An Argument for Staying Drunk

"The Hangover" (Portrait of Suzanne ...

“The Hangover” (Portrait of Suzanne Valadon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which joy-killing bastard invented hangovers?

Drinking is one of my favourite pastimes, one of life’s great pleasures, yet for some reason I am punished for it, horribly, the morning after.

Actually, I rarely suffer from them anymore (presumably my body has acclimatised to its post-spousal-death increased alcoholic intake), but today I genuinely considered asking the emergency services to come and administer something to make it all stop.

The usual alcohol-induced physiological atrocities were present, but I found that in addition to the sweating, the loose bowel and the retching, I was gripped with terror about the fate of my husband. In my paranoid, palpitating state, the fact that He was no longer alive seemed even more absurd, more obscene, more unbearable. I had to repeat the mantra, ‘M is dead’ in my head in order to believe that it had really happened.

I lay on the sofa while Saint Dick van Dyke entertained my daughter (by virtue of appearing in one of the longest, most convoluted children’s films of all time, he provided me with an extra three hours in which to get my shit together), but I could neither close my eyes nor keep them open, so I held them at a squint whilst I contemplated the fact that He had really gone.

M was the type of person you wanted around on a hangover. He took no pleasure in making smug jibes if I’d over-imbibed. Instead, He’d make me a bacon butty, give me a paracetamol and rub my feet.

Alcohol anesthetises against the sharper jags of grief, but lack of it the next morning brings reality into starker relief.

Abstention is not currently an option. Perhaps the answer is to stay drunk…

Kevin McCloud’s Secret to Anti-Ageing

In idle moments, I have wondered how Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs manages not to age.

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Kevin McCloud, aged 97
(photo credit: http://www.swindonweb.com)

His bald patch seems to have miraculously maintained the same circumference, and years of raising eyebrows at crackpot projects appear to have had a negligible effect on his forehead.

I realised the other night how he does it. By appearing in repeats.

M used to love Grand Designs, hence why I have studiously avoided it since He died. However, my daughter and I ended up watching it while we waited for The Apprentice to come on. (Go, sultry doctor, go!)

Again I marvelled at McCloud’s age-dodging prowess, until the date of the project was revealed. May 2006.

It was the year M and I married. May would have been around the time I was ready to combust with the pressure of choosing napkins for the tables.

It struck me how much has changed in the seven short years since Tim from Cirencester started his Grand Design, and M and I said ‘I do’. How little was foreseen of life in its current form.

In that time, I gave birth. We moved house four times. M fell ill. I became frightened of the world. M died. I faced off the world. I bought a house and a dog. I started a PhD.

And unlike Kevin, I aged. Not only physically, but mentally. I became well-versed in the workings of the blood pressure monitor, in Warfarin and in cardiac rehabilitation. Then I had to watch Him die, and face the reality of a life without Him. As a single, widowed parent.

Can I hit the stop button and appear in a repeat too?

Northern Exposure

Sisyphus

Sisyphus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the bawdiness and the bravado, I am, today, wondering how I’m going to get through this.

Like Sisyphus, I’m pushing my boulder of grief up the mountainside only for it to come crashing down once it nears the top.

Insomnia has set in again, not through lack of alcohol, but because of the heat. It has reached the woozy heights of 19 degrees in the village, and both my daughter and I are still rolling about the bed at midnight trying to find the cool patch. Insomnia allows Bad Thoughts to roam free, and also draws attention to the wardrobe, at the bottom of which is the casket containing…well, Him.

Sunny days are, in themselves, catalysts for sadness – they make everywhere look full of hope, even grey-rendered, pebble-dashed Northern villages such as this one. But part of me doesn’t want hope to blossom (the stubborn, self-pitying, foot-stamping toddler part), because M has been denied it.

My counsellor is starting a round of Exposure Therapy next week. This does not involve us flashing our bits at each other across a crowded room; rather, we will be breaking down the traumatic event (Husband, intercourse, “socks!”, pillow, dead), recording it like chapters in a book, then ‘exposing’ ourselves to it and the onslaught of emotions it elicits. By deconstructing the trauma, its power to destabilise is weakened, therefore I can allow myself to think about it occasionally without hyperventilating.

It sounds like psycho-babble, but I’m trying to be hopeful.

The Prophecy of the Bald Surgeon

Agadoo

Agadoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a crash outside our village this weekend. Ambulances, police cars, rubber-neckers, the lot.

My heart sank at the prospect of fatalities. Which poor sod would get the policeman at their door telling them that their loved one was dead?

Whilst no less devastating, losing your spouse suddenly is a different experience to watching them succumb to a long illness.

You have no time to prepare, to say goodbye, for them to make any last minute confessions or request Agadoo be played at the funeral.

