Letter to Tod

Dear Tod

Three years ago, today you left us and yes you left in your own imitable way – not quietly – not without a fight and on both your youngest son’s birthday and Father’s Day.  Quite a spectacular exit – but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

It’s not that today I think of you any more – I think of you every day but I guess 3 years is just another mile stone. You said to me not long before you died that you were worried that we would forget about you – my darling we talk about you all the time. Sometimes as if you are still here. We tell jokes on your behalf some I know of which you would not approve. And that’s the thing about losing someone so close to you they remain in your heart – forever. You don’t get over losing a long term partner you just learn to live with it.  And I will be taking you along with me on this next phase of my life – whatever it is.

Grief is a funny old thing I can be merrily chugging along doing my own thing and feeling relatively okay and then suddenly I do something and it hits me right there in the solar plexus and almost takes my breath away. It’s as if there is a little voice saying ‘so you thought you were doing ok well ….  ‘

Today I was writing Toby’s birthday card and I remembered how you always used to put at the end of your cards to me  ‘Love Me’ and it floored me because I realized that I will never get another card from you saying ‘Love Me.’ And yesterday when I was looking for somewhere to park the car I heard you saying ‘park in the shade Roma’. And I never forget your advice about remembering which side of the road to drive on which will come in very handy when the family dementia starts to rear its ugly head – actually I fear it has already started.

I miss sharing the boys with you, our soon to be granddaughter – how you wanted to be a grandfather and finally a girl.  Now I will have to do it for both of us.  I miss your odd food foibles like having to grate the onions because you didn’t like the texture, not wanting to eat anything green, your caffeine free diet coke and your cottage cheese mis mash.  They used to annoy me intensely but now – well I just smile.   Your praises for my meat loaf and chicken schnitzel and my constant efforts to get you  to eat healthily. In light of  what happened that was pretty pointless. I might as well have let you indulge in everything you wanted. And your lovely gifts on my birthday – especially the flowers which arrived every 3 weeks on a Friday. Dotted around the house are the constant Tod reminders. How could we ever forget you?

That said of course, I have forgotten all the things that you did that annoyed me because they are not there anymore – and how petty any way.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if you came back right now with this hindsight – well I think I would be a much nicer wife.

So I have made a unilateral family decision not to celebrate today because why should one celebrate death anyway.  Today I want to celebrate Toby’s birthday and we will celebrate you on your birthday in November. I hope that’s ok.

Wouldn’t it be great if you were allowed to come back for your birthday – well wherever you are for a visit. And I could go to Heathrow airport and there would be a special arrival place for those who have departed earth. Not sure how it would work – maybe a 2 weeks holiday for those people who have had a good and honest life. I suppose you would have to promise to whoever or whatever that you would not disclose the ever after. But I am sure it could be worked out.

You could however come and visit me – others I know have had visits from the dead but you haven’t as yet appeared. I did think one day that a pigeon might be you. Maybe it was.

You would be so proud of your boys right now.  They have turned into wonderful young adults. All those terrible teens, broken windows and awful fights – forgotten thankfully. And yes they look after me very well. I know you spoke to them about that.

Oh, Tod you would not believe the world we are living in right now – maybe you got out just in time.  I have been angry that you left so abruptly – it would have been good to have had someone to share lockdown with. I am constantly reminded of one of your frequent quotations that ‘human beings are not a viable specie’ which is so apt right now. But I think you would probably have fared quite well – I mean you weren’t actually the most sociable man and were more than happy to be at home with me.  And think of all the DIY you could have done!

So tomorrow evening we will be having a small party for Toby and of course after weeks of lovely warm sunshine storms are predicted. I am getting my usual anxious self and I can hear you saying ‘its just a few friends Roma.’ We will raise a glass to you and I promise that you will never ever be forgotten.

Snoopy always gets it so right.

Deserts Island Discs – a veritable feast of interviews

I know it’s pretty chaotic at the moment  but walking in the woods today I felt a sense of calm  a feeling of gratitude and I found myself saying thank you to the trees. Yes again – I hear you say but there  wasn’t anybody else around to thank and anyway Tod is in some of these trees

I  remember not so long ago trying to fit in a walk in between a somewhat frantic schedule and  reciting  that iconic poem “What is this life if full of care…. ” etc etc and  uttering those magic words “if only”.  Well ‘if only’ is here and I do feel fortunate.  I can if I chose ‘stand and stare – as long as sheep or cows’ and I can most definitely see ‘where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.’

And while I know I have complained about being on my own and having too much time and so on today is a good day and I  appreciate  being able to do exactly what I want with my time within of course the constraints of lock down restrictions.  So much so that this morning in the middle of my yoga I stopped, switched off the zoom, because I just wasn’t  feeling it.  And what’s more I didn’t feel guilty. There’s a first.  My life has been so governed by ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to’s’ deadlines and guilt  that  I am feeling quite pleased with myself right now.

Instead I went for a long walk, sat on Tod’s bench, had a conversation with him albeit a bit one-sided, ignored passer-by’s who thought I was probably just a mad old lady, and  enjoyed my glorious woods. So, William Henry Davies I am today ‘full of care’ and have as much time as I want ‘ to stand and stare.’

There are some good things too about being an insomniac – as well as the quiet  it also allows me  to catch up on the Radio programmes I have missed. Last night I delved into the archives of Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 and listened to a recent one with Sir Keir Starmer –  hopefully our next Prime minister.  The verdict is out on Lauren Laverne she doesn’t quite have the laid-back quality of Kirsty Young or Sue Lawley.

