This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.

Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which documents all our trips and includes product reviews and pubs! It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

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