Saturday, 4 May 2013

My wife Kate and son Ned

Kate - my wife 1987-2006

Kate in her flat in Islington before she moved in with me

The first time I met Kate was an electric moment in the Marshall Cavendish offices in the autumn of 1984. I had turned up to start work on a partwork called Money Doctor that never flew unsurprisingly. I came into the busy office wearing my motorcycle leathers with my helmet under my arm. Kate was on the other side of the office coming out from an office built within the larger office – it would have been John Gaysford’s office as he was editing the magazine. Kate looked at me in what can only be described as a full on come on way with those amazingly blue eyes. It was a moment of pure sensuality and boldness. But I was fragile with my marriage in turmoil and let the moment pass with very little internalising. It was different for Kate as she told me afterwards. She was smitten and thank God she was or it would have been nothing more than a look.

I first got to properly meet Kate when we had lunch together in a department store in Oxford Street (now shut down). Kate had recently undergone a laparoscopy on her fallopian tube that had been damaged in some way. I felt she was a bit depressing, a little theatrical about her pains (she winced a lot) and I was a totally selfish bastard too focused on my own inner turmoil to recognise that Kate was calling for help rather than just feeling sorry for herself. Again, luckily, she persevered with me.

Kate in about 1995
The thing that really brought Kate and I together was a day trip to Boulogne for a Christmas lunch during which Just about everyone got poleaxed with wine in 1984 for the staff of Doctor’s Answers, the highly successful partwork up to its 120nd issue created in offices in Foubert Place, off Carnaby Street. The hovercraft was cancelled because of high winds and we came back very late on the ferry. Kate and I were friendly, but not quite an item at that point. As Edward Horton got off the train at Victoria he slipped and broke his ankle. Kate and I went with him in the ambulance to St Edward’s Hospital on the South Bank and stayed with him until he was comfortable. I saw Kate home at some godforsaken hour and went back to my flat in Clapton. The vigil over Edward’s broken ankle was a spot weld for us and allowed things to develop slowly after that. Kate got her divorce from Keith through around this time, about spring 1985 I believe.

Our wedding day in Hackney. Anne Usborne on the left.
I carried on at Marshall Cavendish until Jan 1985 when I was made redundant from the Great Composers. It was a bitter blow because I was Deputy Editor and pretty much responsible for the whole thing, taking, on my 400x4 bike, finalised spreads and galley proofs to a typesetting company in Farringdon Street.  I find it hard to piece together the chronology of these months. I was still married to Linda, but things with Kate were getting more intense. We lived together in my flat in Clapton next to Hackney for a year and then married. Consistent with our desires Kate was pregnant by the time we got married.  My love for Kate continued to intensify from 1985 until she died 21 years later. Part of the reason for needing to work out dates is to keep the sequence of our relationship clear in my head, but I apologise for any wrong sequencing – it will matter to me and me alone I’m sure. 

I will be adding to this period - our marriage, over the next months. Below is what happened to Kate in 2006.

Wednesday 15th Feb, 2006
Kate in 1987
Last Wednesday it started with my seeing Sally walk up past my office window. I was holding a meeting with Anne and Anthony about our website. Sally was a bit flustered, but she often is. She said she couldn’t raise Kate at home, but she knew she was there and they had arranged to go shopping together. She’d rung the doorbell repeatedly, telephoned from her mobile, kicked the door, but there was no response. I got in the car and went back home with a small but insistent feeling of dread. I opened the door and called out ‘Katie’ as I went down the hall. SP said ‘You’d better check the bedroom Jim’. Kate was lying on the bed face down. She was moving in a rhythmic way as she tried to lift herself from the bed and then fell back. She kept closing her eyes in apparent little naps. I called out her as the panic rose in my chest. Her mouth was slewed to one side and she tried to speak. She said repeatedly, then and for the next hour or so, ‘Jim, help me. Please help me’.
Rosie, Ned and Kate 1988

Kate in 1989
Sally, who is a district nurse, phoned for an ambulance and diagnosed a stroke, a CVA. While we waited for the ambulance I held Kate’s hand and hugged her, telling her it would be alright, that the ambulance was on its way, that I loved her. The ambulance took an eternity to arrive and, in spite of clear instructions and Sally’s daughter standing outside waving her hand, it drove straight past and took a further ice age to return. The paramedics, when they finally arrived, did some tests. Sally said to them with some triumph and her voice: ‘I had the right diagnosis then?’ They didn’t answer, but put Kate in a chair and tried to strap her in so she would not reach out for something and pull them over as they went down the stairs. What she was reaching out for all this time was me and saying all the time in a hardly recognizable voice was: ’Jim, please help me’.

Kate in Bologna 
She was taken into the ambulance and after a further eternity, we drove off. I held on to her hand as we swayed around the country bends. I was thinking she had had a stroke, possibly a minor one. Full recovery seemed very possible. At worst she might have a bit of paralysis, a slight slur, a crooked mouth, walk with a stick. The ambulance nearly met head on an oncoming truck taking the bend wide and I was almost thrown to the floor. Kate was getting more agitated and her head pain was increasing. She looked at me through panic-filled eyes. Looking for me to stop what was happening to her. We moved on to the A120 and picked up speed, but still the journey was taking far, far too long. I seriously wondered if the driver was lost. Just outside Little Waltham and a minute or so from the hospital Kate gripped my hand with a strength I didn’t know she possessed. Her hand began to shake and she went rigid. I said to the paramedic, who was righting notes on his blue rubber glove ‘Is she OK, I think she’s gone into spasm’. He called to the driver to stop the ambulance. The driver moved into the back with us and examined Kate. Her eyes had rolled back and she lay rigid. ‘Is she alive?’ I asked, I think out loud. ‘We’re just trying to get a tube into her sir.’ But that did not seem to be working. ‘Is she alive?’ I asked again, and a part of me was telling me to prepare for a ‘no’. The intubation attempt having failed, we moved on again to A&E. She was unloaded on to a gurney and taken into a room. I paced up and down outside thinking god knows what thoughts. A sense of horror and dread kept at bay most speculations. I was escorted to the relatives’ room. After a long wait a doctor, a small South African, saw me. He said: ‘Catherine has had an aneruism Mr Miles. This is a bleed inside the brain. We have taken scans and will now send them to Old Church Hospital’s neurological unit who will assess them to see if we need to move her there for surgery. I have to tell you though that the bleeding looks very bad.’ Then he went away.

Gerard arrived soon after and we had a hug and a sob. I told him what I knew which was not much, everything depending on the scans. Gerard took heart at this. The scans would be OK, Kate would go for surgery, there was hope in this. He rattled off details about sales and stuff in the office to give us something to focus on. My dread was increasing with the second.

An hour later, a second posse of doctors came in to see us headed by an Indian doctor. They sat me down and looked serious looks at me. ‘We have had the results back from Old Church and it does not look good Mr Miles. Catherine has had two bleeds, one of them massive and they do not think that moving her to Old Church is an option. There is clearly damage to the higher brain and there could be some to the brain stem itself.’ He looked at me and then went on to explain, ‘If the brain stem is damaged she cannot breathe for herself Mr Miles. Now, I have to ask you a difficult question. Has Catherine ever shown or declared any willingness to donate organs?’

The spring that had been tightening inside me for over five hours finally broke and I sobbed like a child, like a middle-aged child. Gerard too was sobbing uncontrollably at the window trying not to show his face. When I had recovered some control myself, the doctor thought it would be helpful to explain further: ‘The transplant team need to work closely with the ICU so that there is no deterioration to the organs, so if Catherine wants to donate then we need to move her to the ICU.’ I tried to grapple with this and asked: ‘Are you saying that she is brain dead?’ 
‘We don’t know the exact damage to the brain as yet’.
‘But if you move her to the ICU does she have a chance of recovery?’
‘I really don’t know Mr Miles’.
‘What happens if she does not want to donate?’
‘She will be placed in a ward’.
I told him that Kate had expressed a wish to donate which was true and it seemed bizarrely she might get a better deal this way. Keep her organs nice and fresh until the transplant team can swoop down on her was how it was beginning to sound.

That nightmarish little chat over, soon after Vicky and Peter arrived. More tears and hugs. Vicky said tearfully, ‘Not her brain, that beautiful brain’. There were more attempts at taking on board a situation that would soon be freeze-framed, the reel wound back to this morning before the world had gone mad and my life with Kate allowed to continue its perfectly happy route for the next thirty years or so.

I think it went dark before I next saw Kate. She was in ICU with a mess of tubes and wires doing her breathing, monitoring her heart and keeping her alive. ICU was very different from A&E. Here they preserved life as there single aim, they might even restore life. Frank and Vicky her sister arrived with Rosemary, her mother. We stood or sat at the bedside in various states of shock and tears. The missing party was Ned – he was on a skiing holiday in France. Somehow I reached him about five pm and told him some of the details. I had to get him home. I held Kate’s hand, which was very cold. It was still Wednesday, that same horrible Wednesday.

Five days passed in a fog of despair and hope. She made little steps forwards on the third day as they reduced the sedation. Even moved her hands to her head as she probably felt a return of the brain agony she’d been put through. She often used to ask me to kiss her around the eyes to suck out and remove a pain she had there – I don’t think there was a connection though between normal headaches and what happened to her on the 15th Feb. I went to Broomfield many times in that period, talked to nurses and up to seven different consultants. By Friday they’d removed the ventilator tube and she looked more normal, perfectly and terribly normal, in fact. Her colour was back to its normal self and she felt much warmer when I kissed her and whispered things to her. I could kiss her on the mouth now. She had a tracheostomy tube into her throat to help her breathe, but things seemed hopeful, maybe a long road to recovery and perhaps not total recovery, some paralysis possibly or slurred speech, at least for a while until she rewired bits of her brain.

The nurses gave me hope, the consultants took it away. I spoke with Doctor Durcan, ruddy faced and business-like, on the Saturday. ‘There has been some deterioration Mr Miles, with Kate’s condition. As we have reduced the sedation her blood pressure has gone up slightly. But she did show some positive signs, moved her hands and legs and so on. She is now breathing for herself which means the brain stem is still doing its job. The higher brain is permanently damaged though.’ I asked what her chances were. ‘Not very good, but people with this injury may go on for a long time – we have to think about moving her to a ward soon as there is some pressure on beds up here.’ I pressed him on a ‘long time’. ‘By law we cannot remove life support until a year has passed at which point she would be reassessed.’

I drove back home thinking of Kate preserved in a half brain state for a year. I hadn’t realised quite what dreadful thoughts Ned was having. His greatest fear was that his mum would be returned home in a state of drooling idiocy. He had seen her last, before the skiing holiday, as his totally normal, fussing, concerned, have-you-got-your-keys-phone-money-etc. loving mum. Now she was in a peaceful coma, but would there be a totally different person coming home to be washed, fed and propped up in bed? For me, if I’d thought that far, I would have traded death with such a terrible consequence. She would still be there, if only half there. I don’t think I properly thought it through. For both Ned and me, that would have been a living horror.

I saw her Sunday about midday. There was a subtle change to her skin somehow. There was less life in her, I felt, as I kissed her and held her small warm but lifeless hand.

That evening I had a call from the ward. Kate was deteriorating. They thought I should get there quickly.

