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.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

9 Months

So, we’re now three-quarters of the way to the first anniversary of Trev’s passing, the coming of which is now appearing more and more on my radar and at times it’s making me a little anxious. I feel I should mark it in some way - and am perhaps doing that already by going back to the site where he died - but what else, I’m not yet sure. What I’m starting to realise more and more, is that it’s going to be very tough indeed. I’m also sensing though that it’s quite an important hurdle and is a significant marker, though of course my grieving wont suddenly be over, the day after. I won’t suddenly emerged from a cloud with a hop, skimp and a jump on the 2nd August - it just doesn’t work like that. But maybe there’s some things that I've subconsciously put off that I’ll get around too

The month gone saw what would have been or wedding/civil partnership anniversary on the 6th, an occasion which didn’t effect me as much as I thought. I’ve also been away as many of you will know - flying up to Scotland to stay with friends and had a fantastic time. I’m enjoying getting out and about other than in the caravan - and this is the sort of trip Trev & I would probably never have done. Mixed feelings of course though - I’d much rather have had him by my side.

This month’s photo show’s him with dear old Patsy 1 - our first caravan. Not, as you may think when we picked her up but this was in January 2014 when we traded her in and said goodbye to her for the last time.Or so we thought. Having both driven away pretending we didn’t have something in our eye, we returned a few moments later to retrieve the cutlery we’d left in the draw!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Happy Anniversary

Today, 13 years ago we ‘tied the knot’ in front a small gathering of friends and Trev’s Mum at Brighton & Hove registry office, before a meal at a restaurant on the Marina. We jetted off to Barcelona for a few days - the only time we’d ever paid for Club Class, before heading down to Sitges for the second half.

On the 2nd December 2015 we ‘upgraded’ to marriage following a change in the law. This was even more low key - just us two and the Registrar. I interrupted the domestic chores at home whilst Trev took a break from caretaking duties at the Pre-Prep. It didn’t dawn on us until later, that had we waited until the following April we would have had a great excuse for a party - our 10th anniversary, but it didn’t matter. We did go out for a meal later that evening though.

13 years eh. Unlucky for some - but not for me. I still count myself very lucky indeed - I got to share my life with him for nearly thirty years after all.


Monday, 1 April 2019

8 months

Two-thirds of a year. Sometimes it seems impossible that I’ve been without him that long - and that first anniversary moves inexorably closer of course. It’s been a real mixture of a month - I’m currently way in our - my - beloved Patsy and have, so far, had a really good trip. The second week of the month though saw the passing of his birthday - what would have been his 65th and something he was so looking forward to.

It was a tough day. With no extra work I spent most of the day at home pottering and the mind inevitably wandered. In the evening, after the school run I met with some friends for grog and grub and we had a nice evening raising our glasses to Trev. I’d barely opened the door of the flat though after and the tidal wave hit again, with a ferocity  that took me quite by surprise. It passed of course, as always but blimey. You’re bumbling along, getting on with life, making the most of it and suddenly, without warning it hits you and you wonder how you’re going to get through the next five minutes.

**Updated** This months pic sees Trev at the bar - quelle surprise - and I think he might have even paid too! It was at a delightful little boozer in Appley called The Globe Inn. It was 2017 - a difficult summer with his Mum in hospital and eventually having to go into a home. With her finally settled we headed off for a couple of weeks and stopped off at Gamlins Farm camp site on the way down to Devon where we met up with my cousin and his family.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

65 today

65 today. I wish.

Not me of course but someone would have been - should have been - celebrating his 65th birthday today. The day when finally he was rewarded for lifetime of graft with a state pension - although he would have actually have had to wait a little longer for that. I remember him saying many times – “65 years, 6 months and 21 days”.

The day he could sit back and think “I've done my bit” and start enjoying his retirement. I doubt he'd have given up work entirely but was certainly looking forward to easing up. Gawd knows he’d earned the right yet he's been denied all that. It's so unfair.

Unfair to those of us that loved him dearly, unfair to those lucky enough to have him as a friend, unfair to those to whom he was an Uncle or Brother.

