2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Skies have fallen

We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen” – DJ & S, Cambridge, Jan 2007H Lawrence

Three years since Juliet died.

In some ways it has gone very quickly, in others it seems a lifetime. And life pre-illness, Easter 2009, is over five years ago; it’s another time, another place, another age.
You, the reader, will be pleased to know that my life is good these days, in fact so good that I occasionally feel slightly guilty about it. But not for long, life is too short for regrets.

News update: Lucy graduated from York with a 2:1 in Psychology, and will do a year at Durham starting in the autumn. Alice is loving Computer Science at Lincoln, and the city itself. I went skiing in Austria in February and went from novice to Not Bad in just four days (Sorry).

J's tree, end of March

J’s tree, end of March. I was marathon training at the time, can you tell?

I ran the London Marathon, was a little disappointed with my time (4 hours 44 mins) but I guess I shouldn’t let that overshadow the actual achievement in itself. I’m enjoying the running, it keeps me healthy and I know that J would have approved and encouraged me. I just ran a 4-mile local race tonight with my running club.
The bereavement counselling (me as the counsellor) is going OK, the sessions make me thoughtful but don’t trouble me otherwise. The last time I cried this year (the only time) was suddenly, in the middle of Lucy’s graduation ceremony, looking down on her waiting to go up to the stage and remembering her being born. And then afterwards, as we came out, I fairly blubbed, thinking that J should have been there.

Portrait of J

Portrait of J

 

Richard and Margaret commissioned a portrait of J, painted from a selection of photos that I supplied. I didn’t think I would like it, it’s not my thing, but I the result was better than I expected – it does capture that air of slight uncertainty and nervousness J had about her. I don’t look at old photos or videos much these days, but when I do, I enjoy recognizing J’s body language – the posture, the stance, the look on her face, everything is still so familiar. I’m pleased that memory remains.

 

 

I’ve been with my new partner for over a year now, we understand each other and are very happy together but we’re not rushing into anything. Both Juliet and D’s late husband would have been happy for us. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

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2013 in review

Meant to post this at year-end… Just under 24,000 views from 50 countries:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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She would have been 51 today

This is just going to be a quick status update really, what’s been happening to our family in the five months since the last post. And of course because today would have been Juliet’s 51st birthday. So, in brief:

The garden, ready to party

The garden, ready to party

The girls are now both at university (York and Lincoln) and seemingly very happy there. Alice changed to Computer Science within a few days of arrival!

I had to re-learn how to cook for myself. Thank goodness for Sally Slo-Cooker. It’s not really even cooking; chopping up lots of ingredients, putting them in the pot and 4 hours later a delicious stew. Or tasty sludge.

I qualified as a voluntary bereavement counsellor following several weeks’ training at the hospice and currently am supporting three bereaved clients. The supervisors keep a very close eye on us (as do I myself) and some of the tales I hear are really quite harrowing. But, without getting all self-righteous and poncey about it, I just feel I’m giving something practical back to the community.

My running is going from strength to strength, not very fast, but I am still improving. Several half-marathons under my belt, many 10k races and even some cross-country events. And I’m doing the London Marathon in April. So it was another 10-miler on Christmas Day, and a 13-miler a couple of nights ago and “just” 7.5 miles with the club tonight. I ran past the park where J’s ashes are scattered and blew her a kiss. The girls had visited the park earlier in the day.

After messing around for the first six months of the year, I finally met Someone. We’re blissfully happy together. D is also a widow, her husband died just four months after Juliet. And she also has two daughters of almost exactly the same age as my two. So we understand each other, but that, I’m happy to say, is not the attraction. Skiing in February awaits us, and lots more I’m sure. I didn’t actually know that it could be like this, after my stormy rebound relationship of 2011-12.

The girls and I did have the garden party, to mark what would have been Simon & Juliet’s silver wedding anniversary. It all went fine, fifty guests on a lovely sunny day. I spent a fortune on the garden, plants, food, drinks. It was worth it. I had specifically told people it was just to mark the occasion rather than celebrate it. I left out our wedding photos for people to glance at but I’m not sure many did. Our youngest (3) bridesmaid, Susannah, or Sue as she likes to be called now she’s all grown-up, gave birth to Archie in October. Well that’s pretty grown-up I suppose.