Wednesday, 8th March 2006

We took a holiday in Brittany on Ned's first birthday - 1988
I have to start this business of writing down what has happened and what it is doing to me. I am not sure at what point of the ‘process’ I am in. It is three weeks today since Kate had the ‘insult’ that left her seriously injured. One week today since her burial. I have looked at dozens of statistics about subarachnoid haemorrhages and the outcome is frequently death or, if it’s possible, worse. Months being fed and watered as an inert vegetable must be worse than death for everyone. I am not beating up myself about fate, the health service, the late ambulance, the sheer appalling luck. There really is no point going that way.

So where do I think I am in the process? And where is Ned in his own confrontation with the worst thing that has ever happened to him? The hardest part is accepting the reality of it. My brain has grown accustomed over 20 years of knowing Kate to having her around, not just when we were together, but almost more so when we were apart. There were daily phone calls even when she was at home and I was in the office. Little virtual cuddles almost, virtual hand-holding down the phone.

That has gone. All of it. Take comfort from the memory of it I’m told. Hold on to all those good memories they, who have not been through this, tell me. Those who hardly knew her tell me how vibrant, kind, nice, off-beat, different, witty, lovely, she was. And unique, irreplaceable.

I thought about taking a diazepam this morning to melt the lump of ice inside me, but I looked it up on the web to discover that it’s evil stuff. It is actually Valium which the doctor told me she would not be prescribing. Highly addictive and zombie-making. I’ll keep the ice for now.

Sunshine and Kate
Today I looked at sites for short-break holidays for Ned and me to go on a distraction. Perhaps Cairo or Luxor, or the Red Sea, but he doesn’t find antiquity especially interesting. My idea of a break was always something that included plenty of loving with Kate. I’m not sure I can handle the conflicting associations that will intensify the feeling of her absence – not just yet. But me not handling something has to be a bit beside the point. Ned will have his own associations and intense feelings of loss on any holiday we contemplate for quite a while. Just by us being together and without her, she is made more palpably absent.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Yesterday was a difficult one. I will have my good days and bad days I’m told, and I am sure that is quite right. I am not used to having ‘bad days’ and have forgotten how to cope with them. I went to Chelmsford and while waiting for new glasses went to Bucialli, Kate’s favourite dress shop. I broke the news to the owners who’d become friends of Kate’s. It was the same intensity I felt earlier in the week when I went in to see her hairdressers in Stortford. A crushing weight inside, a lack of air in my lungs, a welling of the eyes and a burning sensation behind them.  I then left, grateful it was raining hard and I could disguise the tears with raindrops.

There was a phone call from an ex-friend of Kate’s inviting Ned and me over on Sunday which I could luckily decline. I do not forgive her yet for her treatment of Kate and though I understand how hateful her situation is, or at least should be, she has not been punished by her conscience nearly long enough. Knowing her, she will find a way of forgiving herself long before I do. I bought a TV for the kitchen yesterday and Ned and I started to set this up last night before Nik turned up for the takeaway Indian, followed soon after by James and Bobby his boyfriend. I think they had been warned by Vicky that I was not up for religion or sentimentality – don’t think I ever will be.

Our new home in Walpole, Suffolk
Dreams last night were me on a cruise ship in Turkey in a group with three women (not Kate), being shown round by a doctor/surgeon who was very animated, did lots of mime to make his points. Next was a dream in this bedroom. It was getting dark, the lights were not working and I cursed myself for not fixing them in daylight. Woke to the sound of a movement on the stairs and I was convinced it was Kate, but it turned out to be Vicky so I had to relive the loss of Kate all over again and went with Vicky to the kitchen where I squatted and cried cascades of tears that fell on Vicky’s face.  Perhaps this means that the sobbing has to be done one way or another. There has to be an outlet for the pain whether awake or asleep.

11pm now and the end of a difficult day. First there was a phone call from Vicky G. She needed the address or phone number of cousin Richard, Kate’s cousin Richard Barnett. There was some sad news that Vicky needed to give him about his sister Gillian, with whom Richard had been out of touch for some years – she’d died last week aged 59 of an aneurism. This is taking on bizarre proportions – two cousins die within two or three weeks of one another aged about the same from the same thing. Vicky then got upset about Kate. She needs to reveal her pain to me because Ned and I are the only people who can possibly be more upset than she is. Everyone else is, apart from Rosemary, working on a different level of grief and Rosemary has an extraordinary resilience. I got close to tears, so close I had them. Later at the pub, where I went with James and Bobby and Ned and where I told them the story about Dick Chapman and where they revealed they intend to marry, I had a call from Keith Parish. He, like Vicky, I felt needed my greater grief to place in his within some meaningful context – to give it proportion. Again I ‘got close to tears’ which is a bit tough in a village pub. I said I would meet Keith soon – strangely, as her first husband and first love, I think he’ll understand me more than other friends and grievers, but we’ll hurt each other the more for it.

That was teary moment number 2 today. When we got home I gave Bobby the keyboard we’d bought for Ned a couple of years ago. He was delighted with it and instantly started to accompany himself as he sang. I’ve decided I like Bobby.  There was a leaflet through the door advertising a recycling service – put old clothes, shoes, cosmetics, perfumes in a bin liner and they would be recycled creating jobs for the third world etc. So I got a bin liner and started on removing things from the airing cupboard. I had not bargained for my reaction to finding a belt from her dressing gown, a coverlet she liked, a towel she’d favoured, a flannel she’d used. I put my hands on the racks of bedding and towels and sobbed piteously. That was teary moment number 3. Number 4 was a complete surprise and happened as I stood in the kitchen about 8pm. No reason for it, just an aftershock and lasted just a few seconds. I went and watched TV conscious of her things, photos, purchases, touches everywhere I swivelled my head. Should I give away everything and move to an empty house I wondered and avoid everything we have done or talked about for the last 20 years?

Kate in Bilbao around 2001
Ned has gone to Lisa’s party so I am alone tonight. It is a foretaste of when he goes to uni and is just an intensification of being without Kate, it does not double the loneliness, not quite. I need to observe how lonely I can feel and what it does to me. Is this becoming a manual on grief? It’s not what I intended, but it could. As Ned said when we discussed the organ donation on the way to hospital for the last time: if something good can come out of all this shit then so be it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006
6.30am – slept reasonably I suppose with doc’s little pink pill. The awakenings through the night are troublesome though, each one being a cue to some new thought involving a sense of loss felt now or to be felt later.  Kate’s birthday is coming up (29th March) which will be another hurdle – it will bracket the month for anniversary reminders with the funeral at one end and her birthday at the other. I looked at some movie footage of us last night – an ordeal by fire. I am not sure how to exorcise these pain demons unless I goad them to the surface though. Do they get stronger the more I encounter them or do their little tridents get blunter with use?
She died three weeks ago today, but the key date I go by is the attack in the ambulance which will be four weeks on Wednesday. I have an obsession with tracking time as I move away from the event. It’s like counting footsteps as I move away from something radioactive and deadly – I need to get a thousand paces away to be safe and so far I have taken only three steps. Can I break out into a trot? Will I stop or walk backwards? This diary will record the journey.
Ned and Dad about to ride off on 650cc Honda. Photo taken by Kate 

I looked for something on the web about grief and coping with it. I have ordered some books which might help, but have not seen a record of someone who is trying to understand the process – there must be one. I’ll look again. John Diamond’s book C, was a brilliant record from the view of someone who had throat cancer. I read it while David Squires was going through the same hateful disease. Grief is a form of cancer which has to be fought from within. According to the BBC site there will be these symptoms physically:

Bereavement is an immensely stressful event which can take a huge toll on the body, potentially causing all sorts of physical problems, including physical exhaustion, uncontrollable crying, sleep disruption, palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, recurrent infections, high blood pressure, loss of appetite, stomach upsets, hair loss, disruption of the menstrual cycle, irritability, worsening of any chronic condition such as eczema or asthma, and visual and auditory hallucinations.
Effects on the nervous system
Lethargy and tiredness are common physical symptoms of bereavement. The loss of a loved one sets off a powerful stress response in the body, with release of high levels of natural steroids and a heightened state of awareness in the nervous system, especially the autonomic nervous system (the 'flight or fight' system) which controls the body's readiness for action. The heart responds to this greater nervous drive with an increase in pulse and blood pressure. Even if the person seems slow and down, inside they're in turmoil.
Decreased immunity
The stress response also affects the immune system. Bereavement causes a fall in activity of the T-lymphocytes, cells that are very important in fighting infection. So colds and other minor infections are common.
Pre-existing painful problems such as arthritis may get worse and other chronic health conditions often flare up too. It's common for conditions that need careful control such as diabetes and high blood pressure to go awry. This partly explains why people who experience personal loss are at higher risk of dying during the first year. Men are at greater risk than women, perhaps because they have fewer support systems among family and friends.
Psychological and physical are intertwined
Depression can disrupt sleep and appetite

Psychological problems are also common during intense grief and, as mind and body are interlinked, these can also cause physical problems. Depression can disrupt sleep and appetite, and cause the body to slow down. Anxiety is also common during grieving, and can cause a racing pulse, hot sweats, poor sleep and loss of appetite. The bereaved may turn to alcohol, recreational drugs or prescription drugs at this stressful time, compounding their problems.
It's not unusual for people who have lost a partner to clearly see or hear the person about the house, and sometimes even converse with them at length. These visual and auditory hallucinations are part of the normal grief reaction and a very real physical occurrence to those who experience them.
Sometimes these grief reactions are mistaken for signs of dementia or severe psychiatric illness. The end result can be that the surviving partner is given unnecessary medication or even put in a home when what they actually need is help with grieving.

Well, the anxiety symptoms are definitely me – the hot sweats, racing pulse, sleeping problems, dry mouth. Today, so far, I do no intend or want to die within the year through lack of fight. At times, yesterday, I felt differently.

This is what the BBC says about bereavement in general:

All grief is different
There's no right or wrong way to grieve. We all have different personalities, ways of coping and past experiences. No two people's grief will be the same. Each of us is likely to experience a wide range of feelings, which may vary from day to day.
Physical symptoms may include: hollowness in the stomach, over-sensitivity to noise, tightness in the chest or throat, weakness in muscles, lack of energy, a dry mouth, fatigue and breathlessness.
Feelings may include: sadness, anger, guilt, self-reproach, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, shock, emancipation, relief, numbness and yearning for the dead person.
Behavioural changes may include: insomnia and sleep interruption, appetite disturbances, absent-minded behaviour, social withdrawal, dreams of the deceased, avoiding reminders of the deceased, sighing, restless overactivity, crying, visiting places or treasuring objects that are reminders of the lost loved one.
Thoughts may include: disbelief, confusion, preoccupation with the deceased, a sense of presence of the deceased, auditory and visual hallucinations.
After the funeral
The first week or so after a death is a busy time: telling others, registering the death and making funeral arrangements. The full reality of the death may not hit you until after this time, when friends and family may have moved away and the real pain of grief begins.
Confusion, disorganisation, anger and guilt are commonAfter the initial impact, you may find that you're up one minute and down the next. This is normal. Confusion, disorganisation, anger and guilt are common feelings which may fluctuate over the coming months, giving way to apathy, sadness and depression as time goes on.
The following comments were all expressed by bereaved people and show the variety of feelings that can be experienced:
Guilt - "If only we hadn't rowed just before the accident. I feel so guilty that I gave him a hard time before he died."
Anger - "I was so angry, I wanted to hit out at God and the world. I wanted to hurt everyone just like I'd been hurt. I wanted to destroy. He'd left me and I hated him for it."
Longing - "My whole being ached for her. I could think of nothing else. Every minute I thought she'd come through the door again. Again and again I'd hear her voice, see her in the crowd. Each time I thought of her it was like a knife in my heart."
Exhaustion - "I'd been feeling restless and couldn't sleep. I paced and ranted. Now, I have an opposite reaction. I sleep a lot but still feel worn out. I don't even want to see the friends who've kept me going. I sit and stare, too exhausted to move."

