Tag Archives: Gibraltar

2016, the first full year without Julie


It’s been a quirky, funny and at times a horrific year.

2016 started less than three months after Julie died after losing her battle with cancer.  In January I made a trip out to Tenerife to stay with our long time friends, Linda and Pete.  The trip was a welcome break from the intensity of caring for Julie, then watching her slip away, her once beautiful body racked and ruined by disease.  Tenerife was my first time travelling abroad alone and it was a strange experience, sitting in Gatwick airport feeling alone amongst the throngs of other passengers, having a coffee without anyone to discuss the forthcoming trip with, just waiting for the boarding gate to be announced.  Once in Tenerife, I was made to feel at home by my lovely friends and it was a welcome and pleasant distraction from the previous three years.

February arrived so Nathan, my son and I set about carrying on with our business,  because without a doubt life has to carry on, doesn’t it? The sheer shock of losing someone so close is never far away though but you get up in the morning and get on with your life.  You laugh and feel guilty, then some days well, you wish there aren’t going to be anymore days.  That of course is selfish, because how would my children react if they were to lose their Dad so soon after their Mum?

March saw a visit to a medium with my friends Bev and Stuart, comforting? Yes, but possibly too soon! My mind was still in a turmoil and many things didn’t register at the time, since then? Well let’s just say the medium was spot on!  March also saw a wedding, Pete and Linda tied the knot in Gibraltar then the party moved on to Tenerife.  It was there I realised that I had taken a real emotional battering.  My confidence had disappeared and usually a planner, I had to “wing it”. That was a difficult time.

Arriving back from Tenerife in early April I felt bruised, not in the physical sense but emotionally, my mind had been constantly spinning and I felt I’d let my two dear friends down. I coped by throwing myself back into work, then towards the end of April I had some more bad news.  Angela, one of Julie’s closest cousins lost her husband to cancer! I’d only met Angela a couple of times but something compelled me to pen a letter to her, I did and felt much better for writing.

During May work as always was busy and weekends were busy too with family, one thing losing someone close teaches you is money is only secondary, it’s time that is the most valuable commodity.  Unlike money, you never know when time is going to run out.  So May was like most other months during my adult life, filled with as much time spending time with my family and grandchildren.

It was Julie’s first birthday without us on June 5th, she would’ve been 58 this year and the way she carried her age before she became ill she probably would only look about 45 had she still have been alive.  We, as a family decided to have a meal together and a small intimate party, the weather was good so we carried on the party into the evening sat in the garden.  Laughter and children filled the garden that day, just the way Julie liked it. Of course June also saw Brexit and the resignation of our Prime Minister.  The “Brexit” vote made me realise and see some of the hatred and selfishness locked away inside people, I watched and was subjected to veiled comments and abuse as a leaver.  I forgive all of those abusers because I know they are frightened and fear tends to bring out the worst in people.

July and August were a mixture of meals at my home for the family and visits to various museums, English Heritage and National Trust properties with my grandsons.  Trust me, boys love cars, castles, cannons and dinosaurs! We made a visit to the Isle of Wight, firstly to Alum Bay, the less said about that the better, it’s a total rip off with run down attractions.  Osborn House, however was a real treat, picnic in the grounds and a walk around Queen Victoria’s retreat, brilliant.  We also made a trip to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth and were delighted to find The Mary Rose exhibition had been updated.  Really we made loads of memories this summer, little things which everyone will remember but boy did we do some stuff!!

September of course, saw the first anniversary of Julie’s passing, difficult because that first year is full of “firsts”.  We marked September 7th not by being morose but with a chilli, laughter and lighting candles in the evening.  As September 2016 drew to a close, it was difficult to comprehend that a full year had passed since I lost the love of my life. Oh, and I bought a new car.

October? Well it was busy that’s for sure! Hannah’s birthday, work, just busy and then awaiting the clocks to go back and the darkness to draw in.

