Skip to content

End of the Blog

This blog was originally started by my late husband Christopher, to document living with and – as it turned out – dying of cancer. I then kept it up, covering rebuilding my life again. Over the past nearly eleven years, I’ve been renovating the house, working possibly too hard (especially at the end of the financial years), and have scattered Christopher’s ashes in interesting places on three continents.
I think on the whole I’ve done a reasonable job of getting on with things. I will never forget Christopher, but his absence isn’t such a raw, gaping hole in my life as it was at first.

Yesterday I got married, in a very small COVID-compliant wedding at Malvern’s Council House. D is a very private person, so I haven’t mentioned him much on this blog, but he has been very much a fixture of my life for a good few years now. It was about time we regularised the situation.

Malvern Council House has a very pleasant Wedding Room, with high ceilings and tall windows overlooking the Winter Gardens. Due to COVID restrictions, we were only allowed a handful of guests. The witnesses were Christopher’s best friend, and the ex-boss of both D and me. The boss’s wife used to be a Registrar, and she kindly agreed to come out of retirement to marry us. So that was lovely. After the short ceremony, we took our witnesses to a newly-reopened local gastropub for lunch – outdoors on the patio under a gazebo due to the present restrictions. It was sunny, but very cold – though fortunately the pub supplied blankets to wrap up warm with!

We were meant to be going on honeymoon to a rather posh hotel in the Cotswolds, but have had to cancel that as the hotels aren’t open yet. But never mind – we can go somewhere later this year. Or next year. Or whenever travel is possible again. That’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things.

Overall now, I think this blog has run its purpose. I’ve noticed that I’ve been posting less frequently over the past year. So I intend to close this chapter of my life, and move on. Thank you to everyone who has read the blog over the years and commented – your support really did make a huge difference, both to Christopher at first and subsequently to me.

End of FY-itis

Yesterday marked the end of another Financial Year, with the associated mad rush to finish reports and deliver (and bill!) them on time. It’s been pretty exhausting – as it is every year. But this year, it’s all been done under lockdown conditions, which has felt very odd.

I did go into the office for one day this week, for a meeting that it would have been impractical to do remotely. But otherwise I’ve been beavering away writing and reviewing reports etc all from my dining room table. A year ago I would not have guessed that things would still be so disrupted. However, at least I’ve had the vaccine now (or at least the first jab) and things are beginning to look as though they might get better. I’m hoping that, come the end of the new Financial Year, I’ll be able to be back at my desk more regularly.

No Water!

It’s been a particularly unpleasant few days up here on the hills. There has been an intermittent water leak from the mains just outside my neighbour’s house for ages. Severn Trent have dug up the road multiple times, and each time claimed they’d fixed it. Well, they clearly hadn’t, as they were back again yesterday to have another go.

It wasn’t actually too bad yesterday. The water pressure was low while they were doing the job, but it was manageable. The colour of the water was a bit off-putting though – frankly it looked like cat’s piss, not to put too fine a point on it. According to the Severn Trent website, that was “just” sediment from the pipes, and would clear in time. I played safe and drank bottled water which was much pleasanter.

At 0813 this morning, I got a text from Severn Trent saying “Good News” – they’d fixed the leak (again?) and my water supply would now start to return to normal. Then at 0822 I got another text saying that they’d found another problem in the area which they needed to work on. At 0825 the water went off without further warning. And stayed off until 1820 this evening.

I’m working from home at the moment, of course, and it’s quite eye-opening just how often one normally uses water in the course of a day. Not just showering, flushing the toilet or washing hands, but making cups of coffee to keep you going through the endless meetings. And rinsing the coffee cup out between meetings, cooking lunch, running the dishwasher, etc etc.

One of the very few positives about being in the middle of a pandemic is that I had plenty of alcohol sanitising gel that I could use to clean my hands instead of washing them under the tap. And I had a five litre bottle of spring water in the garage for emergencies, so I was able to use that for drinking and cooking. But it’s really not been a pleasant day!

When the water did come back on this evening, there was so much air in the pipes that when I flushed the toilet, it sounded like there were two hippos fighting in the cistern! And the kitchen tap was spitting and hissing like a particularly outraged cobra! Fortunately that seems to have calmed down a bit, and I’m hoping that the leaking mains now stays fixed for few years at least…..

Not much of a substitute

Normally around this time of year, I’d be taking my annual Girls’ Weekend Away to the Pudding Club, via some extensive retail therapy in Stratford and Broadway. But not this year. I haven’t actually left the house for nearly two weeks – I’m working from home and getting a weekly supermarket delivery.

