Monday, May 29, 2006


Diary extract from 25.5.05
Cardiff, UK

Gosh! Over a week since I last had time to write. The time is going so fast now! I’ll try to remember last week but it’s as if all the days have blurred into one.

On Tuesday I went to see the bank. Now, when I enquired before, I was told there would be no problem with keeping a British bank account. But on Tuesday I was told it would not be possible unless I kept a British address. This is ridiculous as there is now supposed to be freedom of movement within the EU and I felt quite flumoxed. But eventually they said it would be OK as long as I give a friend’s British address – and a couple of friends have since offered. But it’s so stupid : that account has to function for at least a couple of months [as there will still be direct debits, etc and cheque payments coming out / going in] and surely one ought to be able to be independent of family and friends, especially in this age of internet banking? Surely that’s the point of it? – that you can do it anywhere in the world! Barclays and the other big banks have ex-pat schemes on their websites but I don’t have time to sort that out now. [Because I am scared of money – even when I’ve got some! – I leave everything to do with it till the last possible minute or even the minute after that!]

When I got home neighbour Joanie knocked on the door offering help, so yanked her inside and we got a lot done up here in the study. Then she found my vinyl collection and was so fascinated and excited by it that little more got done - we ended up singing Elvis and Cliff tunes instead! But she kindly took some things to the charity shop for me later and we had had a good time! How sad that we’ve been neighbours for years and didn’t know we shared an interest. This is because of our busy and stressful lives.

I’d come across a life-size photo of Dad’s dad; not only was it life-sized; it was also tatty. “Sorry, Richard E,”, said I, “you’ll have to go”. But I also had here Richard E’s Certificate of Honourable Discharge from the Navy, signed by George V and dated 1916. [RE was blinded at the Battle of Jutland.] Again, it’s quite a big, unwieldy thing, and for years I have wondered what to do with it. I even thought of giving it to the Maritime Museum at one point, but somehow couldn’t make myself do it. [I suppose it must have been mounted and framed at one time and I don’t know how it had come to be unmounted and unframed – I only came across it after Mum’s death.] So I called the frame shop in Grangetown and, because I have had things done there before and put other business their way, they said they would mount and frame it for me in double-quick time. Picked it up on Friday and very smart it looks, appropriately mounted on navy and gold with a brown wooden frame. When I got home, I said, “Well, Richard E, I hope that makes up for your photo.” It will have pride of place in my Sicilian home. So Chief Petty Officer Richard E takes to the seas again!

By Wednesday I was feeling quite ill with exhaustion: it’s been the sheer physical graft and the fact that I am just not used to having people around me all the time. – I do not say this ungratefully as I could not manage without the kind friends who are helping. But I did get some time to myself to sort papers up here: I had to make a decision about Mum’s post-mortem papers and decided, really, that there is no point in keeping them; they only make me sad. So I shredded them.

On Thursday Simi and I went to the vet to get her smart pet’s passport [her papers are much more organised than mine!] and then home – how strange that I won’t be able to call it that after tomorrow – where I did more sorting and shredding.

I decided I look terrible as well as feeling terrible. But I’m not going to Sicily looking like this – no, siree! – so have booked a facial and a hair colour for Sat am. A gal has to try!

Thursday evening went next door and had a lovely, relaxing meal and a long chat with neighbours Sue and Liz. It was good to unwind.

Friday: At 08.10 the rubbish clearance man came, as he had promised. He took away all the bags [better to pay him to do it than make myself ill with the carrying yet again] and the conservatory furniture; I went all trembly when I saw that go as the conservatory – which I had had built in 1994 – was a haven of peace and normality at a very difficult time of my life. Had to sit down for a bit after it went. Yet “They’re only things”, my mother would have said.

Then went to Tesco’s with a much shorter shopping list than usual! “Goodbye” says the sign as you leave. “Goodbye indeed”, I thought. Felt very low so purchased an Italian CD – Patrizio Buanne singing all the old songs – and thought, “Why am I buying an Ital CD when I am going there permanently in less than a fortnight?” But I knew perfectly well why, of course – because Italian music would cheer me up!

Then back to the shredding and sorting and yet another decision: you are supposed to keep tax papers for, I think, 3 years so I still have some that I should keep. But I decided “Sod it – I’d have to take another suitcase full of documents if I did that” so out they went. Then I found the death certificates again – Dad’s, Mum’s, Grandpa’s and Auntie’s – and that’s when I finally cracked; I sat downstairs and sobbed my heart out. I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. “I’m sorry”, I said to them all: Sorry for what? For having to throw some of their things out? [They wouldn’t have minded at all – they’d have wondered why I hadn’t done it before!] For not appreciating them when they were here? Yes, but everyone who grieves feels that; No, most of all I am sorry for not cherishing them enough while they were here; love them I always did.

When I stopped crying – which I had to, for Simi’s sake – on went the Ital CD and in not time at all I was dancing around! As I mentioned, it’s such a helter-skelter of emotions, and all in the same day.

Stayed up till 2 am Fri night / Sat morning filling in the Marine Insurance Proposal: you have to itemise virtually everything and work out its replacement value yourself – a nightmare! [Only received it Wednesday.] I don’t know how many bloody jumpers I’ve got in my under-bed storage bags, for instance, nor did I have time to get them out and count them. So took a guess at items like that. Anyway, I finally arrived at a figure to insure my possessions and most of it was to insure my books!

