Travels of 2014 – Trip 1b(?) – well it wasn’t for work and wasn’t abroad

Following my week in New York, I had a week off booked. This was my first week off since September last year, however I didn’t feel like I’d had any time off for a lot longer. Work has been hectic and with a lot of deadlines and difficult project work to complete. My week away from my mobile and laptop was to be spent tidying up the house and then taking a trip to the North to see some old friends.
Thursday morning I hopped on my train and headed up to Durham. Frankly this was a trip that I shouldn’t have bothered making. N, was due to meet me in Durham so that we could have a bite to eat, a drink and a catch up. He’s been working hard on building his own business and I did have a sneaky feeling that our catchup wouldn’t happen. Sure enough, at midday, he asked if I would be able to meet him a little further North. With a serious lack of funds due to waiting on expenses (and the fact that I was already travelling for 4 hours) I declined and we had to cancel. I was very disappointed, however understanding that he has been putting his heart and soul into trying to get his business going, I sadly conceded that there was nothing to be done or gained from being too upset.
However, emotional and still suffering the after effects of jet lag, I found myself, watery eyed, staring out of my train at London Kings Cross, contemplating what I could do with my short time in the Durham. In fact, I spent most of my journey trying to work out what to do. And there was a lot of journey. I left my house at 10.30am and at 3pm I was still sat on my train, just outside Grantham staring at the fields. At 5pm, I arrived at my hotel. Slightly worse for wear due to enjoying one too many glasses of wine.
Tired, emotional, tipsy and feeling generally rubbish, I headed for the hotel bar and had a meal there before retiring to bed early.
Friday morning I woke with excitement as I was to head to York to meet an old (and very close) friend. As I departed the hotel I looked across the River Weir and realised that my last trip to Durham had also been very short. It had centered around the building opposite, as I was there to train some staff joining the BBC (well, it had become Siemens) Technology team. It was at this point that I also remembered the steps that you have to take up to the train station.
After too many steps to count, a big hill and lots of regret over bringing spare shoes in my luggage, I arrived at the station. Frozen, hungry and a little hungover, I awaited the packed train heading to Manchester Airport, which would see me arrive at a slightly warmer York.
When I arrived, I walked through the City, aiming to locate my room for the night. My usual hotel choice had been spurned for this trip and I had booked myself and 3 friends (joining me on Saturday) into a pub in town.
The Roman Bath was a place that I had only ever walked past and glanced in before. It had been chosen primarily because it would allow one night stays on the weekend and secondly for its central location. When I arrived I was greeted in the most cheery and upbeat manner by Chris. His bright conversation and quick wit was welcomed after my dismal Thursday and I looked around to see several people enjoying a drink and food in the bar. I was shown to my room and I must confess to being pleasantly surprised. A small, but functional double room with an ensuite shower, TV, wardrobe and a proper key. None of this swipe card fun and games which usually results in being able to access your room at 3am and waking up everyone around you!
When I re-entered the bar later in the day, following a walk to my favourite Tea Room (Chloes, near the Last Drop Inn), I was greeted by Paul (who runs the Roman Bath), as if I were a regular. By this time of the evening, the place was buzzing, every table occupied by diners and drinkers. I had a swift half (of very good beer) and then proceeded to meet my friend, V, in the pub down the road.
The night was a lot of fun. We had a meal and then went back to our meeting place, where we sang along with the pianist (sorry Ali), before then heading to watch a band perform at the Golden Fleece. Much fun (and beer) was had but I must confess to being glad to get back to my room for some much needed sleep.
The room was perfect. Quiet, comfy bed and in the morning a good shower awaited me, followed by an even better full English breakfast.
Ready to start Saturday, I walked around York and then went to the train station to meet one of the party due in at 11.30. I ensured he could check into the hotel ok and then we took a walk to a pub to catch the Liverpool match. By this time, my other two friends were attempting to navigate their way into town from their parking position. This should have been fairly simple, however D, has never been the best with maps. Or directions. Or instructions.
Then, while we were in the pub, the heavens opened. It rained so hard that when my friends made it to the pub, D’s jeans were soaked through. They both looked like they had just stepped out of a power shower.
Once the game had finished, we agreed to take a walk back to our rooms so that we could all get changed (and that D and S could dry off/warm up!).
When we met up again we walked back to the pub in order to watch the Stevenage game (as D is a life long fan). The beer and company was brilliant… The football, not so much. V met us (once her hangover from the night before had settled down) and we went off in search of food. The rest of the night was brilliant. We talked about old times, old friends and faces that we hadn’t seen in years and of course caught up on some gossip.
We called it a night fairly early on and V headed home while we went back to the Roman Bath. We were just in time for a swift pint, so sat on the corner and continued our chats. It was at this point that I realised just how much some people have to deal with on a day to day basis.
S (who is D’s wife) went through a lot last year. My blog isn’t the place for detail, but I have the upmost respect and admiration for her. She’s a beautiful woman, tall, slim, blonde and walks with a confidence that few have. But every hour of every day she battles with anxiety and worry. So many people would hide away or let it drag them down, but she copes brilliantly. I’m so pleased and proud to be able to be considered her friend. I just hope that we all get to spend more time together soon. Never easy when you don’t live near to each other, but it’s a sign of true friendship when you can meet up after a few months (or years) and pick up where you left off.
As for D and S finding their car on Sunday morning, well… What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into nearly an hour. In the pouring rain. All due to D’s map reading ‘skills’.
It must be love.

