This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

4 Months

1375086_10201809228809054_2135223956_n_102018092288090544 months - 122 days. How did that happen. Two more of these and Trev will have been gone a whole year. That seems incomprehensible. I still ponder sometimes, did all that really happen - the day, the phone calls, the organising, the funeral? He’s never coming back? It did of course and he’s not.

This months photo is from October 2013 I think at the Caravan & Camping show at the NEC and the first Twitter Beer O’clock. Trev embraced our (then) new found interest in caravanning with such passion and loved meeting other tweeting caravanners. Over a beer of course.

Friday, 16 November 2018

A Single Life | Loose Ends

Hello again and welcome back.

It’s now nearly three months since I began my new life as a single person back home in the flat and in this blog post I thought I’d take a look at how things seem to be going - from my perspective anyway.

Practically I’m certainly getting on ok. The flat is clean and mostly tidy, the freezer is full of pre-prepared meals, so much so that only this week I picked up a second-hand table top freezer so I can increase my menu choices and have plenty of room to pick up some bargains.

There were times in our relationship when I thought to myself that I’m doing everything in this bloody house - and I can guarantee that Trev on occasion would have felt the same. However, when there  really is just you doing it all it’s noticeable how chores do eat in to your free time. Most of my working days are long but I do have pockets of time in which I can pop home for an hour or so and it’s these periods that I try and get stuff done, be it a quick hoover, emptying the washing machine or cooking a batch of something. It’s my idea to try and keep weekends free to get on with stuff I enjoy and that’s been working quite well.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t been going so well is sleep. Whilst I’m getting off to sleep ok I’m also invariably waking early and can’t get back, feeling tired all day as a result. I’m reluctant to take anything, conscious that I have to get up early to drive and want to be alert for that. There has been the odd night that’s been better so I’m hoping that’s a sign things are starting to improve but whilst - as I mentioned above - I’m getting on with household chores - and my job - the tiredness is definitely having an impact elsewhere. I have a number of videos to edit for my caravanning YouTube channel but currently find it hard to concentrate on them. Having said that, last nights sleep wasn’t too bad so it’s my plan, after finishing this and a coffee to get stuck in.

Recently too I’ve also taken the big step of clearing out Trev’s clothes. I’d been ready for a while but a cancelled sports run meant a free Friday morning so I decided it was time to get on with it. I chose Martlets Hospice who have a big shop just a few miles along the road and they were happy to take all his stuff assuring me none of it will be wasted. His numerous pairs of spectacles went in the Lions collection point in our local GP’s surgery and will be re-used probably abroad. It was always my wish that as little as possible of his stuff would be wasted.

In fact in terms of getting rid of stuff there is just his push bike left and I’m hoping to deal with that this week. It’s nothing special and years old - what we used to call a mountain bike I guess, but it still goes and probably only needs a couple of tyres to get it up to scratch.

The tidying of Trev’s financial affairs are about complete. A letter advising the death in service benefit arranged by the college arrived on Friday and I can now go ahead and close his bank account. And that, I think will be it. Done and dusted. Weird.

Whether these recent events have had any bearing on how I feel I can’t say for sure, but I’m aware of changes in the last couple of weeks. The waves of grief that I’ve often mentioned have been rather benign of late, unless they’ve been encouraged. You see I’ve found myself a couple of times a week or so drawn to do things that I know will bring the tears - reading the transcript of the celebrants oratory at the funeral, ditto the two lovely addresses at the memorial and of course listening to the music. Twenty minutes to half an hour give or take when the emotion is as raw and intense as the day Trev died. And then I’m ok - exhausted but ok. In addition there have been days when I haven’t done this but felt generally low - getting on with the job but not really wanting human interaction.

There’s been a definite shift in my emotions and I mentioned this to someone privately who steered my in the direction of a book that I now have on order. It’s called ‘On Grief & Grieving’  by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler. Both are well regarded in their field and having read reviews and a sample chapter I think it might go some way to helping my understand my feelings and how and why they are changing.

I am too, contemplating for the first time thinking of seeking some help - someone professional I can talk to. I know many of you have said you will listen  - and thank you for that - but it wouldn’t feel right or fair unloading my innermost thoughts on to people I know. I’ll see how it goes after I’ve read this book.

Right, enough. I’m going to call an end to the Single Life series now. It’s main purpose was to talk about how things have changed now I’m on my own and I don’t think there’ll be anything much new to tell, it’s now just a case of getting on with it.

There’s one thing for sure though and something that’s been brought home to me in the last couple of weeks is that it’s going to be a long old journey. Where it’s exactly going I don’t know and where or if it will end I don’t know. It’s not a journey I wanted to take and it’s not one I relish but - using motorway terminology - the only turn off is one that I have never contemplated. Life must go on after all.

Cheers

Rich





Thursday, 1 November 2018

A Single Life | Getting There

Well, it's been a while, not least because of half-term and being away in Patsy, so I'm going to try and have a bit of a catch up before getting around to anything else.

The weekend before half-time term long time friend Pauline came to stay at the flat. Pauline holds the dubious honour of being the first guest since we moved in some five years ago, although not by design. We bought a fold-up bed for just such occasions but sold it in the spring entirely unused. Fortunately Pauline was happy to make do with the sofa and to be fair it is very comfortable - particularly when you're nursing the occasional hangover...

And what a lovely weekend we had and it was so nice to have the company of someone in the flat again. We've known each other long enough to not have to make conversation for the sake of it but both just enjoying the presence of another. We did get out and about - a bit of sightseeing at Seaford Head - something Trev and I should have done more of, the cinema - something we used to do a lot, and out for a curry - something we never did!