Saturday had my hair done and a last-but-one breakfast at Cibo. Then avoided the stupid cup final – matches at the Millennium Stadium and the bus disruption they cause always put me in the foulest of moods - came home and tried to have a “normal” evening for Simi’s sake.

Sunday got up at 7am and didn’t stop sorting and cleaning all day; felt my physical energy had returned somewhat, but by the end of the day was utterly pissed off with seeing something else to sort/clean/throw out every time I looked around. By this time the shredder had temporarily rebelled and I decided some papers would have to go in with the general rubbish; so I defrosted chicken stock ice cubes which I won’t have time to use all over them, thus making them nice and messy and illegible; what a good use for stock ice cubes! - Wish I’d thought of it before! By Sunday night I felt I was as ready as I was ever going to be for the removal men. Tried to have another “normal” night with Simi but couldn’t concentrate on the newspapers or anything. Just sat there cuddling Simi and telling her how much I love her whilst trying not to let her get my tension vibes! Slept, as always, with her little form moulded into mine and tried not to think about Monday morning.

Monday 23.5.05 took Simi for our last walk together in Grangetown; it seemed very strange as we know our route so well! Then just sat with her watching for the “Airpets” van and cuddling her. They came at lunchtime, as they had said they would and the driver was a nice girl who made a fuss of Simi. The latter, I have to say, was raring to go and did not even look back at her mummy!

Joanie was passing with her dog, Benji, just as Simi was going and she gave me a hug. I appreciated the empathy.

Spoke to Airpets yesterday and they say Simi is fine. Will ring them every other day.

Then got on with a last bit of sorting and packed my case and in-flight bag for the apartment. Martha [my friend and neighbour for all of these 21 years] ran me down there at 4 as there was yet another nuisance match in town and the traffic was being stopped at 6. [Otherwise, could have done with more time.] Had a bit of trouble finding the concierge in the chaos in The Hayes and Martha broke all the parking rules but eventually I did find him and now I am installed in a big, minimalist [!] apartment for the evenings until Monday. Everything is there: it’s airy and open-plan, with a big kitchen area with a load of up-to-the-minute appliances which I can’t work out how to use! I’ve never used a dishwaher in my life, for a start, and the washer-drier doesn’t have any washing symbols I can recognise on it! But found the instructions for the cooker so that is OK. The concierge laughed at me as I had a bag full of more or less all the remaining food contents of my kitchen – plus gin and Cointreau and ice cubes! Once I’d had a relaxing bath I realised it was a good idea to rent it as, quite apart from the comfort, it will help me make the break. Slept very well in the luxury of the double bed!

Tues 24.5.05 Up at 7 to come down here for the removal men’s arrival. They were supposed to come at 9 but by 10.30 there was no sign. Had to phone several times and the final time pointed out that I was paying c. £8000 for their services so I didn’t think I should have to be chasing them! Was then assured by Andrew R that they would be here and that the job would be done. My stress levels went sky high! By then Anita [ a friend who has been tidying the garden] was here which was just as well as I don’t think I could have coped on my own. Anyway, they did arrive – at 11.45! – but they are nice men and they are really getting on with it. They are downstairs as I write now [Wed 25.5.05]. Once they had started, I felt OK; it was sitting around looking at all my stuff still in place that wasn’t. In fact, it proved to be an easier day then any I had last week and I was even able to get up here and make the necessary remaining phone calls to utilities companies! [More of the hated financial admin.] - Proud of myself for doing it, daft though that will seem to anyone with a normal financial head.

Out of the blue yesterday, a former colleague rang and arranged for us to go out for dinner last night. We went to the Bosphorus in Cardiff Bay and the meal was excellent. Back at the apartment, flopped into a bath then bed.

Today – 25.5.05: Jane came this morning and not only provided much needed moral support, but did some paper-shredding for me. The men came early and got on with things and said they didn’t mind if I went out. So Martha took me to the solicitor [to arrange for the financial draft for the removal co on Fri], then the estate agent [to take in a set of keys], then the Tax Office [to deliver the P85 “emigrating” form] and finally Macarthur-Glenn to get [a] a wok [can’t get them in Italy!] – and [b] some new jeans and shirts as I am filthy! Then back here – I must stop calling it “home” – and I’ve more or less been on the computer ever since. Don’t know when I’ll get on again as it will have to be packed tomorrow. Will keep a hand-written diary!

There is one thing that makes me sad that I don’t think I have yet written about, and that is “Giley’s rose”. Giley’s rose is a yellow one in my garden that Sue next door gave me when Giley [Gil Blas], the last dog, died. The rose is called “Good Boy” and since Anita cut down the garden last week, it has been flowering beautifully, because it has more light; it is as if it, too, is saying “goodbye”. But Giley is in my heart, just like my Sandy-dog and Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Auntie [my great-aunt, who lived with us]. They are not in this shell of a house, or its garden, are they?

Oh! One last thing to be proud of: yesterday I tipped a few trinkets from the last man into the charity shop bin. Felt quite liberated afterwards.

Must stop now; starting to cry again; not over that bastard but over my poor Giley. But, as Jane says so wisely, it would be awful to have no regrets at leaving, wouldn’t it?

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