the next day. Surgery successful.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.
MAPandCOMPASS

 

 

 

North Yorkshire September 2018

Tuesday 11th

Carol and I had a few days away, staying at Cundall Lodge Farm B&B. This was a lovely place and Caroline welcomed us with Victoria sponge and tea.

On our first evening we ate at The Oak Tree pub in Helperby, just minutes down the road. Carol had leek tartlets and I had a burger and beer without a bun. Food was fine.

Wednesday 12th

We went to Thirsk and Carol gave her new walking device a good pavement test. Cobbles, paving slabs and bumpy bits to assist blind people at road crossings are not great for it, but tarmac is fine. Despite these obstacles, C moved around well and covered much bigger distances than just using the walking stick. As we went back to the car, 2 women drove their cars into each other. Weirdly a police incident van saw it all happen and was definitely in the right place at the right time to sort it all out. Fortunately the drivers knew each other and it was all relatively friendly. I managed to get my car out of the way of it all.

In the afternoon we went to Shandy Hall in Coxwold, this was fairly bonkers. We thought we might be the only visitors to such a niche place of interest but there were nearly 30 people plus all their cars, for which there isn’t sufficient room. I ended up parking half on and half off the pavement which did not please me at all but I was asked to do this by the curator. The curator of the Laurence Sterne trust also lives in the hall which is named after the character in the book. He clearly loves Sterne a great deal and he gave us a good performance. I looked him up and he was once an actor. Laurence Sterne seemed really irritating and I have no wish at all to read the blasted book. But I still enjoyed looking round the house which was lovely. We both like going to places that aren’t sanitised. Speaking of which they had an outside loo which took me back to my childhood!

After the hall, we went in the church of which the adulterous Sterne had been the incumbent. It has an octagonal tower which was fab. Then, in a new move for us, we sent straight to the Fauconberg Arms for an early dinner (rather than going back to the B&B and out again which is what we usually do). This works much better for me as I don’t like eating late on. Carol had a half portion of fish and chips which still looked pretty big and I had chicken in a hunter sauce. Both fine.

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Laurence Sterne’s outside loo

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Coxwold church

Thursday 13th

In the morning we went to Helmsley, this was much better for Carol moving around with the walking machine because the pavements are made of tarmac.

The afternoon took us to Mount Grace Priory which is operated by English Heritage but owned by the National Trust. It’s a Carthusian priory and the monks had individual cells. In my head I thought this meant something of the size of a prison cell so small, cramped and not very nice but actually it means a house. Each monk had a bedroom, study, sitting room, huge workroom upstairs bigger than my sitting room, a garden and an outside loo.

As I walked down the very narrow, oddly pitched, weird riser height and somewhat polished wooden stairs, complete with a notice saying to go down backwards which I had wilfully ignored, I slipped and in the moment of trying not to fall, managed to hurt my leg, thumb and big toe. The leg and thumb recovered quickly but the big toe, which bent over on itself, is now black and blue.

The manor house was originally the monastery’s guest house but was done up 100 years ago or so in the Arts and Crafts style. There are only a few rooms to see and they’ve been restored very recently so don’t expect too much here.

We then headed to the Angel in Topcliffe, just minutes from the B&B, for our dinner. C had tomato soup and I had goat’s cheese and mediterranean veg tart. OK but not the best pub food.

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Mount Grace priory

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Reconstructed monk’s cell

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Enormous work room for the monk

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Monk’s outside loo

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Manor house

Lofoten Islands Part 3

Monday 27th

Today we got on the bus with our nice driver to go to Fiskebol. Drove onto the ferry for the half hour trip to Melbu on Hadseloya.

A good walk on a different island. Slowly going up to a lake which had cabins that seemed only accessible by boat but maybe there was a hidden track up there. Then the rain arrived just as we stopped for lunch. The first rain that landed on me so far this trip despite this being a very rainy place.

We went up to a small summit for some great 360 views. Then on a wet boggy soggy path back down to Melbu.

Bus, ferry to hotel. I turned up the bathroom floor heating to 40. Hot feet! The hotel is totally unprepared for walkers, so all drying is done in the rooms. All the rooms are the same size so I’m fine but this must be very tight for those who are sharing, especially with lots of wet gear.

No plug in the washbasin, I didn’t bring mine, thinking Norway, plug, no don’t be ridiculous. Wrong. Making do with the top of my deodorant. We have sensor controlled taps which are also most annoying when you are trying to fill the basin.

We think this is an owl’s feather

On Barheia

Svolvaer

Tuesday 28th

We walked about 10 minutes to the ferry to take us to Skrova. About a 25 minute journey from Svolvaer. My friend Inger tells me her great great grandmother came from Skrova. It’s a very lovely island and a working island dedicated to the fish, although that work has finished now for the season.

We walked first to a jetty and looked out to sea, then to a beach with jellyfish, I hadn’t seen any before, they are most odd and look so harmless. While we were there a pair of sea eagles did several fly pasts.

Next to a small viewpoint so we could get a good 360 view from the island, magnificent.

Then to another amazing spot for lunch, looking at sea and rocks.

We went to the tunnels to see a photographic exhibition of island life. Finished up with a hot chocolate (this one nice) in a cafe at the harbour while we waited for the ferry back.

A woman passed us on a bicycle holding a bunch of flowers, she stopped and offered them to us to smell. Honeysuckle and a deep blue lavender. Such a lovely thing to do.

Packing.

Dinner, and prolonged farewells. I am very glad to have met Penny and John, they helped me to have a lovely holiday.

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Skrova

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Looking back to Svolvaer

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Cat man, why so many cats?

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Wednesday 29th

Up at 5 and horribly conscious that this will be 4 later on. On bus at 6. Linda helped me to get my bag down the stairs. Breakfast boxes to take on the bus. I opted for veggie but this seems to be simply carrots, radish, cucumber, apple. Did a swop of orange for cheese. Boxes then supplemented with further boxes of bread and jam. Coffee to take out.

  • Coach 2.5 hours to Evenes airport
  • Plane 1.5 hours to Oslo
  • Plane 2 hours to Heathrow
  • Tube 1 hour to King’s Cross
  • Train 2.25 hours to Leeds
  • Train 1 hour to Sowerby Bridge
  • Taxi 15 mins home

A long day and cream crackered, but fantastic that in 15.5 hours I can get from above the Arctic circle to home. Arrived just after 8.30.

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From the bus