The Warmth of Women

Over the past few weeks I have received many warm breathings from family, friends and colleagues. I don’t want to make a sexist distinction here as some of these breaths have been from some special men in my life but the majority have understandably been from women – we have more female friends and Jane’s illness only affects women. And there’s the age thing – when someone of similar age dies it is somehow more shocking, more keenly felt – and there’s also that awful sense of powerlessness. And during the dark days of hospital visits we frequently found solace at the Botanics as earlier posts have reported. So the offers of walks in places we knew together and others that were new to me was an uplifting prospect.

First was Katie in Edinburgh who was keen to explore the Pentlands which I hadn’t been to for a while because I was otherwise occupied … I wanted to go to some of our shared walks from last year but was hesitating. But Katie has a lovely dog, Shuna, who never understands why humans don’t just WALK and then throw every available stick, large or small. So in the end it wasn’t too difficult to be carried along by Katie and Shuna’s enthusiasm. But I also had invitations from Dorothy, and from Dominique and her mother Susan in Belgium whom we had met on previous visits.

The Mayfield lavender fields are a most unexpected find lying just 15 miles from central London and their story is of the heart-warming variety where the short-sighted and ignorant multi-national is left behind by a local family with passion and commitment. We had previously been indulged in the three varieties of lavender produced: Folgate, Maillette and Grosso when Dorothy brought us some – Jane was especially fond of the Maillette to waft her to a calmer place. Whenever I’m out I usually see a bird, a butterfly, a flower or some other wee beastie that I like to think of as a signifier of Jane’s presence – that day it was the single poppy bobbing amongst the undulating waves of mauve. 


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To visit Dominique I had to conquer the ‘unaccompanied drive into Brussels’ demon for without the cats and despite the GPS the opportunities for misdirection were running high especially as I wanted to do park and ride for a later visit to the city centre. As it turned out directions were not the issue but the lack of a parking space was, so it was less libre and more lucre. But before long we were at the Erasmus House Museum (bit like where Bonnie Prince Charlie spent a night although in fairness Erasmus did manage a couple of months). The real attraction are the lovely gardens: a philosophical one for quiet contemplation and a medicinal garden. The philosophy garden has a series of leaf-shaped pools with aphorism’s of Erasmus – many were apposite:

  • Your wealth is where your friends are
  • Beautiful things are difficult
  • Add stars to the sky
  • More haste, less speed

The last one was a surprise as I would have thought it was more modern and the penultimate has a recent addition … The medicinal garden had what I’ve come to realise is part of the Belgium sense of humour – decorate the garden with quirky objects to amuse the visitor. Erasmus was apparently a bit of a hypochondriac or maybe like a late aunt of mine who ‘enjoyed ill health’ but he did seem to suffer from gout and the common infections of the 15th century.

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Then there was the walk in the park Scheutbos with Susan and once again the weather angel was with us and it was paused for the duration of the outing. This time I managed free parking, an excursion to the city centre for lunch and a wee bit of a flâneur. The park itself is another surprise of open fields, herds of cow and marginal swathes of wild flowers. For some reason I have no pictures despite having the camera – I suspect we just blethered too much.

Three walks full of warmth and kindness where Jane was occasionally mentioned, but always in my thoughts as I wandered amongst flowers, trees and vistas accompanied but alone.

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