All the single humans

About 7 months ago, I was subjected to a harsh analysis of my life while I was in the pub.

Three gentlemen of later years, were drinking at the bar watching Spurs play one Sunday afternoon when I walked in. One of them enquired as to my health and was very polite. Another asked me where my boyfriend was at which point I said I didn’t have one and would be drinking alone. This prompted the man to question me in detail about why I didn’t have a man.

To all my fellow ‘single’ friends, have you ever found an answer to that question?

I informed him that I didn’t need a man in my life, that I had wonderful friends and family around me and that was all I wanted and needed.

He then proceeded to say that my family would die and my friends would marry and settle down with their own family. He stated that my friends would no longer have time for me and I would ‘die alone’. Thanks to that man by the way, you really made my day. That’s the summary by the way, the full version went on for a good 5 minutes.

Eventually one of his friend’s stopped him and apologised on his behalf. The man walked away, then came back a few minutes later and apologised himself.

I brushed it off, although it did bother me a little, until today. Now I’ve been thinking about this. Many a time I look at my life and wonder whether I should put more time into forming a relationship with a guy. But then I look at everything I have going on and wonder if I could find anyone who would put up with me being busy and working away, on a long term basis? I would need to find a similarly busy man who felt I was worth the wait and worth making time for.

But then why do I need to? What is it about life today that makes it so unacceptable/odd to take yourself out to dinner? Or to the movies? Don’t get me wrong, I miss the attention when I’m single, but why do we have to find someone to settle down with?

I’ve been drawn into the online dating world in an attempt to see if there’s someone out there who’ll take a chance on me. There is. My experiences were a little, erm, ‘special’, but it’s nice to know you’re attractive to someone. I think ūüėČ

But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not for me. It works for many, but I’m just not one of those people. I’d rather just be out and be approached by a guy (or be the one to approach a guy) and take it from there. That’s worked for me in the past so why not in the future?

I said to a friend of mine earlier that I may have missed my chance at capturing my ‘Prince’. That he may have already ridden off into the sunset with his ‘Princess’. But that thought doesn’t make me sad. Many people end up living their life with their best friend by their side. Sometimes their lover, sometimes nothing more than their confidant. But they’re happy. If I can find that happiness then what does it matter.

As a side note to this blog entry, I will point out that I have been, and do date, so it’s not that I’m some bitter, lonely woman who has never had a boyfriend, it’s just that I don’t understand some of the pressures of society and this is one.

Do we have to get married? Are we deemed a failure if we don’t find that special someone? Is it an unwritten rule of life? Why do people always ask if your ‘other half’ is ‘joining you today’?

I’m happy knowing that those I love and care about are happy. That I can be part of their life and in turn, they can be part of mine.