Dinosaur Garden

Dinosaur Garden

The Long-Haired Pixies at work

The Long-Haired Pixies at work

J would have used a different tablecloth

J would have used a different tablecloth

All ages

All ages

Sue, Janet & Bill look at our wedding pictures

Sue, Janet & Bill look at our wedding pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently sought out and made up with “Jack” (See here).  Life’s too short to bear grudges, although it took me over eighteen months to re-contact him. It was fine, it was as if we’d never been apart. “I didn’t know what to say, Simon” he said, rather pathetically, which was what I’d guessed.

Last year (2013) was a year of transition for me, when I finally moved on with everything – the importance (or not) of work, the disastrous rebound relationship, fun new relationships and even Juliet’s death. It’s a gradual thing, there’s no one moment you can look back on and say “that was the turning point”. Analogue vs digital, smooth curve not discrete events.

Bereavement – my Mum has a good analogy, let me see if I can remember it. Bereavement is like a severe wound, it hurts intensely and is very obvious to you. With time – and only time, really – it slowly starts to heal. Until all that is left is a scar, that stays with you always. Some of the time it is unseen and dormant. But sometimes it will itch, throb or even hurt. I like it that way. I’m learning to live with my scar.

Happy J, at the Sydney Opera House, 2005

Happy J, at the Sydney Opera House, 2005

 

Posted in Blog, Cooking, Dinosaur garden, Garden, Hospice, Photos, Running | 4 Comments

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.”
– Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

Juliet died two years ago today.

Today I and the Long-Haired Pixies had lunch in Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Oxford, very pleasant. This time last year, the LHPs and myself were in New York, followed by Washington. Holiday last year, lunch this year – Juliet would have approved. I changed my Facebook profile photo at midnight – see below – and will change it back again tonight. J wouldn’t have been so keen on that, but hey.

S&J at Waddesdon Manor, April 2006

S & J at Waddesdon Manor, April 2006

What else has happened in a year?

In the late autumn I split up with my new partner of 14 months and joined a running club (the two facts are not unconnected). It was a very miserable Christmas and New Year. I got into the concept of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and touched on Mindfulness, and I’m a better person for both.

I did lots of dating – and I mean lots – and many girlfriends came and went, but not yet The One. What was it I read the other day? “If you were happy with the wrong one, think how happy you’ll be when the right one comes along“. That’s a reference to the Ex, not J of course.

I kept up with culture, mostly in Oxford, including Dylan Thomas (Under Milk Wood), but also Shakespeare and Moliere! I finally got to the end of “Troubles” by JG Farrell, recommended to me by my Mum, on account of the final beautiful paragraph. Which I shall quote here:

As it turned out, this lady of white marble was the only bride the Major succeeded in bringing back with him from Ireland in that year of 1921. But he was still troubled by thoughts of Sarah. His love for her perched inside him, motionless, like a sick bird. For many weeks he continued to think about her painfully. And then one day, without warning, the bird left its perch inside him and flew away into the outer darkness and he was at peace. Yet even many years later he would sometimes think of her. And once or twice he thought he glimpsed her in the street.

Earlier this year I went on holiday by myself for the first time (didn’t like it), to the Lake District (loved it). Lots of hill-walking and some running.

Lucy finished her second year of university, Alice her final year of school. Where are the years going?? Alice and I visited Lincoln, Bournemouth and Kent university open days, with the favoured choices being in that order. She turned 18 a few days after my last blog post.

I had my eyes lasered and now have 20:20 medium and long distance vision but with the downside of having to fumble for reading glasses to read labels on cooking ingredients. Fortunately I don’t do much cooking. I did buy a posh, expensive skillet pan, to the derision of the LHPs, but all I’ve cooked in it have been scrambled eggs.