Do men and women grieve differently?
Women tend to have more intense reactions than men and find it easier to talk to others about their feelings. For this reason, they may have more available support than men.
Sometimes men may 'act strong', which may not reveal their true emotions. Men feel as deeply as women but may feel it's wrong to show their vulnerability. Many try to keep busy and avoid talking about the death. This is their way of coping and should be respected, but it's not wrong or weak for men to seek help.
Ned keeping warm

All of this makes me begin to understand that whatever I am going through is far from unique. The death of a partner or child is the one thing in the affluent world that we dread. Money and medical services can make it less likely, but they can’t take away the possibility. We don’t encounter death very often or live with it as a daily likelihood as in some societies – we are out of touch with it and fear it all the more. Had Kate been 20 years older it would have been possible for me and all our friends and associates to cope with this as being more normal, but in a woman not even 59, it scares the hell out of them all. Their grief, in some part, is an expression of their relief - there but for the grace of God and all that. I would be the same. I want to hear about other people who have died of the same cause – strokes are responsible for killing a third of women, so I discovered. That made me feel very slightly better when I read that. I want to hear of more deaths, more partners being lost tragically, more people suffering like me.

Later Sunday, March 12, 2006
I just broke down again.  I sobbed like a baby. I looked up “suicide in the bereaved” on Google half hoping it would not come up with anything too alarming. Men over 65, particularly those without a ‘confidant’ (sic) were most at risk of committing suicide. Men are better at it – they tend to go for more finality at the end of a gun or a rope, while women opt for overdoses. Cheerful stuff or what?

I spoke with Linda last night. She has been reunited with Joan over this thing and Joan told her that after Robin’s (her husband) death, Joan stared into the fire for the best part of a year. Now she is pulling herself together and can prepare 50 lunches for the elderly. So there’s a comfort. Linda was then, after cheering me up, going to see John and Viv Burton. Kate knew John from Mitchell Beazley days long before I met her. Linda anticipated a nice long chat about me and Kate with the Burtons. The ripples of association ever widen. I received a card from someone in Florida called Lucie Winbourne who I have never heard of and who said she had never met either of us, but sent her condolences.

Proud me with Kate at a barby
 MKP lunch in 2005
I have to keep talking to people. It’s part of my medicine. Where exactly does it hurt I ask myself so I might know where to apply the medicine? Where biologically is the seat of the pain? The reason for the pain is obvious – we humans have long gestation periods. The survival of our defenceless children requires that the parents stay together hunting and gathering for as long as necessary, at least until the woman is barren and the man toothless. So mating and procreating is a long process and our brains are programmed to see relationships as long-term or even permanent. The grieving is a natural response to something that has not been programmed – the disruption of the mating partnership. If it takes possibly five or six years to properly bond with a partner does it take five or six years to heal after the partner dies? I don’t see why it should. The partner is a continually renewing influence all the time he or she is there. Remove the partner and you remove that renewal in the living sense and push the influences entirely into memory and association, two things which, unfortunately, I am very good at. Ned’s response to this when I explained my reasoning was typically down to earth: I think you might be over-analyzing the situation Dad.

Later, and normally I would be finishing a chapter in that Philip Roth book that I haven’t looked at since before Kate’s attack, waiting for Kate to turn off her light, turning over, fitting my arm under her head so her head was on my shoulder for a few minutes, say night sweed’art, sleep well, she would turn away, I would then hug her or she me, stay like that for a few minutes more, I’d turn away, put my hand under my pillow, turn and turn until I felt comfortable, while Kate remained quite still and probably asleep, and finally I would drift to the rhythm of her breaths. That routine, that beautiful routine, repeated for 20 years, has been broken.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
 Last night Ned and I went to Freeport and ate at Tutti’s. I asked him about his plans which he sees as pretty much defined by university for the next four years.  As for mine? I told him I would not be considering living alone as I am not very good at it and (here a big moment) I told him I had already looked at internet dating sites though I did not admit just how much or how far. He was typically realistic even said he would hope to feel ‘ecstatic’ if I found another partner, but that was the right way to feel. We walked past Prezzo’s on the way to the cinema. Four weeks previously to the night I had been in there with Kate. I said to Ned later that I have to gradually add experiences so that when I think ‘the last time I did that was…’ the next phrase will not always be ’I was with Kate’. We went on and saw Syriana with George Clooney. It was over-long, over-complicated and under-interesting.

March 16, 2006
I just took the image department girls – Libbe, Jenni and Laura – to lunch at The Bell. They were ‘Kate’s girls’ and feel her death keenly, especially perhaps Libbe who lost her baby just a few months ago. The conversation got round to Sherri who has phoned me a couple of times, full of solicitousness, but I am not fooled by her. She wants her guilt salved after she dropped Kate like a hot brick when she discovered that we brazenly had Nik to supper just before we went to Seville. I am not ready and perhaps never will be ready to forgive her treachery. It seems she has now turned her resentment on Nik, but with his new-found Sarah, I think he’ll survive Sherri’s ire.

I have informed the banks, building society, Inland Revenue, insurance companies and whoever else I can think of about the death, but still the junk mail addressed to Kate rolls in each day. Why this should be so painful, I don’t know, but painful it is. I suppose it’s a reminder that the world is continuing to spin in spite of my wanting it to stop. I dislike the bird that sings outside the bathroom window because it is clearly the same bird that was singing there this time last year. I can’t continue with the book I was reading before she died. The cupboards are full of foods, crockery, cleaning materials that she bought, sorted and stacked. For all of this there is something that will not allow me to recall her voice.

This evening, after gym with Ned, and a rather late ready made curry, I spoke with Janet. She was suffering badly at the funeral and, after crying and sobbing and gasping down the phone she told me she was just unable to call me and did not know what to say to me. Her grief was part of this sanctification that has happened – the making of Kate a thing of utter perfection which is so hard to bear and is focused on emotion not on knowledge or on how these friends thought while she was alive. It’s a guilt thing, a making up for the taking for granted a good friend and then regretting when they were not such good friends or even perhaps when she was not such a good friend. Kate’s focus in life was on her love for me and Ned just as mine was on her and Ned. That is what makes a family and we were lucky to experience it. I so much love that boy and in weak moments I could, ironically, so easily sanctify him.

If I am honest, there are moments when I don’t care to live in the present or in the future and the fact that most people could not begin to understand this because they have not experienced this sense of loss makes their sympathy seem so hollow. Tonight, were there an on/off button to living I might be wavering.  There seems such a long slog ahead.

 March 17, 2006
Not quite so morbid today. I feel the encroachment of Ned’s departure in a few months though beginning to darken things. Going home and opening the door is such a struggle. I can’t stop myself remembering the good feelings I had each time I did it over the years. I used to have a mantra coming home from Kingfisher; I have a great wife, great little son, good job, etc etc. I did, thank Christ, count my blessings on a regular, even daily basis, which makes counting my miseries come that much easier.

This was supposed to be a Life Plan. The only plan afoot at the moment is to get through another day hopefully without my head in my hands and the tears coursing. That plan is not a total success as yet. Anyway some thoughts for reconstruction of the Jim Miles body and soul:

  • Get sorted mentally – tougher this by far of course. The grief thing is going to be a miserable companion for a while, but we need to part company before too long. Easily said, but necessary.
  • Get fitter – lose a bit more weight (I am down to 11 stone) and turn some wobble into muscle. The gym is a good activity anyway, irrespective of transformation. It brings Ned and me together, releases a few endomorphins and droplets of sweat.
  • Get time with Ned. Short breaks away and weekends kept busy with things must now be the order of the day.
  • Get back into work properly. If I was into work I would not be doing this at 5.40pm, I’d be doing something to make the company more profitable. I am having lots of meetings and checking other people’s work, but I am not really doing much of my own. This I will change next week.
  • Think about selling the house. When Ned leaves at the end of September it will be a huge empty space with me occupying a fraction of it. Then there are the associations built into every corner and every aspect. A new house would be a huge challenge, possibly more than I need, but one that would distract me from my whirlpool demons. And when I moved into it those associations would, in the main, be gone. I don’t want to exorcise Kate, but the vacuum she has left in me grows bigger with memories.
  • And think about selling Wethersfield and, if Ned gets into UEA, buying somewhere in Norwich. Downside is that he may be tempted to spend time there during his vacations rather than at home with me.
·      Holidays – plan holidays with Ned.
A short period when Ned was plump

Saturday, March 18, 2006
 Last night Sherri called me – her Friday night call. I’d planned to be rude, but somehow cannot do that. Perhaps she’ll get the message eventually. At The Bell I had a Guinness, it being St Patrick’s Day with Rob, Nik, Susanne, Deedee etc  and was served by Pat Crisp. Then it was to Rob and Susanne’s for risotto.

In bed now and feeling slightly overhung. Ned is in the basement in bed, I would guess, with Rebecca. I hope that is some consolation for not being in bed with Clare who appears to have dumped him.  His search for a partner is not a desperate one – he knows he has time on his side and he has the self-confidence to realise it will happen one day. The father should learn from the son, but he is an old dog who is not good at learning new tricks. I dreamt last night that I was trying to get on a mini bus in Bexleyheath. I saw Kate in the swarm of people and got close to her and kissed her. We managed to just get on the bus together.  Before this happened we’d been separated for some time. We were now on our way together going home –admittedly my old family home in Belvedere, but home, and the feeling was good which made waking up feel bad.

I went to Grays to get the house valued. When Ned goes to university this house will feel like a museum. Meanwhile the whirlpool demons have been buzzing about. There was a sobbing session this evening for no particular reason, might have been a photo, a vase, a knick-knack, something tiny, but it got me.

Sunday, March 19, 2006
Sunday morning in bed. The birds are chattering, the pigeons cooing with the onset of spring. Ned is not here – he had two parties to go to last night, so may feel a little out of salts this morning. The house feels emptier with him not being here, even though he’d normally be asleep at this time.

I wake up each day with an anvil in my stomach. Why does sorrow settle in the gut? I would like to understand the biology of grief. I have analysed to my own satisfaction why we feel grief. The partners have to bond together – or love each other - because there is a long gestation and the human child is vulnerable until puberty and needs the care of its parents for ten or twelve years. For three or four children that period may stretch over twenty years. Once the children have flown the nest and the partners are no longer producing more, they need each other to survive. This encourages life-time partnerships. If there were no penalty to pay for partnerships being split up, there would be less self-interest in remaining together. Grief, or the prospect of grief, is a glue for a partnership – a consequence of love.

 I looked at a reference to such an increase in physical vulnerability, morbidity and mortality in those who are grieving, that I’ll be lucky, if I believed it, to survive the year. And my sex drive will apparently diminish. Don’t know that I shall be tempted to look at too many more of these research results. 