But most of all it's unfair to him.

65 today. I so, so wish.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Guest Blog Post | Life & Mindfulness

After writing the piece on Contentment, I started to think more about how one might achieve and equally importantly, maintain the contented state of mind. Of course, as we discussed before, it is different things to different people and is mainly a constantly moving feast. I reflected upon how I manage this and one of the main ways, although not exclusively so, is Mindfulness.

I first came across mindfulness about 6 years ago; have to say at first I was somewhat sceptical, fearing it was yet another ‘fix/cure’ imported from elsewhere. Life was, at that time extremely challenging, both from historical issues and more current ones. So, with little or no expectations, I enrolled on a 12 week course, feeling I had nothing to lose.

Perhaps, I fell lucky on this occasion, the tutor was exceptionally good and made the journey far more easier than it might have been. That is not to say that it was an easy time but tried to keep the focus on the saying, “if it’s worth doing, you have to give it your best”.

I do not propose to describe the details of what mindfulness is or isn’t, I will attach a link at the end for people to look at if they wish to.

There are, however, a couple of important issues which need to be explained. Mindfulness is not just for people with mental health issues. Although it can seem like it is, given the close links there are in papers, websites etc. I strongly recommend that if you read something online, in a book, try and ignore the words mental health, you can then see the wider relevance to today’s busy lives. It can be for everyone, regardless of background, ethnicity etc. Some tutors link their mindfulness teaching and practice to different religious viewpoints but many do not do this. Indeed, that had been one of my initial reservations. I quickly learnt that the process can and is run on completely secular lines, as was the course and follow up sessions I attend.

Mindfulness is also of equal importance to people who do not consider themselves unwell, for whatever reason. It has something to offer most people.

So, what does Mindfulness give me? It makes me feel better, I can control things like anxiety or panic quite successfully most of the time. It calms me and gives me a framework within which I have learnt to appreciate things around me and to be able to recognise something approaching contentment at any given time for example. There are many other benefits but I wanted to focus on following up on the piece on Contentment. That is my personal journey and everyone is different.

All to often, sadly, mainstream media and organisations are ready to denounce different ways of doing things. Perhaps we owe it to each other to explore ways that have stood the test of time and in doing so we may find some contentment we all too often struggle to achieve and keep.

Mindfulness in UK, (I have no affiliation to this site, nor is this a recommendation)

https://bemindful.co.uk

Friday, 1 March 2019

7 Months

So, the balance of time has tipped I feel and the countdown to the 1st year anniversary has begun. Hmm.

It’s been a funny old month - away in Patsy for half-term and although overall it was good I had a bad morning on the last full day. Clearing up ready for an early departure I was overcome with such an intense feeling of loneliness - something I’d never experienced in Patsy since  I’ve been touring on my own. It passed of course and I had a very enjoyable afternoon meeting up with friends from Brighton for football in the evening but it returned again in the pub before the match and during the match itself. I contemplated leaving early but again, as always, it passed.

The weekend saw me head up to Cambridge for a birthday party which was really good fun, although there was the inevitable twinge of sadness as Trev would have enjoyed it so much. The floodgates opened again the evening I got home, like having to endure some hideous emotional version of a bush tucker trial, almost as if I was being punished for having a good time,

I was back in Cambridge on Tuesday for the funeral of Trev’s sister Maggie, who had passed away after a long illness, but still far too young at 62. I debated going - it was at the Crem and I feared a reaction, but I wanted to go and it was important to do so, not least because it’s what Trev would have wanted. I did find my mind wandering though to the last time I was there - where I sat, the photos, the words, the music and the people. I’m aware that there now often seems to be a delayed emotional reaction to things like this but so far, none has come.

Right, to this months photo - Trev of course, being watched over by Teddy. Teddy was a Christmas present from Trev’s elder sister Rosemary when we moved into our first home together - so at 17 he’s getting on a bit too! Trev had two Labradors - one after the other, both called Teddy - and we talked lots about getting a dog ourselves.

