It is difficult to write when you are constantly away from home and the travelling leads to exhaustion, no matter how enjoyable things might be along the way.
July/August was supposed to be a fun month – a reward to ourselves for all the hard work we had accomplished beforehand. Friends were joining us for the storytelling festival at Much Wenlock. The weather was much better than forecast – only a few heavy showers and some sunshine. The stories were wonderful and the music lovely, but my mother (who is registered blind and has vascular dementia) decided to go for a walk on her own and had to be returned home in a distressed state by a passing neighbour. She then refused to enter the house for several hours, necessitating calling out the doctor and the ambulance.
When I rang my father to tell him we’d arrived at the festival, it was all over, but I could hear the fear in his voice. He’d been taking a nap when it happened. I had to phone my sister in Italy to brief her on events and she visited the following weekend to make sure everything was safe.
The next weekend I was presenting at Herbfest. It was a wonderful weekend full of enthusiastic herb lovers who welcomed the opportunity to make their own herbal concoctions and wanted to expand their experiences.
It was a long and exhausting journey to north Somerset and I was wiped out with the stress of it all when we returned.
The following Tuesday, my cousin rang me to say my aunt had died. Although it was not unexpected news, it was very sad to share the pain of his loss and worry about breaking the news to my mother. The two sisters had been estranged since my grandmother died forty years ago, but I’d tried to keep some level of communication between the two families and was grateful I’d taken time to write to my aunt and sent photographs just before her death which she had been able to take comfort from.
At 7.15am on the Thursday my eldest son rang to say his wife’s waters had broken and she was in labour. I went into work to be told that because I am managed from the Sheffield office and worked mostly from home, I would no longer have a desk or any shelf space. I was devastated.
To put this in some kind of context, it must be explained that although we have a fairly large and comfortable house, in the past month we have finally, after thirty years of no maintenance, had the roof insulated along with the cavity walls, the gutters and facias replaced, the front door, back door, garage doors and porch replaced and the lounge furniture recovered and the lounge redecorated.
This has meant Chris had to clear several spaces including the roof, box room and our daughter’s bedroom as she decided to come home to live permanently after four years away. The front room which houses both Chris and my computers and the piano where I give lessons is completely filled with extra furniture and piles of books and papers. There are only tracks through the debris and I can’t turn my chair round without hitting something.
The thought of bringing the contents of my work desk and two bookcases/shelving units home was too much. I spent the following week in tears. It brought back all the grief from being made redundant eight years ago when I had to literally put fourteen years of work into black rubbish bags to be thrown away when we cleared my office.
At 5.50pm on Thursday 28th, Richard rang us to say we were now grandparents to a 7lb 14oz boy called James Michael. We heard the first baby snuffles as he lay on his mother’s tummy in the labour ward of St Peter’s hospital in Woking. Laura followed the family tradition of short deliveries, only being in established labour for 5 hours and managing with gas and air.
After a two hour journey and then a further hour wait in the hospital the following day, it was wonderful to finally hold the tiny, warm bundle in our arms and marvel at the tightness of his grip. Everyone else remarked how much he looked like Richard, but I could only see the face of someone I’d never met before, a new person to welcome into the family and learn more about.
The Warwick Folk Festival was very enjoyable, with stunning performances from The Spooky Men’s Chorale and Show of Hands. We also appreciated the lazy days last weekend spent with our friends in The Lake District finalising the details of our American holiday in a month’s time.
The joy of all these events has been tempered by the sadness of my aunt’s death and my mother’s increasing frailty. Every time I speak to her she asks me when I am coming to visit. It doesn’t matter I have been there every three weeks for the past year and will be there again tomorrow and every two or three weeks for the rest of the year. It will never be enough, but it is all I can manage.