My Dad

Dad

In the 16 days since my Dad died, so much has happened in the world.  So much that he won’t ever know and all I want to do is talk to him about it all, hear his opinion.  I was in Foyles today and saw three books I want to recommend to him.  I watched Springwatch last week and picked up my phone to tell him about a nature webcam they recommended.   I will never see him laugh at Alan Partridge again, or swear at bad drivers, or play fight with his dogs, or do any of the multitude of things he was made of.

I can’t tell him things anymore, so all of my thoughts just sit in my head, nowhere to release them to.  It’s one of the many things that I am struggling with in the wake of his unexpected death.  The 30+ years that I have had with my Dad have just not been enough.  I still have so much I want to talk to him about.  It’s absurd.

His 2016 was 3 months spent in ICU, then a respiratory ward, a month or so at home, and then back into a cardiac unit.  His second stay was supposedly for something relatively easy to fix, and that’s what we were waiting for.  Things were so ‘easy’ that my Dad insisted that Husband and I went on holiday – I jokingly requested that he put any drama on hold for the week that we were away, and he promised that he would because there was no drama to be had.

My Mum and I had been to visit him in the afternoon.  He was grumpy, eating his lunch, talking to me all about the Monaco Grand Prix.  Standard Dad behaviour.  I went home, out to dinner at the in-laws, and that’s where I got the phone call that he was dying.  I still don’t really understand what happened, and I need to find out more, but there’s time for that.  He died in hospital which was not how he wanted to die.  Not how I wanted him to die.

At his Humanist funeral yesterday, the celebrant (who was wonderful) said that there has never been anyone like him, and there will never again be anyone like him.  Not to go all “everyone is a special unique snowflake”, but I feel that way about our relationship as well.  No one is really able to understand what I’ve lost because no one else had the same relationship.  My Dad was my Dad – he meant something different to my brother, my Mum, my husband, my sister-in-law.  And I’m certainly not saying that they’re not hurting as much as I am because I know they are, but it’s just different.

The thought that keeps me awake at night at the moment is that I will never again get to make him laugh.  It was one of my biggest joys – that my Dad thought I was funny.  He didn’t get to laugh much at all in the last month of his life and that is such a crime.  His huge booming laugh, the tears that streamed down his face with hysteria, the infectious and mischievous giggling that got higher and higher in pitch.  The warmth that came from his laughter.  I am overwhelmed to the point of breathlessness at the thought of not feeling that warmth again.

I wasn’t ready for him to not be here.  I don’t think I ever will be ready.  I just still have so much I want to talk to him about.

I didn’t realise this until he’d gone.

Someone turn me around

Clean your hands

My Project 365 photo albums are full up of hospital photos.  Yep, Dad is still there.  I think we’re at week 8, week 9?  We’ve lost count.

I’m so oddly used to the ward now.  I know the nurses from the sound of their footsteps, I know their shift patterns (“No no, Rachel isn’t on till Tuesday”).  I know where to get the good blankets and a full oxygen tank.  I know that at 6.30pm, my Dad has two white pills, an injection, and if he’s very unlucky, a bottle of Fortijuce (every flavour smells like death).

The drinkable coffee is from the cafe downstairs, but the edible sandwiches are from the restaurant upstairs.  The blue wheelchairs are the best, as the red and green ones squeak like crazy.  And bizarrely, Sainsburys has something that makes the exact same beepy noise as a hospital bed when someone falls out of it which really confused me when I heard it.

There has been one unexpected upside to spending every evening and weekend in the hospital –  I’ve actually managed to save some money for once in my life.  Money which I should use on sensible things.

But I’ve spent it all on a holiday to Miami in May.  The countdown is on.

Pause for the silence

January was… well, January was shit.  My Pappa was taken into ICU very early on in the month, and my Mum and I quickly got into a routine of days punctuated by trips to the hospital, weekends getting to know his nurses (who have all been wonderful), and the constant smell of hand gel about my general person.  One day an x-ray, the next an MRI, then some kind of procedure featuring a two inch needle going into his lungs (I didn’t listen too closely to that story).