November started with a visit to my brothers house for an big ole’ family firework party on the fifth.  Work, as it always does at this time of years ramps up, then tragedy, a phone call from Yvonne, the middle of my three sisters, my lovely brother-in-law, Steve had been killed, cycling home on his way back from work! Another family devastated! Nathan flew to the US for a holiday and thanks to a member of our staff, I ended up working for the following two weeks like a twenty year old!

December 2016. Steves funeral took place early this month then a week later Julie’s dad had a malignant tumour removed from his arm.  Then a milestone, I went out socialising without my family for the first time in probably three years, up until that point I’d just not really wanted to be anywhere apart from home.  Christmas decorations and tree were put up then a week before Christmas I was lucky enough to be invited to attend another wedding, this time it was Stuart and Bev tying the knot, lovely service in the wonderful Rhinefeild House Hotel in the heart of the New Forest.

On Christmas Day I got up at 6am to prepare a meal for Julie’s mum and dad who due to ill health were unable to leave their home, Leah, Hannah and Nathan delivered it along with Simon and the three grandsons, Jack, Archie and Freddie?

Later that Christmas Day, another milestone, I cried for the first time since the birth of my son nearly 27 years ago.  Oh I’d felt like it, but even on the day Julie died the tears just wouldn’t materialise.  I guess all of my life had to be strong for someone?  When the tears came I felt relieved and realised I was still human and miss Julie as much, if not more at these family occasions?.

2016 didn’t finish pushing up surprises, a happier surprise happened on December 31st.  What was it? I’ll tell you about that one in due course. ?

So what did I learn during 2016? Well just when you think you’ve got life under control it throws a curve ball, then another, in fact so many there were times when I struggled to cope but cope I did.  It’s not just me who has to cope though, everywhere I look there are people struggling to cope. I’m lucky though, I write it down and hope someone reads my words and hope the words bring comfort to at least one person who feels the desperation caused by loneliness..

So to anyone who reads this I send you my heartfelt best wishes for 2017, may all of your dreams come true.

As always, thanks for reading?

 

 

 

 

 

Married on the Rock (1)

image
See this? This is the famous rock of Gibraltar.  This tiny outpost of the British Empire has stood guard not only over the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, commonly known as the Straits of Gibraltar,  but also the Bay of Gibraltar, guarding against the Spanish, the Moors, the Germans and whoever knows what else.

In my family “The Rock” is also famous for a darker reason, for this is where my father was convicted of attempted murder in the mid 1950s. Now my Dad although violent wasn’t a man who would go out and look for trouble, it sort of came to him.  A bunch of Spaniards made the mistake of calling him “a filthy English bastard” so he put about, with a little help from his mate, 15 or so of them in hospital, with varying degrees of injuries from a mere broken arm to a more serious “in a wheelchair”.  The only fact which saved him from the gallows was he was a Submariner and his skipper stood his corner and Mr Atkins senior took his punishment like a man!  His punishment? He had to scrub the gallows everyday for six months.  Not a story to be proud of but when Dad told it was funny.

Back to today, after being held on the apron of Heathrow Airport for nearly an hour thanks to French Air Traffic Control, I arrived in Gibraltar then at The Rock Hotel.

imageAfter unpacking, I set about the tasks I had set myself for the first day. First to find the registry office,  so Linda can get the paperwork in order for the forthcoming wedding.  Mission complete!  Next have a mooch around to find a suitable place for photographs, no problem there either, there’s a botanical gardens just across the road from the hotel?.  Finally to find a restaurant away from the hotel as hotel food tends to be pretty basic and “samey”.  Hmm, now that proved to be more of a problem. As in the UK today it’s Easter Sunday and most, not all, eateries seemed to be closed!  Off course the usual suspects like Burger King and Costa Coffee were open but who wants that? Certainly not this traveller.