If I analyse my own feelings, down to the nature of the love we had, it was firstly companionship, secondly family bonds and thirdly sex. The strongest feelings were a mixture of these and a reciprocation of feelings which made everything exquisitely intensified

Keith phoned and it bothered me slightly because he is hurting so much. He also mentioned that Kate had to fight off cousin Richard a few times. That made me have a surge of retrospective jealousy which, amongst all these other feelings, I’m finding it hard to find a place to fit in.

Later again
Vicky and Peter came to lunch – turned out it was a respectable roast lunch in the end. I think I can master these Yorkshire puddings with a bit more practice. S and her son turned up before lunch, she needed me to sign his passport application and (strangely) I was the only person in the village she knows with ‘professional qualifications’.  I think she wants more than my signature. I found it very difficult to be civil to her and probably wasn’t.  After lunch Ned and I went to the grave. All the time we cleared away flowers and fretted around it everything was fine, but when Ned and I had a moment’s reflection by the graveside I felt my tears well up, the shoulders heave a bit, the stomach knot.

Monday, March 20, 2006
Not a good night. I think I finally got to sleep about 3am. My stomach was, and still is, churning  and the night sweats swept in with a vengeance. I wonder if these are physical symptoms or whether it could be a reaction to the probiotic yoghurt drinks.

Had dreams about department stores last night, hiding from Russian agents wearing gloves on their heads, needing directions for Tufnell House. Feel a bit less anxious this morning than I did yesterday. After all, yesterday was four weeks, there was the visit to the grave, the phone calls. All anxiety-making stuff.

At the office now. Clicked on our web site by mistake and there was Kate, looking happy and lovely smiling at me with the obituary I wrote. So there can be no hiding from her and the memories. They have to be dealt with one at a time. I had a little chat with myself in the shower. ‘You are going to need to get a bit tougher Jim. Yes, it’s rough and could get rougher, but you have to face up to it…’ and so on. The whirlpool, like my guts, gurgles away threateningly.

That night in bed
Well, it’s almost been a normal day. Almost did a full day’s work, though I left at 4.15 to go to the gym with Ned – and I did work through lunch. There were the odd distractions of the will, the Inland Revenue etc., but almost 7.5 hours ‘work’, though people who work in lead mines wouldn’t call what I do work. We got back about 6.30 to heat up the chilli that Vicky had kindly prepared for us. We watched football (West Ham and Manchester City) which picked up in the last 30 minutes. There was a moment at the gym that was not a normal one in my world of ‘before’. ‘You’re so Beautiful’ played on the execrable radio station they play at the gym and triggered a small emotional grenade. I hate the song now, but Kate liked it. They say that songs will do that – they are such evocative distillations of time and place. However, it was but a moment and normality, or lack of jagged spurs of sadness if not normal ‘contentment’ has been achieved for most of today. That I think is something even if it is swept away tomorrow.

March 22, 2006
I must have been tired last night – no entry in here for yesterday. I was raddled by two nights with very little sleep and drenching sweats. Last night I slept through until about 5am and I don’t think I had a sweat.
Kate with her mother Rosie 2005
Monday was ‘almost normal’ – so was yesterday. We had a strategy meeting at Richard’s house in Rutland, deciding what to say at the presentation meeting on Sunday to Scholastic’s panel of good and wise folk and we looked at the 2007 programme again making quite a few changes. At lunch, in a very rustic Rutlandy pub, we talked a little about my ‘situation’. I said I was thinking of putting the house up for sale (I am now thinking it’s a bit soon). Both Gerard and Richard said how well they thought I was doing – on the outside at least. Gerard said the whole thing had affected him so much that he hadn’t had sex for six weeks. That is hard to believe. But oddly enough I haven’t really thought about how I must seem to other people. For most of the staff I think I must appear just as I was before it happened. Next week will be quite a test – the Bologna Book Fair, Bologna itself, being away from Ned…The ‘normality’ of yesterday was undermined at certain points during my ‘conversations’ with myself which, I have to admit, were yesterday at times with Kate. Seems ludicrous to be directing my thoughts to Kate and answering her unheard side of my arguments, but if it helps I’ll do it. But in the car coming down the A1 it all got a bit tearful during one of these little chats – so much so that it was dangerous to drive - when I told her how well Gerard and Richard thought I was coping and how wrong appearances could be.

In one of these outpourings, which normally take place in car journeys (I hope other drivers assume I am using blue tooth) I reminded myself about other periods I have felt an agonising loss. There was Chris Smith dumping me when I was 20 to which I responded tragically and pathetically for months until the salve of other relationships finally did its work. The most effective salve was Jackie Foskett with whom a whole new dependency began. When, after a year, Jackie went off to Australia and I saw the approach of black despair, I responded with positive action and went to Australia to confront her, but more importantly myself. I had made a breakthrough. So horrible was the blackness I felt after Chris that I was determined never to feel it again and I realised that, to some extent, the depth of despair was controllable. But only if I did something about it.

I spent many years with Linda after that in a strange on/off relationship and then on/off marriage. When that crumbled for the last time I protected myself with relationships again and one of those turned out to be a relationship with Kate. At the time that is all I thought it would be. The pattern is obvious – I find a relationship, it falters for one reason or another, I have a spree of several relationships out of which something significant comes - like my life with Kate and everything I am mourning the loss of on these pages. Seems to me I can’t ignore my own history, especially as I have been, in the main happy with it. I have always maintained that, over a period of time, my sense of being happy is defined by my own ability to feel happiness rather than by the things that cause it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006
 6.33am. We went to the solicitors yesterday to try and sort out the shareholders agreement. I have decided that I want Ned to retain more of the company and have less cash should I pop my clogs. 

I completed a further ‘normal’ day yesterday – Ned and I went to J and T’s for supper last night. J got loud and squiffy on anti-depressants and wine, but was girly and bubbly as ever. T was a bit morose. Their young son was a bit moronic and he older boy was very 17. We had lamb tajine followed by lasagne – which was a very odd combination. A ‘normal’ day is one that does not feel like the trials of Sissiphus. It feels like a day when the prospect of another one just like it would not be unbearable. It’s a day when I can think about Kate, in a very controlled way, without breaking into sobs. It’s a night where I don’t stay awake for hours and sweat buckets. I am not reading too much into three consecutive days, but it feels like a bit of progress. Three more steps away from that radioactive pile.  I am going to try and get a fourth today.

Had Mullocks and Wells round today to value the house. I felt as though I was betraying it – the feeling would have been quite different had Kate and I been doing it together, but I found it quite hard to think about the ‘family’ home being gloated over by an estate agent with a golden glint in his eyes. He said what I thought was a way-too-high price would be feasible, whereas Bev from Grays’ reckoned hugely below it. The truth is I am not fully convinced that selling up is the thing to do. I might be better off staying there and doing things to the house or waiting to see what happens before trying to make provisions for a completely unknown future

I have to admit that today has been a bit of a struggle. I don’t think I can chalk it up as a ‘normal’ day. Time is going so bloody slowly. This month has seemed literally as long as two or even more months. What happens to someone’s sense of time who has been imprisoned I wonder? There are so many little razor-edged flashbacks. They enter the head, swish around in a cloud of blood and gristle and then shoot off, their work done.

First Jen came in to say that she’d just been to see the doctor and she has (by the sound of it) an ovarian cyst. She is worried senseless and needed the afternoon off to confide with her mother or someone about her fears.  Then L came to see me about something or other and told me she was not coping well at the moment. At home her husband  was doing better than she was, but then her grief for her lost child just before Christmas was also ‘physical’. D then confided in me that he felt really bad yesterday, chest pains, numbness in his arms, no energy etc. He has lost a huge amount of weight. Lee then phoned and gave me his condolences, said he’d ‘been there’, which I had to think about for a second and, of course, he meant his partner in Design Eye,  who died a few years ago from an asthma attack aged just over 40 and leaving a young widow and twin boys. 

I tried to do the iPhoto thing before leaving the office. Caption a few photographs I thought and put them in the right place chronologically. After a few photos I had to go into the toilet and have a cry. This face-your-fears therapy is too brutal at present. It’s a marker on progress though. When I can handle iPhoto, I’ll know I am well on the road.

I had a chat with one of Kate's ex-friends - ex because the 'friend' had been so awful to Kate. Not before long the conversation got round to Kate and I told XX I was not ready to forgive her yet, that her betrayal (as far as I was concerned) was not in the past and I had not yet learned how to deal with it. Before that she told me how men of my age always wanted younger women to end up with and how younger women wanted men like me to secure their future. In other words, I would find a new partner - she would probably not. I actually admired her realism, but did not feel that I wanted to step up to the plate for her future.

Soon after there was the Big Sob in the bedroom as I invited in Mr Feel-Sorry-For-Yourself-Why-Don’t You? Earlier today I looked at myself in the toilet at MKP as I had a BS – face reddened, lower lip down-turned and quivering – a pathetic sight – seriously pathetic. A good shake of the head will clear quite a lot of it, curiously. Why something physical should remove something emotional I have no idea, but it works.

I have just heard, as I sit here in bed with the laptop, Ned return from his evening of Old  School Disco. My relief is palpable – I can feel springs inside unwind. And yet – those unwinding springs have just allowed in those little razor memories. This time and for no good reason, driving up to Suffolk on a Friday night to the cottage in Walpole and this is causing BSs to start so must shake head and stop the bastards! There is an element of real anger here. With who or what I couldn’t say, but I am fucking angry with something.

Friday, March 24, 2006
 I have thought more about what XX was saying. She said she’d talked to Kate about what would happen if she, Kate, should die before me. I think all friends eventually do this. Kate told her that she would just want me to be happy and I think I can even believe that. Of course, Kate might have had no idea just how difficult that might prove for me, but it was a significantly loving concept. I think I would have wanted Kate to be happy, but after a respectable period of downright misery. If I am honest I think that period might be longer than I have in mind for myself. And Kate would have fallen into the bracket of widow, getting on for 60, attractive but not as attractive as she once was, falling in a category of women who, statistically, struggle to find male partners. She would have been rich though, but then so is XX. And XX wants a partner but fears she won’t find one, not the right one. I, on the other hand, according to her, won’t have any trouble.

If, the ‘market’ is as XX describes it, perhaps I should be looking younger – perhaps late thirties, the age Kate was when we took up together. XX said that men of my age wanted women who were physically attractive and good sexually. As far as the sex is concerned I don’t think age makes a huge difference, though Kate adjusted her needs to meet mine more as time went on, I suspect. A woman in her late fifties who finds herself on her own may be looking for man in his late fifties or sixties more in hope than expectation. She will want companionship certainly, but security too. She may decide that a few romantic evenings, the odd weekend away, some good sex – all this might make the search for a life-time partner a tolerable undertaking whatever the outcome. A woman in her late thirties will want the same. She may be divorced and with children. If she has children who are still at school she will not have much time, energy or money. If she has no children she may be hoping still to have some.

Heard on Desert Island Discs this morning from a Jane monk: “You have to experience real suffering in order to lose your fear of suffering”.

Kate on walk c. 2003
So how is this imaginary woman if she is not a clone of Kate when Kate was 40 (say)? There cannot, for all the obvious reasons, be another Kate. There cannot be one for another obvious reason – there cannot be another me as I was when I first met her and what I have become over the last 20 years.

