I called in at KH with the girls this morning. Juliet was fast asleep, she looked comfortable in a pink cotton nightie. The room was very calm, there was a gentle hum from the “wave machine” at the end of her bed, the lillies smelt lovely and Radio 3 was playing quietly on the TV (Brahms I think). Chrissie, one of the senior nurses said she’d sat with Juliet for a while this morning while doing paperwork – which is a nice idea – and thought that Juliet might like some quiet background music. We got no more than the usual eyelid flickers from Juliet but we had a nice chat between us all.
Chrissie asked us into the quiet room for a short chat; we talked about breathing and Juliet’s condition generally. She said she’d noticed a general decline in Juliet’s wellbeing since she last worked on Weds (today is Sat) – we’ve seen it for almost a week now. I’ve noticed that there has been a parallel increase in the concern the nurses have shown in us as a family. All part of the palliative care.
We left on as reasonable a positive mood as could be expected. We then travelled to Suffolk, to Rob & Eva’s birthday barbecue. I put Radio 3 on so I could listen to what Juliet was hearing. Ask me anything about the Russian composer Scriabin (no, I hadn’t heard of him either). We made very good progress cross-country, via Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge and so called in at Bury St.Edmunds for a late pub lunch. I lived near Bury for about three years up to about age 7.
Onto Rob’s house, located in a charming village somewhere in Middle Earth. The girls met up with another pair of girls (his nieces), slightly younger, and as Rob & Eva have two boys aged 4 and 7, the children all hit it off wonderfully and played on the giant trampoline most of the afternoon. I met a few people I hadn’t met for several years, including Rob’s parents, soon to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. Rob & Eva are ex-journalists who have taken over a smallholding – chickens, ducks, bees and maybe bigger soon – and grow loads of veg and fruit. We had a tour of his land – a bigger estate than I’d thought.
It was a pleasant afternoon but I felt sad that J wasn’t there. Inevitably I got asked “is your wife here?” and had to explain the situation. That’s quite a party-pooping conversation-stopper I can tell you, but to the chap’s credit, he calmly asked a few pertinent questions while expressing sympathy. Just this morning Jeremy had sent me a photo of the famous five of us (me, Rob, Gavin, Jeremy and Keith, plus honorary flat member Juliet) outside our student flat in Bristol in 1985. We’d all dressed up (I think for Guy & Liz’s 21st birthday party) except Rob (with ghetto blaster). Now he’s the only one who looks appropriately-dressed in the picture (apart from J as well). The pic was taken by Toby Musgrave, the remaining honorary member of our student flat, despite him being a schoolboy at the time. I showed the photo to several people at the party.
We left about 7pm, with a couple of duck’s eggs and some artichokes, neither of which is something I would normally eat. Five minutes after driving away, I had to pull over, in tears, while the girls patted me on the shoulder. Juliet would have loved exploring the house, the estate, seeing old friends again.
Recovered, drove on. Then one of those serendipitous moments (the girls didn’t know what it means either). We drove past a house that had a long guinea-pig pen (run) on the pavement, and a notice on it saying “£10, proceeds to charity, put money through the letterbox”. I slammed on the brakes, reversed and we jumped out to inspect it. I should explain that Alice and I have discussed acquiring a few guinea-pigs to keep us company and to look after, once both Juliet and Lucy are not with us. And here we were with a near-empty Volvo estate. Problem was that the long Tobelerone-shaped GP run wouldn’t quite fit in the car, even with some of the rear seats down. However the seller lent us a few screwdrivers and between us we dismantled the run enough to fit in the car!
Next event on this emotional roller-coaster day was the realization that we would pass the village where I lived – Beyton Green. So although the evening was getting on, I turned off the main road and parked up. I’ve actually been back 2-3 times before, including with Juliet, but never with the girls.
We saw my old primary school – long since converted into a very desirable house – a muntjac deer, the drain under the road that I never dared crawl through, our old house (Stone Cottage, now an extremely des-res), the footbridge across the dried-up stream and lots more. I was pleased that the girls were interested.
Home before 11pm. Looking forwards to seeing Juliet tomorrow. Lots to tell her.