It’s been tough.  ICU is one of the scariest places I’ve ever been, and watching my Dad going through everything he went through was utter heartbreak.  They’re still not too sure what happened – at first they thought it was some kind of infection, then flu, then pneumonia.  He’s still in hospital six weeks with currently no light at the end of this very long dark tunnel.  We keep getting reassured that hope isn’t too far away, that he’ll be able to come home and start his 2016.  As we all keep saying, he can’t stay in hospital forever.

Brighton Pier

So whilst February has continued in the same vein, it started with a couple of days “off” as my parents very kindly told me to have a break, so Husband and I took a trip down to Brighton for our rebooked stay at The Grand.  This time was just perfection – a beautiful sea front room (right in the centre above the entrance!), huge comfy bed, peace and tranquility.  There was a lovely postcard and box of chocolates waiting for us when we arrived, and the service we received was amazing – it sometimes pays to complain!

The Grand, Brighton

We even had Afternoon Tea in our room, pretending we were Victorian.  Not in costumes or anything odd like that – just “Oh hello, I’m Victorian.  Look at my scone”.  That kind of thing.

Afternoon Tea at The Grand, Brighton

We had beautiful weather as we walked up to one of the Small Batch Coffee shops (of course) in Hove, then down to the marina and back.  I added to my plastic jewellery collection in Porta and Unlimited Shop; Husband added to his plastic Lego collection in, uh, the Lego Store.  And we ate an unreasonable amount of meat in The Coal Shed.

Small Batch Coffee Company

Sadly, we do not have another free trip booked, so that might be it for Brighton for a while but I’m so pleased The Grand offered to redeem themselves.  Such a lovely stay, and well needed.

Brighton sea front

Flatley my dear, I don’t Riverdance

Riverdance1This is your pre-read warning – this post is about Riverdance.

This year, Riverdance toured their 20th Anniversary show.  I bought tickets for my Mum and I about a year ago as a birthday treat for her, and yes, a treat for me too.  Riverdance is my guilty pleasure, something I’ve been going to see for almost 20 years.  I’m aware that this does make me a giant nerd but I don’t even care.

My Mum picked me up from work on Friday and we drove up to Hammersmith, planning on parking in our usual hidden away spot.  Little did we know that it would be closed for building works – damnit!  We eventually found our way to the mall car park and then traipsed around Hammersmith for an age trying to find somewhere to eat that wasn’t either packed or crap.  We ended up in a McDonalds as we very quickly ran out of time and patience.  When we subsequently found a Byron after the show, I could have kicked myself.

Anyway, the show.  They had moved the seating about since I booked the tickets, and for once, it was to our benefit as we ended up right on the front row, so close that we spent most of the show covered in dry ice from the stage.

Riverdance2It was a great performance, as always.  It was weird seeing it with such a different cast – pretty much everyone was different to the last time we saw it.  We thought we recognised a couple of faces but the main dancers, like the tap dancers and flamenco dancer – all new to us.  The first half flew by, and when it came to the second half, the audience suddenly woke up and screamed and hollered at all the right parts.  Everyone was on their feet for the final number – I don’t think my Mum and I have clapped so hard before!

There was a few new dances but it was largely the same show that we’ve seen 8 or 9 times before which is fine by us.  We know what we love.  For some reason, the music of Riverdance holds a very dear place in our hearts.

I did feel bad for the male lead as he did a spectacular fall right at the very end.  He very elegantly jumped straight back up and carried on dancing whilst blushing and laughing quite a lot, but we’ve never seen a dancer slip onto their butt before.  I can’t deny giggling quite a bit on the way back to the car.

So go on, have a good laugh at the dorky woman who likes the decades-old Irish dance show.  It’s ok, I’m used to it.  Also, if you mention Flatley to me, I may hit you.  I can assure you that I have never been into Flatley’s show.  Blerch.

I’m the Queen, I’ll live forever, I’ll never die, I’ll live to a million

Windsor Castle I spent a lovely couple of hours with my Mum today, wandering in and out the shops in Windsor.  It’s an odd place for me, as I grew up in Berkshire so Windsor was just another town for us to shop in.  I love getting to the top of Peascod Street, one of the main shopping streets, and going “Oh yeah, there’s Windsor flipping Castle!”  Tourist cameras snapping away, people clambering on the open top tour buses – all the while, my Mum and I are buying shampoo and cotton buds in Boots.  It feels even more surreal when the Queen is in, but she must have been busy elsewhere today as her flag was down.

