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Sunday, January 28, 2018

One Year Without Him

"I will never forget the moment your heart stopped and mine kept beating." ~Angela Miller, grief advocate

     It was one year on the 24th of January as of 9:09 am since Les took his final breath as I held his hand in mine and felt my own heart lurch onward as his heart ceased forever. The terrible irrevocable finality of such a thing never leaves one. It is antithetical to everything else we experience in life. Relationships, jobs, and other outward signifiers end, but the other half of a broken relationship continues on with their life; the employer is still there even if we are working elsewhere; Nearly all of the other endings we experience in life have some thread of continued existence in the world albeit perhaps without a direct connection to us, but the death of someone we love is so shocking in its finality that our minds cannot really grasp it even as it is happening, much less afterwards. Time numbs us, but never strips the pain of loss from our hearts. As our daughter Sparky said to me, "It is weird how on the one hand it is hard to believe a year has passed since Da's death; it still seems like he just died yesterday and yet it amazes me how much has happened in this past year without him." Les was so much more than my best friend, my soul mate, my spouse; he was my interpreter for all the things about this country which make absolutely no sense to the American mind. Les was also my shield and protector, something I never fully appreciated while he was alive, having never really had anyone who stood for me in that way before. 
   I am eternally grateful Les began to write a blog as it has been my saving grace. There are days when I look at the pictures of our brief, happy life together framed on the wall and it feels as though those golden moments happened to someone else and I have come to consciousness in a nightmare from which there seems to be no escape. I simply have no desire to go on without Les and yet I wake up each day anyway. Opening the blog and reading through Les' posts helps to ground me again in the knowledge that it was not all a dream. We really did find each other and fall deeply, madly, and truly in love with each other. I have read this blog through from the very first post more than a dozen times now. Each time I find something new and different that catches my heart. I love seeing his rough tentative early posts full of mistakes and follies gradually giving way to smoother more polished writing as Les found his voice and began carrying his blog readers along for his journey as his confidence in being both a boater and a blogger grew. I cherish each funny bit that makes me laugh out loud--and for just that fragile moment Les comes back to me alive once more.
    I am walking a road I never expected to follow (yes of course I knew he was dying but our minds still shield us from that reality until the moment it happens and then we find our minds wrapped in a cotton of denial afterwards)--and if we are honest about it, no one does. We don't look ahead to the death of our spouse or partner and ask ourselves out of curiosity, "Gosh I wonder what my life will be like when they are dead?" No one wants to go there, but life may take us there anyway, and so I hope in sharing my feelings and experiences they will be of some help to those who find themselves on this road sooner than they expected. I can only offer my deepest gratitude to our friends who have stood by me over this most difficult year. I won't mention names--you all know who you are; each of you have my love and thanks which will never be enough to repay your kindness. I can't imagine I would have made it this far on my own without any of you.
     My thanks as well to those of you have Instant Messaged me and emailed me to thank me for sharing my inner most thoughts and feelings honestly. It is not to bang the "Poor me "drum as I need no one's pity. If that is what you take away from my posts then you need to move on and read someone else's blog. I know how isolating and terrible this journey can feel and if my writing validates even one person's experience and helps others to feel connected and less alone then it is worth sharing. Your messages to me are precious and while you choose not to comment publicly on the blog I appreciate those who have reached out to me in other formats to thank me for sharing honestly.
     Right so on to other things now. The boat has been out of the water for repairs, more of which I will cover in a later blog once I get pictures from the ME who undertook the work. The diesel tank was cleaned and the fuel polished with the result that there was indeed diesel bug in the tank waiting for an opportune moment to clog up the engine. Since the cleaning I have noticed the Ebispacher diesel hot water heater runs more smoothly and lot quieter as does the Vetus engine. It also isn't exhaling huge clouds of smoke when I start the engine anymore.
This is the equipment used to clean and polish the diesel. It took just over two hours and was fascinating to watch.