Instead of strolling round the sales and topping up my underwear drawer, I ordered some multi-packs of knickers online from M&S. And instead of pigging out at the Pudding Club I treated myself to a portion of Morrison’s Winter Berry Sponge on the Saturday night. It was tasty, but really not in the same league as a Pudding Club extravaganza!

Hopefully things will be back to normal (or at least a New Normal) next year. Though how many of the shops / tea rooms / hotels will have survived until then is another question. There was an alarming number of vacant shop units in Stratford last year, and I can only imagine that will get worse.

A lockdown MOT

My mother’s car, which I inherited, was due its MOT this month. Well, actually, it was originally due it over the summer, but the government in its wisdom back in the first lockdown decided that MOTs were not that essential, and handed out automatic 6 month extensions to all cars which were due one. So even though COVID cases were relatively low in July, when it was originally due, the expiry date was pushed back to January.

Now, despite the fact that the pandemic situation is much worse than it was in July, and we are back in a pretty strict lockdown, it appears that MOTs are essential after all. It might be that the government is concerned about dangerous cars on the road, but I suspect the Treasury is at least equally concerned about the loss of revenue…

In normal years, when I have an MOT due, I like to take the day off work and make an occasion out of a necessity. I drop the car at the garage, then take the train into Worcester to do a little light shopping. Then I have a two-course set lunch at my favourite restaurant, possibly treating myself to a glass of wine since I won’t be driving for hours. In the afternoon I either potter around one of the museums, or plonk myself down on a comfy chair in the library and catch up on some reading until the mechanic phones to say my car is ready. Then I get the next train back to Malvern, having turned an administrative chore into an enjoyable day out.

Obviously, none of that was going to be possible today. The trains are running, but the shops, museums and restaurants are all closed, and the library is only open to people who book in advance to use one of the computers. Instead, I booked a taxi to take me straight home from the garage, and worked from home until the car was ready.

The taxi driver was delighted to take me back into Malvern in the afternoon to pick it up. He was telling me that his work has really dried up and he’s getting hardly any fares – nobody is going out as there’s nowhere to go, and that is hitting the taxi drivers hard. No one is making theatre trips, no taxis are needed back from the pub/restaurants, there are no lucrative long distance airport runs as nobody is going away on either holiday or business, and New Year was a complete washout. I felt thoroughly depressed by the time I got to the garage. Though at least my car passed its MOT ok.

Here we go again

Oh well, back in to lockdown. Not that I was going anywhere anyway. I’ve been pretty much snowed in for the past week. We had about 7cm (3”) of snow up here on the hills on Monday and Tuesday last week, which still hasn’t completely melted yet. The council did a good job at keeping the main road clear, but I have a shortish but steep drive down onto the road, and that was completely impassable.

It would have taken well over an hour to dig the car out, and there isn’t really anywhere to go at the moment. So I just stayed put. I reckoned that, as long as the Morrison’s food delivery I had ordered for last Tuesday was able to get through, and didn’t have too many items missing, then I had no need to go out. And fortunately, in the middle of a blizzard on Tuesday lunchtime, the van turned up, right at the beginning of my appointed delivery slot. The driver said that he had ignored his planned route, which took him to some lower-lying villages first, in favour of ticking me off his list before the conditions got worse! That was very sensible of him, as he would have struggled getting up the big hill an hour later in the face of driving snow.

Now the drive is nearly clear, and certainly passable, but I’m still not going anywhere because we’re back in lockdown. I’ve been back at work since yesterday, but not actually in work – my dining room table is once again substituting for the office. Presumably until at least mid February. Or March. Or April. Depending on which of the vacillating politicians one believes.

Tier hokey-cokey

Two weeks ago, where I live was in COVID Tier 2, so we could only meet in small groups outdoors. In the mini-lockdown before that, I could talk to my neighbour over the fence, or up on the hill, but not in her garden. Then a week ago, Herefordshire was downgraded to Tier 1, meaning we could if we wished have six people meeting indoors.

We were the only county to be moved down a level, while most of the south east was bumped up into the draconian Tier 4. I have a cynical suspicion that the politicians wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to move down the alert scale as well as up, and decided that minimal harm would be done by picking Herefordshire – a rural and sparsely populated county. Conveniently ignoring that we adjoin Wales, which is struggling to contain a significant third wave.

My house has a Worcester postcode, but is actually in Herefordshire by less than 500m. The rest of Malvern, however, stayed in Tier 2. I think that meant that town was out of bounds except for work or medical appointments, but to be honest it’s getting difficult to keep on track of what is or isn’t allowed. The hotel/pub at the top of the hill is in Herefordshire by less than 20m, so was allowed to serve small groups inside – but only if all the people in a group lived in Herefordshire. Which meant they had to check everyone’s postcode before working out whether they could serve them indoors, outdoors or not at all.