Sunday, March 26, 2006
End of first day in Bologna. We arrived about 12.00 at the book fair, set up the stand (rather hurriedly), went for some lunch at a pizzeria where I had a ‘sauccicia’ pizza – or some of it – merely adding to the woes of a stomach that had ground like a cement mixer since Friday night. Then we had a quick snooze (I would think about ten minutes pour moi) and then Gerard and I went off to a place about 20km away called Obrazzo Emilia to pick up from a hotel called the Euro Garden a dummy on the Human Body Poster Book. This was to help a presentation to 25 buyers from Scholastic to be held at 6.30pm this evening. We naturally phoned Richard at 5.30 pm to tell him we were lost and he might have to do the presentation himself. All good fun. The presentation went very well and, who knows, we might have a breakthrough there.   They loved the Human Body Poster book!

Not so certain that I have had the breakthrough yet though. A friend tries to give support: “ …there are so many women out there looking for someone like you Jim…” then he adds: ‘Kate was a very sexy special woman, there aren’t many around like her… do you think you'll look for another woman? I have not seen many women I prefer to my wife…`’ and so on.  The discomfort of my situation quite naturally makes it more difficult for people who are comfortable with their situation to understand mine. Coming to somewhere like Bologna is sodden with difficulties for me. Restaurants, hotels, streets, sights, markets, buildings, meals, light, road names, shops, people, sounds, colours, clothes, dogs, colonnades, words, pavement, buses, scooters, sky, clouds, hills, memories, conversations, thoughts… are just a few of the triggers that cause a ‘difficulty’.  Tomorrow could have a few more problems as I discover associates on the stand who come bearing gifts of condolences.

Every so often it fails to be real. Every so often it disappears and then returns like the swing of the Pendulum in the Pit. I love you Katie and right now I’d swap this condition for oblivion which is easy to say because I can’t.

Monday, March 27, 2006
Thought for tonight is that here I am in Bologna, with good friends, good company, good food and drink and good business going on. The Scholastic interest from yesterday has crystallised in five or more meetings today with possible orders of 100,000 copies of Human Body Book. We have had many good laughs today. And yet I feel that I want to get to the next stage which is ‘go home’. Two months ago there would have been a good reason to want to go home – that was Kate and Ned – the family. Now the family is just Ned and love him though I do, he cannot be the family, he is the son. The family has gone. And now I am beginning to cry, pathetic half-man that I am.  But the thought, the thought – I need to get to a stage where I want to do the next thing (like go home) because A is better than B, not because A is different from B and provides an illusion of forward movement.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Another good day business-wise, though the custom was fairly slow it was quality. There were tricky moments – Jane came on the stand and told me how sorry she was etc. and what a wonderful person Kate was etc. I do not remember her meeting Kate (perhaps she did, but even if she did I do not know how she knew Kate to be ’wonderful’. It’s what people feel they have to say, but Christ it makes it so fucking difficult. Jane left with eyes brimming.  Then there was Fiona – hug plus significant squeeze of shoulder. Next was Arkady from Machaon in Russia. From Russia for God’s sake!  He had heard at the London Book Fair and looked at me with those eyes that people have when they want to commiserate but feel…I don’t know what. And Susie from Faber, then Garry  (whose wife has MS and whose brother died at 50) … it goes on. The book fair is a struggle, but I guess I need to get through it.

I came back to the hotel and had 15 minutes to get showered and changed. Everything was OK until I got into the shower and that small cubicle of privacy after a day of public exposure and self-control, finally got to me and I sobbed chokingly under the tear-washing streamlets. Pathetic , I know.

I should realise that times I now feel very sensitive about and sentimental about were not so good 20 years ago. I can think very sentimentally about my first holiday in France with Kate, but at the time it was a period of great uncertainty and self-doubt, which was followed shortly after by a decision not to continue the relationship – this needs to be kept in focus or the whole of my relationship with her will be transformed into some sort of fantasy of perfection which it was not, not to begin with at least. Sentimentality is clearly a by-product of grief, but I think it’s a maladaptation, as they call it, not an evolutionary step forward.

Well from a business point of view, pretty well. The last meeting today was with Julian from Remainders and was worth about £200,000 – this means we have possibly done $1m this fair which exceeds most fairs by about $1m. Only tricky encounter was with David Hargrave-Graham who reminded me (as if I needed it) that it is Kate’s birthday today. I can’t say I was all that useful in the selling department – I am fairly unnecessary with Richard and Gerard doing their stuff so superbly.

I sent a message to Jill saying that it was all too soon etc. and had a reply saying she understood but would like to meet for coffee any time. And I just spoke to Ned who has a good day at UEA – a journey he took by himself in a totally cool and unruffled way. I love that boy.

This evening is at the Poeti (where I am pleased to say I never went with Kate as I find such memory levers too sad) and tomorrow we shop and return.

Friday, March 31, 2006
Just returned from airport - now 1.40am. I shall report on the last few days later today no doubt. Between myself and this laptop I think I have done quite well – not so well at the Poeti though, when I had to escape to the loo and have a sob. I think the Red Angel wine was partly responsible as well as a text from Rob and another from Jenny telling me how difficult I must be finding that day. They were not wrong.

I did a full day at the office, though spent some of that time writing and phoning people who keep insisting on writing to someone who is alive in their databases and who I am trying to quietly lay to rest. Quietly my arse. She rises up and kisses me, talks to me, whispers to me, stokes my hand, rubs my back at every opportunity. I leave my key in the door where she left hers so many times and it causes a mini paroxysm of pain. This reality thing is not as easy as it at first seemed.  I hate the longer days, but everyone I hear (naturally) enjoys them. Life goes on as it did last spring equinox and does not adjust to my infinitesimal requirements.

Ned said he had had a dream about his mum last night. He said it was horribly painful. How awful, but perhaps how clever too of the brain to calculate that exposure to pain brings with it its own protection.

Saturday, April 1, 2006
Thank God March is over. April, so far, has been reasonable. I did not wake with a brick in my solar plexus for once. No barely stifled sobs so far either.

I (we) have an embarrassment of money suddenly. Ironically I increased the private life cover on Kate just before Christmas and also increased all the employees’ life covers. As a director she was covered by four times her salary. Plus there is an endowment policy. This all means that we now have something like an extra £130,000 sitting in the bank. It is more than most people can ever dream of saving up. I keep catching myself wondering how Kate and I will spend it.  I think I might install a sauna, possibly even a hot tub. Some serious spoiling of ourselves might be in order. If I die Ned becomes as rich as Croesus. The life insurance alone will be £400,000, plus plus plus – must be worth over £1.5m not including the company shares. And, it has to be asked – who gives a shit?

Sunday, April 2, 2006
And another Sunday – seems to be at least one every bloody week. It’s now 2.20pm. Normally by now we would be eating Sunday lunch, have a few glasses of wine, slip off to bed, make love, sleep for an hour, get up, watch some TV, feel safe, comfortable, cosy.  I made a ham roll and a cup of coffee and had then standing up by the sink. Ned has gone to his friend’s Mike Le in Dunmow.

This morning I woke feeling relatively OK. There were dreams as always, but no-one to share them with (a morning routine) and by now they have drifted away. I read the book on grieving last night and this morning. It says there are five stages, starting with denial, anger, acceptance etc. I suppose the most obvious thing I learned was that for every widower who loses his 58 year old wife there are many who lose their 32 year old wives and so on. It would not be difficult to find many grievers going through far worse than I am.

I cried in the bath – just a short cry, perhaps half a minute or so. Told Kate I loved her and that brought it on. It’s bringing up the tears right now and I am no touch typist. That’s what happens – a few thoughts, sense of abandonment, aching reach into a void, tears, sobs sometimes, shake of the head and carry on. Sounds as though I am being brave, but I don’t think I am.

I looked for a change of bedding for Ned in the tightly packed airing cupboard, that was tough, rummaging through all that bedding and towels with her perfect ironing imprinted and finding things from the deep past we slept on. I decided to make some space in the airing cupboard and moved some items to her now mostly empty chest of drawers in the bedroom. That went quite well. I then packed some of her clothes from the landing cupboard into a suitcase to take to Sadie or sell through the second hand shop in Stortford. That was quite difficult, but I managed it without breaking down. So there is progress. But the books say watch out, you may think you are making progress and then wham! You have to go through it all over again. Wolves, so they say, grieve for about two months, howling, changing behaviour, going lethargic. It is coming up to two months and I feel I am going in the right direction as is Ned. I realised, rather late in the day I have to admit, that his grief in some ways is worse than mine.  Ned will never be able to call anyone mum again and never have that special relationship you have with your kin. In a few months he would have been off the scene anyway. But this loss goes deeper than whether you live in the same house or not. It’s an empty room inside your head that will never be filled again. And it’s there forever.

Monday, April 3, 2006
Stayed last night at the Suffolk Country club and played golf today with the Ferrets. Golf was quite good, even though an annual event like this takes me to last year, how it was, what I did when I came home and so on. Tonight I went over to Nik’s where Sarah cooked a lovely Thai meal and I met Nick Beggs of Kagagoogoo. A really nice guy. Sarah is good for Nik. They seem very happy.

Today I started to feel another aspect of the grief – less sorry for myself and more sorry for Kate herself, what she will miss and how much I hate her missing it. It is a whole new area of grief.

Ned just came home from taking Ellen home – there is a romance developing, and on Wednesday he has Amie staying. I told him I am taking Pat out to dinner on Thursday. He handles all this superbly.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006
A couple of dreams to recall: on Monday night I dreamt that I entered a large room in a Victorian house – it was ‘our’ house. The room was full of tropical plants and buzzing insects, large bumble bees and gaudy flies. A stag beetle the size of a dustbin lid hovered in the air and Kate put her arms around it proprietarily. I awoke with that robbed feeling. This morning I dreamt that we were in a Winnebago or some such. There was a man or woman, hard to say, thin and very menacing who was threatening to assault Kate and myself and, apparently, did so as Kate needed help when it was all over to get on a bus with me to take her from the scene. Then she was no longer with me, but I knew as I travelled on that crowded bus that life was restored to normal, that I could look at the people on the bus and feel part of their normality again. And then I awoke and felt robbed. I read the chapter on dreams in the book I have on bereavement and realised how pat it seemed. The authors try hard to make it a one size fits all book, but that is clearly not how it works.

Later – Ned is at a gig in Cambridge with (I think) Agnes. It’s 11.40pm. I have spent an evening cooking kebabs for myself, ironing and throwing away one or two things. One video cassette of Picasso, some things from the bathroom cabinet including a mould of her top teeth for bleaching, some eye make-up remover, various skin creams. It has to be done in little bits for some reason I don’t fully understand. I did make the mistake of looking through a picture album sent to us by Jenny Thorpe. Just a few photos had me sobbing uncontrollably and I mean uncontrollably. I measured up the room in the basement for a sauna and shower – just a self-indulgence. I may need to self-indulge a bit.

I talk to myself in the car still - sometimes get quite frustrated with myself, sometimes weepy, so much so that I have to stop the car. These sobbing fits swoop down from nowhere and pole-axe me, slightly more this last few days than before.  For all that I am convinced that I am still going forwards. I think it’s important that I like myself, even love myself like a good friend who I want to take care of, whose views I respect even though I know he has his weaknesses. If I should stop liking myself I think I might slide downwards to God knows what.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Today’s thought when I woke up, apart from my relief at not being able to remember my dreams, was that I am in the midst of pain, in fact I have entered a ‘world of pain’ as it says in the Big Lowbowski, and I simply have to live with it or in it for a while and learn to accept what I have to. It sounds too obvious to qualify as a ‘thought for the day’, but acceptance of pain is a part of acceptance in general. I have been very impatient with myself for the last seven (yes, seven) weeks today, and I have to expect a little less and a little less quickly. The enormity of all this only gradually announces itself to the subconscious mind – thankfully I suppose.