The day after school finished for half-term we had a first aid refresher course - we do it every 2-3 years. I wasn’t relishing the prospect of it, particularly where we would have to practice CPR on a dummy. I was worried about my emotional reaction to it given that I’d had to do it for real in the summer. However I had a quiet word with the instructor beforehand and we decided that we’d do it in private as soon as the others had gone to lunch. In fact I needn’t have worried and was even able to give the odd pointer about how the 999 operator would talk someone through the procedure if need be. Overall it was a positive experience, however there was another all enveloping wave that night - short but pretty intense - and the following night too. A subconscious reaction maybe. Who knows?

The time away in Patsy however was overwhelmingly positive, it being my first completely solo trip. Ok, not entirely because for the first part there were some friends and family on site and I was meeting up with others on the second. However it proved two very important things - the first being that I CAN caravan on my own by choice - unlike when it was forced on me in the summer. The second is that I can enjoy it. Very much. It will never be the same of course but still be fulfilling. In a way this trip was as important as our very first one six and a half years ago. The only downside was the flat felt extremely empty the first night back, but I suppose that’s inevitable.

On both the weekend with Pauline and when away in the ‘van though there was that nagging feeling that I should have been sharing those times with Trev, how much better they could have been with him and how sad it was that he’d never get the chance to enjoy them.

Right, to the title ‘Getting There’. I’ve used the phrase a number of times myself in person an online - when someone asks how I’m doing, I say “getting there”. Then one day a friend asked “Where is ‘there’?” Good point. Where is ‘there’?

If ‘there’ surviving? Going to work, managing the flat and domestic chores? Yes, I’m certainly doing that.

If ‘there’ is feeling mostly ok, getting on with life, then yes, I’m ‘there’. Mostly. I can find pleasure in doing things - like caravanning, reading, music etc. But I am still alone and there are times when that inevitably hits real hard.

Is ‘there’ being able to move on, look to the future and a new relationship - a new ‘Trev’? I’m only 47 after all but right now sharing my life with anyone else is not something I could begin to consider. There’s only one person I’d share my life with right now and he’s gone.

I have a great circle of friends and work colleagues - and great family in my cousin and his - and that’s enough for the foreseeable future. I’m sure as time moves on my feelings will change but right now I can cope with being single - I can function as a single person and embrace certain aspects of it too. So in many respects I am ‘there’.

It’s been a funny old day. Felt fine for most of it but after dropping some kids off this afternoon I had a spare hour and felt the need to park up somewhere quiet and put on some sad songs with tears the inevitable consequence. The subconscious telling me I need to let it out again, to relieve the pressure, because that’s how I see it. Opening the safety valve. Again who knows?

So, quite a short one this time. Thanks as always if you’ve got this far.

Cheers

Rich



3 Months

03Three months. "We are family. I've got all my sisters with me" sang Sister Sledge in their disco classic and is the perfect accompaniment to this lovely photo. Here's Trev with sisters Rosemary, Margaret Lawler, Mary Webdale and Mum Hilda aka HRH. Early nineties I think.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A Single Life | A busy weekend

Welcome back. I hope you’re all good. As another weekend approaches I thought it was about time I recalled the important and exciting events of last weekend whilst they’re still reasonably fresh.20181005_141454
The weekend started, for me anyway, on Friday afternoon which was of course Trev’s Memorial service at our workplace; Brighton College. My afternoon sports run and home run to Eastbourne had been kindly covered so I could make the most of the occasion. And yes, have a beer or two. At 3:15pm I took my place after entering the chapel accompanied by many of my colleagues in Transport. Some of course had work to do and simply couldn’t be there. The opportunity to wear my trusty leather jeans to school for once was too good a one to pass up and I was extremely proud to wear Trev’s badges and lanyard from his time at Pre-Prep, Security & Transport.
Proceedings were opened with and conducted superbly by our Chaplain Father Robert and there were readings of poems by friends and colleagues.
The first address was by Steve Marshall-Taylor, one of the Deputy Heads here at the college and someone with whom Trev worked very closely on Open Mornings. It was a wonderful speech, humorous yet heartfelt and showed very clearly in what high regard Trev was held by someone very close to the top of the tree. You’ll find a copy of his speech HERE.
The second address was given by Stephen Sparshatt, a member of the security team and also someone that Trev worked alongside many times. Entertaining and again it demonstrated Trev’s popularity amongst his colleagues. I thought both speeches were superb and summed up Trev very well indeed. Stephen’s speech is HERE.
Order of Service:
Trev - Memorial Order of Service-page-001Trev - Memorial Order of Service-page-002Trev - Memorial Order of Service-page-003
Trev - Memorial Order of Service-page-004Trev - Memorial Order of Service-page-005Trev - Memorial Order of Service-page-006
There was a gathering afterwards with drinks and sandwiches and a fine example of talking to the right people was evident in the bottles of real ale lined up on the counter. It was nice to have the opportunity to catch up with those at the service including several caravanners, friends in Brighton, parents from the Pre-Prep where Trev was Caretaker and some colleagues too.
I would like at this point to thank the college and all involved for putting on such a lovely service. It means an awful lot to know that Trev was held in such high regard.
The erm, research continued for another hour or so at a nearby pub before heading back to a friends for some sustenance because during all the chin wagging I’d completely forgotten to eat anything.
Probably not surprisingly another tidal wave of grief hit that night, fuelled no doubt by the events of the day, ale and some music. It passed quickly though and I felt better by the time I headed for bed.
Saturday saw me - after a couple of hours work - or as I call it, Patsy time vouchers - head to Colchester for the night ready for the christening of cousin Andy’s youngest grandson on Sunday. the journey was pretty miserable to be honest but only because of the appalling weather and traffic. Rosie, our - sorry, my - trusty red Honda, for once unencumbered by a tonne and a half of caravan on the back - was unable to show what she was capable of. 
Having checked in at the nearby Premier Andy picked me up and enjoyed a very pleasant few hours at their places, Janet serving up a superb roast beef dinner later on, before settling down to guess - mostly wrongly it has to be said - the judges scores on Strictly.
Sunday morning was the christening and it was at the church at Stratford St Mary, just across the border in Suffolk. Andy & Janet got married there, as did their eldest Sarah and her son Braydon.
Most who know me will know that I don’t do religion in any form - and never have. So I’ll be honest that I found some of the time in church just a little uncomfortable, hearing the prayers and words of praise was difficult to reconcile with recent events. But, this wasn’t about me and I was delighted to be there with Sarah & Derek on what was an important and happy occasion for them and all concerned.
I am also happy to report that the two piece suit I wore for the funeral became three as thanks to shifting a few pounds the waistcoat now fitted. Yes, the suit was black but the shirt and tie wasn’t!
With the service over there was another important event that required our attendance - myself and Andy’s anyway. Young Braydon’s football team  - the er, mighty Colchester Villa were playing in a county cup game against opposition that they’d previously struggled against.
Andy and mine’s attire raised a few eyebrows and comments amongst the gathered Mum & Dads and we must have stuck out like sore thumbs but it certainly did the team no harm as they won 7-2.
The final event of the weekend was back on the south coast and after saying goodbyes it was back on the road to head for home. With the sun shining and the traffic light the journey was much better and Rosie got a chance to show what she can do without Patsy bouncing around on the back whilst still returning over 45mpg. Bless her, I hope she lasts for a long while yet.
The suit was ditched for the leathers again for the second roast dinner in as many days at dear friends - and former neighbours Tony & Jane. As always, lovely grub surrounded by great friends and a fitting end to an exciting if tiring weekend.
Another tidal wave had the last say Sunday night and was perhaps the most vicious for some weeks, although mercifully short. A reminder - as if I were to need one - that it’s a long old road yet to be travelled.