I bought a ukelele but found it harder than I anticipated, perhaps because I want to hold it left-handed, like Paul McCartney. The musical resemblance stops there. I will have to keep trying.

After having a clean driving licence for many, many years, I got three speeding tickets in quick succession, so am now on the maximum nine points. And driving around with the cruise control locked on to the speed limit, which is boring but necessary.

My sister had a breast cancer scare, but cross fingers, looks like she will be OK. She was detected in time. Juliet wasn’t. That’s the difference. In true Hodkin family tradition, Rebecca blogged about it, here.

I also did lots of running, not very good at it, but the distances have steadily increased and the times slowly reduced. I ran my first half-marathon and have two more booked, including the BUPA Great North Run in September. You can sponsor me here – it’s for the NSPCC rather than a cancer charity, as I won the entry place via a Facebook competition! and first direct bank will match £400 if I raise that on behalf of the NSPCC. A worthy cause anyway. And, yes, I suppose I will do a marathon, at age 50. So from November onwards.

I volunteered to be a marshal at the Katharine House Hospice Midnight Walk in June, which was dull but worthy. And met the founder, Neil Gadsby again. I told him that I’d be one of his staff in September, for I volunteered, was interviewed and have been accepted as a voluntary bereavement counsellor working there from the autumn onwards. That may help me regain some of the fulfilment that I’ve lost at work over the last three to four years.

Just a few days ago I revisited the flats that J and I first moved into and then purchased, in Crystal Palace, in 1987-8 or thereabouts. A bit upsetting, but interesting at the same time. Seemed a million years ago, another lifetime.

Dad, S and J at 1B Cintra Park 2 July 1988

Dad, S and J at 1B Cintra Park 2 July 1988

25 years and a month later. Well the fence and garden are in better shape anyway.

25 years and a month later. Well the fence and garden are in better shape anyway.

Myself and the LHPs are planning a Garden Party in mid-August, to mark what would have been our silver wedding anniversary (20th August 1988). Any excuse for a party. I’m hoping it will be a re-run of the funeral wake, with happier overtones. As before, the garden is being made over (actually “dug over”) by my regular gardener, Mr. Trim – I guess he was born to do that job. Shopping for plants on Friday – that will be expensive. But it will probably help the value of the house slightly. For that is in the back of my mind for spring 2014 – sell up and move on. From the autumn it will just be me (and two guinea-pigs) in a house that once held a family of four.  Downsizing to somewhere in Oxford is my thought. It’s being frowned upon by certain close family members but I’m afraid it’s my life, and we only have one of them.

Perhaps I’ll post some pictures of the party in late August. Here’s some from a party we had in 2008 to celebrate Margaret’s 70th birthday:

Team Party 17 August 2008

Team Party 17 August 2008

Happy Family

Happy Family

Juliet is wearing the black pearls I bought her from Mauritius the previous year. I notice and crave little details like that these days. For example… a few weeks ago, Margaret arranged for an artist friend to visit my house. She is to paint a portrait of Juliet. Not my thing, but if J’s parents want it that’s fine. Anyway, the artist needed to see some photos, so we went through the hundreds on the digital photo frame that I gave Richard & Margaret for Christmas. To my surprise it didn’t take long before I was in tears. There was a story behind every single photo – what she was wearing, why we were there, what else we did that day. All… not lost, but history now. Time passes.

Please don’t forget to sponsor me: http://www.justgiving.com/Simon-Hodkin  – Thanks.

Posted in Blog, Books, Cancer, Cooking, Funeral, Garden, Guinea pigs, Hospice, Photos, Running, Timebombs, Work | Leave a comment

She would have been 50 today

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.
IMG_3420aThe 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:

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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. IMG_1612The 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… Gretna Green_A nice Chinese tourist took this_IMG_1637Thanks 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.

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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.

Christmas Eve 2006

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:

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And back to 2005 now, a visit to see my brother Carl, then living in Tonbridge, 14th May:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On holiday in Dorset, 2nd August 2003. DSCF0072a 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).

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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.

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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.

Posted in Blog, JOGLE, Photos, Running, Skipping | 6 Comments

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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