That was the year that was …

2012 will live in our hearts for many years, for some the rest of our lives. For me it has been one of great joy and deep sorrow, almost simultaneously and in equal measure.

January was when we had the (almost) perfect Christmas. With hindsight, the Belgian contingent would have been more comfortable aloft with the simple provision of a heater. I think I had some strange fear of incendiary incident but at the time, the many anxieties I had, led to some odd decisions. Shortly after Rose and Sly departed, we headed to London for a wee holiday and to bed the ghost of the previous visit in June 2011 when something seemed to be not right but innocence prevailed. We loved the Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum and then a visit to Kew in winter – a tick on the to do list. And then we just wandered around doing the usual things, going to familiar pubs, restaurants and book shops.

February – the month started for me with a hellish day. I took Jane to the Royal for 8am and the promise of a diagnostic laparoscopy which would confirm or reject the possibility of further surgery. By the time she was trundled off to theatre 21/2 hours later, we had the prospect of major surgery. She sailed down the corridor on her hospital bed in her surgical gown, with a huge grin and waving in my general direction (she couldn’t really see me as they’d taken her glasses). The ever enthusiastic surgeon had theatre time he didn’t think he would have so he ‘consented’ her for ‘if I get in and think I can do something useful’. Basically the gynaecological equivalent of the works with nobs on (sorry boys). I remember driving home thinking if only that could be true knowing that the chances of the phone ringing some hours later to say that they had indeed been able to do something useful was probably of the order of one in a million. But I had to hope and believe it just might be possible for her sake. It wasn’t, silly man messing with our hearts like that however well intended. By the next day she’d bounced back and was through in Glasgow visiting Margaret and dining out with the school chums. The following week we had a tour of the Scottish Parliament, another tick on the to do list. My birthday is towards the end of the month and so a visit to North Berwick and the lovely Buttercup Tearoom was required.

March started well with a visit by Margaret for a few days which was an ideal opportunity for Jane to show off her new potting shed (so much nicer than the disintegrating Anderson/Morrison shelter). We also managed a day excursion to Abriachan to collect her majesty’s selection of plants for the recently completed herbaceous border created as part of the works for the driveway. And before the end of the month, her majesty had further decreed that a Hyundai, especially a left hand drive model, did not suit or look right in the new drive. The Hyundai was speedily sold, a new Bluemotion Golf sourced and parked correctly before any further fuss or ado.

April was the month for visits from family, friends and foreigners (also friends). Silvia arrived at the beginning of the month with whisky and chocolate (great for me, less so for the royaly indisposed) and we had the excitement of Jane driving herself around the Botanics on a mobility scooter. Aileen and Stuart dropped in for lunch and then the royal court was entertaining the Peters from Alsace Lorraine. The ‘girls’ also came – Jane’s school chums Alison, Anne and Susan – for evenings of shared memories and warm times. Family visited and were visited, we all shared the common knowledge of precious time and making the most of what time we had together.

May started with a visit from Wilf and Gélise who came for a long weekend of knitting and nattering – tea cosy production was in full swing. But the odd nights in hospital and hospice signalled a darker truth, the circle of love tightened around us and held fast. May has always been a favourite month for me in Scotland; usually warm with trees coming into full leaf, abundant garden colour, lambs, baby birds and all things joyful. We did what we could manage to make the most of the sun, blossom and blue badge parking – our favourite spot being at the top of the dam for Torduff Reservoir enabling the royal perambulator to be pushed into the hills and scented gorse. Then we fell through the void and I was on the train to London, the Chelsea Flower Show and a watery numbness.

June was the month I made myself wait and sort immediate bureaucracy, attend to a slightly neglected mother (memory loss has its benefits – she hadn’t noticed I hadn’t visited for a few weeks) while planning a few weeks in Belgium chez le bâtiment. There was also some very neglected work to sort and send or I wouldn’t be going anywhere. Before too long I was loading two irritable cats into the car with all sorts of accoutrements and paraphernalia, and we were heading due south.

July was largely spent in Belgium, I had planned to cycle to the horticultural extravaganza of Floriadae just over the Dutch border but talked myself out of the effort. If I’m honest it wasn’t just the thought of the journey and the crowds but I didn’t want to leave the cats. There were excursions to Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, Sir Wiggo whizzing past on his bike in the Tour, walks with kind companions in secluded gardens, as well as a cut thumb needing sutured and cats with fleas. Time to go home but not before a night in a hotel in Peterborough for serious de-infestation.

August was when I think my feet were found or at least located. I set about the bathroom with a hammer and chisel – destructive and cathartic. Once all the horrible tiles with nicotine stained grout were off, the plasterer came and made a beautifully smooth wall – a skill that I always find exciting and humbling. Why a smooth surface should cause such emotion fails me – maybe the possibility of decoration, a blank canvas. The bathroom makeover was all that I had wanted it to be and the unsightly ridges that had developed in the drive were rectified with two regimental lines of paving slabs (always important in Colinton – regimental lines that is). As there had been no funeral in May, we had wanted there to be something more celebratory for family and friends in Glasgow. A Marie Curie Blooming Great Tea Party seemed to tick a number of boxes and my to do list. The reality was far better than any of us could have imagined or hoped for. A total of £1,100 was raised and sent to Marie Curie – I know it will be put to good use, thanks again to everyone who helped and supported us.

September was significant for being the start of something new but not before Margaret and I had an autumn break in Seahouses with a promised visit to the poison garden at Alnwick Castle. It was an excellent weekend with good food (lobster and kippers) and good company. No sooner back than I was a matriculated student registered for the degree of doctor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh (apologies for the full Monty but I’m still ridiculously pleased and surprised). Ironically I spent Jane’s birthday talking to my contacts at Marie Curie about palliative care but it seemed more appropriate than not and I will need to be strong to see this through. By then end of the month my darling wee sister was here with Sly and the flat was almost full again with the arrival of  Wilf and Gélise for some shared happy days. Then we were off to London on the train making new memories in life’s battered notebook (Moleskine of course).

October and a busy diary – the cultural diversions of a botanical art class and classical concerts. catching up with friends, Rebecca’s (Jane’s eldest niece) 18th birthday, work and supervision meetings. Slowly, gradually, almost subtlety another life has emerged from the embers and a different way of being has settled into a rhythm, a quiet hum.

November was more research oriented as I lost myself in the wonders of real online resources (not just free stuff through the wonder of Google), journal articles at a few clicks for permission and textbooks that were either pristine or required quarantine if they were to be admitted to the flat. I do love the libraries but my issues with germs, an international student population and an apparently almost complete lack of hygiene means I probably now spend as much time washing my hands as reading books, well in the library anyway.

December and the impending doom of Christmas – I know everyone loves it and all the family, food, presents etc but it’s the commercialisation and assumed gluttony followed by mandatory dieting in January that leaves me cold. But I had a happy time in my own small world with long walks in the rain, one portion of Brussel sprouts (not sure that they really agree with me) and some thoughtful presents from my nearest and dearest. I even visited mother on the very day, ‘Oh I thought it was Sunday’. Then a few days in Glasgow staying with Margaret between the two ‘highlights’. The cats came to which apart from the confinement to baskets and the car, was deemed to be acceptable to feline sensibilities. We had a run down to Troon and had our cobwebs blown away by a fierce wind in a wintry sun. 

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So that was the year that I will mostly remember with a wry smile in the knowledge that as Jane once observed, we are kind to ourselves with our memories. Yes, I can go back to that morning and dwell on that awful moment, but that would in some way dishonour her memory and her love. For the most part my life is content, thankful for all that I had with her and all that I now have.

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