Monthly Archives: January 2016
Today, 27th January 2016 marks Steve’s five year Angelversary.
I have posted each year to mark the day and my previous blog entries can be seen through the links below:
January 2012 – Moving Pictures
Until I am dead you will always be here,
And your presence grow stronger, year upon year.
January 2013 – Ring a Ring o’ Roses
The pain of grief brings some relief,
I couldn’t bear to find,
That one day I could carry on,
And you not come to mind.
January 2014 – Inspiration not Frustration
Your death so young and so unfair
Became your liberation
And yet you chose to stay with me
To be my inspiration.
January 2015 – Reaching for the Teaching
Another year has fluttered by;
As poems and my blogs suggest,
We’re still at home, your ghost and me.
Originally I was going to use this blog post to an update on what has been happening over these last five years regarding the book and also in my life; Huntington’s disease (HD) awareness; and most of all to pay tribute again to Steve who still inspires me every day.
My post kind of got hijacked along the way by a recent spooky event which ties in nicely with my last blog – A Wealth of Mental Health.
I wanted to share this story to mark the five years rather than reflect on life ‘without’ Steve. I hope you agree when reading the latest development that it could be argued it’s quite questionable whether I actually am without him?
In terms of my own sanity,
I’m not entirely sure,
Am I the one who stalks your ghost,
Or your ghost stalks me more?
A few weeks ago (10/12/2015) I woke up with a feeling of melancholy. The New Year was fast approaching and it got me thinking about what we had planned for 2016; the year we were both going to reach fifty five.
When Steve had organised his personal pension at the grand old age of thirty, and before we knew Steve’s HD Positive status, we decided fifty five was going to be the age we both pack up work and ‘retire’. As such, his pension plan was geared to 2016 to mature and be collected.
We both felt that, even if Steve had inherited the gene, it would still give us a few good years before HD severely impacted. We considered we would be set up for coping better should the need arise having retired to a bungalow in a nice relaxed location.
With Steve’s pension in place; my civil service pension secured alongside my private pension now also set up for 2016; our flat in Erith paid up with the equity improving year on year; and some savings in the bank, we assumed we could make the most of our time even if we only had a few years of early retirement.
There was not much information about HD in those days and, based on how HD had presented itself in Steve’s dad and other members of the family, we truly thought there was a pattern. A pattern that would suggest the impact would not fully strike until at a relatively late stage in life.
As far as we could make out, everyone else with HD had lived until they were at least in their sixties. How wrong we were to assume HD had any sort of pattern. Sadly HD was inherited and reared its ugly head much earlier than expected. The move from our flat to a bungalow with time on our hands was not to be.
On the particular December day that I woke up with the feeling of melancholy there was a sense of wanting to imagine what we would have been doing right now had things been different. I tried to shrug it off but a persistent voice in my head was saying “check out the current value of the flat”. That would give me an idea of how much we would have realistically had to play with and what options would have been available.
Where the nagging voice wouldn’t go away, and my curiosity got the better of me, I decided to go on-line and search on the words ‘Frobisher Road Erith 1 bed flat’. The search engine brought up a number of suggestions and I clicked on the first one which took me into an estate agency website.
The site showed a block of flats that looked very similar to where we had lived. No surprise really as Frobisher was part of a new development in its day and many of the blocks were built to the same design externally and internally.
From drilling down further, I saw there were several internal shots of the flat being sold. The flat was looking more and more familiar as I went from room to room. Was my mind playing tricks on me?
Did I subconsciously want to recognise and superimpose the layout and features? I was, after all, looking at photos taken in 2015 of a flat we sold back in 2005 yet recognising our wallpaper in the lounge; our flooring; bedroom units; a bathroom cabinet we put up in the early 90s, and to cap it all a framed New York Skyline picture that we left behind!
Where moving to furnished accommodation which we were renting on the private market and not therefore allowed to even put a nail in the wall, alongside having very limited storage options, we had sold or given away a great number of our belongings and furniture.
The New York picture was so big, and looked so good in its place, that we left it there despite both loving it. I remember conversations we had after 9/11 as it had been bought before the Twin Towers were destroyed. We would often look at the picture and reflect on the sadness of it all.
I decided to look at bigger screen shots of the rooms so that I could see the decor and fixtures better. I then compared them to photos I had of our old flat, including those on the sales brochure produced by the estate agents at time of our selling it.
