25th January to 25th June 2020

The 25th of every month brings memories of that day when mum died. But today was a glorious day spent with my wonderful grandson Monty yet to reach 2. He exhausts me in this heat with his boundless energy and curiosity as he explores the world of my garden and language and imagination. It fills me with awe. We laugh and giggle, occasionally I chase him with ripples of laughter on both sides. He moves my potted plants from place to place, playing some organisational game of order- his order unknown and unfathomable to me. His secret understanding of this world. He waters my plants and the path in equal measures. He stamps and splashes in the little inflatable pool, so happy at the sounds he makes. He runs down the long grassy garden watching his legs spring about with pleasure. Yet it’s baking hot and I chase him trying to persuade him to have sun cream and his hat on. After lunch he’s beginning to flag and falls asleep on my lap pinning me to the armchair for an hour. I love watching him asleep. Breathing. Gush with love for him. He’s contented. I’m contented. He won’t remember these times but I will forever. Such delight and laughter, healing me slowly.

Five months of grief

Today it’s boiling hot and I’ve tried to be strong and let my grief happen. Somehow I just feel wrecked. I thought mum would last until she was a hundred. Yet I knew she could go at anytime. I thought time was supposed to heal. I get flashbacks of her face as she died. I want her back. I want to play Yahtzee and Rummikub and Canasta. I want to make her lunch. I want her to feed Monty. I want her to come to Oxwich Bay in July and help me set up the new bungalow. I want to do things together with her, feel her unconditional love. I know she would not want me to be sad. So I must pull myself together. Water the tomato plants. Make a cup of tea. Stop crying.

Day 5 of Grief

Up early feeling weird. Sad and broken. I want to get back to drawing but can’t face it. I went up to Mum’s house to put the recycling bins away ad check everything was ok. Remembered to check her indoor plants as they were dry. Couldn’t go into the sunroom where she died. Sat on her bed and wanted to curl up on it.  This morning I got news of my brothers partners mum that she died at 10 last night. How crazy is this world. Two mums gone suddenly.

Grief January 2020

Mum died on Saturday 25th January

She was 92 years old and in reasonable health. A sudden heart attack has left me with unimaginable pain. She had a wonderful life and she moved down to Brecon to be close to me as she was feeling vulnerable living on her own in Preston. We were very close. We looked similar and liked many similar things. Seeing her everyday has been a privilege and fun and brought us even closer since she moved in November 2018. She loved her new bungalow and made new friends at her church, the knitting club and WI. She was close to her two grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren and made an amazing bond with the youngest Monty 16 months old. It was a joy to see and be part of. She didn’t want to go into hospital and have a long illness and didn’t want to be resuscitated. So why do I feel like this. The depth of this has surprised me, has also frightened me. I am not able to control this emotion. The crying and deep howling is destroying me. I have to move on, but just want my mum back. I miss her so much.

May 2019 Doctors, Hospitals, Printmaking and Samaritans

Waiting rooms drive me to distraction with boredom and wasting my time. Mum has had a lot of appointments. Calming anxiety is draining.

Samaritan duties are a lifeline. They make me feel grounded and in control of my life, enabling me to help others less fortunate. Colleagues are such wonderful inspiring people I am in awe of them.

Printmaking at the Rodd near Presteigne and volunteering there as a gallery guide has been quite inspiring. A good feeling to balance my responsibilities which sometimes I feel good about but sometimes feel overwhelmed by. I was pleased by my landscape prints – one was stunning.

April 2019 Monty reigns supreme – Baby time

A month of looking after wonderful Monty Eric Meredith and my mum has been somewhat surreal after my new Zealand adventure. He is happy and exudes cheerfulness even though he has occasional teething problems. He arrives on my doorstep each morning around 7.45am and delights me continually. My walks with him are the highlight of my day on dry days. He looks and observes. everything is special and exciting, wonder giving as he drifts off to sleep in the pram. When we have a cuppa and a cake in different local cafes he charms everyone with a look and an instant smile. Mum loves him so much and even enjoys lunch when he feels and squashes everything – bananas, avocados, raspberries and strawberries, cucumber and mangoes and most recently blueberries. The floor is a mess, the high chair is a mess. The bib is a mess. His hands are fruit stained and I see my tablecloth is raspberry stained too. Who cares? the freedom of his eating – baby led weaning apparently – is gorgeously anarchic.