Thursday, 4 October 2018

A Single Life | Unanswered Questions

Ok, this is not directly related to my new status as a single person but the reason for that new status - Trev’s death of course - has thrown up some questions that I find myself asking at various times.

Firstly though, not ‘why did he die?’ The coroners report made that clear. Secondly they are not questions that I find upsetting or that keep me from returning to the land of nod after the inevitable nocturnal visit - there’s plenty of largely inconsequential things vying for that honour. Thirdly, I’ll never have the answers to them - not definitive ones anyway. But that doesn’t stop me pondering.

The first one to crop up is this - was Trev in any pain or discomfort in the days, weeks and months prior to his death? If the answer is no, the questions stop there but given the very state of his heart and arteries as reported by the coroner, as a layman I find that a tad hard to believe. Of course this may be a prime example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing and he may well have been totally pain free. We all know now that heart problems don’t always manifest themselves as a pain in the chest or left arm as once thought.

So, if he was in some discomfort or pain, my next question is - why didn’t he say something, or more importantly do something? And this one is key because an intervention may well have extended his life further. Or may not, again who knows?

It may be that he had been suffering but simply put it down to old age and being - let’s be honest - overweight and not particularly fit. Symptoms such as tiredness and joint pain would not have been unexpected, but where they an indicator or a more serious problem? Again, who knows?

Branching off again perhaps he did know his ticker was playing up and again I ask myself why he didn’t do something, given his obvious zest for life  - never more apparent than in the years after Papworth Hospital saved his life in 2003.

This throws up a number of answers - in my head anyway - some more palatable than others.

One that is perhaps the hardest to accept is that he believed his time was up. Even I know that 14 years with out intervention after such major surgery is pretty good going, so it seems the tablets were doing their job. It may have been in the back of his mind too that his own father died at 64 - the same age - as did his elder brother Malcolm, while his eldest sister only made 62. I think this played on his mind somewhat as when he was discussing getting his pension he often used to say ‘If I make it that far’. I assumed he was joking. This I think is the least likely scenario given, as I mentioned above, his enthusiasm for life but it is a possibility - in the large open spaces in my skull anyway.

Perhaps he didn’t want to risk going through any more surgery. He’d said a number of times what a great life he’d had and that if he went tomorrow he’d have no regrets. Maybe the possibility of a less active and maybe fulfilling life was not one he relished and preferred to continue as per for as long as he could?

It may be that he recognised any discomfort as symptoms of something serious but was putting off doing anything about it. Maybe he’d planned to go to the GP at the end of our trip, not wanting to disrupt what was a wonderful time. Caravanning, sun, grog, grub and some serious chinwagging. He was in his element it has to be said and it was turning out to be one of our best summer trips ever. He perhaps just didn’t want it to stop. But stop it did, quite tragically on August the 1st.

So, unanswered questions. As I said , they don’t keep me awake, neither do I get upset when pondering them as knowing the answers will not bring him back but I guess it’s inevitable that we want to look for answers - and it’s probably good that we do.

Generally though things are going ok. Practically I feel I’ve adapted pretty well. The house is clean, the washing is up to date, I’m keeping myself fed with something other than ready meals and takeaways.

Sleep is still an issue - whilst I’ve been dropping off ok, its returning to sleep in the early hours that’s been a problem. Although saying that I did manage seven hours unbroken one night this week so maybe things are looking up.

It’s the memorial service at the school tomorrow which I’m both looking forward to and slightly nervous about. More on how that went next time. Then the day after I’m heading to Colchester for the Christening on Sunday. It will be good to catch up with the family again under happier circumstances.

Right, thanks as ever for your comments on last weeks blog post. I do really appreciate them.

Until next time,

Cheers & Beers

Rich


Monday, 1 October 2018

2 Months

42876538_10155956361738231_3708784855157309440_nHere's his lordship from 2004 I think in Australia. Looks like he'd had a few!

Note the Papworth Hospital T-shirt. He’s not long finish cardiac rehab and as soon as they gave him the all clear to fly, we booked the flights.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

A Single Life | Scratching the Itch

Hiya and welcome back.