The photo was taken at Christmas and was at the Cherry Hinton club site in Cambridge but I can’t place the year - 2014 to 2017 is the nearest I can get.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Guest Blog Post - Defining Contentment

Following on from my recent blog post about me Finding Contentment,  a caravanning friend decided to expand on the theme and take a look at how we define contentment with this great piece.  It’s a great read I think and I’m delighted that they have agreed to let me share it with you. It pretty much mirrors what I think and is certainly food for thought as you will see. Anyway, here it is:

Contentment is a word which is often banded about but I wonder how many people actually stop to think what the word means and perhaps more importantly what it means to them?

Let’s start this exploration with a back to basics look at what meaning the dictionary uses...

‘Contentment’, “A state of happiness and satisfaction“ noun ....

The dictionary calls it a noun but I would go further and suggest it is a subjective noun, as to ask the question of a range of people will elicit a range of responses, all as valid as each other.

In today’s era of consumerism and ever growing acquisition of ‘stuff’, it is all too often seen as the way by which an individual acquires contentment. The drive to be evermore successful is yet another means by which contentment is judged and there are many others. But are they or should they be the major focuses? Is that the way for achieving happiness and satisfaction and therefore, as the dictionary puts forward, contentment?

What, or how then, might an individual obtain contentment in a more broader sense? How might we know we have achieved contentment? Is that the end or is it a continually moving stage in our lives? What might be viewed as contentment by a small child will, of course, differ widely from a teenager, adult or older person.

Yes, we can all acknowledge the basics, food, water, shelter and safety but what of the things that we cannot so easily see, touch, taste, hear for example. What of friendships, relationships, love that has been foregone or lost through competing commitments or bereavement? All to often, contentment is realised afterwards, perhaps when it is sadly too late to acknowledge.

Perhaps then, the skill(s) we need to acquire or, possibly nurture is the ability to recognise contentment in ourselves and the part of the world in which we are at any given time. For to do that can bring a quality to our and others lives and an acceptance of ‘what is’ and may be, just may be, a kind of peacefulness which can all to often be missing in today’s lifestyle.

In today’s hectic and often seemingly chaotic world, taking the time out to reflect and acknowledge things in our own little piece of the world can seem like a big ask. Maybe the question we might need to ask is can we afford not to?


Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Finding Contentment

Whoa! That sounds a bit deep doesn’t it? But it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while – prompted no doubt by the seismic shift in my life last year. It was rather long journey on a bus back to a camp site last week that had me pondering the possibility of a blog post on the subject. It’s been swirling round in the large open spaces up top ever since and has ended up as another itch that needed to be scratched. So here I am – scratching!

Right, first and most importantly, this is in no way intended to be a ‘how to’. It’s about me and my thoughts, how I’ve tried to shape things and how things are panning out. If it ends up helping someone who reads this then great, all the better but that’s not the point of this blog post.

So, what is contentment? Well I’ve deliberately not looked it up in the dictionary but these are two definitions that come to mind:

  • happy with your lot

  • satisfied with current circumstances

The first one is perhaps not quite right – happy and content are different things of course but it does suggest an overall, well, contentment! The second is perhaps nearer the mark for me.

At the start I said I’d being thinking about this for a while – and that’s true but it was the six month anniversary of Trev’s death that prompted me to take a look back at how I’ve managed, how I’ve coped with life after Trev. How I’ve adapted to a single life in what I consider my third chapter – the first being childhood and adolescence, the second being adulthood and our time together, which up until the 1st August 2018, encompassed my whole adult life.

And my conclusion? I am content. Very. I miss him loads and there are dark moments, dark hours and sometimes dark days and they will continue to come. I know that and can deal with it. It was a sign of what we had and I try and focus on that.

Grief aside though, the three definitions above pretty much sum it up for me, but what have I done to achieve that, to find that contentment? Well, the answer is – not a lot. You see, partially by accident Trev and I seemed to have nailed this contentment malarkey. The combination of work and play seemed to slot together so well and our love of caravanning – which we only came to relatively recently – played a big part in that, but so did our work at the college. What started as a stop gap came to give us the perfect – for us – work/life balance. Sure, we both compromised – that’s what couples generally do – but in truth there wasn’t that much I wanted to change.

