Thank god for Jamie Oliver. Really, when’s he going to get his OBE (or whatever they give chefs for being bloomin’ everywhere with their brand)? If it were not for his coffee shop in North Terminal Gatwick this would be a very bleak 5 hour wait indeed for the 05.35 EasyJet flight to Kalamata.
I left Phoebe earlier at Shoreham Station, where she had helped me with my two suitcases and one piece of hand luggage, 100% full of tech stuff. That was hard, I nearly cried, she’s so sweet and I love spending time with her and Nelson so much. My gorgeous boy is out on a date, he’s trying to show willing with a clean shirt and aftershave and money in his pocket, but I think he’d rather be “laying down some bars” for his college end of year project.
Yes, I’m going back to Stoupa. Suddenly, having only decided yesterday and much sooner than expected. We left on 15th April and it’s only the 15th of May. Well, 16th officially as it’s 12:07am now. I lasted a month in the real world.
The idea was that I would come home to the UK, travel around the country for a few weeks visiting friends and clients mid-week (just returning to Shoreham at weekends). Then, mid June I’m going to Brisbane for a speaking gig, then returning to Stoupa at the end of June to take up residence for a couple of years in the little house just next door to the one we had been staying in.
I managed one trip to Sunderland to visit an ex-client and now friend, Irene of TheEmployersToolbox.com where thanks to some amazing hospitality, I got over my excruciating embarrassment at staying in someone else’s house. Why I feel like that I don’t know, Irene certainly made me welcome.
In fact, we had a great time, getting to know both the local area and her very hard-working life partner Carl. Even the trip from Shoreham to Sunderland wasn’t so bad, now I’ve worked out how to get across London without needing to use the Tube.
The issue was partly that the spare room I had lined up in Shoreham (with Nelson’s help) was in a domestic house where the broadband was there purely to run the TV and it fell over any time there were more than three smartphones in the vicinity. This did cause practical problems as suddenly I was thrown back on my accommodating ex-husband Irving’s spacious and very centrally convenient flat in Shoreham-By-Sea. However, he does use it from Monday to Thursday himself!
I discovered when I got back from Sunderland that I could not face any more of these trips, I didn’t want to go out at all in fact, I just wanted to sit very, very still, in the hope that, if I do, I’ll just disappear and I won’t have to deal with these feelings any more, the feelings of being me without Steve any more. Denial, I suppose this is called.
The funny thing is that, as I’ve said in previous blogs, we didn’t usually spend that much time together in the usual way of things. However, being in any kind of a relationship with him was intense, very, very intense. It took up most of my waking moments (when not with Phoebe or Nelson or working in some form or other) and the last two years were even more so, as we tried to work things out between us and then looking after him while his health deteriorated.
Perhaps the issue is just being in Shoreham itself. There is so many memories and a big fat Steve-shaped hole just over there, over the River Adur, over on Shoreham Beach, just out of sight of the view from the window in Irving’s living room, where his flat used to be.
While the day to day, debilitating, agonising pain of the loss of him has subsided somewhat, I’m now facing the rest of my life alone and I simply have no idea who I am now.
My way of coping with that was that I did a lot of watching TV, alone, in between the comings and goings of my darling Phoebe and Nelson. I did a lot of trying to work at Irving’s dining room table and largely succeeding but then, when that was done, having absolutely no idea who I was, what I am supposed to do for leisure while not working.
I could barely make myself go out to the Co-Op, let alone any further. On the occasions I went to the lively local pub where the kids work part-time, I ended up having too much wine and being the life and soul of the party in a brittle, unsustainable way.
I don’t feel like the life and soul, I don’t feel like I’ve got any “swagger and soul” at all. I feel like one of those Russian dolls, with a hard exterior, the brave face, the convincing myself as well as everyone else that I’m “better”.
Then when you peel off the wooden layers, you find that there is simply nothing inside. There is no core person left. There is no normal, nor even any abnormal to cling to. There is just nothing there.
Who was she, the woman who used to live inside there? She used to love fashion and going to art galleries, she loved soul music and jazz, she knew who she was.
It’s like an illness, this grieving business and it’s also like an gigantic yet elusive monster. It makes that low, yet all encompassing, growling noice like a typhoon. Your grief is everywhere and deafening in the early days, with no relief, like being in a typhoon (or a horror movie) that you can’t escape from, you just have to travel through and let it do it’s worst.
Then after a year or so, there are days when the storm’s not roaring in the mornings or perhaps the evenings, then you go half a day with blissful silence before the roar returns, then whole days until you fool yourself that it’s silent, it’s gone for good, it’s all “better”.
Surely it should be over by now? What is the actual point of grieving?
It’s not very helpful, to say the least. It’s totally debilitating.
On top of that, I was now suddenly in the situation of being essentially homeless midweek, at least on the weeks I had no trip away organised.
And then the idea occurred, perhaps I should enquire about the little house in Stoupa, was it going to be free at all?
The answer came back, yes, until the 22nd June, but it’s booked out for one weekend. No problem, sure I can find a bed for 3 nights!
So here I am at Gatwick, trying not to listen to the trim middle-aged ladies.in dayglo trainers, one with a sharp grey bob, one with chic short silver hair (putting my roots to shame), gaily downing a bottle of Prosecco and then a Chardonnay each. They have chattered incessantly, occasionally lowered their voices although the objects of their attention can’t be nearby
There are several other solo travellers like me, there are two Easyjet flights this morning to Kalamata, how can that be? Everyone could be going anywhere in the world though I get the impression everyone is waiting for an early flight, we are a hodgepodge of voyagers, heavy eyed but still, just about, running on adrenaline.
Jamie himself could surely not have produced (or even sampled) the “Ultimate” salt beef sandwich on rye with sauerkraut but I am grateful for his empire’s reach as the last time we did this it was a hard cold night on the iron seats, semi-recumbent to be sure, but seriously uncomfortable nonetheless
I tried to get a Yotel or Bloc cabin, but no joy. I would be asleep by now I’m sure as I’m tempted to just lay my head down on my neck support thing.
Looking back, the turning point was when I realised that if the little house was free for even 3 weeks, it would be worth coming back, as after all, a couple of July’s ago, Phoebe, Steve and I had gladly uprooted ourselves for just one restorative week in this glorious place.
I have no idea how I am going to cope on my own, not least with the practicalities like fetching water, dealing with my fear of walking home through the dark bit of the olive tree lined lane, not to mention sleeping in the house on my own in the heat with the windows open.
And just how bad will the mossies be?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions but I’m going to find out.