Then after crossing the square, going under an arch, I found a suitable candidate, Goucho’s.  Now this restaurant has all I was looking for, meat, poultry, salad and fish also, importantly atmosphere and character.  I decided upon a starter which would be difficult to cook, Argentinian Morcilla (fried black pudding on lettuce with balsamic vinegar). Not bad but I’ve tasted better but there are a lot more started to choose from so I give the starter 4/5.  For my main I went for fresh caught Dorada, sautéed potatoes, with a side of blue cheese filled beef tomato.  The fish was plump, juicy and cooked to perfection, it fell off the bone, the dish was excellent, 5/5.  This will be the restaurant of choice during my stay I think?.  Washed down with an excellent glass of Spanish red wine and a bottle of fizzy water, good attentive service and a price tag of £33.00, well worth the walk!

Watch out for further updates on my travels over the coming days, Thanks for reading?????

Life As A Widower 2 (6 months on)

IMG_0069I can’t believe it was six months ago today the love of my life for forty years, Julie, died from cancer.  Do I miss her?  You bet I do, she’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to  sleep.  Only someone whose been through this would understand and I hope although against hope you won’t have to live through this experience, although unfortunately life dictates a good percentage of you will.

Luckily my family are all grown up, although I’m unsure whether this makes it harder or easier for  them,  my two lovely daughters, Leah and Hannah and my son Nathan have been and still are very supportive along with their respective partners, Simon, Leah’s husband, Matt, Hannah’s partner and the lovely Georgia, Nathan’s fiancée.  photo(29)These six, along with my three grandsons, Jack, Archie and Freddie are the main focus of my life, as they too need support from time to time of course.

So what about me?  Well I went to Tenerife in January to visit my long time friends, Linda and Peter, Julie and I had some great times with them and they’re the sort who no matter how much time between  talking or seeing each other, we just pick up where we left off.  I’m off to Gibraltar on March 27th to meet them and to be best man at their wedding on the 30th at The Rock Hotel 🙂  Then back to Tenerife for more celebrations, really looking forward to that trip!  I love the island, I’m able to sit and write without disturbance and have been able to concentrate on my first novel, “Soulmates” which is, apparently, so I’m told, turning into a really good read!

In November I’m flying to Florida with Nathan, Georgia and her parents to look over the wedding venue with them ready for 2018, looking forward to that trip too. 🙂

I’ve learned changing my bedding and fighting the duvet cover every week is a much better workout than jogging.  I’ve found I can deal with almost any problem now because life’s too short to tolerate most of the bureaucratic bullshit that confronts us all throughout our daily lives.  I’ve also learned to say no whenever I feel I’m being taken advantage of.

I’ve found out I’ve high cholesterol, high blood pressure and may be diabetic which is quite strange really because I cook and eat healthily, and I’m always active.  So armed with information, I eat more fruit, don’t take sugar in my coffee and only drink red wine generally at weekends.  I’ve also cut out the medication which treated me for depression, (before I lost Julie and not as a result of).  Do I feel better?  I don’t know, what I do know though is now life has a certain clarity to it, the sort of clarity which makes you unafraid to forge ahead, not be coerced into doing things I don’t want to do just to please.

Are there things I miss apart from my wife?   I miss travelling with her, her witty conversation, her wry humour, companionship, her undivided love.

The one thing I don’t miss?  Julie and I were instrumental in setting up a comedy drama group twenty years ago, did they support her when she was ill, no.  In fact I had to go to a meeting and explain to them how ill Julie was and still they expected us to go down and “help”, they expected me to go and build sets, even when she was having chemotherapy and dying.  Well members of that drama group, I hope you all can live with yourselves, maybe now you believe just how ill she was!  You know the beauty of not naming them is they know who they are, they have to live with themselves because when we resigned from the group due to Julie’s illness, we were never even offered a lifetime pass even though for many years Julie and I worked hard for the group, many times at financial cost to ourselves.  In Julie’s words “Fuck ’em, they’re all up their own arses and have to live with themselves”

Being a widower (or a widow) I guess,  sends you into a world of sometimes darkness, sometimes despair, loneliness at times when you miss the love of your life,  but I think also a voyage of self discovery until you meet the love of your life once more xxxx

Thanks for  reading 🙂