The reprieve didn’t last long though – we’ve been bounced back up into Tier 2 today due to rising cases. Hardly a surprise. I predict we’ll be at least Tier 3 in another fortnight, unless there is a significant change in the virus trajectory. Looks like I’ll be working from home again in the New Year…..

Hobnails and chains

The mice are back! They’ve been very quiet for months, but the recent cold wet snap seems to have driven them back indoors. I was rudely awoken at 01:10 on Thursday morning by the sound of something in hobnail boots walking across the floor of the loft, dragging a clanking chain behind it! Or at least, that’s what it sounded like.

On the assumption that it was probably just a mouse, rather than a poltergeist, I sent an urgent text straight after breakfast to Martin, the friendly pest controller whom I have on an annual rolling contract. This is always a busy time of year for him, but I was really hoping he’d be able to fit me in before Christmas. He surpassed himself as usual, and turned up at 08:30 this morning to investigate.

He confirmed that there had been a fair amount of recent “rodent activity” in the loft directly above my bedroom, but didn’t have an explanation for the clanking chains. The bait he’s put down in the loft should be enough to stop an entire family of mice, so hopefully I won’t be kept awake by them for much longer. I have however renewed my annual contract with him – I’m sure they will be back at some point.

Nothing Significant to Report

I’ve not been posting much because nothing much has been happening. Lockdown 2.0 is very much like Lockdown 1.0 but a bit slicker. The shopping is largely sorted, mostly because Morrisons have expanded their delivery service. It now arrives weekly, picked from their Tewksbury store. That makes more sense than previously, when it was delivered from a regional hub north of Birmingham. Their substitutions for missing items are generally intelligent, and the use-by dates are usually reasonable so I only have to do minimal top-up shopping at Waitrose or the local convenience store. I’m glad I’ve got a freezer though, as that makes things much easier.

I’m going into work only about once a fortnight at the moment, working from home the rest of the time. I’ve sorted out my wifi, and use a work-supplied 4G dongle which provides enough bandwidth for videoconferences. I’m fortunate that I can do most of my job from home, and our facilities manger has done a very good job of making the office environment COVID-safe for those days when I do need to go in.

Obviously, I’m not going out unless it’s strictly necessary. I’m pleased I managed to get to the theatre and the pottery during the brief window that they were open over the summer, and I do miss them. I also miss my previously regular back massages – I’ve not had one since February and the knots have really built up in my back and shoulders. But overall, things are going ok, with nothing much happening and so nothing much to say….

Give a car again

Ten years ago, shortly after Christopher died, I was having coffee in Waitrose, idly flicking through the free newspaper in the coffee shop. I came across an article about a recently launched “social enterprise” / not-for-profit company which promised to take old unwanted cars of your hands, regardless of condition. They would realise the value from the car, either through selling it or scrapping it through an authorised breakers yard, and give all the profit to a charity of your choice. I had both Christopher’s Mini and my 15 year old Polo on my drive at that point, and I didn’t need them both.

This seemed like an ideal way to dispose of my old Polo, and I duly donated it via to St Richard’s Hospice, which had done such a good job in caring for Christopher. I was the first person who had donated a car to St Richard’s, and I remember having to look up their Charity Number to provide to giveacar. The hospice clearly thought it was an excellent idea, it got written up in the local press, and they have incorporated it into their regular fundraising publicity. Until very recently a total of nineteen cars had been donated to St Richard’s, raising many thousands of pounds.

Make that twenty cars. After I had picked up my late mother’s car from a windswept station car park the other month, I was in the same situation as I was after Christopher died – with too many cars on my drive, one of which was very old and costing me money to keep roadworthy. I needed to dispose of my trusty but now 17 year old Mini.

I looked up giveacar, and they were still going strong, but with a rather slicker website than ten years ago. I filled in an online form on a Sunday, they phoned me the next day to discuss, and the car was picked up on the Thursday of the same week. It had a current MOT and a full service history, and still drove very well – provided you didn’t want to open the passenger window at any point! I’ve just heard that it was auctioned and raised nearly £350 for the Hospice.

I have to say it all worked seamlessly. I got an old but still viable car taken off my hands with absolutely no fuss. Someone has bought a good little runner with a very low mileage and only mildly dodgy electrics. And a charity I care about has got a bigger donation than I was expecting. Overall, it’s a win-win-win. I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone who needs to dispose of an unwanted car.