It was a pretty good week last week. I’m well into a routine now - the freezer is full up of pre-cooked meals and with shop bought stuff such as breaded cod and Cajun chicken steaks there’s enough in there for a couple of weeks. Handily too, thanks to one pupil moving I now get home at least fifteen minutes earlier four nights a week which gives a bit more leeway - and a bit more of an evening.

Friday night was a bit grim. I’d felt fine as I got in from work and had dinner but I could sense the black clouds positioning themselves as I got the washing out of the machine and there followed a pretty tearful couple of hours. But it passed - as it always does - and by the time I went to bed, fortified by cheese, biscuits and merlot, I was feeling much better. That’s something I’ve always managed to keep in mind when the tidal wave comes - it WILL pass and I WILL be ok afterwards.

Th day at the football on Saturday was good - the football aside which was sadly, dire but it was a good day out with friends and we had a nice walk through Hyde Park past the Serpentine and Kensington Gardens. Even my knee didn’t complain much though the occasional stops for er, refreshments may have helped….

It was nice at last to catch up with more friends nearby for a meal at their place Sunday evening. Good food, wine and company as it always is.

So, to the main reason for this blog post and the point of the title.

Somethings’ been nagging me for a while, just at the back of the mine but there nonetheless. When I’ve woken in the early hours it’s been there, not at the forefront of my thoughts by hovering on the periphery. It was the idea to write a blog post detailing the biggest thing that’s happened in my life - the 90 minutes or so on the morning of August the 1st that changed everything.

In one way it made so much sense - I’ve been blogging about my experiences for nearly 10 years now, be it holidays, cruises and more recently caravan trips, so why not this. I did after all, see it all.

So I did. 1500 or so words. One of the hardest - and yet easiest - blog posts I’ve ever written. It produced a lot of tears, both when writing and reading it back, but here’s the thing: It was a very cathartic experience and I immediately felt better for having done it. I hesitate to say it was a weight off my shoulders but it certainly helped.

So where is it? Well, my initial thoughts were to publish it like I would everything else, but then I wondered whether it was really necessary. It is of course, intensely personal. I counselled some advice from a good friend who helped me make my decision. It will, for now and the foreseeable future remain private. I see little to gain for myself - or anyone else - by making it public.

The thing that helped was writing it - I guess a kind of therapy - perhaps like pouring my heart out to a bereavement counsellor, who knows but I would urge anyone in a similar situation to consider trying the same.

So, just a short one this time. Thanks again for all your comments and kind words, they mean a lot.

Cheers & Beers

Rich

Monday, 17 September 2018

A Single Life | “I’ve got some bad news”

It’s inevitable when someone dies, be they young or old and it expected or sudden - there’s people to tell.

In this blog post I’m going to recall how I went about the process of letting people know of Trev’s death, and whilst this is in no way meant to be a ‘how to’ there may be something of use if and/or when you find yourself in a similar position.

Firstly and most importantly; friends and family. I was keen to do this as promptly as possible and my very first call was to my cousin who immediately came over to the site. We went back to his house and I started making a mental list - not easy given my fragile emotional state but it needed to be done.

Top of the list was Trev’s closest family - his two sisters - and without doubt these were the most difficult calls I’ve made, not least because I knew how much a of a shock my news would be. They said they’d spread the word amongst Trev’s many nephews and nieces - something I was extremely grateful for. I’d made just two phone calls and was already exhausted.

Next up were some of Trev’s closest and oldest friends. I admit now that I did miss some and only remembered later but I don’t think anyone would blame me for not thinking straight!

One of the toughest calls was to the undertaker - many will know that David is also a good friend and as I said at the funeral I wouldn’t entrust Trev to anyone else - but David was out when I called and had to leave a message. His colleague enquired who the funeral would be for but I had to tell him I’d relay it personally. The last thing I wanted was David finding a Post-It note on his desk with mine & Trev’s name on.

In an ideal world everyone of our friends would have got a phone call - but it would have been impossible emotionally, so next I turned to social media - Facebook & Twitter - and this is how most people found out. I think in this day an age it’s an acceptable way to let people know and it’s also when social media is at it’s best. The tributes and messages of support were very heart-warming.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later that it occurred to me that there are people that read our blog that don’t do Twitter or Facebook which is why I wrote a blog post and emailed it out. Again, the response was great.

I nearly didn’t bother with an announcement in the paper, but I’m so glad I did as there were people at the funeral who didn’t really know Trev but came to support me which was lovely.

At some point I had to start informing officialdom - government departments, banks, pension companies and so on, and here I was at a bit of an advantage. As I mentioned in a previous blog post most household stuff was in my name anyway so the task wasn’t as daunting as it might have been.

Now, I said at the start that this is in no way a ‘how to’ but I am going to impart some advice here that may be of help.

Firstly - no-one - not government departments, local authorities, banks or companies will expect you to inform them straightaway. Whilst you don’t want to be leaving it too long, there really is no rush. I started a couple of days after Trev died - when I felt able - and then over the next couple of weeks, with just his bank account remaining open until I know everything has been sorted

Secondly, look up dedicated phone numbers  for dealing with bereavement related enquiries. All government departments and sizable companies will have them and this is beneficial for a number of reasons. The number is likely to be freephone or at the very least included in any call package. You won’t be presented with a complicated menu to navigate. Most importantly the lines will be - in my experience anyway - staffed by well trained and sympathetic and understanding people. I was dreading some of the calls but was made to feel at ease in every one.

There is a service called ‘Tell us once’ - a form given by the registrar that you fill in with as much information as possible and it - notifies all government departments - DWP, DVLA, HMRC and so on. We used it for Trev’s Mum last year and it does make life easier.

Oddly though it is not available in all areas - and Brighton & Hove is one of them - gawd knows why, so that did add to my list a bit but as I said, there was no rush.