I’m going to divide things up into three – you’ll see why – and look at each element more closely and this might help explain why I am where I am.

Firstly, work:

I think myself very fortunate because I love my job. For those that don’t know, I drive a minibus for an independent school here on the south coast. The job itself is notionally part time – five hours a day divided into the morning and evening school runs – but thanks to the schools location and facilities it has become pretty much full time with all the overtime that’s on offer. I enjoy the environment and I like my colleagues – particularly my fellow drivers in Transport. We have a great close knit team and get on well. But the happiest I am is driving the minibus – getting the kids too and from school safely, as quickly and smoothly as possible. I enjoy the added challenges of driving a bigger vehicle and like that – in my opinion anyway – I do it pretty well. I like the kids and they seem to like me.

The early starts and late finishes are more than offset by the long holidays and to be honest I wouldn’t want to go back to a ‘normal’ job. The long holidays and relatively unskilled nature of the job are reflected in the pay packet but I’ll talk about that more later on.

Secondly, home life:

During term time we didn’t do much evenings or weekend, saving our loot for trips away in the caravan. We were happy with a meal and a couple of pints at some point and evenings in. That’s changed little. Conscious of the early starts I’ll do little more than have dinner then look for something to watch for an hour on the telly. The tablet will be to hand and I’ll join in the chat, usually on Twitter, and play online word games with friends and colleagues. I’ll often have an early night and read for an hour, the radio on quietly, the under-blanket ensuring the bed is toasty warm and welcoming if a little empty. I love reading – always have done – and have done so much more of it since. Simple pleasures.

I miss, and always will, our Friday meal washed down with a couple of pints where we dissected the week. But I do enjoy my Friday evenings now – I rarely go out and certainly not on my own – more chat on Twitter, word games and maybe some comedy quiz show on the telly, all accompanied by a beer or two, or sometimes wine, or both, and some cheese and biscuits. With slightly raised cholesterol I have to go easy on things like cheese but I figure once a week wont hurt. OK, maybe twice because I’ll often do the same Saturdays nights! The music might go on later and almost inevitably I’ll end up on ‘those’ songs, the ones guaranteed to bring a tear or two. I don’t mind that, in my mind it’s just like releasing the pressure, the safety valve opening.

Most Saturdays I work in the morning but am home by lunchtime and the radio goes straight on for an afternoon of sport, with final score on the telly a bit later. I’m happy enough listening to that with a book and the tablet close by. Again, simple pleasures but it works for me. Easily pleased I guess and maybe I’m fortunate in that.

Occasionally I’ll go and see the real thing – take the Saturday off and take the train up to London with friends for a match. We used to go to football a lot and I still enjoy it but to be honest it’s more about the company of friends. Mate-ship I think our Australian cousins call it. There’s a beer or two involved as well of course.

Saturday evening’s I’ll look for a film or maybe a drama series and if it’s twenty years old it doesn’t matter. As long as it entertains me.

You’ve not yet seen housework mentioned – the boring domestic chores with which most of us are burdened. Well, the nature of my job means that although I start work and finish late there are various gaps during the day when I can pop home and get stuff done. I make a point of doing this to keep weekends clear – and if I want to spend all weekend on the sofa doing nowt I can without feeling guilty about it. Housework is out at weekends – that’s my time.

Thirdly, going away:

Trev and I loved caravanning, you all know that and I have found that I can love it on my own too. I am still at my happiest – well, most content anyway – in my little home from home. Yes, it’s harder work but I still love it. I enjoy getting out and about on my own but am equally as happy in the ‘van, feet up, radio on with a book in hand and a glass of something nearby.

When I’m out and about I try and focus on the now – taking in what’s around me rather than constantly looking at the phone. Enjoying and absorbing the surroundings – that’s the point of sightseeing after all. Sure I’ll pause for the occasional catch up and I could never ditch social media as it’s been such a source of support. It’s the same when meeting friends face to face. Talking, and more importantly listening. I try and keep the phone in the pocket. Updates will keep.

