The official number--Tell Us Once--has been called. When one registers a death at the local council registry office, one is given a set of paper instructions with a reference number. One may either use the website www.gov.uk/tell-us-once or call 0800 085 7308. The reference number provided by the council registrar is required.
A Scottish woman with a fairly thick accent helped me through the maze of questions, giving me space to sob and breathe when she asked for my husband's phone number and I suddenly went blank. She was kind, gentle, and patient. This one number turns off Les' State Pension, his driver's license, notifies the council and cancels his bus pass, library cards, and all the myriad other official public connections he might have had in life such as council taxes, etc. It also activates bereavement payments through the DWP for one year. To be honest it is such a brilliant, well organized and un-bureaucratic idea I nearly forgot I was in England for a mo.
The drawers and cupboards have been emptied of Les' clothes, shoes and coats, and a dear friend has taken them to a local charity except a few things I kept for sentimental value and as a deterrent against toe-rag harrassment when I begin cruising again. We discussed this some months ago and Les told me to keep a pair of his boots out on the bow when I moored up. When I hang wash out to dry in the summer I will also hang a few of his clothes as well. The trick is not to act like a woman living on her own.
I wear Les' green down jacket now as my winter cruising coat. It still has his scent on the collar. I always loved the way Les smelled; clean and warm like green wheat fields on a sunny summer's day. One of Les' Oxford shirts is scented with his Joop! afershave which he always bathed liberally in, rather than sprinkling it lightly. Holding it in my hands I closed my eyes and inhaled. It took me back instantaneously to that moment back at Cloudhouse in Pullman, when I returned from taking him to the airport after his initial week's visit with me. I unlocked my front door, stepped inside and the scent of his cologne rolled over my senses, urging me to send Les an email that said amongst other things, "I think I fancy you..."
I've had family aboard to feed them up with good food and love. We talked, cried, shared memories, and I began the process of giving each grandchild an item of their granddad's to offer them comfort and keep his memory close. I will work my way around to each group in our family for time together, to do a bit of healing, and offer them up love and memories to cherish.
I am sleeping a little better, using Kalms Night, an herbal preperation of Valerian root. It works well and has no side effects. Still I am only managing four hours a night. Up at 4:30 Sunday morning, I put a load of bedding on to wash and forced myself to eat more than two mouthfulls, having a mid day meal. I filled the water tank and took care of some boat chores.
It rained all day, the sky grey and gloomy. Boats which had previously been frozen in are now on the move and they piled up at the service point above the lock opposite me. I watched them come and go all day, and I thought about how Les never cruised in the rain. We only ever did so once, and that was from Rugely to Fradley in June when we had turned around to head back this way, his back hurting too much to sit at the tiller. I sat in the pouring rain and icy winds as I cruised, tears mingling with precipitation as I acknowledged that the next time I cruised along that particular part of the cut Les would no longer be with me; it left me sobbing in the sodden cold while my Best Beloved rested quietly below on the bed in the warmth.
|Jules and Richard wave as they come along side.|
A text message from Jules and Richard on Jules Fuels boat informed me they had broken free of the ice in Marsworth after five days and were on the move at last. They expected to reach me early in the afternoon, and sure enough I could see thier breasted bows slowly making thier way towards me as they serviced the fuel needs of all the boaters moored in along line behind me.
While I waited for their approach I saw that the water point was overcome by boaters waiting in line with several boats breasted up to fill. I overheard a young man in front who decided he would go on down the lock and head for Berko and the waterpoint there. He was single handing his boat in the cold rain. I threw on Les' down jacket, grabbed gloves and a windlass and set off for the lock. He had brought his boat in and closed the top gates, opening the bottom gate paddles to let the water and his boat down. I approached the lock and hailed him, "Mate you get on and I will lock you through." His face lit up like Chrsitmas! On he jumped, I went 'round to the other side and when the lock was empty I strained and struggled but managed to heave the huge gate open. As he sailed out he said, "Thank you! That was a very nice thing you did." I replied, "It's my pleasure. I am a single handed boater now too." I chose to help him because it was something Les would have done in his days of good health. He always extended a helping hand to others and he never forgot what it was like doing it all on one's own.
Soon enough Jules and Richard approached NB Valerie and came alongside. We hugged, I cried and we had a few words of remembrance about Les. I managed to get the lock off the gas cap without falling into the cut or dropping my keys in. Tank filled, and eight bags of coal on board, I handed over a bag of freshly baked Brownies to Richard. I have always baked something for them whenever I knew they were coming. The pair of the them work so hard in all weathers to provide some of the best service on the cut to boaters and it is little to do as a thank you for their care.
I have had a long hard thought about my future and a break from the adminstrative severing of my life from Les' in such things as re-licensing the boat to a single owner, re-insuring it the same way, and changing bank accounts from joint to my name only. At one point in the hours before Les died I simply could not reconsile living on the boat without him. I was ready to sell it and move back to the States. Two days in the care of Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) in which I was loved, cared for, fed, pampered, and we discussed and debated a wide range of topics have helped me find my bearings again. My deepest thanks to you both.
Common sense and loved have now prevailed. As my daughter Jesseca said to me, "Momma you wanted to live in Britain on a narrowboat and cruise the canals before you ever met Les. It was your dream. And he tricked the boat out for you because he loved you so and he knew what you wanted to do."
|My baby last August, working on a project, love shining in his eyes.|
Finally there is simply no way I could ever live onder a dictatorship which is what is happening to my country under Trump. I believe a non-military coup has begun and I am frightened for my family back in Washington and Oregon. Living here I may offer them a place of refuge should it become necessary, as life grows ever more intolerable for those who refuse to share the Trump agenda.
The funeral director rang me today. In a moment that felt like cruel irony, I was told Les' body is scheduled to be cremated on February 14th. A memorial service will be held sometime around the beginning of March (still working out the details) and I will fly back to the States to spend six weeks with my family there.
We will mourn for Les together and scatter some of his ashes at Kamiak Butte where we were married and then I will come home to NB Valerie and commence cruising, stopping to scatter Les' ashes at each place on the cut that he loved and which brought us such joy. I will plant flower bulbs with his ashes so he lives on in their beauty for others to enjoy.
If, at the end of a year when widow's benefits run out, I have to take a permanant mooring somewhere and get a land based job then I will do so. I will write, work on finishing my book manuscript and getting it published and live in a narrowboat which holds the sweat, heart, and soul of my Best Beloved in all the projects he completed for me to make this floating home a paradise on the cut. He is here all around me everywhere I look, watching over me still.