Railway stationI didn’t buy anything on this trip, and was happy just to watch the world go by as my Mum searched for that elusive perfect summer dress.

ConcorseWe always pay a visit to The Concourse – we love grabbing a coffee from the Costa in the noisy hubbub of the Victorian railway station.  One of these days, I’m actually going to get something from Patisserie Valerie though – we always walk passed with mouths watering but never think to stop.

Station Parade And it was such a lovely sunny day as well.  It was a fun way to get my vitamin D!

The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.

Fleet Pond landingWhat did you get up to this weekend?  Oh really, that sounds like fun.  Me?  Well I had a very unusual weekend which started off with a trip to a tattoo salon.

Sadly, Husband has not (yet) allowed me to have my fourth tattoo, but I was accompanying my mother as she lost her tattoo virginity.  My mother.  Despite giving teenage-me stern looks when I got my first, she now has some ink of her very own.

Mum tattooShe wanted to go to my tattooist but sadly Jessie has a 5 month waiting list, so instead got a recommendation from a work colleague.  When my Mum wants something, she wants it NOW.  The guy she went to was lovely and really reassuring, and gave her some good advice on placement and size.  It only took about 20 minutes as she only has a little one but it does amuse me to say my 50-something mother has just got her first tattoo.  I will now lecture her endlessly on how to take care of it (SPF, WOMAN!)

After this, we wandered out into the beautiful sunshine, stumbled across some guerrilla knitting/yarn bombing in Bagshot, and then did a bit of M&S shopping.

Guerilla knitting

On Sunday, Husband and I did a couple of laps around Fleet Pond to take advantage of the glorious weather.

Fleet Pond woods

I don’t visit Fleet Pond enough considering it’s pretty much right on my doorstep, and it was lovely to get outside under many layers of factor 50.

And this afternoon has been taken up by housework whilst listening to my Eurovision playlist, gesticulating dramatically to Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst and bouncing around to Euphoria by Loreen.  A perfect way to end the weekend.

Billy Idol gets it

Wedding

My calendar looks insane at the moment.  Whilst it’s all very exciting, a tiny part of me is kind of looking forward to Easter when it starts to calm down a bit.

First up –  a trip to Cardiff to see my little brother get married. We haven’t been to a good wedding for ages, and we had a really great time with my family.  My brother was so sweet – he could barely keep it together for most of the day, and cried on many occasions.  I can’t wait to see photos from their honeymoon.  I’m also hoping for some really lovely ‘official’ photos of us all.

We stayed at the Park Plaza in Cardiff (although that wasn’t where the wedding was held) which is a gorgeous hotel, and immediately got in my good books by giving us macaroons in our room.

Park Plaza

We had to hot foot it out of Cardiff Friday morning before the hoards of rugby fans descended for some kind of important game, so we didn’t really get to see much of the city.  Maybe we’ll go back and have another stay at the Park Plaza.

Coming up next in the calendar – a slightly less luxurious hotel in Copenhagen.  YAY!

…they’re going to force us to eat lots of cake and then take an unreasonably long nap.

Syon Park

I am on the verge of a food coma after an amazing afternoon tea at the Hilton Syon Park.  We’ve been once before for my Mother-in-law’s birthday and I wanted to take my parents as a post-Christmas present, so almost a year later, we found ourselves back again.   It used to be a Waldorf Astoria, and we were a little worried that things might have dramatically changed, but everything seemed the same as we walked in.

There was a little hiccup when the maitre d’ led us into a quiet corner of the Cocktail Bar, and we quickly realised that we wouldn’t be sat in The Capability.  A last minute event had meant that main restaurant would now be closed, but the staff could not have been more apologetic, offering us discount and free cocktails and champagne.  And as it turns out, tea in the comfy seats of the bar was actually really lovely.

Bar

Although we were looked after by one waitress (who I think was called Laura – I wish I’d checked it with her), all of the staff were really attentive.  We were right by a speaker, so they turned the music down for us, and every time someone walked passed, we got a smile and a “how is everything”.   We felt really cared for.  Laura was excellent though, really chatty and smiley.  We couldn’t have asked for a better server.