I just hope they remember to check on me when I’m old and grey to make sure I’ve not died while they’ve been busy with their own life ūüėČ

The last few months

It’s been a while hasn’t it. My last post was after the success of London 2012 and the hopes and dreams which it had created for so many. It was such a positive time and one of the reasons I stopped writing here was due to personal circumstances which had brought me down to Earth with a bump. ¬†I didn’t feel it would be productive to talk about it on here. My emotions were all over the place and I struggled to even speak to friends about how I felt. The few conversations I did have with friends ended up more a counselling session and that just made me angry. I didn’t want ‘help’ or ‘advice’. I just wanted to talk. To get everything off my chest and not have someone try and ‘fix’ it. If I had written a post, it would have been angry and hitting out at those who were only trying to be there for me. Sometimes, just listening not offering an opinion is all that I needed. Don’t know what to say? Try nothing but a hug and a cup of tea. And a chocolate biscuit ūüôā

To those following me on Twitter… thanks for not unfollowing me after some of the things I’ve come out with! I have been unable to explain my feelings there… I can’t fit this into 140 characters ūüėČ

The following post details what has happened. I feel I need to put this down in writing, as I have struggled to discuss it with people. Now I’m stronger and looking to a bright 2013, I feel this is the best way for me to get things off my chest.

So what happened?

Well, two things. One, my lovely sister struggling on as ever with her various conditions which continue to prevent her being able to work. July was a particularly difficult time with her ending up in hospital for a long and worrying stay. I know my Mum and Dad feel helpless and we all wish we could help, but sadly all we can do is try and support her. Our wonderful government Р*chokes* Рare doing their best to help her too of course. Cutting benefits and ensuring she (and our family) is put through as much unnecessary stress as possible just so she can afford to live and pay her bills(!) She battles everyday with constant pain and somehow still retains her sense of humour. For her and others like her suffering with EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) I salute you.

The second, was my Grandfather’s (on my Mum’s side) Cancer. He was originally diagnosed several years ago, but last spring he went downhill and had another heart-attack (not long after my Great Uncle lost his life to Cancer). Eventually the Cancer resulted in a hospital admission last October which, if we’re honest, we never expected him to survive. But, survive he did and then in the spring/early summer this year, the doctors informed us that the Cancer had spread. Now it was invading his Liver.

My Mum and Dad had been driving to/from the hospital almost every day since last October, picking my Nan and Mum’s sister up and ensuring shopping was done etc. I know my Dad found this difficult. There was a lot of pressure on him to be there, which he didn’t mind, but as you can imagine it took it’s toll. It took a lot of time and a remarkable amount of patience (my Nan has been testing at the best of times!) but he did it… although at what cost to his own state of mind I don’t know.

By August this year, I had requested not to travel with work so I could be there for my family. I have to say, my company have been fantastic. More than I deserved. Colleagues across the group have asked how myself and my family are doing, which has been touching. But my colleagues in the UK office have been superb, particularly putting up with my ups and (more often) downs through September, October and my bad moods in November as I struggled with a lack of sleep and a tendency to go home, eat rubbish and drink wine. To them, I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

At the start of October, my Grandfather took a turn for the worst and sadly this was the start of the end. My Nan called the paramedics, who were convinced he wouldn’t make the end of the day. Being stubborn, my Grandfather had refused to stay in bed and got up to leave the bedroom, only to have a fall. Trying to get him to stay in bed, was almost impossible.

When I heard the news, I drove to be there and was confronted by my family looking slightly bewildered. My Grandfather had improved and was sitting in bed chatting away. He looked tired, but still smiled and asked me how my job was going. Then the family doctor arrived and we had the discussion every person dreads – do you sign the do not¬†resuscitate¬†form, should he have a heartattack/stroke? It doesn’t matter how old or young a person is. When you are faced with a decision as to whether you should give them the chance to live or die, it breaks your heart and tears you to pieces. Our decision made, the doctor continued to chat with us and commented on how he had been surprised at the apparent resiliency of my Grandfather. In his words, ‘he’s a tough old bugger’. I couldn’t agree more.

On the morning of 22nd October, he was back in hospital, his wife and daughters at his side, all of us aware that it wouldn’t be long. That Monday was one of the hardest for me. 80 miles away in my office, I had my Mum on the phone letting me know the latest and my heart was breaking. There was nothing I could do, I had to stay, work and just be waiting on the end of the phone for more news.

Tuesday 23rd October and my Mum and one of her sister’s arrived at the hospital. With my Nan at his side and as my Aunt walked onto the ward, he slipped away. The doctors said afterwards that they had no idea how he survived as long as he did. The cancer was everywhere.

I arrived at my Nan’s house that afternoon with her sat in his chair holding a teddy bear. She was talking to me about the bear and about my Grandfather. Catching herself several times as she referred to him as if he was with us, I was lost as to what to say. She had just lost her husband of 63 years.

