Dear Philip, April 2011
I went to visit you in the cemetery today - first time since November. Sorry about that. I have lots of excuses. First it was the bad weather, then it was my car that wasn't working very well. But mainly it was probably because I don't like to go there unless it's really pretty. Today was sunny and the daffodils were out, so I knew it would be okay. The cemetery people had at some stage mowed the woodland grave area, so it didn't look such a tip as it did in November. But none of the little trees and flowers that I tried to plant over the last year seems to have come up.
But the big surprise to me, was that somebody else had been visiting your grave. There was a bunch of recently cut daffodils, just under your tree. Because the graves aren't marked, I suppose it could be that somebody thought it was their relative's grave, and put them there by mistake. I had thought maybe one of the girls might have snuck there last weekend (they were visiting me for Mother's Day) but these flowers weren't a week old - and so that isn't really a possibility. It might have been one of your University friends - or others - who knows? But it is nice to know somebody else is thinking of you too.
It's also been a long time since I wrote to you. Probably the last time was when I moved to my new house. Everything is going well with the house, but I am doing my best to ruin the garden at the moment. It has only a small piece of grass - on two sides, but has a very high beech hedge around the property, which makes it almost invisible from the road. And from the inside, all you can see besides the hedge, are roofs of houses in the distance - not the street or people walking by.
So I decided that the easiest way to make it look better was to take a bit off the top of the hedge - maybe a foot or so. But I never was much good at judging straight lines, and the resulting mess is a very uneven hedge - some bits are about four feet high, while some of the original eight foot bits remain. I found out that as this hedge is also very thick, if I took all the branches off on the inside of the hedge, it lets a lot of light through, and makes it easier to get at the top. But, to be truthful, it is a huge mess. You would not be pleased. Still, if you had been here, it would have been you doing the hedge, not me. I keep telling myself that when the leaves come out, it will fill in the gaps and make things look better. And I still plan on several more days of hacking, anyway. But at the moment, I'm not very proud of it.
Tomorrow, I am going to Susannah's second ballet recital. I think she is doing a bit of tap dancing too. I take the train to Chester in the morning and back in the evening. Her parents were here with her last weekend, as well as Andrea and her kids too. Everybody is doing pretty well. Arran is talking, but not all that clearly, and is eating a bit, but still far from a balanced diet - although he is still pretty chubby, so he must be getting calories from somewhere. Natasha is reading well, and has started writing little books "like grandma", as well as doing pretty well at bridge, for a child of 7.
I decided not to go to the States this summer, like I had planned. I didn't go last year either. Maybe, I will go in September, as Andrea might be going to a conference, and I can go with her. That will make it somewhat less traumatic for me. It seems odd that I am having trouble doing something that I have done at last 30 times over the last 45 years, (although not usually alone) but the very though of going there sets off palpitations and crying. The girls convinced me that I was suffering from delayed stress - due partly to your dying, and partly to moving house. So I went to the doctor and was given pills, but haven't managed to change my attitudes yet.
The other thing that stressed me was the car. It was jerking when I drove it - and I was convinced it was a problem with the spark plugs. I took it to the garage - and the guy drove it around and said there was nothing wrong. All my friends said that the problem was that I don't drive often enough, or fast enough, but as I was nervous just driving anywhere, I was unlikely to have the confidence to drive it on the motorway.
So I found another garage - and although they didn't fix it on the first occasion (although they said they did) when I took it back the second time, they replaced some sort of air filter thing, and now it works okay. But now I go for a longer drive each week, hoping that will mean it won't happen again. That was partly why I went to the cemetery today - to give the car a run. I kind of think that maybe in the 15 months since you died, I hadn't had it in top gear. The girls couldn't believe it when I said that - but I sort of think it probably was true. Most of my driving is short distances and up steep hills in long queues. But now I make myself put it in fifth, and feel very proud of myself for doing it.
Not much else to write about, but I'll try to get out to see your tree again for your birthday next month.
Lots of love from Jean