Whilst in the last few years we focused almost entirely on caravanning for our holidays, I have already been doing others things. I think Trev grew tired of flying and all the hassle that goes with it – and that was fine, we enjoyed what we did – but I’ve really enjoyed getting on a plane again and catching up with friends. I’ll be doing it later in the year too although I’m yet to book a holiday abroad – I think I might encounter some emotional turbulence – pardon the pun – going it alone, and it’s not something I’m in a rush to do anyway.

Across all these spans friendship. Whether, meeting people here when I’m at home or away in the ‘van or even chatting on Twitter, the importance and having friends has become so much more important and I am truly blessed in that regard. It makes so much difference knowing that there are people out there who take me for who I am, will listen and will understand. Priceless.

So, that’s an outline of what I do and how I live. Yes, it’s a simple, some might say unexciting life, but it suits me. It works and I want to explain a bit further why and for that we have to talk about money.

I mentioned early about the job. The pay is not great for a number of reasons but that – to me – is not that important, although I’ve had to make a few changes since the household income was effectively halved, to do what I want to do.

I’ve obviously screwed down costs where possible for utilities, insurance and so on, but that was something I did anyway quite frequently as many do. I’ve made subtle changes to how I do things at home to save on water an energy. LED lighting was perhaps a long term investment but it’s yielding immediate results. I rarely use the dishwasher – there’s only me to wash up for and besides I’m paying to heat water again when there’s already hot water in the tank. I hang washing up in the morning in the bathroom and finish it off in the dryer in the evening, drastically cutting down electricity consumption but still ensuring the towels are fluffy! Savings doing stuff like that are already adding up. There’s more but I won’t bore you.

I don’t pay for extra TV. For the amount I watch there’s more than enough on the basic channels and catch up services to keep me entertained. The exception to that is an occasional day or week pass for football.

Food costs have gone down, not only because there is just one of us but because of the way I’m batch cooking. That’s not to say I always buy cheap because I don’t. I’m mostly happy with own label stuff but will buy the leaner cuts and look for low fat options. I’ve had it up the here with heart disease.

The next thing is ‘stuff’ - material possessions – and again I count myself quite fortunate here. I’ve never been one for stuff, be it a new car, caravan, the latest phone, humongous flat screen TV and so on. None of it interests me. Sure when I have to replace things I do but while they’re working OK, they stay. A twenty year old TV drama, which I enjoy watching, looks the same on my old telly as it does on the latest 4K job.

We’re bombarded with adverts from all directions encouraging us to buy stuff, implying that not only will our lives be better with it, but unbearably worse without it. We can’t be happy without the latest stuff apparently. I ignore all that and have unsubscribed from so many email lists for news letters and the like that are little more than advertising flyers.

For anything that appears in my radar I ask myself, do I NEED this, will it significantly make life easier or more enjoyable, will it make me happier or more content? The answer is almost invariably no, but when it is yes, I’ll purchase happy in the knowledge that I can afford it because I’ve been careful elsewhere.

I use the library rather than line the shelves with glossy and expensive hardbacks. For me it’s what’s in the book, not the book itself. On my recent trip to London I went out most days with a rucksack containing not only my camera but a flask of coffee and some lunch. I could happily sit and enjoy that somewhere of my choosing rather than a packed and noisy coffee shop. It also meant that I didn’t feel guilty about paying over the odds for a pint with a view somewhere If I wanted.

A good example of want, not need is a turntable. My ancient one recently went tits up – it’s not been used since I archived all my vinyl to the computer before we moved house. I ditched most of it but some remains and for a while I’ve had a yearning to listen to some vinyl again. I got as far as ordering a new deck before cancelling it – the cost of a new one would pay for several nights away in the caravan. And whilst I love listening to music, that was more important. One of the harder choices to make but I made the right decision.

These are just some examples and whilst all this might sound a bit miserly, what I’m saying is, I’ll save money on things that are NOT important to me so I can spend money on things that ARE. Things that make me content – that is the goal after all.