Cocktail

We got our drinks – I chose a non-alcoholic Bramble On, Husband had a gin martini, and my parents both had champagne – and took a look at the menu full of yummy sandwiches.  Everything is so well designed and beautifully decorated – even down to the crockery, which is covered in butterflies for the Butterfly House in the grounds.

Menu

I had the veggie, everyone else had the ‘standard’.  The tea arrived first and I do appreciate this sounds very stupid, but I don’t really like tea so I had some sparkling water.  The others were more normal though, Husband having a pot of orange oolong tea, and my parents having the ‘signature’ Syon Park afternoon tea.  They all really enjoyed their tea.

And then the food arrived.

Tea

It was just as good as I remembered – the cucumber with celery salt is my favourite and is so simple but so flavourful.  The scones are incredibly soft inside and delicious with the cream and jam.  And we’re a little embarrassed to report that we barely put a dent in the pile of pastries we had, but thank goodness for boxes to take them away with us.  We now have a weekend of slowly filling ourselves up with the rich little cakes.

I already want to go back.  Once I’ve actually recovered from the sugar overdose.  Now excuse me, I’m off for my unreasonably long nap.

It’s just nice to meet another human that shares my affinity for elf culture

Boxing Day

Our Boxing Day walk

I unashamedly love Christmas.  I love getting gifts, I love giving gifts, I love the food, and I love being around my family.  And I’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty great Christmases.  This year was no different.

We stayed at my in-laws Christmas Eve and opened our first gifts there when we woke up on Christmas morning.  And the gifts didn’t stop when we got to my parents for dinner (which was YUMMY.  Well done my Mum).  My parents tend to get Husband and I joint gifts and then other individual gifts.  We got a fancy knife set for our new kitchen which is much needed as we’re pretty much using one knife for everything at the moment.  Husband got lots of things for his travels and I got many many Ollie and Nic items.  WOO!  Plus very cute slippers, a woodland animal scarf and a fluffy snuggly top thing.

I got to open two presents from Husband at this point – a solid state hard drive (yay?  In all fairness, my Macbook does need a new one) and a beautiful drusy ring by Rachel Pfeffer.  I’d mentioned drusy jewellery years ago, and he’d obviously noted it down.  It’s so pretty and sparkly!!  And also impossible to photograph with the lenses I have.

Druzy ring2

With flash

Druzy ring1

Without flash

I need to stop looking at Rachel’s site now because I want everything.

We spent the afternoon watching Alpha Papa which I had bought my Dad for part of his present, and when my Mum started to get bored of watching the Blu Ray extras, we went back to the in-laws for MORE presents.

Husband and I finished swapping presents, and he surprised me again with a Tatty Devine lobster.

Tatty Devine Lobster

RED GLITTERY LOBSTER!

I love it. It’s flipping glittery!  He saw it online and thought it would be such a great present, especially seeing as we spent a few days in Maine a couple of months ago.  Can’t wait to wear it.

He also got me a hard case for my Parrot Zik headphones and hardback copies of the Hunger Games.

Books

My in-laws bought me Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman and Shady Characters by Keith Houston.  They also got me some Lush and Beauticology gift sets so I have some amazing baths to look forward to, a Ciate velvet manicure set, some pretty tights, and other assorted goodies.

Another favourite gift came from my Brother-in-law and his wife – a gorgeous set of lights from Brighton based Cable and Cotton.  They’re stunning.

Cable and Cotton

Off…

Cable and Cotton on

On!

I’ve wanted these for so long, now I just need to figure out where they’ll look best.  These are the Rainbow Drops set, but all of their sets are gorgeous and I would quite happily have them all around my house.

Sales shopping has been a bit hit and miss, and I’ve had more luck online than the high street.  I managed to get myself some more Snow Fairy (the only exception to my Lush ban, and only when it’s half price), some more beauty gift sets from Beauticology and Cowshed, and I am super excited to have bought an advent calendar.  Yes, an advent calendar, which is filled with a nail polish behind every door.  I was tempted by the Ciate Mini Mani Month when it was full price, but it’s even more of a bargain now it’s half price.  I was considering opening one every two weeks for the next year, but I’m not sure if I will manage to last out that long.

Minimanimonth

I still have another week off work, and at the end of the week we’re off to Brighton again for another visit to the Coalshed and another stay at the Old Ship Hotel.  It’s going to be bloody windy, but not even the weather can spoil Brighton.