The days that followed were tough. My Nan began sorting through belongings the following day, even suggesting throwing things out – which we stopped – and she was on autopilot getting things done. The funeral had been pretty much finalised by the Thursday.

Holding myself together, I tried to support my Nan, Mum and her sister as much as possible, but when my Nan started to read some love letters they had written to each other, I felt a pain deep in my chest. My Mum and Aunt left the room, unable to listen to the words she read. It was heartbreaking, but so beautiful, written to each other when they were first courting in 1947/48. We shared some laughs and she began to shed a few more tears. An hour or so later, my mum and I were about to leave when the phone rang. I answered the first call to find it was my Great Aunt (Nan’s sister). The second call, my Aunt picked up and then burst into tears. I took the phone from her to find it was my Grandfathers best friend. Breaking the news to him and telling him I would let him know about the funeral was difficult to say the least. He was absolutely¬†devastated and with my Nan, Aunt & Mum crying behind me, I have no idea how I didn’t break down. I will never forget that conversation.

That week was one of the¬†saddest¬†I’ve experienced. But I am so glad I was able to be there. I do wish that I had seen through my final words to him though. I told him, a week and a bit before he died, that I would see him ‘later’. I went downstairs, chatted to my Nan, left the house (as he’d fallen asleep). I didn’t see him again. ‘Later’ will come, just not in this life.

The funeral, on 5th November, was a lovely occasion (if a funeral can ever be lovely). The weather finally decided to take a break from raining and we had sunshine, a good turnout and plenty of good memories shared. I surprisingly managed to hold it together for most of the day (although digging my nails into my hands left impressive marks). My Mum’s other sister (who was not coping at all well) hugged me and said he would have been proud of me. I’d like to think that was true.¬†I am so proud of my Mum, my Aunt and my Nan for that day. In particular my Aunt. She was there at the worst times and coped amazingly well, even though she may not believe that. Anyone who has been there for a person losing their battle against Cancer, will know what I am referring to. To those who don’t know… I hope you never find out.

To people who know me well, you’ll notice I am leaving out the trouble, heartache and downright vicious behaviour from one small section of the family. I am no longer angry with them. They aren’t worth the effort. But I will never forgive or forget what they have done and if I ever see them again, it will be too soon. All I will say is that I hope they are ashamed of themselves… that is, of course, if they ever find an ounce of humanity in their souls. Which I doubt.

Christmas this year will be a strange affair. My Dad’s mother died suddenly on Christmas Eve 30 years ago and so it’s always been a reflective time, but this year, we will have one less at the dinner table. Always putting on a brave face and smiling at everything, it will be sad not to have my Grandfather at the head of the table chatting about the Rugby, Cricket and how the garden is coming along despite all the rain we’ve had. He was, however, dreading the winter. I just wish that the summer had been better for him, so he could have spent more time sat in his garden, enjoying the beautiful colours and fragrance that his green fingers created.

I hate saying this, as everyone does when they lose someone, but so few remember it. Keep everything in perspective. An argument on Christmas Day about something that isn’t life or death is really not worth it. Be happy and tell those you love, just how much. My Grandfather and Nan had a wonderful relationship filled with love and both knew just how much they meant to each other.

As for Cancer, if you have any concerns, please see your doctor. No need to be¬†embarrassed, they’ve seen it all before.¬†Ladies, if you have a smear test due, go and book it in. Now! Any pain/embarrassment from a test, is nothing compared to the testing, treatment and¬†potential death if you just ignore it. Not to mention the fact that it will scar those closest to you, forever.

In the same way, please, if you get¬†diagnosed¬†with Cancer, don’t see it as a death sentence. It is terrifying, but people do beat it. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with Lymphoma on his Birthday a couple of years ago and went into remission last year. But you have to do your best to make sure it’s caught as quickly as possible. Don’t ignore any symptoms, no matter what your age is.

On a brighter note I am pleased to say that, despite some bad days, my Nan is doing remarkably well. She and my Grandfather were¬†inseparable¬† even before he became ill and we were all worried about how she would cope. She’s now demonstrating just how strong she is. Don’t get me wrong, she’s¬†grieving and so she cries and has bad days, but her strength day to day is amazing.

If I am half as strong as she and my Grandfather, then I can do anything.