In addition there have been a number of other organisations that I needed to tell - anywhere we had a joint membership such as the two major caravan clubs, the National Trust and so on. With these I just sent an email and in all cases the response has been prompt and understanding. Any other things that have come through the post I’ve just dealt with as and when.

It’s inevitable in this day and age that there is an online presence to deal with too - most notably social media channels. Fortunately I knew Trev’s log in details so was able to disable these the day he died. I know some people like to keep these open for tributes but I didn’t want that. What I also didn’t want was to delete his Facebook and Twitter accounts entirely straightaway in case there were any photos I wanted to keep - and so it proved. Fortunately both have facilities to deactivate accounts and download media.

I think I’m almost there now. It is a sad process ‘closing down’ someone's official, financial and online presence but it has to be done.

Thanks once again for all your comments on the last post and words of support. I’m getting there, slowly.

Cheers

Rich.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

A Single Life | Going Out

Well, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster of a week. Started off ok, then I had a grim couple of days, the wave came again one night, entirely unassisted by alcohol and there was even a point coming home one night that I thought I’d have to pull the minibus over, such was the intensity. Interestingly, the focus of the grief changed somehow - from my loss to that of Trev’s. Having retirement snatched away from him and the chance to kick back and do more of what he loved denied really got to me. I now much much he was looking forward to getting paid by the government after 50 years of the reverse!

Anyway, the week ended much better - Friday night after work I met with the college Chaplain for a couple of beers to discuss Trev’s memorial service. Saturday, after a couple of hours work in the morning I met up with some friends in Brighton for grub and as it turned out, rather too much grog!

Graham & Robert were the guys who introduced us to caravanning and have recently started a new life in Spain making the most of their early retirement. Anyway we had a fantastic afternoon. And evening. It’s ages since I’ve been in Brighton - except behind the wheel of a minibus - and really enjoyed our trawl around some of Brighton's bars. I can tell you I paid the price today and have been extremely lazy!

What made the day all the more special though was that the wave didn’t come last night when I got in - as it has so often after a evening out. A pattern seemed to be emerging that tears would follow almost as if the mind was subconsciously punishing me for having a good time. I’m glad that cycle appears to have been broken I can tell you though I wouldn’t be selling them shares in Kleenex just yet!

So, as you will have deduced from the title I’m going talk about going out and how different it now is now there’s only one of us.

Trips away in the caravan aside, Trev and I didn't go out that much, and when we did it was always together. My first visit to a pub on my own - for many years anyway - was very weird indeed. I’ve still yet to go into our club - despite the fact that I know everyone will be nice and the Harvey's Best will be as excellent as usual. It’s just another hurdle though and I’ll know when the time is right.

Since being home I’ve been inundated with invitations to pubs, drinks, dinners and parties - proof not that it’s needed-  that I have a great circle of very caring friends. All have been very enjoyable but it has been interesting now there’s just me. You see - and I really don’t have to tell you this - Trev liked to talk. A lot! He was never short of a subject and I’m sure he had a phobia of silence - although as someone suggested, maybe it was a touch of nerves. Anyway, the point is that I could be quite a lazy conversationalist, happily letting Trev do the talking. So now, particularly on occasions when it’s been just me and someone else, I’ve had to make much more of an effort - and that’s actually been quite satisfying.

Going from one extreme to the other and a party - arranged long before Trev died, I did  consider not going, but did and overall it was a very good experience. Most of the people there I knew and Lou had made up a lovely photo collage of Trev too. I got talking too to another widow and that was immensely helpful. There were odd moments though - just moments - when I did feel extremely lonely. Thankfully they passed as quick as they came but again there was that reminder.

There’s more to come too. Dinner at a fellow drivers’ next week with his family then a day in the smoke the following weekend for a bit of wander and no doubt an ale or two before a footy match. Then in a month there’s the christening and I’ve had second thoughts and WILL now be staying overnight. And before we know it will be half -term - and that means Patsy time! Really looking forward to that. I’m determined not to sit at home and mope - Trev wouldn’t want that and I don’t either!

Cheers

Rich

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

A Single Life | How Much!

Ok, so I said that I wouldn’t go back to August but I’m going to do so purely to illustrate how things have changed on a more practical level particularly with regard to caravanning.

I decided to move sites a few days after Trev died - my cousin Andy and Janet were keen to take their eldest grandson Braydon away for a few days, to a site the other side of Colchester on the way to Clacton. It was a site Trev and I stayed at in our first year of caravanning and had fishing lake which was the main lure (pardon the pun) for Andy & Braydon.

Whilst having family close would undoubtedly be good I also needed to hang around anyway to see the Registrar once the Coroner had given the all clear.

Anyway, I called to check availability and make the booking and my name came up as a previous customer. Having given our new address I had a feeling what was coming next:

“So that’s a caravan for five nights then. No problem. Still the two of you?” Ouch.

“ No, just the one of us now thanks” and that was my first booking as a solo caravanner.

A significant milestone of course but it also got me thinking about how some sites price their pitches - you see that pitch for five days cost me the same as if there had been still two of us - and we’ve stayed in plenty that price the same way. I  know a number of friends that caravan solo and have remarked on it.

My choice of site in Cambridge (for the arrangements and funeral) would have been swayed by this had it not been for the kindness and generosity of the Caravan & Motorhome Club and I do need to thank them for that.

Fortunately both the major clubs DO price per person so as a solo caravanner you do pay less and this is something I need to consider when planning my trips as I want to get as much time away as I can. Of course it may be that CL’s/CS’s and more basic sites still work out cheaper so lots to ponder.

Another first manifested itself when I came to pack up the ‘van for that short journey. I’ve mentioned before that Trev and I shared most chores but one area in which that was less so was setting up and packing up the caravan. I always used to do the outside - water, waste, electrics and so on, while Trev did the inside - unpacking everything and setting it out then putting away again and packing so as to ensure nothing got damaged during transit.

