Scenes from the Boden catalogue

Someone hell-bent on covering up their drinking habit from their wife has filled my recycle bin with empties. Yeah! I found them yesterday when I couldn’t fit my own shameful stash into the little green box.

They’re definitely not mine; they’re San Miguel bottles and l wouldn’t touch that piss with yours.

That said, it’s been half-term this week, and shorter days coupled with protracted child’s DVD viewing seem to legitimise earlier drinking. I’ll confess I’ve lost track of how much I’ve consumed, what I’ve consumed and where I’ve consumed it. But San Miguel? Hmm.

October half-term always brings out the worst in widowed me.

Kids seem to be running round everywhere shouting for their daddies; and daddies seem to be running round everywhere after their kids. It’s like living out scenes from the Boden catalogue.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed the ubiquity of dad-child interaction before Mark’s death. But these days my eyes appear to be set to Instagram mode, where every scene featuring dad and offspring has a soft-hued, nostalgic edge.

And dads seem to be so much more interactive since Mark died. They’re feeding rabbits at farm parks, whizzing down slides, singing loudest at music groups. They’re taking time to hone their Hallowe’en costumes in order to engage in door-to-door widow-baiting with their apple-cheeked families.

What happened to the good old days of mother as the primary carer? Prior to Mark’s death I rarely saw a dad. Farm parks were the domain of women and cake. Mother’s was the only voice you heard at Joe Jingles. Between Mark and me, I was the one with the repetitive slide-burn.

I swear, it’s enough to turn me to San Miguel. God, perhaps they were my empties after all.

Coitus interruptus

English: Hugh Hefner attending Glamourcon #50,...

English: Hugh Hefner attending Glamourcon #50, Long Beach, CA on November 13, 2010 – Photo by Glenn Francis of http://www.PacificProDigital.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Death, mid-coitus. What a way to go, eh?

At least, that was the general consensus after Mark died, after the dust settled and we permitted ourselves an uneasy laugh about it. Another of those placatory, consolatory observations humans make when they don’t know what else to do or say.

Apparently, every bloke wants to pop his clogs in the sack. (Although perhaps not at 37 years-old with a small child and everything to live for. But I’m willing to bet Hugh Hefner’s got his fingers crossed.)

But what about the woman (or man) who is left lying spread-eagled in the wet patch? Can the psychological trauma of such an event – a life-affirming, joyful act turning suddenly into one which represents death and fear – ever be overturned?

Because whilst watching your lover die is never going to be a fun-filled spectacle, feeling their warm, naked body against you one minute and then watching it turn cold just seconds later is up there in the Top Ten Things You Never Want To Have To Go Through In Life.

Sex becomes imbued with a kind of terror. You start to wonder who else you might see off with your thighs. Heavy breathing comes to signify a climax of a very different kind. Facial expressions are apt to be misread.

My counsellor and I talk through such things. But these are thoughts and images which cannot be erased.

So whilst dying mid-coitus might sound like the fun way to go, I can tell you this for nowt – it’s not.

Dave Myers’ hair as a metaphor for bereavement

Dave Myers’ hair isn’t the only tragedy of Saturday nights.article-2438145-185958B600000578-5_634x521

I bumped into a fellow widow in Sainsbury’s earlier (we get around, us widows) and we were discussing one of this blog’s favourite subjects – the tyranny of the weekend.

She agreed that the sagging void represented by the upcoming 48 hours was one of the worst things about finding yourself without a spouse. (That and the fact that your entire world has shrivelled to resemble melting Tupperware.)

A typical Saturday night for me is role-playing Timothy Lumsden with my Mother – but Timothy if he had a mobile phone and a drink problem. In fact, my Mother has been staying with me for a while for reasons I won’t bore you with here, so the Sorry! theme has extended throughout weeknights too.

And Mother has been observing. Clocking. Taking notes.

And she has brought it to my attention (through the medium of furrowed brows and mother-daughter telepathy) that I spend most of my evenings texting people and draining wine. While my daughter wears a groove in the laminate with her scooter.

Having thought about it, this is definitely a post-Mark’s death phenomenon. Endless messaging was not a feature of our evenings as a couple. I don’t even recall what we did in the evenings actually. Just existed, together, I suppose. Then retired to bed with our comics.

Now, I seem to rely on it. Live-streaming the outside world into my lounge has become part of my widow’s safety net. More evidence, if any were needed, of a regression to a sort of petulant grief-induced teenager-dom.

Mother has now moved back into her own house.

But I can still hear the sound of the brows knitting together through the wind…

Bottling Paul Hollywood

Paul Hollywood

Paul Hollywood (Photo credit: Fields of View)

With the everyday distractions of a busy life – you know, working, childcare, laughing at Paul Hollywood on Bake Off – it is easy to forget that your husband is now just a pile of ashes in a box at the bottom of your wardrobe.

You get on with life, because you have no choice.  And just as those who still have partner intact don’t spend every waking hour thinking about their other half, at twenty months into bereavement, it is impossible to keep one’s mind trained on what is lost.

Which is why, when you find yourself in a moment of distraction-repose, the reality is so sphincter-clenchingly shocking, you wish you could bottle Paul Hollywood and drink him as an antidote to the truth.

This happened to me yesterday. I was teaching small children how to describe their family members in French. They labelled them up on their own paper ‘people-chain’ and titled it ‘Ma Famille’.

Despite the step-siblings and the divorces, they all, without exception, had a ‘mere’ and a ‘pere’.  As a teacher, I have accepted that this is generally the case, so it fails to floor me in the way that it may have done when Mark first died.