Equally, you don’t face the agony of the slow diminishment of the person you love, of steering them through the realities of imminent death and the fact that they will never see their kids grow up.

In a sense, with M, we went through both of these scenarios.

He fell ill, suddenly and catastrophically, in 2008. He was wheeled into emergency open-heart surgery, not knowing whether He would see daylight again.

But He survived, and the prognosis was good. A ‘normal lifespan’ was to be expected, according to the Bald Surgeon in the Blue Scrubs. (How I came to fear the Bald Surgeon in the Blue Scrubs  – he and his team of wingmen would come sweeping onto the ward and announce yet further obstacles to M’s recovery – collapsed lung, mild mid-brain stroke – but despite it all, we were discharged with the belief that a ‘normal lifespan’ was to be expected.)

I had watched my beloved suffer though; I had seen the fear in His eyes. His rehabilitation was gruelling, but His determination to live somehow over-rode every setback.

It seemed like God’s final insult, therefore, to have finished Him off in the way He did. Unceremoniously, with no regard for how far we had come.

So much for God and Bald Surgeons.

A Very Moving Moment

Statler and Waldorf

Statler and Waldorf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Not bloody tennis again,” said my daughter, aged 5.

“Hail John Inverdale and be quiet. I need to watch it,” I replied.

We were trussed up on the sofa in our pyjamas under a duvet, bickering like Waldorf and Statler. Me with my Rioja, her with her milk and biscuit. The dog was also in residence, inevitably, chewing on the fetid raw-hide remnant he had just exhumed from the garden.

This is what we’ve become. Waldorf, Statler and Animal.

Most parents I know have their kids bathed, booked and in bed by seven. Our evening routine consists of a charging of glasses, a short bicker about choice of televisual viewing (Mummy TV presides after 8pm – my daughter now loves The Apprentice and is rooting for that sultry doctor), then an exodus to bed around 10pm.

Occasionally we’ll have pillow-talk:

“I don’t want curly hair.”

“I don’t like broccoli.”

“Why is Daddy in that box in the wardrobe?”

And then we sleep. Much like the evenings I used to have with the other love of my life, actually. (Pillow-talk aside…)

And when I wake up at 2am, thinking of M, I look over at the person spread-eagled in the bed next to me and the weirdest thing happens: I see Him! In the curve of her neck, the roundness of her cheek, the total calm blanketing her face.

(Statler: This is a very moving moment.

Waldorf: Yeah. I wish they’d move it to Pittsburgh.)

Lady in Waiting

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My dog, waiting.

If only all men were as pleased to see me as my dog.

I came home earlier and there he was. In the window. With his waggly tail. And one of my daughter’s toys in his mouth, disembowelled and relieved of all its facial features.

Whenever I leave him, he takes his place on the back of the settee and stares out, waiting for the moment when I reappear. Sometimes I’ve only gone to the car and back, yet he greets me as if I’m Lord Lucan.

He spends his entire life waiting, actually. He’s sitting under my desk now as I type, waiting for a biscuit. He waits for walks, food, bed-time, up-time. In the year that I’ve had him, he has become utterly devoted to me and my every move.

In the first few months after M’s death, I spent much of my time waiting too. Like my dog in the window, I stared out, waiting for Him to return. Time marched on but still I waited. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was waiting for, as logic dictated that He wasn’t coming back. He hadn’t just nipped to the car. But still, I waited.

I realised today, when I returned home and saw the dog at the window, that I am no longer waiting.

I’m not sure when I stopped waiting. I still hold on to a brittle hope that somehow He’ll come walking round a corner – indeed, I fantasise about it: that He’ll materialise out of a crowd of shoppers, or step out of the woods while I’m on a walk.

But the waiting has ended. He’s not coming back.

Dirty Old Town

English: The exterior of the Tyneside Cinema i...

English: The exterior of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne, looking towards Pilgrim Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would anyone feel the need to throw a plastic cup full of their own piss across a crowd of concert-goers?

I found myself pondering this as I tottered on my heels in a field on the outskirts of Newcastle this weekend, watching a Madness gig.

My heart ached as Suggs sang It Must Be Love under a clear Northern sky, the lyric invested with new meaning since M died (As soon as I wake up / Every night every day / I know that it’s you I need / To take the blues away…). But after the umpteenth arc of piss straddled the crowd, I beat a disgusted retreat into the beer tent.

Was this phenomenon unique to Geordieland, I wondered, or does this happen at gigs across the world? (I don’t do gigs, generally. This one was an adjunct to the Races and included Suggs so I made an exception.)

Geordieland. My home. It’s in the marrow of my bones. It has soothed and nurtured me since M’s death to point where I am increasingly reticent to leave it.