Imagine my surprise mixed with joyous and sad emotions as I started picking out, one by one, the familiar parts that made me realise I was definitely looking at the very flat Steve and I had sold back in 2005!
On the corner of the website photos were the letters ‘Sold STC’. A few weeks earlier and the chances are I would not have seen the photos as they may not have been put up yet. Had I looked a few weeks later, given the flat was ‘Sold’ – Subject to Contract – the photos would probably have been removed and it would have been too late to see them.
Picking up on the spookiness of it all, I decided there must be a reason for me going into the site that day. Had I been a rich person I might have been tempted to buy the flat for old times’ sake. I’m most definitely not rich but I did wonder if I could at least regain one element back which Steve and I had loved and had been sad to let go. The New York picture.
I called up the estate agents. They turned out to be the same ones we had used. I explained I had previously sold the flat and left the picture there and would they be okay about getting a message to the vendors to ask if they would contact me with a view to buying the picture back? As you can imagine, it was a bizarre phone call and the agents were somewhat bemused but agreed to make a call on my behalf.
Later that day I got a call to say they had spoken to the vendor and they were able to pass on the contact details for me to liaise direct. When they gave me the name I recognised it as being the lady we had originally sold the flat to and I gave her a call immediately.
The vendor was surprised to hear from me after all these years but had realised something had happened to Steve where people had sent condolence cards to our old flat. She didn’t have a forwarding address/contact details to get in touch with me at the time so sadly was unable to forward them on.
We had a lovely chat and she agreed it had been so spooky that I had found the website, and that the picture we left was still around and in a featured photo. She had moved out a few years earlier and had been renting out the property to various tenants.
Although the picture had moved around the lounge over the years, it had remained in one piece and she would be happy for me to have it back. She didn’t want any money for it as she would be pleased for me to have it given it seemed like it was meant to be.
The flat was due to be cleared out once the contract was agreed and finalised. A tentative date of 20th December was mentioned for her going over again to clear out the last of the items but she would get back to me once she had more firm details.
Four days after our chat I went to work and had a bit of a result where I found out the tribunals I had been booked in for had been cancelled. If not given twenty four hours notice I still get paid for the day so it’s a win-win situation.
I was particularly pleased that the cancellations were down to the patients being ‘Discharged’ by the Responsible Clinician rather than an organisational hiccup; or the patient having deteriorated further. Being discharged suggested they were no longer in need of such a degree of treatment and were considered well and safe enough to go home which is a good outcome.
With the cancellations I arrived home obviously earlier than I was expecting. Not long after I got in I received a phone call. It was the vendor saying she was going over to the flat that day and did I want to go with her to collect the picture? Had I been tied up with work that day I would have missed the opportunity!
I wasn’t sure how I would cope with going back into the flat where Steve and I had spent most of our married life. Even walking through the communal door and walking up the stairs in the communal hall brought back so many memories. Good memories but also sad ones too which were combined with guilt and regret.
I had often wondered if I should have thought more short term about HD from the outset rather than play the long game, and insisted we buy a ground floor flat instead of what we went for – a second floor one. Poor balance issues meant the flat became untenable where the communal stairs were becoming too hard to manage safely. With no lift there would be a time Steve would be housebound and that would be too cruel for someone who loved to live life while he still could.
Fortunately the vendor had her young daughter with her which was a bit of a distraction as I was keeping an eye on her while her mother was sorting out a few things in the loft. It helped as I think I would have broken down if left on my own too long; or alternatively if we had needed to rush in and out of the place without my being able to come to terms with what a wonderful opportunity I had been given.
The flat was almost the same inside as we had left it. The lounge now had carpet overlaid on the industrial flooring which still extended into the kitchen. Amazingly the whole of the lounge window frame and windows had been replaced at some stage but it was definitely still the same wallpaper my brother-in-law had put up a couple of years after we moved in.
My brother-in-law had cursed our taste in buying such difficult wallpaper to hang and line up. It was quite expensive and all white with ingrained palm tree like fronds throughout which caught the light. The pattern could only be seen properly when standing back from it, therefore not much fun to hang when needing to be up close and personal to cut and position on the wall.
In the bedroom I opened a wardrobe door and remembered how pleased I had been at choosing the design (a Sharps fitted one) so that we could make the best use of space in such a small flat. I had the right hand side and Steve had the left hand side. He chose internal drawers whereas I chose internal shelves as they would be better for my rows of shoes and boots.