Whilst I feel I am getting ‘there’ there are a couple of areas which still need some work and the first is health. I refer of course to my knee. Trev was never one for walking but I have always enjoyed it and love the idea of packing up my rucksack and going out wandering for the day camera at the ready – you get to see so much for a start. I currently can’t do that but I’ve just started physiotherapy again so here’s hoping that yields results. Sleep is getter better thankfully, although slowly.

The other is a desire to ‘do good’ or ‘give something back’ - whatever you want to call it. Helping others I guess. I enjoy my job as I’ve said and have no intention of giving it up, but driving privileged kids around is hardly worthy and I would like to do something that would make a difference. As yet, I’ve no idea what form that will take but volunteering of some sort is perhaps something I could fit into my working week. I wonder too whether my recent experience could be put to good use – some sort of counselling role perhaps. It’s still far too early of course but something to consider. I’ll be honest – doing ‘good’, helping someone, would make me feel good too I reckon.

So, there it is, my six month report if you like. I understand of course that contentment can be fluid and what suits me now my change as time marches on and I get older. Different things may come to interest me.

There may well come a time too when living a single life may not be as fulfilling as it is now and I’ll want to begin to share my life with someone else again. I don’t see that happening any time soon but it’s a possibility at some point and I’ll have to adjust accordingly. I’ll never forget Trev of course, he was the best thing that ever happened to me and he’d want me to be happy. But right now, I’ll take what I’ve got.

And to think this all came about from a late night ride home on a bus!

Cheers

Rich

Friday, 1 February 2019

6 Months

Six months? Half a year he’s been gone and in some ways it feels longer than that. When I’m feeling ok, getting on with stuff - work, domestic chores and so on, it seems longer. It seems normal - which of course now it is - the new normal. It’s not like he was never there but it can feel like a lifetime ago we were sharing a great life, enjoying each others company and making memories. Then I’m getting on with life.

And then, there’s the other times, when I’m feeling low, August 1st 2018 seems only yesterday. The sense of loss, the emptiness, his physical absence hits really hard. The unfairness, the cruelty of someone who was basically a good bloke being denied the chance to enjoy his hard earned retirement. Then I  wallow in the sadness and the tears and my loss. Last week brought with it the longest ‘low’ period since the early days at the end of the Summer, but thankfully it passed.

I’ve said many times, that’s just ‘how it is’. Time is a great healer it is said and I’ve no doubt that’s true but grief does tend to catch you out.

There’s been a few things happening at work this term which would have made Trev chuckle or more likely roll his eyes and give an opinion on – as he did with most things. So many times, when hearing of the latest gossip recently, the thought has popped into my head – “ I must tell Trev that” and even before I’ve finished thinking it, realise that I can’t. It happened for a long while after Mum died and I don’t doubt it will be the same with Trev. Still one of the times I miss the most is the Friday evening ‘debrief’ over a meal and a couple of pints when we dissected the working week. Believe me, we’d have so much to talk about at the moment. If only.

So, on to this months photo. Taken in 2011 on what was our last cruise. That wasn’t the cruise ship though - we'd docked at Dubrovnik in Croatia and having been up the cable car and a look at the old town we took to the water on a beautiful 19th century vessel for a ride around the the coast. One of the best cruises we ever did I reckon but the last before Patsy came along. Something I’d like to do again one day.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

5 Months

04 Five months and one day to be precise as, once again I’m a bit behind schedule. Trev was the timekeeper!

So, another month passed during which the emotionally tricky waters of Christmas and New Year were navigated. As you can imagine at times it wasn’t easy with the two main days - Christmas Day and New Years Eve - being the most tricky. A dent in the dinette table in the caravan is testament to the anger I was feeling in the early hours of new years day fuelled at least partially by grog of course. It passed fairly quickly but the dent remains and I’m cross with myself for doing it. It’s not the end of the world though.

This months pic also features my Dad and was at the marriage of Trev’s Sister Maggie to John in the early nineties. It was getting late and as you can probably see they’d both had a few and the task of lighting a cigarette was proving somewhat challenging!  One of my favourites.