11.15pm and Ned is out at the ‘Tem’ carousing with Chas and other buddies. I just hope he does not drink when driving, but I fear his mates take advantage of his car and good nature. I fell asleep on the sofa after the Arsenal/Juventus match and I awoke to the thought that I’d clear up a few things - this led me to drawers, which led me to small personal trinkets like napkin rings and suchlike and then I fell prey to the one thing I said to Ned only this afternoon on the way to the driving range that I had no patience for – sentimentality. I blubbed in the kitchen. That makes three blubs today, Not a good score. Ned asked me with some concern, how he should broach the subject of his mum’s death to Eleanor (his latest interest). I suggested that perhaps a friend might tell Eleanor if she did not already know. I am sure, however, she will know. My stress-relief massage this afternoon did not relieve much stress as it was done by someone who recognised me from a party at Janet’s several years ago and who asked: “How’s your lovely wife?” Oh well…

Thursday, April 6, 2006
Still in the office. I have been doing a sticker book on horses for Barnes and Noble. This is not exactly mind-stretching, but engaging enough to keep me focused on one thing and only one thing. I am quite good at the lateral thinking that makes the small number of images we have on horses spread to the 200 images necessary. I thought I felt strong enough to go into iPhoto and do some tinkering with photos – big mistake. The emotional wave nearly took me under. I then phoned Rosemary to arrange a visit in Barnham on Sunday. The one thing she said she would appreciate is some photos of Kate – how much stronger than me is this 86 year-old lady with a broken ankle! I struggled to keep my voice steady and will struggle more possibly when it comes to printing the photos and looking at them.

Friday, April 7, 2006
My dreams were nonsensical – being amongst Eastern Europeans who got me to do tricks like throwing a roll and a loaf into the air and catching both, catching a soap bubble in both hands and putting this on a pancake and spreading butter over the burst bubble - plus other nonsense, but thankfully no dreams, that I can remember, about Kate, to leave me feeling estranged in the morning.

In the bathroom just now I remembered being in the bathroom in my flat in Willesden Green just after breaking up with Linda and how miserable I was in that flat. I ended up hating everything about it, even the 10cc and Steely Dan music I played there, the furnishings, the smell of newly painted walls – everything.  Negative emotions superimposed on surroundings can make your whole immediate world seem hateful. The exact same world you enjoyed and was comforted by a short while ago can become hostile overnight. I intend that this should not, must not, happen.

Sunday, April 9, 2006
I expected, ambitiously it would seem, that I would be feeling stronger than this by now. My superficial appearance of being able to cope is as thin and fragile as eggshell. I packed up more clothes and stuff to pass over to Vicky G yesterday. When it came to the collection of belts which I found in her wardrobe, it became all too much and the sobbing started. Somehow those belts were far more poignant than the dresses, far more personal. I filled the car with suitcases of her things and, with Ned, drove down to Barnham for the first time since her death. Rosie sat in an armchair with her leg in a purple-coloured plaster. She looked thinner and a little frailer, but as pretty as ever and obviously pleased to see us.  Rosie, who is about to buy an apartment at The Wishing Well development wanted, to my surprise, my approval before doing so. Having looked at the apartment, the communal areas, gardens and patios, show apartments and so on, I was only too pleased to give it my sincere approval. I think she will be safe and happy there. We had lunch on our laps – fish and chips. Mine came as a piece of cod under a brick-shaped mass of chips. There was no concession to the principle that appearance can enhance appetite. I struggled through the greasy cod and left the chips. I sat with Rosie and Vicky after lunch on Rosie’s bed and she said there was something she wanted to pass over to me and she gave me the Frith painting of Dolly Varden. According to the Tate: The delightfully fluttery Dolly Varden is a character in Charles Dickens' novel 'Barnaby Rudge', published in 1841. Its action is set in the London of the 1780s. Dickens describes Dolly, daughter of a worthy locksmith, as 'the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry coloured mantle'.This work, apart from drawing on a well-known novel of the day, also owes much to a strong nineteenth-century tradition of 'fancy portraits' - where likenesses of pretty and anonymous young women would be graced by the names of characters from literature.
 (From the display caption September 2004)

Kate always admired the painting and said it was the only thing she wanted when Rosemary should pop her clogs. Rosemary always told the story of how Mike found it in a junk shop and brought it home and soaked it overnight in a bucket of Persil. The painting, on copper, was revealed in all its loveliness the following day. It was that story, the fact that Kate admired it so and the memories of being in that room so many times with Kate that started me, in spite of my best efforts, to weep a little. Rosemary, bless her, pretended not to notice.

In the car we listened to Ned’s latest discovery Mogwai, and to Pink Floyd. Music is such a powerful associative and I wanted to lay down new pathways. It takes the brain 21 days to learn a new pathway, but how long to unlearn 20 years of them?

Later: It has been a low-key sort of Sunday. I made lunch and it tasted like lunches used to – the roast potatoes crispy and imbued with olive oil, the turkey done just right, the gravy as gravy was, but the one essential ingredient was missing of course. I watched some football with Ned and came to bed – seeking the Sunday afternoon solace that we used to enjoy, and sleep. There must have been some sleep as I was aware that things went very quiet for a while and the sound of traffic momentarily stopped and soon it was 5pm and the dogs next door were barking again. I don’t think that a Sunday like this can become the norm. There are too many missing things all of which amount to Kate.  I need to change the nature of Sunday and probably Saturday or the poignant absences will drag me down.

Monday, April 10, 2006
There were dreams last night. One involved me riding a motorbike underwater with Leo Parks. I knew I had to get used to breathing water and to accept that somehow the bike would work under water. I panicked when I realised I did not know which way was back to shore. Another dream had me dropping things in a restaurant – a cup of coffee which I knocked on the floor and did not smash but just cracked leaving the coffee in tact. I handed Kate a cup of milk. The cup was made up of broken pieces and it leaked milk on to her blue dress as she drank from it. She made some comment about Linda – a reference to being paid extra money without doing any work. 

 Just found this:

Beware the 5 Stages of "Grief"
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Ned was out last night. He is most nights at the moment and I am pleased for him on one level, but feel the solitariness as well. At a certain point, when I was emptying the dishwasher, I had a major collapse of equanimity and sobbed my heart out. I went to bed and read a slim book on grief and found it quite helpful – even discovered that tears get rid of toxins from the body. I always suspected they had a use beyond melodrama. The most useful reminder in the book was about having faith in yourself to emerge from grief not just in tact but improved in some way. Just knowing that and believing that I am going to come through this is key to the healing process. These slips backwards are going to happen and I just have to roll with the punches. This last week has been much harder than the previous one and that is not the direction I hoped for, but there is grieving and there is losing and the two things are subtly different – the sense of loss increases, I suspect, in the short term, even as the grieving begins to settle down to a more gentle rhythm of pain. There is a small bit of me that keeps expecting a phone call from her or card or letter or email. I think that there is grief for the loss of collective experience – the memories shared that can still be had, but never again shared – a mirror dropped and shattered.
I reminded myself in the shower of the number of times I have grieved and strangely forgot to include my parents or my friends David and Robin. Real grief for me is felt when I ‘lose’ a partner. First there was Chris, a relationship of four years – the pain of her leaving me was tantamount to a death, worse possibly, as I had to cope with the feeling of betrayal as well. That lasted for nearly a year until I started a relationship with Jackie Foskett. Her leaving caused grief which I expunged by going off to Australia and throwing myself into adventures – anguish was a few months. Then Linda. I knew her and lived with her on and off for twelve years and even though I knew she was poison for me when she left it was another grief. This too was softened by a string of relationships over a period of about a year culminating in Kate. But at first I was uncertain about Kate and remained so for some time. Time is the common factor. Time, chance, luck, doggedness, not giving up. I have time and perseverance I think, just need some luck.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
I am still sliding backwards slightly, more prone to gobs of hurting, tearfulness, quickened heartbeat, sense of panic and sense of desperation. But the sliding is controlled I believe and part of a process that happens as the shock slowly wears off and is replaced by new realities. These are hard to adjust to. Just being alone is difficult enough in itself, but being bereft is cruel.
Off to Belton Woods with Ned today. Might be a good change and we’ll see plenty of each other.

Sunday, April 16, 2006
And now just back. Thursday was a good day. We listened to Lion Bears (I think) on the way up the A1 to Belton. Ned slept some of the way and I felt like doing the same, but we reached the De Vere hotel at 12.30pm and had a bite to eat before going on to the golf course. Ned was not really interested in playing golf to begin with, though he (secretly) enjoyed the buggy-driving. After one or two holes he was tempted to hit a few balls himself and there was enough good contact to tempt to hit a few more. His moment came on the 18th hole though (we played the back nine of the Lakes course by mistake) and he hit a rifle-like drive down the middle, laid just before the lake with a seven iron, hit just on the green with another seven and two-putted for a glorious par in front of the club house on-lookers. I saw that small shudder of pleasure that can come with good consecutive shots in a game that is designed to prevent them.
We then had a sauna, a swim and a hot tub, a meal, a film and some sleep. Friday we steam-roomed in the morning, played the Lakes course in the afternoon, saw three films while lying in bed and while I had breakfast Ned caught up on some sleep. We left about 11am and drove to Manchester across the peaks – dun and caramel coloured dales in the spring light. We arrived for lunch with the Thorpes who were as welcoming as ever. Their welcoming is of a certain variety though – they need to get used to you and feel comfortable all over again each time we meet. It was the same when Kate was there so I don’t feel I am neglected or anything. When visitors arrive, even when expected, it is still an intrusion or disruption of the household rhythms at least. Kate and I always went to lengths to make people feel at home – glass of wine, cup of coffee, immediate banter, complete attention. Not everyone feels that it is possible or necessary.
In the evening Jenny and Rob went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with some friends, Ned went off with Chris to some of his friends and I went to the Church Inn at Prestwich to meet Christine Bentley (nee Smith) after a gap of 35 years. I sat with a glass of wine on a long bench next to a group of three women intent on alcoholic oblivion. Chris arrived about 20 minutes later as a short woman in her late fifties, not a short girl in her early twenties. But we were fine. Lots of news about famililies exchanged, and she opened up her scrap book of memories of life and death with Patrick I am sure, so that it would be easier for me to do likewise. We talked, almost without difficulty, until 11.30 and then she took me back to the Thorpes. She sent two texts today saying, in one, she would like to meet up again at some point, and wishing a safe home return in the other. I think she still has a soft spot for me.
Today we had a barbecue lunch at the Thorpes and left after that. I felt they would appreciate a lie down, a snooze, some Sunday without guests.
So that is four days without a tear or a sob – though there were a few close calls which had to be chased away – like when I felt Kate’s absence in the Thorpe’s garden, and when I found a photo of Kate on my mobile phone. The demons are there, no mistake. I would quite appreciate having some one to talk to about all this, some fellow demon slayer, some Cognitive Behaviour Therapist perhaps to school me in positive thinking, self-esteem building.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Last night I had some serious night sweating. The sheets were cold with it. I awoke from a dream in which Anne M had climbed into bed beside me naked and kissed me. I said “whatever will Kate say?’ and she replied that Kate would never know. She kissed me very sensuously and her lips were as soft as petals. I put my hand down to her crotch and someone came in needing a decision on something or other – he was fat and foreign. I went off and dealt with his needs (I had to go into a souk or market). When I got back to Anne I said “Now, where were we?” and she said that she didn’t fancy me, she just wanted me to become ‘visible’ again. There you have it – load of bollocks.
The two months is up. Am I seeing some signs of recovery? Some minor ones – lack of sobbing for six whole days is good, but then I have had Ned as a prop, distraction, helpmeet. Without that Easter would have seemed interminable. I have to learn and apply patience, perseverance and resilience. Where I’ll find these virtues Christ only knows, but find them I must. And I must keep recounting the blessings, the positives and the potential happiness that may lie ahead. Squeezing that potential blood out of that future stone may seem Herculean, but it must be done. Without sorting out myself first, without seeing my way through to a resolution with the anxieties, then I am defective goods and not much use to anyone else and a burden to myself. Life has to be made worthwhile with or without a partner.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I had horrific dreams last night. I can’t remember the details but I was moaning and screaming. I don’t know if these were audible but I suspect that the neighbours might well have heard them.  Looking through curiosity at would-be daters on dating sites is a bit depressing. So many are awful – fat, ugly and old – and some of these are younger than me! 
When midnight strikes in 20 minutes it will make an entire week without a breakdown – well, without one involving real, watery tears and anguished sobs. There have been reddened eyes, the sort you might get as a reaction to something in the air rather than a tearing of the soul. But there is still a foreboding feeling that reality has been kept at arm’s length and it waits to strike with all the force of an hourly chime.