The bathroom cabinet made me feel a bit choked up when I saw on the wall. I remembered the day we got it. We went out shopping with Steve’s brother who drove us into Croydon. We didn’t go out with his brother on our own much so it was one of those lovely days I stored in my memory bank where things seemed so special; so happy; and so carefree.
Having been living at my mum’s place, we were starting out in our own home and shopping for our own things to go in it. The future seemed rosy. Steve had actually been made redundant before we moved to Erith but with the new flat came a spell of good luck. Steve quickly secured a job in a company just a short bus-ride away and it seemed to underline we had done the right thing by moving to that area. Happy Days…
Before leaving the flat, I spotted one of the hall mirrors we had left and asked about whether it was staying. It was a mosaic one that I had bought one day on a whim when working in Docklands. I never really used it as the height was set for Steve rather than my four foot six frame.
When we would have last left the flat together, Steve probably would have looked in that mirror to check his hair as he always did. Maybe he said goodbye to himself that day too as it was the end of an era for his independence in many ways, what with our needing to move being driven by his now evident disability. The vendor kindly said if I wanted it I could have it so I jumped at the chance to recover even more memories of our old home.
The vendor drove me back to the Station. I thanked her; gave her a hug and then gave her an envelope with a thank you card before dashing off. I had sneaked into it some money to buy herself something where she wouldn’t take payment. It was the least I could do for such a kind act when many would not have cared.
It had been so kind of her to get back in touch and allow me to have back part of mine and Steve’s history. To see that she had respected and treated our flat/life so well, was an amazing thing to uncover. When I got back indoors I was free to let the emotion flow. I wasn’t sure where I was going to be able to hang the items but there was no way they were not going up.
If I ever needed proof that Steve is still with me and remembering me too after five years I just need to look at the mirror or the New York picture now hanging on walls here. Our past life entwined with the present in an extraordinary way.
Below is a poem I wrote around the above episode interspersed with photos to illustrate just how incredibly serendipitous my life can be!
At the very end I have posted a link to another Queen song. As readers will know we both loved Queen and it seems appropriate to close on a Queen song.
The flat we lived in all those years ago was very small as you will see from the photos. We loved it though and would describe it to people as “It’s not small… It’s bijou!”
Besides…Being only four foot six inches Steve would describe me at times as being “Bijou”.
A day at random, I click on a link;
Coincidence? What do you think?
It takes me to our old front door;
Coincidence? I am not sure.
The flat we shared, left long ago,
When needing to plan for what would follow.
Ten years have passed but the photos I see;
Are as if time stood still and you’re still there with me.
I check with our photos and yes it’s the same;
Can even make out our old picture frame.
As if I am seeing the place time forgot;
Coincidence? Maybe it’s not?
I contact the vendor’s estate agency;
It turns out the vendor still knows you and me.
With apprehension, sadness, excited;
I call up the number. Our things reunited?
She’s happy to help and will do what she can;
She’ll contact again and we’ll work out a plan.
With time on my hands she gives me a call;
Coincidence? Perhaps not at all?
I go to the flat and as I walk inside;
Emotions flood but I hold back the tide.
Familiar rooms and the things that we used;
A comfort to see they were never abused.
Our home left with people who shared our own space;
And left if for me to revisit our place.
A few weeks later our things would be out;
Coincidence? I think that’s in doubt.
I bring home the picture to put on our wall;
And as I am leaving I see in the hall,
A pretty hall mirror amazed it’s still there;
You used it that last time to check on your hair.
The mirror now hangs within the new place;
Frame in our lounge, there was just enough space.
Both items returned as if meant to be;
Coincidence? You tell me.
On the opposite wall hangs a gallery;
Of various photos of you and of me.
I look at them often, they brighten the gloom;
That dazzling smile that would light the whole room!
It’s true that some photos are nearer the end
And your smile, not so open in what you extend
But they still give me comfort as they help to show
That you slept when you felt it was your time to go.
Again you are opposite what you once saw;
In the place we both lived in, some ten years before.
Is it odd that you’re facing the picture again?
Coincidence? I cannot explain.
Five years on since the day that you died;
I still write about you, my heart filled with pride.
This latest occurrence of spooky reflection;
Coincidence? Or a spiritual connection?
Is my mental health questioned? Losing the plot?
Coincidence? What if it’s not?
Whatever the case I am thankful I see;
That I haven’t left you, and you haven’t left me.
Happy Angelversary Steve
With love from
Your Bijou xxx