I’ll be honest - I hadn’t a clue where he put most things and it was a frustrating couple of hours. I am happy to report though that everything arrived on site intact so I must have got it right!

Much more recently another example presented itself - not so much a reminder of my new status - but that being single doesn't necessarily mean things get cheaper.

It’s Andy & Janet's newest Grandson’s Christening early next month I was pondering staying overnight so we could meet up beforehand. It will be the first chance to catch up since the funeral. There’s a Premier Inn within walking distance (for some) from their home and Trev and I stayed there about a year ago for Andy’s 60th birthday.

Sadly they don’t feel the need to give a discount for single travellers and this has put me off a bit on principle  although to be honest the thought of spending the night in a soulless chain hotel room is not one that fills me with joy. It would be another ‘first’ if you know what I mean and I may yet change my mind but  equally may well just go up for the day. It will be good to catch up with everyone and it’s a good excuse (like I need one) to dress up in a suit for something other than a sodding funeral!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Memorial Service

Me again!

I am delighted to announce that a memorial service to celebrate Trev’s life has been arranged by his (and mine) employer - Brighton College.

It will take place on:

 Friday 5th October at 3:15pm at Brighton College, Eastern Road, Brighton, BN2 0AL

ALL are welcome, however no-one should feel obliged - it’s a long way for many I know.

As per the funeral there will be no dress code - Trev loved shorts and a t-shirt so if that’s what you’d like to wear - and it’s still warm enough - go for it.

It’s expected the service itself will last for around 40 minutes and there will be a chance to mingle afterwards over a drink and a bite to eat.

It’s over a month away I know but if you are intending to come just please send me a quick email to tubbystar@outlook.com. It will help the college catering department to plan accordingly.

I will be in touch about car parking arrangements and other travel options but please be advised now that parking on site is VERY limited and spaces can only guaranteed for those that have mobility issues.

That’s it for now, hope you’re having a good weekend,

Rich

Friday, 31 August 2018

A Single Life | “Cleared”

Firstly, as always, thank you for your comments and kind words about part 2. I’m really enjoying writing these, it’s very therapeutic. One of these days I’ll learn to type!

In this one I want to talk about going back to work. As I type this on it’s the end of our first week back and overall it’s been positive, however there have been poignant reminders of the seismic shift in my miniscule corner of the universe.

The process of going back to work actually started last week, with an INSET day on the Friday before he bank holiday weekend. I got a lift in with friend and , until the summer our Head of Transport, and kept a low profile in his office until it was time for our assembly. Before going in it was nice to have a few words with some of my colleagues in Transport, a couple of whom are going through a particularly tough time too just now.

Our summer INSET day is in reality and hour and a half of the heads of the schools - Senior, Prep & Pre-Prep welcoming everyone back and introducing new teachers. The acting head paid a nice tribute to Trev in his opening speech.

The Bursar introduced the new support staff, delivered some awful puns as per usual and also paid a nice tribute , not just to Trev but to another colleague who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.

Afterwards I caught up with the school Chaplain for a chat and whilst - as many of you know - I don’t do God in any form - his words and warmth were very comforting. We looked at possible dates too for Trev’s memorial which the college will host. More on that in another post soon.

And that was it - a nice gentle re-introduction to the work place. I must confess to being a little apprehensive but came away feeling more positive.

Work proper started Wednesday which meant a quick visit to pick up a minibus on Tuesday. Again, seeing just a few people, nice and low key, was good.

There was no problem getting up at silly o’clock on Wednesday and I’d probably laid awake for an hour waiting for the alarm to go off. I’ve found since  Trev’s death that although I can usually get to sleep - assisted by varying amounts of alcohol -  once I’ve been up for the usual nocturnal visit the mind goes into overdrive and I can rarely return to the land of nod. Getting up early to drive meant too that the grog the night before was a no-no which probably contributed to an even more restless night.

Anyway, the morning school run went fine - with some nice words from one of the kids too. They have more idea what’s going on at the school than most of the adults! One of the housekeeping staff who I pick up on the way through hadn’t heard the news so I explained what had happened mindful that he’d lost his wife after an illness only a few months previously.

It was the afternoon run, taking the kids home that it was all brought home again. Immediately after dropping the last kid off I used to send  Trev a text to say that I’m finished and on my way home. He’d know then roughly when to have dinner ready for. It was one word - “Cleared”. This time I even reached for the phone before realising it was something I wouldn’t be doing again. Whatever time dinner was ready was down to me now and there would be no-ne there to share the time up the table with. Just when you think you’re getting used to the new normal along comes something else to try and unbalance you.

Being around the school during the day - as I was for much of Thursday - was fine. Although we both worked for the school often our paths wouldn’t cross at all during the day such is the nature of our work as drivers. In fact watching the usual beginning of term chaos play out was quite comforting. Some things never change - cue the circus music.

Even the bus breaking down on Thursday night didn’t bother me too much. Ok, it was a pain in the derriere but another constant - we’ve had a few breakdowns with the current fleet. What was different however was that I didn’t have to call Trev and tell him I’d be late. There was no dinner in the oven at risk of getting spoilt. Trev would - out of solidarity - always wait until I got home before we ate, however late the hour, despite me urging him to get stuck in. None of that this time - in fact I didn’t really care what time I got home to be honest. It didn’t matter.

Despite only being back at work three days I was looking forward to the weekend, but as I drove back to the college this evening, I could feel myself getting lower. I knew I had a couple of things planned over the weekend but on Friday nights it was always the pub for a bite to eat and a couple of pints or a chippy. We’d digest the weeks goings on at work, have a laugh and a moan too and I really missed that tonight.

