I have been away for six weeks catching up with the English cousins, attending a wedding, going on an eight day tour. All very nice, a little more expensive than even two years ago but that is understandable in the light of the world economy. It was well worth the time effort and money that went into planning it. I had a good time not a great time, the weather was almost as cold as the weather I left behind in our Australian winter, the sky was overcast a lot of the time and there was a lot of light showers but most days we managed to do what we wanted. The "we" was various cousins, their spouses and in some cases children and grandchildren. I did have a couple of days on my own in London and one out of three in Norfolk but that was okay too, I needed some space and a touch of peace and quiet.
A lot of the time in England was spent sitting and talking. I am an easy guest to have as I just fit in with whatever the family is doing. So if it is housework I ask if I can help, if not I sit and read or go out into the garden, I join my host/hostess in shopping or anything else they are doing. I have been to England a few times so have seen the main sights so don't need to be taken here and there now. This made it easier for one cousin whose wife works, we went off with the shopping list and saved her that job, I helped also with the small household jobs he has taken on. Sadly this cousin who is ten years older than me is showing signs of dementia so I don't know what the future holds for him. At the moment his wife labels him "forgetful" so maybe they haven't had an official diagnosis.
The tour was good, I had as my room mate a woman from New Zealand, we were a similar age and had been widowed about the same length of time. We had a similar sense of humour too so giggled together at the same jokes. We enjoyed each other's company too, but also made a few friendly acquaintances among the rest of the group. And despite it being 11 lovely degrees in Scotland we both managed to stay healthy. It was my first time in some of the towns we visited but my fourth in Bath and my third at Stratford-on-Avon so I could wander when the guide was telling us all about it. In a cathedral in Scotland we sat through a concert which was a performance by a visiting choir from New Zealand, a taste of home for Annette.
I also went to a wedding in Norfolk, an American man marrying an English girl who he met in his working life as she works in a very large organisation in the same state he lives in. They returned to England as she wanted to be married close to a large extended family. I got included as the groom's mother and I have been chatting on a stroke recovery site for the past ten years and probably for the last six or so on Facebook as well. We had always wanted to meet up so the wedding seemed the perfect place and I spent a few days there. We got on as if we had been life-long friends and that was the highlight of the trip for me. An English wedding in a rural setting on a blue-skied summer's day is hard to beat. The people who I met there were friendly and the management of the wedding venue and the accommodation surrounding it in which I stayed were exceptionally attentive to me during my stay.
The trip and from England from Australia is grueling and I see myself staying closer to home as I age so I need to do a lot of travelling in the next five years or so. There is a lot of world to see and I intend to see some of it. There is also a lot of Australia and the Asian region I have not seen but as that is closer to home I can leave that for a while. I am getting better at travelling alone. I did have one panic attack when I realized at the Airport that I was miles in the wrong direction and had to run to get to the lounge in time to board as I thought but the plane had been delayed. I am good at asking for directions and somehow seem to arrive at the right place at the right time. BUT nothing keeps the loneliness at bay, and there is no substitute for having my husband by my side. Well or sick as he was those last few years just the fact that he was there with me made all the difference in the world. I was not alone, he was there.
And now I have to reorganize my life. I have a few new ideas about how I want it to be. More and more I doubt I will find a new partner now. When I married was 47 years ago and life was very different then. You went to a group or a dance or played a sport, met someone, dated for a while and married them. You settled down and had a family. If you were able to stay at home and look after the family as it grew you did. Now I live in a different world and it is much changed and I don't really know how relationships work any more .I realised this as I stayed with a cousin who has had the same partner for 25 years, they live in separate houses, do most things together now he is retired but they never intend to marry, or so she tells me. He has a life, she has a life, they have the time they share together also. It seems ideal to them but to me the bed would still be empty, the phone is no substitute for someone being in the same room and I think the loneliness would still be there.
It was great to catch up with the cousins and i enjoyed being in the countryside and seeing new places. It was great to see my friend from Strokenet too, a real bonus for me. I don't think I will be back to England in the foreseeable future, I need to look about me, see what I NEED to do to make my house seem more my own. A friend asked me how it was to be back, was I glad to be "home". That made me think about where that feeling of home comes in for me and I realised it is something I need to work on still. There is still that feeling that "someone" should be waiting to greet me when I walk in the door... and I know that is not going to happen. So I need to be prepared anyway to enjoy the sensation of being independent and being "at home" by myself.