Saturday, April 22, 2006
I have noticed a slight but important change in myself in that things are beginning to seem ‘normal’. Not normal compared with before, but normal day-on-day. Those little feathers of routines are slowly, as they settle around me, insulating me from the rawness of grief. The two-months milestone has passed and whether it’s coincidence or not, I feel further away now from the event and from all that went before it, than at any other time. Of course, I am slowly and inevitably getting further from it and its harmful rays are gradually weakening. There may be a backslide or two, bound to be, but it’s slightly more bearable now. I do not want my current state of singularity to become a comfortable one. Complacency is a damaging condition, but there is very little chance of my feeling complacent. I miss too much – the conversations, the companionship, the sharing.
I woke during the small hours two nights ago with that old and terrible chest pain – the one that led me to the angiogram last October. Could be stress or golf or both. Yesterday I went to Nockolds to sort out my will. If I should die then Ned is very well provided for. After doing that I went to Friends where a huge amount of Kate’s clothes have been sold. Picked up a cheque that was a pittance compared with what she would have spent, but it’s unimportant.
Vicky is coming today. Might visit the grave I suppose. Go shopping. Look for a Megane Cabriolet?

Sunday, April 23, 2006
Well we found the Flame Red Megane Cabriolet. First car we looked at in fact, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me – though Ned knows me quite well and it shook him up just a bit. His face when I stayed in the office and did the deal after the short test drive in perfect spring sunshine with the top down and Ned’s smile gleaming in the rear view mirror, was a picture of embarrassed delight. The glass roof folds itself into its own boot like a preying mantis folding its arms or Optimus Prime transforming himself. Just hope he drives it with pleasure and safety.
Today was not as good as other recent days. Sundays are tough if they are not carefully prescribed, planned out with some precision. I must learn that. Going with Vicky to the grave was also hard. I am not ready for that yet. As Ned said, there are certain things that you don’t have to be heroic about. I expected setbacks and they will follow. On balance, though I am making more progress than I could have deluded myself into and I have been assiduous about being honest with myself.

Monday, April 24, 2006
Strange what can bring on moments of slippage. I did some shopping at Tescos at lunchtime today and as I left the checkout I hooked a bag on the little hook that sits under the handle you push the trolley with. It was on this hook that Kate always placed her handbag – often walked away from the trolley with it still there as well. I had a rush of memories and sentiments that nearly made me lose it in Tescos – look, the tears are rolling down my stubbled cheeks right now. How easy my own writings can stimulate the flow – how quickly (as they have now) they can stop. I had a stern talking to myself in the car and then put a ghostly arm around my own shoulder.
Tomorrow I go to Orlando for a day and a bit. These breaks in routine are good for me. They rattle the expectations, cause ripples. I want to rattle Ripleys’ expectations a bit. Feeling a bit rebellious. A bit dangerous.

Thursday, April 27, 2006
The  meetings went well. Seems we have most of what might have been hoped for – an extra payment on the book costs, making a larger contribution towards our overheads, the establishment of a separate Ripley publishing unit within MKP,  producing Ripley spin-offs and joint ventures, possibly publishing the core book. Not bad for a quick flit over the ocean in a day and a half. Nearly met our maker on landing at Gatwick though – the pilot had to pull out of his landing about 50m from the deck because there was another aircraft being towed across his designated runway. I was most surprised by how much this affected Gerard while I was totally unaffected and calm. Is this because death has no terror for me because of my “situation”? Could be. But I don’t think I am one to panic in a desperate moment – I feel a calm come over me when the chips are down – normally. I have to say that was not the case immediately following the news about the severity of Kate’s stroke.
Tomorrow we collect Ned’s car. Tonight we had a meal at Parrishes’ . I almost too tired from the trans-Atlantic trip to make much conversation. Ned just adorable.

 Sunday, April 30, 2006
Today we took Ned’s Fiesta to Ben. He had no inkling that he was to become the new owner of the little silver car. Two young lads made ecstatic by acts of generosity from their parents – not an everyday occurrence. Ned then drove us to Chelmsford where I bought new specs, had lunch in Café Rouge and drove back via some mates of Ned’s so that their admiration for the new Megane could be enjoyed. He clipped a kerb coming back from Dunmow while looking at the on-board computer. I felt really sorry for him (it grazed one of the alloy wheels), but a small reminder is better than anything larger.
Tonight I went to J and T’s (again) for their dinner party – it’s supposed to be a rehearsal for J’s 50th bash. A friendly bunch of people – Michelle especially. I was the only single person and felt very keenly Kate’s absence, not helped by J saying Kate would have loved this etc. and T telling other guests how lovely she was, how beautiful, how she was “robbed” etc. In the car coming home just now I sobbed, just as I had done in the bath before leaving for the evening. There has been a slippage today, and quite a bad one at that. I have some work to do to put that right.

Monday, May 1, 2006
Ned with Dad
We drove to Vicky and Peter’s yesterday in Roofless. Ned looked cool but exhilarated – I could almost see the shivers of pleasure he was feeling. This was an odd counterpoint to the shivers of anxiety that I was feeling – not because of his driving, but because of a continuation of the fragility I’d felt the day before. The backsliding was continuing yesterday and got worse when we arrived in Vigo. In nearly 20 years it was the first time I had done the journey to Vigo without Kate and by the time we got there I was an emotional mess. Vicky’s attempts to lift me out of it didn’t work. In fact they made it worse. She is an expert at conciliation, yet everything she said tightened my throat further, squeezed the tear ducts harder. It might be that Vicky makes me aware of the existing and pre-existing uniqueness of Kate’s place in the Miles and Hayward families. Irreplaceability and uniqueness are tough concepts to accept – they make healing and a return to normality seem more elusive. It is being told that you have a permanent illness and must now come to terms with it. This is not my way.

Thursday, May 4, 2006
I went to see Dr Shaw yesterday, cold fish that she is, face yielded nothing other than a small glimmer of professional curiosity as to why I was there – this after keeping me waiting half an hour after the appointment time. Ah well. I told her about the night sweats – the last was quite dramatic with the bed left sodden and me like a wet rag the following day. She took my blood pressure  - 120 over 75 which is not bad, in fact pretty bloody good. I told her about a return of the chest pains, but I thought they were muscular or stress related. I told her I was not too worried about the pains or the sweats, but just thought she ought to know about them and I suggested that perhaps I should see how it goes for a few weeks and come back if it got any worse. Then I left.
Gerard stayed the night on Tuesday. We went to Parishes for a meal and watched the Jackass film with Ned. It was terrible. The following afternoon we had a visit from CT printers, their British representatives anyway, Stephen. He was pretty blunt about their nervousness over the amount of money we owe them and their determination that it should be paid in a timely fashion.  Fair enough, I thought.
I went to the gym at the end of the day with Ned. I think I am getting a bit fitter and plan to keep it up. Ned was in a bit of a silent mood. He will often say something to the side window of the car which I cannot hear and then say ‘never mind’ when I ask him to repeat it. We got back to find that Maya next door had yet again deliberately parked her car to prevent us parking ours. Ned knocked on her door to have a go, but I felt it was my responsibility. She was a hissing viper of outrage, but I think I managed to be reasonably calm and played the let’s be civilised and neighbourly about all this card. Stupid fucking bitch.
I had a collapse last night. It was brought on by clearing away some bits from my office. I cried while hanging over the banisters (for some reason) and was nearly sick from the convulsions. The whole episode lasted five minutes and was then gone. It is a bit like being sick on sadness. The sadness wells up and then gets expelled in spasms of tears and snot and gasps and then is gone. The mind has to expel something noxious and does it quickly and dramatically. Very strange.

Friday, May 12, 2006
My dream last night was cruelly vivid. Kate had had her brain transplanted into what looked like a younger and prettier version of herself. I was overjoyed with the fact that doctors had been able to do this and wanted to know if all the nerves had been linked up and that she could function perfectly well. She said she had broken her ankle (like her mother) but she was still able to run with me through the rain in what I think was Covent Garden – we once did this. At one point we were by a river and a barge selling sandwiches stopped, or nearly stopped, by us. Kate tried to catch up with the slowly moving barge and followed it down the river bank. Then she was gone and I realised I would see her no more.
I have been receiving bulletins on the condition of Norm Deska (Ripley’s) who had a minor heart attack a few days ago. They have sucked a blockage out of an artery and he is in intensive care. This is a kindly but over-stressed man I played golf with two weeks ago, who nearly died a few days ago. It looks now as though he will make a full recovery.