The chippy was good though and the accompanying Argentinian Malbec is softening the edges a bit.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A Single Life | Food Glorious Food

Firstly, thanks for your comments on part 1 - as it has become. It’s lovely that so many of you found it interesting and encouraged I’ve been at it again. I expect the frequency will decrease as get through what I want to say but anyway, here goes

If there’s one thing about my new single life that holds no fear it’s domestic chores. Ok, I’m no domestic Goddess and give me plenty of notice if you’re coming around, but during our time together we both played our part. In the early days when Trev was taxi driving he’d have Saturday off but go in early Sunday morning hoping for juicy Heathrow or similar and could earn a days money in a few hours. I’d use the time to do the housework - ensuring my already ageing Technics Hi-Fi was given a good workout. The joys of living in a detached property. Down on the south coast at various times we both done our bit - most recently Trev had more free time so generally he did the lions share. My working pattern normally gives me most of Wednesday off - the morning and evening school run aside - and that’s when I plan to get caught up. There will obviously be less laundry to do to but I did think sleeping first one side of the bed then the other is probably a step to far in trying to save some  washing!

There was a couple of areas in which we didn’t cross over so much and the first is to my advantage - money. When we bought our first house together we decided to put everything in my name - although Trev’s bankruptcy had expired by then we just thought it best. Since then I’ve handled the bills, saved when we could and generally made our hard earned go as far as possible. I’d seek out the best deals for internet, utilities and so on. Neither of us were great wage earners but by keeping costs low we were able to enjoy lots of holidays as some of you heard at the funeral. Of course there’s only one income now but costs don’t halve - the service charges on the flat remain the same and I ain’t going to heat just one half of the lounge! More careful management though and I’ll be fine - and Patsy will still get regular use.

Something that is proving more of a challenge - and one that I’m actually quite enjoying is food. Trev used to do virtually all the cooking. I don’t recall why it started like that but it worked quite well - as a cabbie he’d start early but finish early so there’d be something on the table soon after I got in. In those early days our menu didn’t vary much - in fact the weekly shop was almost identical. When Trev packed in worked after the heart failure was diagnosed he did start experimenting more and was cooking stuff from scratch. Nothing fancy but it did me and I was always grateful for having a meal on the table.

The pattern continued when we moved down south - the only time it varied was when we were both doing school runs and not getting in until after seven in the evening - then he used to cook at lunchtime. Later when he became caretaker he was always home earlier and had the chance to grab a kip before preparing dinner for when I got home.

Since I’ve got home I’ve been managing largely  on ready meals - and have been happy enough to do that while I get myself sorted. I’ve tried to pick the lower fat options as one thing I really need to do is shift a bit of weight. Trouble is though one is never quite enough - I have a very healthy appetite, due partially no doubt to his lordship who never worried too much about portion control.

My working pattern means that I’m out of the house for a large part of the day and don’t want to be sitting down to eat too late, particularly when I need to get up so early. So I’ve been thinking back to the four years in the mobile home and what I used to eat. I was no chef but never went hungry and one of favourites was spaghetti Bolognese. Ok, it was using a jar of sauce but I’d occasionally chuck something else in for a bit of variety. With this in mind, this weekend  I cooked up two lots of mince and made up three portions each of beef chilli and bolognese for the freezer. This weekend the slow cooker is coming out and I’m pondering some sort of casserole and maybe a curry. The nearby carvery will get the benefit of my custom once a week and perhaps the chippy too. There’s plenty more to look at but I’ll always make sure there’s something quick in the fridge and I won’t go hungry - my belly won’t let me!

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A Single Life

Right, if you've got this far and weren't put off by the title, you are reading something of a rarity. You see whilst I've been knocking out blog posts with varying degrees of regularity on my caravanning blog Get Your Legs Down, this is the first for many years that is exclusive to A Load of Nonsense.

I debated long and hard over the title - as I often do, but to be honest I couldn't find anything more suitable because it does suggest what this blog is about - my new life as a single person. Or Widow to be precise. I guess that makes me the Blogger in Black Widow then….

I’ll be honest though - always a good start, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this, or even if it will last but felt that there may be some interest in my new circumstances - although lets face it they’re hardly unique. I’ll try and look at the challenges created and also some of the opportunities too as well as how things have simply changed.

The other thing I pondered over was where to start this from. In reality my single life began on the morning of 1st August when Trev passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly. However I see little to be gained from dwelling on that period of time - and I shared much of it on social media anyway.

So, instead although I’m going to kick it off from today - the day before I’m back at work at the school as the new term kicks in, I will look back though at the last week - my first week alone in the flat.

There’s been plenty to remind me of the fact that there used to be two of us here. His & his towels and flannels, ditto toothbrush and toothpaste. Trev usually had some fancy shampoo on the go but I never bothered. More often than not we shared a shower gel though, the same with deodorant.

Whilst there’s a cupboard full of mugs we both had our favourites - and they sat on the drainer where we left them in July. The teapot - perfect for two now seemed way oversized. Thankfully we had one of Trev’s Mum’s collection of little teapots - and it’s the perfect size too. Oddly I’d forgotten how much water I used to put in the filter machine to make two mugs of coffee.

In the bedroom there was yet more reminders, not least his mountain of clothes - and to think he used to go on at me the cheeky sod! Whilst disposing of his clothes wont be easy - and I wont do it until I’m ready - I’m looking forward to the wardrobe space. Part of it will be used for more caravan paraphernalia (we don’t have a garage) and there may even ne room for another long leather coat. Or two……

He’d put the houseplants on the dining table before we left to give them as much light as possible. And whilst I knew where one of them went I hadn’t a clue with the other two. And still don’t! Just shows how much notice I took of them!

We had a recliner each in the lounge - black leather - obviously, and of course now one of those is empty. We bought them for our first place together in 2001 and although they’ve done well they’re certainly coming to the end of their life. I’m pondering a change around at some point, bringing either the desk or dining table in from the spare room so it doesn’t feel as big. It will mean too that I can ignore the  telly while using my laptop at the desk - instead of ignoring the telly while using my pad in the recliner!