Spent a few days after Easter in Tenby but the apartment had a few problems so not as restful as expected. Walks on the beach lived up to their therapeutic effect. It’s been a busy month looking after Monty and Mum and managing C.

Unsettled in relationship but busy as an antidote. Missing NZ and the Blue Hills of Sydney.

 

March 2019 Sydney adventures- Blue Hills and Pink Diamonds and Edinburgh

Day 39

Another day of sightseeing- this time on a real touristy bus. Not to my liking I’m afraid but useful to see a wider area- Bondi Beach and get off at a few sites.

I had to go back to finish paying for my beautiful pink diamond ring today and have the fitting checked as the jeweller had to enlarge it a little. Trying it on again made me smile , just looking at this delicate little band of Argyle pink diamonds in rose gold between the white ones. I am crazy to do this but it will become an heirloom for my granddaughter. And naturally give me great pleasure and wonderful memories of my trip of s lifetime..

I went down to see the light show again on the Opera House only to be disappointed once more!

Day 40

Up early to catch a train to the Blue Hills. A 2 hour journey on a double decker train. Lovely and comfortable train, leather seats that you could move to face whichever way you liked, smooth and easy to nod off! We travelled through the suburbs of Sydney and out into the forested hills. Forest for as far as you can imagine seeing. Breathtaking even on a train. We caught s circular bus, splitting st the Scenic Centre so I could do a series of walks along the cliffs, in the forest and down to waterfalls and viewpoints. A stunning and exhilarating day walking in natural rainforest. I didn’t mind walking on my own, in fact loved it, meeting people and chatting on the bus, then having some quiet in the walk. I listened for birds I can only imagine, but actually saw a few too- a lure bird fanning its tail feathers making s rattling noise, some squawking yellow headed white cockatoos wildly flying about like uncontrolled adolescents, three brown birds that showed flashes of red and white when they flew past in the trees but virtually disappeared when still. Lots of sounds I cannot describe or name. The treks down to waterfalls were taxing and there were so many steps- some so steep they were like ladders, some quite scary and I had to go down backwards and take a deep breath! One bridge across from a cliff face to a rock formation called The Three Sisters was particularly knee trembling! It’s was all stunning and well worth the effort for my knees and back, even though the temperature rose beyond 30 degrees. Luckily there was plenty of dappled shade to keep me relatively cool. When I met up with my brother I still looked like a lobster but from the exertion of the steep walking rather than sunburn. I absolutely loved it and was buzzing as we stopped off for an early dinner in a town on the way back to Sydney called Parametta. We arrived back at 8 pm – after catching the 8.14am train this morning. Wow what a day.

However there was a small matter of the light show on Sydney Opera House to deal with. Should I make one final attempt. Of course. And yes it WAS worth it. A wonderful animated sequence of 7 minutes of visual delight in Aboriginal style. Just as it finished he heavens opened and I was drenched as we all ran down The Memorial steps for cover. I treated myself to Guylain ice cream as a reward for being so persistent and determined to see this light show!

Returning to the apartment I left my final packing until the morning and after a shower dropped – yes literally dropped- into bed.

Day 41

Aftee final pack and breakfast we put our luggage into storage and headed off in different directions- me to Bondi Beach and L&A into the city. We arranged to meet at Wharf 6 for the Harbour Cruise in the afternoon. I took the train and bus to Bondi Beach and walked the full length of the beach. It was dull and cloudy but I loved being there. Hardy surfers were out as the waves were big. It was good to watch their efforts – one Guy was quite stunning doing somersaults, others just learning. There were joggers and walkers, no one sitting on the beach. I looked at the saltwater swimming pool, a bit bigger than the one in Dunedin but similar. Watched the waves crashing like cymbals on the cliffs at each end of the bay. I’m quite glad it’s not too hot as it’s less busy.