It’s where we met, lived, loved and ultimately, where we parted.

We sang Unknown Legend to each other under the Tyne Bridge. We walked around the Laing Art Gallery on an early date, chortling at the exhibits. We drank coffee outside the Tyneside Cinema and warm beer in the Crown Posada.

Some people dream of living where the climate is warm, the landscape beautiful. But after years of living away, our only dream was to come back here – together.

So I’m back now, without Him. It’s a way of keeping Him close. He is in the pavements, the river, the grey rainclouds overhead.

And whatever the source of the precipitation, I’m staying.

Meep meep!

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Look out! Acme anvil!
(picture credit: http://www.rankopedia.com

I’ve started smoking again.

Strictly other people’s fags though – I wouldn’t dream of buying any of my own. (Have you SEEN the price of a pack of Marlboros?)

So essentially, I’m smoking on the odd occasion when I go out and find someone who is smoking, and who is prepared to give me a cigarette.

Hardly anyone smokes anymore though, with even fewer being prepared to share a commodity which costs more per ounce than solid gold, so I’m averaging about one cigarette a month.

If I’m honest, I don’t even like it. It tastes like shit and turns my brain into a waltzer. But! I can add it to the checklist of Reckless Things to do Since Sudden Death of Beloved Husband, and that is its one redeeming feature.

I find that I have stagnated at a confusing intersection on this journey. I am terrified of boarding a plane for fear of dying, yet I’m beating my liver into submission on a nightly basis with red wine. I catastrophise the potential for danger in EVERYTHING my daughter does (Look out! Falling Acme anvil!), yet feel like fucking the first man I meet.

In short, I am wilfully tap-dancing around the edge of oblivion and at the same time I’m scared shitless of my own shadow.

To an extent, I have always had this contradiction in my personality. But since M’s death, the two extremes have polarised further to a point where sometimes, I think I have regressed to my University days – the ones in which I would drunkenly ambush the lead singer of every band who played the Union and insist on taking over the mike. (Cringe!)

Anyway. Enough of this shit. My alter-ego wants to know if she can borrow one of your cigarettes?

Well so fucking what?

Image of Stephen Fry

Image of Stephen Fry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Should grief and expressions thereof be a private affair?

Is it crass to publicise feelings, emotions, acts of recklessness, over a public forum where anyone from Tahiti to Taiwan, to the girlfriend of the Plumber with whom you were having a fling might read it?

Apologies for two posts in one day, but I am grappling with this tonight and need to set it forth. Close your ears, shut off your eyes if you’ve had enough. And if you are offended, refer to Stephen Fry:  “Well so fucking what?”

I want to write about M and the devastation His death has wrought. And none of my words are taken lightly. I have to set time aside to think about what I want to write – I am busy, I’ve got other shit to do. But the hour or two dedicated to the blog is sheer, unadulterated ‘M’ time. I can think about Him, me, my girl, my life since He’s been gone. It’s indulgence, but hey! What an indulgence!

In writing the blog,  I am attempting to decode my actions and emotions. Generally, they makes no sense until I write them down and then miraculously they all come together. I have no idea why I want to fuck the Plumber, but thankfully I write about it and it turns out it’s normal. Other people in similar situations feel the same way. This is strengthening, and as far as I can see, I am doing nothing wrong.

All compelling evidence why for me, grief should be a public affair, and why I will continue with this blog. If I am betrayed and get a brick through the window so be it.

With due respect to all other approaches to grief…

A Post That Is Not About Puppies

English: Newborn Golden Retriever puppies.

English: Newborn Golden Retriever puppies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The therapeutic benefits of writing this blog have been challenged this morning, people.

Last night I had a dream about one of my more macabre posts (one in which I contemplated whether taxidermy had been a missed opportunity as an option for my Husband’s body – read it, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Honest.)

In the dream, I had indeed taken the decision to have Him stuffed. However, He was not immobile. He was able to move about in a kind of lobotomised state. Like Nick Frost in that zombie movie, but better looking.

He was lying in bed next to our daughter, not realising He was dead. And I was frightened of Him.

I woke into a disconcerting semi-reality – half awake and muggy with sweat. I had to get up, starkers and hung-over, just to check He wasn’t lurking in the corridor.

Much to my chagrin, I hardly ever dream about M. I would love to dream about Him more, because the odd time He has made an appearance, He is always alive, flashing that mega-watt smile that my heart aches to see again.

As it is, by transcribing my psychotic innermost thoughts about His death, I fear I may have doomed myself into some kind of ghoulish Jungian dream cycle, in which He always appears as an extra from Shaun of the Dead.

Maybe I ought to ditch this as a subject and write about puppies instead.