Happy Birthday Juliet.
It was only a few days ago that I was shocked to realize that when I first met Juliet she was 19 – which is younger than my eldest daughter is now.
So I think this is the final update for the blog, it has served its purpose. I’m actually much more reticent about updating it nowadays; in the summer of 2011, nothing else mattered except telling the world how I felt. And today is maybe the last anniversary – no, there will be others, like we would have been married 25 years this year! how ridiculous is that, that I should be someone who has a Silver wedding anniversary. Except that I didn’t and I haven’t.
I’m going to go back on something I said in a recent post, about this blog being about J, my girls and my family and nothing else. As you may know, I launched straight into a new relationship only weeks after J’s death, and as I have protested many times (why should I feel the need to do that?), I never, ever meant that to happen so quickly. But it was very, very intense, and yes, we were in love for many months. And it was the perfect counter to my grief – as my GP said recently, “being in love is better than any pills I can give you”. However – the speed of it didn’t allow me to grieve properly, even though I did plenty of that. Perhaps mourn is a better word. And in the end, my new partner, although very understanding, wanted me to move on and love her more completely than I was able to do. So she finished with me at the end of November, after fourteen months together. And for me it was like being bereaved again – not the same as, obviously, but a very unpleasant time to go through once more. Hence the tablets. And lots and lots of mixed emotions.
To banish the blues, I’ve dramatically increased my running – it’s the feel-good endorphins. On Christmas Day morning I ran ten miles (16.2km) for the first time.
The girls were glad to get me out of the kitchen so they could prepare Xmas lunch. And today, I completed a long-held ambition: to run the ten miles from Banbury Cross to our village. My iPhone screenshot is alongside. There were lots of long hills, but it was pretty straightforwards. It only occurred to me a few days ago that it would be a fitting tribute to Juliet. And now it’s done.
After dropping me off in Banbury, unbeknown to me, Lucy went on to Oxford, to visit the place where we scattered J’s ashes. She was surprised to find that Richard and Margaret (Juliet’s parents) had already been there that day and left their own message with a flower:
The flower was one that my mum (Pam) had sent to mark J’s birthday. So we’ve all marked Juliet’s birthday on our own ways. One of the things J and I had planned to do this year (our 50th birthdays and our 25-year wedding anniversary) was go to Australia for a third time. Business class I think, and visiting Sydney again, but also Melbourne and the wine regions of the south-east. I doubt I’ll ever go back there now.
Let me return to the last entry I made in this blog, other than the WordPress stats update, which are not as impressive as the ones for the end of 2011 obviously. It was June of last year and the anniversary of J’s death was approaching. Well as it happened myself and the girls were in New York on holiday at the time, which in retrospect was a good place to be, certainly it was doing something that J herself would have liked and approved of. At the actual anniversary I was alone in my hotel room, I had taken some of her final letters with me, and I simply re-read them and thought about her. Then got on with our holiday.
Also in June, a couple of my pals decided to do a cycle ride, John O’Groats to Lands’ End, or JOGLE as it’s known. It became JOGLE for Juliet. The website our neighbours setup seems to have gone offline but you can read the three separate news items on our village website here. Try searching for “JOGLE” on the page. Or just read the page in its entirety of flower shows and allotment dramas… Thanks to Ian, Richard, Scot, Emma, Will and Lynne for making it happen. We raised over £1500 for Macmillan Cancer Support and it was great fun – I was one of the support drivers in the big white van. The team photo above shows us in the car park at Gretna Green.
For Christmas I bought Richard & Margaret a digital photo frame and pre-filled it with about 450 photos all featuring Juliet. I was pleased to discover many that I’d forgotten about but Richard said that there were many that he’d never seen at all – one of the perils of digital media and large collections of images. On the left is J at Bressingham, Norfolk, 10 August 2007.
Here’s a couple of family ones, taken at my Mum’s house in North Wales on 28 October 2007:
Yes she has her eyes closed in the first one – she was always doing that! Even when there wasn’t a camera flash going off.
On the left is a out-of-focus one, not too bad when seen in reduced size here. J is with her mum and dad. I forget what a good-looking woman she was, well I don’t, but I am reminded of that fact. Good-looking to me anyway. And a typically stylish necklace, which I don’t recognize, but we may have it among her things.
Here she is looking happy on a nice day out at some local gardens in Adderbury,
2nd July 2006:
And back to 2005 now, a visit to see my brother Carl, then living in Tonbridge, 14th May:
And this close-up, below, taken while waiting for a taxi to take us off to the airport for our second visit to Australia, 6th August 2005. One of the simple discoveries I’ve made with high-resolution modern digital photos is that if you zoom and and crop the subject (i.e. the person), you end up with a portrait very different to the original photo. As my Dad once said: “always take pictures of People. That’s what makes photos interesting”. I remembered that as I viewed literally hundreds of holiday pictures of interesting sights, animals at the zoo and suchlike. None of which anyone has any interest in seeing again. But a photo of your wife sitting in a reception area waiting for a taxi… Strange isn’t it?
Richard won’t appreciate my including this – but it is him with his firstborn child and she looks so happy, so I’m including it. Christmas Eve 2005. Sorry, I’m again going to marvel at how attractive and yet so familiar she looks.
Right back to January 2004 now, and Alice’s 9th birthday party. Juliet loved doing these, it was a mixture of her creativity and her love of children. She was so good at them. I often used to say she should have done it professionally. Look at the joy in her face.
The next one below is J being Mum at one of Lucy’s skipping events at Loughborough University, 16 May 2004. I have to admit, the reason I included this one is that I distinctly remember showing a work colleague the picture and his instinctive man’s reaction was “Phwoaar!” before realizing it was my wife.
Is it appropriate to say how sexy she looks in this one below? It was taken at CenterParcs in the Lake District, 29 August 2004. That would make her 41 years old.
This one is of her in a white top, in our garden in Bodicote near Banbury, 4th May 2003. I’m struck by the fact that she rarely wore white, probably because she was self-conscious about her height and the size of her chest. I didn’t have a problem with either.
On holiday in Dorset, 2nd August 2003. This is on top of a little hill near the village of Symondsbury, outside Bridport. Juliet always had a hang-up about her lack of chin definition – I didn’t notice it any more, I just saw all her other good features instead.
Having complained about digital pictures being squirreled away – thank goodness for the digital time & date-stamping the photo provides. I wouldn’t have a clue when or where this next photo was taken, but the computer and my filing system says it was 8th November 2003, at Susannah’s 18th birthday party (she was one of the bridesmaids at our wedding).
OK, she doesn’t look that happy, but she does look glam again.
And sorry, another “phwoar!” one again. What’s the matter with me? maybe nothing. I just fancied my wife. That can’t be wrong. Christmas Day 2003.
I think that will have to do. It’s been extraordinarily enjoyable looking through these photos and putting them up. I could have selected many, many more. I’ve spent so long updating this blog that I’m actually now rather hungry. It’s almost 9pm and I haven’t had any dinner. So I’d better stop. Juliet would have appreciated the irony. I do miss her.