However, when I came out of the classroom and headed down the stairs to my next group of students, I suddenly remembered my husband.

FUCKING HELL, MARK IS DEAD! I thought. The horror of his last moments ran through my brain and the brutal veracity of the situation lurched into stark relief. I gripped the handrail and stood for a moment, dizzied.

Then a child passed me and told me she liked my shoes.

“Thank you Imogen,” I said, and continued on my way.

ROFL?

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ROFL!!!! (credit: imgur.com)

I was in London for a few days earlier this week and, as always, being away from the Motherland made me antsy.

Mainly because of The Big Buildings and All The People, but also because I am convinced that I am cursed and that a plague is poised to descend upon my house as soon as the train wheezes out of Darlington. (And not least because of the price of a plate of bacon and eggs: Ten pounds fifty, written like this: 10.5. I mean, come on!)

In my post-sudden death of husband angst, every time my phone wolf-whistled at me from my handbag I was convinced it was a text informing me that a key family member or beloved friend had been hospitalised or was deceased.

And news like that would come through via text – after all, it’s how I delivered news of Mark’s death to most of my friends. Which in retrospect seems heinously crass, but then, so is sudden death.

On hearing the whistle, I scrabbled about frantically among the receipts, bobbles and dog shit bags only to find it was my niece sending a picture of a puppy wearing a onesie entitled: ROFL!!!!

But aside from the terror induced by incoming messages, my phone also caused me to weep like Gazza this week with its tyrannous predictive text. Whilst searching for my Mother’s number (something I don’t have cause to do when I’m at home, bring that we’re attached at the hip), I entered the letter ‘M’ on the keypad. The phone helpfully suggested:

Mark Mobile

The number I had rehearsed for ten years came up on the little screen. I haven’t had the heart to erase it.

Erasing it, you see, indicates that you are somehow further towards the holy grail of Acceptance. But whilst my husband still exists on my phone and online, He continues to have a sort of metaphysical presence.

Which deluded as it may seem, is preferable to no presence at all.

ROFL.

Things You Don’t Tell Your Mother

There are certain things you don’t tell your mother.

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Keeping me at arm’s length with a broccoli floret

Like how, when you were seventeen, you crashed her car into the gatepost while she was away in France and had it fixed out of your savings before she came back.

Or owning up to the true extent of what you got up to at University, and how little of it involved academic study.

Even now, close as we are, there are things I don’t tell my Mother. Partly to save her brow from further angst-incurred furrowing, but also because I have good friends and a counsellor with whom I ‘talk out’ my fruitier escapades.

Of course, when it comes to my own daughter, I like to think she does, and will, tell me everything.

Being five-years-old, this currently involves information about her latest bowel evacuation and news that she doesn’t like broccoli, (although she did tell me the Great Fire of London was in 1666 the other day, which really was news to me).

One thing she doesn’t discuss with me though, or even mention much these days, is Daddy. And I don’t push it, because I might cry and not stop, and she might end up as she usually does, wiping my tears and telling me everything will be OK.

I hadn’t thought much about this until I dropped her off at school this morning and her teacher asked for a ‘quiet word’.

Seems she’s been mentioning Him a lot at school. In the dinner hall. In assembly. She’s confided in staff that she’s sad that her daddy is dead and that she misses Him. She has sought comfort in the arms of teachers and dinner ladies.

I spent the rest of the morning ulcerating about this particular conversation starter. Arguably the most important and interesting of conversation starters for us to elaborate on, yet she keeps me at arm’s length with a broccoli floret.

She witnessed His death. She continues to witness the fall-out from His death. So why hasn’t she sought comfort from me?

Perhaps she’s trying to save my brow from further furrowing too.

The Big Uh-Oh

A Mary Berry masterpiece

This week heralds another birthday for me, and this year it’s the big one.

Not the big four-oh; the big uh-oh. I’m officially older than my husband will ever be.

It’s difficult to explain how sad this makes me feel, but on a scale of one to bastardfuckballs, I’m up there with the profanity. Not only did I leave Him behind in 2012 (please forgive me for that, pet), but now I’ve overtaken Him completely. He will never age. The rest of His eyebrow will never go white. He is inexorably frozen in time aged 37.

I can’t help but remember His last ever birthday, just over five weeks before He died. He is pictured here with the cake I made Him. Sadly, having the dexterity of a Dalek in the kitchen, I made too little mixture and the ‘sponge’ ended up being more of a biscuit – and a half measure at that. The poor bastard arrived home from work to it, sitting flaccidly on the chopping board. Even IT was embarrassed. It was supposed to be low fat too as we were both on a diet. As if it could get more pleasure-free.

The great, yet unsurprisingly thing about it though, was that my husband sampled the cake with the gusto of a man who had been presented with a Mary Berry masterpiece.

“Pet, it’s lovely,” he said, washing it down with a swig of tea, from where it had jammed in His gullet.

He placed the remaining quarter in a tin and put it at the back of the kitchen cupboard ‘for later’. And guess what? When the removal men came to package up our belongings from the house five surreal months later, one of them unearthed the tin and found that remaining quarter still secreted within it. I watched him sniff it with disdain, then ask me: “Do you…want to keep this?”

My instinct was to say yes. But I said; “Just chuck it.”

I am seeing in my 39th year with my Dad and my daughter and undoubtedly my dear friend Mr Rioja. As I no longer have need for a diet (note: sudden death of spouse – brilliant for weight-loss folks!) I may even treat myself to a slice of decent cake.