As the rain began to spit I found a little cafe on a corner. It was becoming humid. Had a vegan salad and chai tea, perfect. The cafe was run by the church next door for young vulnerable people to give them a start. They were so welcoming. Caught the bus the whole way back to watch the journey more and decided to try and see if they had any places left on the 2 pm Opera House tour. My luck was in. After thinking it might be boring I was pleasantly surprised. It was fascinating- the architect was Danish after winning a competition it was such an innovative design there were many delays and problems. It’s built like the engineering of a bridge. I really enjoyed the tour. I walked round the wharfs until I found number 6 and sat and waited for their cruise ship to come in. They loved their cruise too.

We went back to the hotel and waited for our taxi and then started our journey home. The flight was at 21.45pm and was on time. The first flight was 16 hours during which I started with horrendous leg and back pain- the worse I’ve had so painkillers were needed regularly, but I did manage 3 hours sleep in between films.

Day42

In Dubai I bought some amazing dates- chocolate covered, stuffed with pistachios and different flavours. The second flight was 8 hours and boring, in s smaller plane- not a double decker like the others – narrower seats. Made it to Edinburgh.

Day 43

A Day in Edinburgh- after visiting the Fruitmarket Gallery where the exhibit wasn’t open so had chai tea and an absolutely gorgeous cake, I went to the City gallery to see some interesting photography. Then I made my pilgrimage to the Cafe Royal only to find that they were refurbishing it and it was closed. Disaster. Decided to go to Portobello beach. After a walk on the beach I had mushroom soup and proper fresh ginger tea ( my favourite) in The Espy overlooking the beautiful beach. Feeling somewhat spaced out as I watched the waves dribble in unlike Bondi Beach rollers.

What a journey I’ve had. What an experience. One to remember forever. I’m glad I did this.

March 2019 Leaving New Zealand and arriving in Australia – from Christchurch To Sydney

Day 37

Hardly slept. One hour! Up at 3 am and off to the airport for a 7 am flight to Sydney. Couldn’t sleep on plane but had a lovely breakfast and watched two good films- one a documentary about Christian Dior’s drawings and the other the film The Favourite with Olivia Coleman. We were met by a taxi but too early for our room so stored our luggage and went for early lunch. Eventually found The Haven after major construction work on an extension of the light railway hampered Google maps. This cafe was a great find. A mixture of Hong Kong, Japanese and Korean. Great superfood salad and proper brewed chai. Busy and quirky. Occasionally it rained! We had quite an experience with an over enthusiastic tourist information guy on the station. I was beginning to lose the will to live! But he gave us good tips too. Returned to check in and rest, then in the evening walked down to Darling harbour to watch the fireworks and have dinner with the millions of Asian tourists. A bit overwhelming.

Day 38

A day on The Rocks….wandering through the Rocks craft market. Sheer delight talking to the makers and artists. The atmosphere was lovely and the sun shone raising the temperature to 31 degrees. I spent awhile in the Argyle jeweller looking at rare pink diamonds. Met the designer and maker. Bought a ring. Exquisite. Then I enjoyed the Contemporary Art Gallery Australia – some stunning work by a woman called Janet Lawrence. Wonderful installations. Very inspired by her. In the evening I went to the Sydney Opera House by train to see the Maori lights how on the building. The first show at 7.50 was cancelled so I sat in the iconic Opera Bar overlooking the Harbour Bridge sipping rose wine until the second show at 9pm which was then cancelled as well due to technical difficulties. Hopeless.

 

March 2019 Arriving at the end of the New Zealand adventure in Christchurch

Day 32

Left Twizel for 3 and a half drive to Christchurch. First part was interesting but most was flat and boring. After we settled in to our new motel we walked in to the city to meet Paul an old friend of my brother who used to live in Edinburgh and go mountain biking with him. The city lost 80% of its buildings in the centre during the earthquake 8 years ago. Much has been rebuilt, some is still being built, other parts are demolished, some buildings are just being held up by steel buttresses. But we had drinks and a meal together in a modern bar, sitting on the balcony outside.