Right, that’s part 1 - but will there be part 2? Do please let me know what you think and whether you’d carry on reading if I continued. What - if anything - do you want to hear about? Perhaps you would prefer a vlog rather than a blog post and I can see that might work. Above all be honest - if you think it’s a non-starter say so, I can take it. My shoulders are broad - figuratively anyway…

Cheers

Rich

Saturday, 25 August 2018

A catch up and looking ahead

Hi everyone, I thought I should do one last blog post bringing to and end my series of blogs on our summer getaway - The Triple Eight Tour - which ended so tragically.

Firstly, the funeral. A huge thank you to those that came to Cambridge last week. I meant so much to me to see so many there. I know that so many of you travelled considerable distances to come and pay their respects. It was heartening to see friends from all different parts of our life together, be it the early days in the shop, his time as a cabbie, our time on the south coast, and most recently our time as caravanners. Trev would have been well pleased to have such an audience and the service was as I had hoped and planned. I thought Vanessa - the Celebrant - was superb and told our story brilliantly as well as conducting a lovely warm service.

Thanks again to those that came to the wake. I’m sorry for not getting around to speak to everyone but just seeing you there was very heart-warming. I may have underestimated numbers slightly but I hope everyone had at least something to eat.

So, Tuesday not as hungover as you might perhaps think, was spent packing up the van - sorting out what was going home, staying, or going in the storage box. I probably repacked the car about three times. This is something Trev generally did, normally while I was on the laptop doing a blog or something. I had all day and it took me all day, finishing with a good hoover and dust.

That night I met with Pauline and our undertaker friend David for a meal and afterwards he presented me with Trev’s ashes. So I was able to spend at least one more night in Patsy with him and that meant a lot.

The M25 did it’s best to make the tow home as miserable as possible. Frequent periods of just sitting allowed my mind to wander from the task in hand to times past and at times it was very tough, but we eventually got back to the south coast unscathed and Patsy was soon back safely in her bay at the storage yard enjoying what is generally her longest rest of the year.

There’s no way around it - it was horrible going back to the flat on my own - although the number of sympathy cards lying on the doormat cheered me up and had a good read of them all over a cuppa before getting down to the task of unpacking and starting the washing.

I kept pottering, doing little bits throughout the afternoon and evening but the expected tidal wave of emotion arrived at night. I know many of you will have experienced something similar and there really is nothing to do but ride it out. There will be more I know but the last couple of days have been easier.

And that’s where I’m going to draw a line under the events of the summer. I’m am pondering the occasional blog about adapting to be life as a single person, or indeed Widow but that will be on my other blog A Load of Nonsense. If I do decide to start typing I’ll put it out on all the usual platforms.

So, looking ahead as we must. One question I’ve been asked several times is “ Will you keep caravanning?”. That answer to that one is easy. Yes! My next trip is in October and for the second half of that I will be returning to Crystal Palace - for the last time, before it closes in December. We booked this months ago and wanted to pay one final visit and it holds many happy memories not least because it was the destination for our first ever trip back in March 2012.

I have cancelled plans we had to meet with friends in Devon for Christmas and will instead be staying in Colchester near my cousin Andy for at least a few days over Christmas and probably in East Anglia for the remainder.

Simple mathematics means that I won’t be able to go away as much and I might look to more cheaper CL type sites which also has me pondering solar panels and gas usage. I’ll probably see how next year goes though before making any decisions about what will be sizable investments.

Patsy is definitely staying. I’ve no need or reason to downsize and have found in the last three weeks that I’m quite capable of taking up a lot of space on my own! Rosie, despite her advancing years and ever increasing mileage performed superbly throughout the summer and I hope she will last a lot longer. She really is a superb tow car.

Right, enough, almost. I must once again give thanks for the truly awesome support you’ve all given me on what has undoubtedly been the worst time of my life. Your encouragement and kind words about Trev  really did make all the difference and I’m so lucky to have so may people that I can genuinely call friends.

Thanks again and until next time,

Cheers

Rich

Hold



Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Update & Funeral Arrangements

Hi everyone, this may seem a slightly odd way of imparting such information but it’s the easiest way to reach the largest number of people.

Firstly, the post mortem. I’ve heard today (Tuesday) from the Coroner and they have determined the cause of Trev’s sudden death. It’s essentially as we thought but I’ll give you the medical terms and describe them as they were to me. Please feel free to skip the next bit if you wish:

Firstly, Ischemic Heart Disease - thickening of the walls of the heart, a natural consequence of getting older.

Secondly, Coronary Artery Atheroma - a plaque like substance restricting the flow of blood to major organs such as the lungs. Again, age related.

Two important things were mentioned by the Coroner - his death would have been very quick and he would have known little about it - and there was nothing more that could have been done to save him. Having seen what happened on the day those were already my thoughts.

Right, the funeral.

The service will be in Cambridge at the City Crematorium on Monday 20th August at Midday. All are of course welcome although I realise it’s a long journey for many. Please don’t feel guilty for not coming. For those that do, there is no dress code. Trev was happy as Larry in shorts and a t-shirt and if that’s what you’d like to wear that’s fine by me. Equally, if you would prefer something more formal, that’s fine too.

There will be a get together afterwards but that’s not finalised yet.

Family flowers only please but donations to Papworth Hospital Charitable Trust would be welcome. Again, no obligation but I know many of you have already. Thank you.

The service will be streamed online and available for seven days afterwards. Please email me at legsdown@outlook.com if this is of interest and I’ll supply access details once I have them.

In addition Trev’s (and mine) employer - Brighton College - would like to host a memorial service in their lovely chapel at some point in the future. Again, all welcome. No date yet but of course I’ll let you know.

Ok, I think that’s everything for now. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: Thanks for all your messages of support. They really do mean so much.

Cheers & Beers

Rich