Sunday, May 14, 2006
Just back from Didi’s 50th birthday party at the Town Hall. When I first danced I was conscious of being a 56 year-old grey haired man dancing with attractive women while many younger studs stood drinking beer on the sidelines. Then when some Stones music came through from Bill and Sharon and the All Stars, I shifted back in time to university days and the motion and the music took over – even though I am no John Travolta on the dance floor I was able to lose myself momentarily in the rhythm and in the blues.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
In a hotel room in Washington DC, day 2 of the BEA. I have just read most of the above and find this record of a recovery very moving. It is as though it was written by a stranger in some ways, but one I can empathise with perfectly. He has obviously set himself a really tough assignment – to recover in record time from an injury to his soul. I watched a film on the plane coming here about a man, just 50, who  decided to row the Pacific, something never before achieved. The journey from the Peruvian coast to Australia, was supposed to take 4 or 5 months. By month 9 he was still a few hundred miles from landfall in Australia but was now facing a hurricane with winds up to 160mph. Just at the point when the storm was about to be encountered the TV was switched off prior to landing. Rowing a small boat across the Pacific, fending off sharks with a steak knife tied to a stick, being becalmed in an ocean of unimaginable emptiness, facing waves the size of two-storey buildings, trying to arrive at a destination several thousand miles away, but being drifted backwards for days at a time by unfavourable currents…the parallels are quite obvious. The difference is that this man planned his voyage very carefully whereas I found myself in a rowing boat surveying these oceanic vastnesses without any warning.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Well, the book fair and the meetings in New York went very well as it turned out. Washington has a thin veneer of opulence and corporate rectitude over its heaving mass of impoverishment, but no surprises there. I went to the Lincoln memorial and the wall of the 58,000 servicemen killed in Vietnam, surprisingly between 1959 and 1975. I never realised it was such a long war.
We had good nights out, too much to drink, some laughs. New York – the first time I have revisited since Kate’s death. It had moments of lip-biting familiarity. The return trip was cramped and sleepless. I was so befuddled that I went round the M25 the wrong way. Should not have been driving really and jerked myself out of momentary sleep several times. Very silly. At the office I received an email from Christine Hampshire saying that her husband had died in April from cancer of the oesophagus. She married in March. The coincidence is alarming when I think that Christine Hampshire was my first serious relationship after Christine Smith. Both widowed.
I am starting to go for whole hours at a time without thinking of Kate. Whole hours! Is that real progress or not? And they are not completely empty of thoughts about her. Thinking about her, or the absence of her can be habit-forming. Grief can be addictive.

Friday, May 26, 2006
A few longer gaps appearing between entries. I think this suggests that my visits to my self-made therapist are slightly less urgent. They will become more urgent if I start messing with my iPhoto files as I did just now. Boy that hurts right between the eyes. These ranks of neatly arranged photos of holidays and happy days, smiles and laughs – too much, too much.
Had Nik and Janet round for supper – smoked salmon soufflé, salad, boiled potatoes (which Nik raved about) warm French bread, followed by cheeses and strawberries. It was fine all the time Nik was there. But when it was just Janet and me her sorrow and mine made too powerful a mixture and I felt the tears start to form and then trickle. When Janet began to eulogise Kate I found myself missing this magical person who’d been whisked away more than ever. Too much, too much. This road leads only one way and that is down. I need to go up, up, up!
I realise that I must endure more pain before emerging on to the sunny uplands of what is the rest of my existence. Days like today make me wonder if those uplands really exist.

Sunday, May 28, 2006
Later in the car, driving back from Streatham where I had left Ned to enjoy a night of partying with Sadie and various nymphets, I let tears fall all over my linen suit and told them to roll, roll as much as they liked, and to take their vicious toxins with them.
I feel a sliding backwards.
Monday, May 29, 2006
I had a phone call from Chris. She wants to get together before she goes away to Portugal. Against my better judgement I have agreed, but know this is not wise – neither for me nor Chris.
I played golf today as well with the usual crowd – noticed that Ian, again, avoided paying up. Dramatic hailstorm. I once again slipped backwards and fell prey to yearning thoughts of a life I had no longer – felt incomplete, missing an essential organ. This may be a pattern – I reach a stage where the loss seems just about supportable and then the whole process rewinds and then restarts itself, but slightly less painful each time. I argued with myself that there would be parts of my life that would enjoy new experiences that I would never have known if it had not been for this loss. I will never know that particular exquisite brand of companionship, but I’ll know others (one might get to seem exquisite eventually, who knows

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Last night was one of weird dreams that included forming and unforming visions of Kate. I think I sweated. The sheets were cold and wet so I must have. Now what those little sparks were I have no idea – possibly tears. Already I am in a situation of having multiple women in my life where before I had one and only one for 20 years. It is very odd and quite exhausting. I know exhaustion is a facet of my new existence I must become used to. The alternative is a lot of sofa rest which will get me as far as the sofa.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Now into June. A further step away, a further step towards. At times today I felt the unluckiest bastard in the world – just little jagged shards of the broken mirror that still explodes around me in dramatic slow-mo.
Friday, June 2, 2006
Email to Linda: Hello Lindylu

How are you and the asparagus man? Hope he has done ’arvestin’ by now. I didn’t really make much comment on your situation before – pretty much self-focused recently, or selfish-focused more like. I thought your house, garden, setting and so on was just perfick. It reminds me of Church House which keeps coming up on my random screen saver – the postcard c. 1900. Is this what we do though – we single people, as I must now see myself again? We make the surroundings entirely our own comfort zone, paint in the right background and all the details, but know that there is something missing? People who don’t feel that there is something missing make me a bit uncomfortable – make me feel that I could gradually mutate into one of them and then become totally content with my own company. Not much chance of that as you know.

I had a bit of a shock this morning – Kate’s obit appeared in the Bookseller. I half expected it to be there as it was me who wrote it, provided the photo and sent it to the Bookseller last week, but it was still a shock. I have tried to avoid the editors this morning in case they see my unbossly distress. I guess this will happen, this snakes and ladders so-called progress. I had a call from Vicky, my Vicky that is. She is always a tonic, but she said she wanted to be with me next weekend because, you know... I didn’t know at first, but then I realised she meant the wedding anniversary.

I can’t remember if I told you about Christine Hampshire – she was the girlfriend at Warwick. She sent me an email through Friends Reunited to say her husband died in April. They’d married in March when they realised his death was imminent from cancer of the throat.

How are you enjoying this heart-lifting email so far? Sorry, didn’t mean it to be maudlin. I’ll come and see you for some more back treatment soon, though the days before the US trip with Ned are getting fewer.

Hope all is OK with you.

A couple of things almost of no importance: I saw myself in the mirror in the office bathroom just now and smiled at my own reflection. It has happened very rarely over the past months though I used to do it almost every time I caught my reflection, pleased with myself, my lot in life, my reflection. .

Sunday, June 4, 2006
I talked myself most of the way back from Norwich. The theme was past, present and future, plus what I will, what I can and what I might do. I must be active in all of life’s games as a participant not a spectator. The other theme was this – if feeling good about life is the only true measure of whether an existence is worthwhile (and what other measure is there?) how do you compare the worth of a bullying tyrant’s life with someone who sacrifices much for the good of others? If the tyrant feels good about his life and the do-gooder feels ultimately unfulfilled, which life was most worthwhile, judged not by history but by the participant himself? Fucked if I know.
Kate in the Miles Kelly offices where she worked (c. 2001)
Wednesday, June 7, 2006
There is a slow and barely perceptible decline in motion. I think it is a dawning sense of loss that shock has, rather cleverly, held at bay. If I’d had to cope with sadness for her death, sense of loss, shock, sense of unfairness, destruction of life routines, sadness for Ned, mental and emotional calamity and so on all at once, it would have killed me. So it happens bit by bit, wave by wave, cloud by cloud, tear by tear.
I had an email from Wendy today saying how daring we were judging by the itinerary for USA and then a phone call from Sandy Hannum who lives in Boulder, Colorado. She offers advice, equipment for hiking (Christ, we are not going to hike anywhere in brain-frying temperatures), places to white-water raft and where to find the best rattlesnake burgers in Musquat. She is lovely though and I think she’ll adore Ned. Who wouldn’t? I have noticed his handwriting is exactly placed between Kate’s and mine. When I pointed this out to him he acknowledged this but added that there were no other physical similarities he’d inherited from either parent. There are some who’d disagree.

Sunday, June 11, 2006
I went first to collect Vicky and Peter. Roofless, I travelled with Ned’s selection of mad axe-murderer music to Vigo Village. We then went, wind-swept in glorious sunshine down to see Rosie.  Glorious sunshine makes it sound as though I approve of this heat-wave, but it is like the birds chirruping at the outrageously early dawn – 4am this morning. I resent their autonomic approval of daylight. But today was not a “good”, nor “easy” nor “normal” day. I swallowed tears, bit down on gulping sobs, felt my mouth turn its corners down when I tried to smile, and the tears when they eventually came, burnt like acid. They were so painful in the car I had to hold one eyelid down and drive one-eyed until the stinging passed. Why is that? Why do tears of grief sting so?
There was chaos on the roads coming back from Barnham (Rosie keeps her magisterial stoicism resplendent. Sometimes I would like to see her feel more obvious pain for the loss of her daughter. Frank was his usual earnest self-mixed with a slurp of punning humour and school-boy enthusiasm. But his heart, as they say and I always say about Frank, is in the right place. Vicky G was her usual version of her sister plus a hugely good heart and quick wit.
What pained me so much today? It was little reminders and vast reminders, it was the…oh shit, I can’t do this…not at the moment.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. I invited Rob, Susanne, Didi and Howard round for a barbecue. Eleanor naturally came as well. Amazingly affectionate for a six year-old. I think inherited from Susanne who is coquettish after a few drinks and there were a few drinks. The bottle of Raki that we brought back from a Turkish holiday was emptied very quickly. I felt fine playing golf today however. It was the British Legion day.
I decided that I had to reverse this downward slide even if it is inevitable, happens to the best of us mate etc. If I don’t halt it, it may just gather more momentum than I can control. I tried out a determined and even quite false positive attitude – smiling and talking to people more, being impatient with any self-pity from within me, using the mantra – be positive, be positive, be positive. Steering my mind away from thoughts of the future – at least negative fears about the future, helps too. I am aware too that I am thinking that I don’t have Kate, or my life with her, to worry about. The Miles Kelly business could go pop and she would be safe in her grave. I used to worry about that all the time partly for her sake. When playing golf today both Rob and Ian got quite nervous when the sky went black, the rain fell in literal rods of water and there were flashes of lightning. I looked up at the sky and whispered “Come on you fucker, get me, I dare you, get me.” The siren went soon after and we had to get off the course. So to some extent I am more impregnable to danger, or fear of it anyway. This is selfish thinking I realise as I have to remain for Ned’s sake, though I sometimes think that the way he has got over, or appears to have got over, his mum’s death, he might well recover quite quickly from mine. Time for sleep – the mini deaths I welcome each day. Alas no petit morts.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Kate and Ned around 1995
And of course with the sleep come the dreams. I don’t remember them as well these days because I am not trying to. I’d give Kate summarised versions in bed each morning and she would wonder at their strangeness and clarity.  Last night’s involved a huge house we had with many rooms and masses of furniture including many high backed chairs. People were walking through the rooms and admiring the things. I wasn’t sure if we were selling them or not. No one had made an offer so I assumed not. But it was a disposal process – a getting rid of a past in preparation for a future. It all turned bizarre and I ended up being hunted by secret police from ancient Egypt and I found myself in Cairo museum that was now a sad relic of a place with cheap fairground rides. So these dreams do return when I try. While in the house someone was asking about my next novel. I pointed out that there had yet to be a first.

More helpful straws to clutch at: I have been here, or somewhere like it, before. It wasn’t as dark or as deep but it was most certainly a pit. I managed to get out. First I had to find the ladder, but then it was one slow rung at a time and eventually daylight. Finding daylight before encourages me to think that I will find it this time. Something else: physical attraction is not always instantaneous. It can take some time, and the hardest time to find it is soon after you lose a partner. I should not be so gloomy about finding it difficult to find anyone attractive at this time. It will come, but it will take time. See – I’m beginning to adopt the same clichés that everyone else uses. “Jim, don’t be so impatient. It takes time Jim and Time is a Great Healer”.

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