Day 33

Exploring the city today, jumped on the heritage tram system to get to know the centre with some funny and interesting commentary from the driver. After a full circuit we got off at the partially destroyed cathedral, looked at a small market, the Art Deco Regent Street, had coffee, cake and later ice creams, just trying to take in what the city was becoming after such a terrible event. We got on two more trams to try different types and ages of trams.

We drove to Paul’s house in the early evening for a BBQ and to meet his family. We had a lovely evening chatting with him and Lora-and Rowan (9) and Tilly(6). Lora showed me her silver jewellery mainly tiny shells moulded in silver clay from different beaches and some of Mt Cook. She grew up in Coromandel town.

 

Day 34

Laury went up into the hills mountain biking with Paul today. Audrey and I went to the City Art Gallery and joined a guided tour- great “unpc” commentary! Loved the contemporary NZ artists very quirky and interesting. Then went for tea and lunch in Ballyntines Tearooms- a traditional department store l8e House of Fraser- great pot of tea. Next we walked to the memorial sculpture 185 white chairs which was really moving each chair commemorating those who died in the 2011 earthquake here. I was really moved by this. Quite special when you read the names and ages of the dead. There was a baby car seat to show a 5 month old baby died, a high chair to show a 15 month old child died, a rocking chair for someone 87.  We finished off with a visit to the incredible cardboard cathedral. As the cathedral was badly damaged in the earthquake this temporary cathedral was designed by a Japanese architect who specialises in this type of structure. It was fascinating- the roof was made from enormous cardboard tubes, covered with polycarbonate lightweight panels. It was great. I lit a candle for dad there.

Day 35

Another day for my brother to bike with Paul whilst Audrey and I had a great adventure going to Sumner beach, having a paddle, watching the big surfing waves rolling in whilst having a lovely lunch in the Beach cafe. We went to drive a different way home along the coast but we misread the roadwork signs and ended up a mountain at a closed road, a detour took us to another hill along a windy road with a sheer drop on my side! But at the top the view was gorgeous. We could see all the way to New Brighton.

Day 36

Last day in Christchurch ( had to visit doctor in the morning but all sorted) and we all went to Quake City which was an amazing museum about all the earthquakes in Christchurch, the Maori legends, lots of interesting facts about positive things that occurred and a very moving film of individuals stories. Tears flowed at times. Went back to Summers beach cafe for late lunch, but windy and grey skies. Good lunch though! We drove to New Brighton to see the new concrete pier- I walked the full 300 metres and back to see wonderful turquoise water and a traditional Maori racing rowing boat practicing for racing on the large waves. Loved the long beach which we had seen from the hill yesterday. Final pack and weigh for early start tomorrow.

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March 2019 New Zealand adventure from Dunedin by the sea back to the mountains of Twizel and Mt. Cook

Day 30

Long journey to Twizel but great lunch at Clyde in Oliver’s restaurant and brewery. We stayed in a motel with each room shaped like a mountain chalet. A triangle shape at the front with my room up in the roof on a mezzanine. The interior was pine so was quite quirky again. It was on a very flat plain within sight of snow topped Mt Cook the highest mountain in NZ. Not a lot on Twizel except a rowing lake with full regatta set up.

Day 31

A tremendous day walking up the Hooker valley to see Mt Cook. It was a long hot walk over 2 very long swing bridges which I crossed with trepidation and anxiety. The mountain view was special, unreal like a painting. The number of tourists walking was high like on Pen y Fan at home. We then drove to the next valley to see the icebergs floating in the Tasman Lake from the Tasman glacier. This was such a surreal sight, much quieter and mesmerising. They were white and grey in a milky grey lake. Three small orange inflatable boats were ferrying groups of people on the lake to get closer to the glacier. It also looked like we were in a quarry as there were so many shades of grey! I sat and watched the icebergs silently floating, yet still and going nowhere.

Day 32

On the move again to Christchurch our last place to visit in New Zealand.