Never look back

Never look back, said my colleague, Morwen, when I told her I was giving up work. I’ve hung on to those three words and they’ve often served as a mantra when I get tempted to offer opinions about things in worlds I’ve left behind. Whenever I ignore the words and dive in with comment, opinion, reproach, correction, or other unwanted interjection, it all goes wrong and I slink away into exile from social media platforms. It’s just not worth it. Just be firm: never look back.

We had never been to Alfriston in East Sussex and got an AirBnB a mile or so south of the village from where we walked and walked. The photos above and below were taken on an evening walk with the dog there. We probably won’t go back but have booked another few days in Suffolk where I have never been.

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Back in Wales

And we were back in Wales. First time for over a decade. Standing on a ridge to get a view of the Beacons before tracking down the stream where I’d scattered my parents’ ashes. It was very familiar but much had changed. The Forester’s house is now a tea room. There’s a car park where we used to leave the car on the verge before climbing Pen-y-Fan. A sign says Birch Hall on the gate of the bothy we used to sleep in. All so familiar but so changed. Brecon is still shabby and Crickhowell even more gentrified. Odd being back.

Two red lines

Lateral Flow Testing is a regular part of our lives as we’ve protected our vulnerable son and a nonagenarian parent from COVID. So far so good until this morning when my test lit up almost immediately with two red lines.

You don’t legally have to isolate any more. It’s all down to me. So, I’ll spend the five days at home as recommended because now, in our new state of life, I can. Illness is out of the question for carers so I can give into it. Feels very odd. Self-indulgent. Morally lax.

I should be painting the house and getting ready for a move. Instead, lying on the bed, I’m reading A Glastonbury Romance.

the swimming pool

We took our son swimming. We used to long ago but he’s not been keen to go with us for a long time. So we stopped. Then, for this week’s visit, after checking his room (was his toothbrush charged?) and chatting to the carers, we set off in the car to the swimming pool (or the baths, as I still think of them). And we had a lovely time. Splashing each other and chasing up and down a small pool watched by a baffled lifeguard and a few mums with toddlers. The hair dryers (20p a go) were a hit as well. And, all nicely blow dried, we sat in a sunny pub garden for coke and ice cream.

Leaving is still hard but not as hard as it first was. And the carers clearly like him. And his toothbrush was charged.

Room three

Today, we started on room three. A big downstairs room opening on to the garden. The was our son’s room where he spent his days at home. The walls are heavily marked with pencil and great patches of scratchings made with the remote controls of DVD players. Being at home for many months through COVID was not easy for him.

Next week, the battered and broken french doors will be replaced and for the first time for many years we’ll be able to let the outside in and see the garden. It’s a sunny room and we’ll stick with the warm yellow-white colour it’s always been. To get to that point, the ceiling, moving and walls need multiple undercoats before the final paint finish. And then new lights for the ceiling and walls. And curtains to cover the french doors. Much to do and only four more rooms to tackle after that.

It’s good feeling tired after a day’s decorating. I’m too physically tired to read by the end of the day and am just tired of podcasts and the radio. So music alternates with silence before an afternoon nap and then more work before supper. I’ve got Gödel, Escher, Bach sitting by the bed but it’s too heavy (in all senses) to read right now. Life feels good, though.

A first visit

Three weeks ago, I took our son to his new home. He could not tell me what he thought or felt that day and I tried hard not to fill his space with my words. Looks, gestures, noises, and a few signs are how he communicates with the world. But I have not one single clue about what sense he makes of it. Or what he made of that day. He’d met the people and visited the place over a period of a couple of months. They felt they were beginning to get to know him. I noted their confidence and wished I could share it.

This week, we visited. It went well. He seemed ok and smiled when we pulled up outside. We spent an hour at the house and then all went for a walk and an ice cream. Leaving was hard. I have no idea what he was feeling but we both wept and spluttered as we drove down the road.

Next week, we go back. Family and friends say it’s for the best. How does anyone know?

We went away

To Dorset. For two nights. First time in twelve years. And we walked and walked, all the while looking at a world we hadn’t really been in for so long. On the top of Pilsdon Pen, we walked around the earthworks among the grazing sheep. The clouds rolled in and we all got very wet. It was glorious though the sheep may have thought otherwise.

We ate sandwiches on the front at Lyme Regis as we walked the coast path. Smelt the wild garlic on the path the loops around the estate at Evershot. Walked though East Coker only to be underwhelmed by the dull plaque to TS Eliot in the church. Followed the river path at Salisbury to see the cathedral and the nesting peregrines. Saw a plaque to William Golding who taught at the school and remembered The Spire, his book about the building of the cathedral.

There is a danger that we will attempt too much, too quickly. Back here, I have settled down to decorating and working in the garden.