I then moved on to the Late Chief Rabbi Johnathan  Sacks interviewed by Lawley just before he was inaugurated.   Interesting both he and Starmer  chose Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony. And while  Keir (like me he also hated his name during schooldays and wished he could have been called something more ordinary like John or Michael or Peter – I  wanted to be a Susan or Jane )  ended with Artists for Grenfell, Bridge over Troubled Water which sent me into floods of  tears- not just for Grenfell but because it was Tod’s favourite song. It sometimes shocks me just  how deep is one’s grief which most of the time can be held at bay  but when it comes out – it is like an eruption. Thankfully no-one was around.  Sacks ended  his discs with Sholom Katz – Lest We Forget which also left me in tears remembering all those that perished in World War 2.  Not sure this is exactly the best way to lure one into a peaceful sleep. 

TRA: Desert Island Discs - Trebuchet

I had met Rabbi Sacks on several occasions when I interviewed him for the BBC.    He was an impressive spiritual man of great intellect and a brilliant orator, but I think that  he was conflicted  by the pressures of a diverse Jewish community and he walked a  fine line between the views of the ultra-Orthodox  and those on the progressive wing.

I am excited to have discovered a whole host of other incredibly interesting people on Desert Island Discs which was first broadcast with Roy Plomley in 1942 and since then over 3000 programmes have been aired.   So for starters I will be listening to:  

Bruce Springsteen, (so sexy don’t care that he is getting on a bit)  Tracey Emin (I think I finally understand her bed!) Hugh Masekela ( one of the first guests on my embarrassingly failed C4 chat show) Maya Angelou (“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ) Princess Grace of Monaco (always been a bit intrigued by her it’s the fairy tale princess fantasy) Bill Bryson (read all his books) Malcom Gladwell ( nearly read all of his) Nicole Farhi ( love love her clothes if only I could afford them) Shirley MacLaine ( because she was my mum’s favourite actor) and Steven McQueen (  12 Years a Slave director whose anthology of films is currently on the BBC. So far Small Axe – brilliant and Mangrove have been aired. Each of the five films tell different stories of Caribbean people living in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. Growing up in Leicester and sneaking out to what was ostensibly and very exciting black blues parties was a highlight of my early teenage days.)

With all this on offer – who needs sleep. A veritable feast awaits me.

“Let’s be careful out there”

The Attraction of Power

What makes a middle-aged man leave his beautiful wife of 30 odd years to marry his intern 38 years his junior?  And then, in his mid-eighties go on to marry a beautiful woman 25 years his junior? I suppose because he can. And what makes these women marry a rich old man? Power of course and money.  Even a wrinkled old man still wields power, and this attracts some of the most beautiful women in the world.  Who am I talking about? Well if you watched BBC 2 last night you would know. The media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse (SWITZERLAND)

Riveting tv. He is an enigma and clearly brilliant and driven.  And I can see why some women would find this attractive. I was  once tempted by money and power.    Aged just 17  I met an older rich French man – he was probably in his late 40’s but that seemed very old to me back then. I was hitching in Europe and stopped off in the south of France.  He had a yacht in Cannes – a big one.  I was staying in a youth hostel and had just had a very embarrassing night.  I have this rather horrible habit of making deep gurgling throat noises in my sleep of which I am unaware.  In the morning one of the girls in the 10-bed dormitory said in a loud voice.

“Did you hear those noises last night. Boy were they horrible.”

I looked around at the girls and before anyone could reply I said, “Yes I  couldn’t sleep all night.” And with that I packed my bags and hot footed it to this  French man’s yacht.  But it didn’t last, he was very unattractive, and I couldn’t do the deed. I wanted to as I was down to my last few pounds but packed my backpack in the middle of the night and scarpered.

And there were many more before I met my life partner but none quite as rich as that man.  I made a good choice although I hadn’t imagined that I would be a widow   in my sixties. Sometimes it hits me with such force when I least expect it. A bit like when you are swimming in the sea and suddenly a huge wave  surprisingly hits you from behind. This morning doing my teeth right out of the blue this all-consuming wave of grief hit me. Pang – right there in the solar plexus.  It almost knocks you over. The finality of death is hard to come to terms with.  Throughout my life I have cajoled, campaigned and persuaded people and been quite good at it.  I was  also quite good at deal making but this is one deal over which I had no power. No amount of promises or pledges cut it.  Whoever is in charge doesn’t listen. Death is the end and it is bloody well hard to accept.

As you can see I am not having a very positive day. It started with the  tooth brushing, then the surveyor from Saga Home Insurance who after 2 hours checking my house and me risking catching Coronavirus,  rejected my claim. Why am I surprised? Don’t they always wriggle out of claims.  Next came the renewal from AXA/ppp health insurance 20% increase  on last year because I had 1 claim and I am one year older.  Then there was Bridge – we came bottom again.  Malcolm Gladwell argues that one needs to spend at least 10,000 hours of practice before one can become an expert in anything.  I reckon I have had about 2000 hours of practice!  Not sure if it is worth devoting another 8000 hours to this.  And  in case you  haven’t  already nodded off  squirrels in Colorado have tested positive for bubonic plague.  I know a bit random but maybe it’s time to stop petting the cute little ones in my garden. Or at least wear gloves and a mask!

But hey – its blackberry season – again.  Yesterday I spotted a few in the park. I have been deprived of my favourite breakfast spread as I ran out a few months ago but if my secret blackberry patch is still going strong then I will be in full production by the weekend.

Message to self:

This is a very shallow blog Roma. You need to up your game.

Too right – I need to get a life – if only I could!!!!

“Let’s be careful out there”