When the process was complete this is what was pulled from NB Valerie's diesel tank: water and a thick layer of contaminant loaded with dead diesel bug and bits of rust.
The dark gloopy stuff is diesel bug.
Image result for sambucol anti viral
    It has been awhile since I posted. I was stricken with the dreaded flu and I have been so ill as to be useless. It was all I could do to keep the fire going. I have had all the symptoms bar vomiting; nausea bad enough to stop any thoughts of eating. I went five days with nothing but water and a bite of toast here and there. My eyeballs felt like mashed grapes and I hurt everywhere--even my teeth and eyelashes ached and throbbed. This particular strain of flue brings a bronchial infection along for the ride and I have also been fighting that off, laying propped upright in bed hacking up Phlegm but feeling like I might just cough up a lung along the way, desperate for sleep but to no avail thanks to the constant wet whistling of my lungs. Last Wednesday was the first day in six that I could stand up without feeling dizzy. My lungs are beginning to dry up but I still feel desperately weak which is extremely frustrating. Even when I was recuperating from knee surgery I didn't feel weak and incapable of dealing with life's necessaries. One of the good things about living on an 18 ton boat alone is that I am not tempted to do fool hardy things like moving in extremely high winds. Given that people are dying from this strain of flue and many folks are waylaid for two weeks or longer before beginning to recover, I feel grateful I can say that I have turned a corner and I can feel myself gaining ground. I believe I owe the short duration to Sambucol so I share this with you dear reader, in the hopes like so much else, that it might offer you aid should you need it. Sambucol is an anti-viral developed by the Israeli's decades ago to combat the flu virus. It is made from black Elderberries. I have read that for some patients who are most at risk of dying from the flu (the young, the elderly and the immune compromised), their physicians may prescribe an anti-viral of pharmaceutical manufacture. Now you know there is another alternative available at your local health food store.
     Over the past two weeks I have had several visitors. Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) came over with an 80 liter bag of cocoa shell from their latest consignment. I shan't need another for at least two years! We had a wander over to view their boat which is out on the hard standing at Aqueduct marina awaiting blacking and painting. We had lunch in the marina cafe and too soon Ken and Sue were off back to Bedfordshire having satisfied their boaty needs for a while. Many thanks for the compost delivery and the delicious Welsh Cakes! The UK has been buffeted in the past two weeks with very high winds from a series of storms off the Atlantic. Two nights running the winds were in excess of 70 mph here and I took a "video" at two o'clock in the morning to share with you. It is pitch black in the boat so you will not actually see anything but you should be able to hear the sound of the wind--from inside the boat which will give you a good idea of what it is like to lie in bed as the storm surges around the boat.

Love in a tub: Ken Deveson's homemade Welsh Cakes!

I am not sure what kind of bird this is but it appears to be a bird of prey. It has staked out a territory along the cut where the picnic tables and BBQ frames sit about 500 feet before the entry to Aqueduct Marina. This was taken right outside my window.
     A few days later I had a knock on the side of my boat and there stood Angela and Steve from NB Tumbleweed No. 5, currently moored in Overwater marina at the bottom of the Audlem flight. They no longer blog but when they did Les and I enjoyed their posts and we picked up a lot of good tips; they read our blog and decided to install an Airhead Marine composting toilet. So it was with great pleasure I welcomed them both aboard NBV. We had a lovely long natter which brought sunshine to my day. They picked me up and we drove to Overwater to see their boat which is very sweet and homey in its layout. I do love seeing other boats. Every single one of them has some great idea incorporated. We walked around Overwater which is a very large, well laid out marina. They are on a linear mooring which can take two boats--one in front of the other. The marina is very spacious. It is about a twenty minute walk to the bottom of the Audlem flight. The three of us lunched at the cafe and had a natter with one of the locals who has been a boater for many years. Many thanks to you both for a fun day out and a chance to get to know you both further. And thank you for welcoming me to the area. I look forward to getting together again soon. Of course in typical fashion I forgot to take pictures of Steve and Angela on their visit so I shall have to try and remember next time. I forget to pick up the camera when the conversation is good!
     After ten days in Aqueduct marina in which I did not set foot outside the boat, I looked at the weather last Thursday night and realized I would only have a one day window of sunshine and no wind in which to cruise and I needed to get to Nantwich, so on the 27th I made my move. I've pinched a nerve in my left shoulder and the three fingers on my left hand have been numb for days. I need to see the chiropractor, check the mail, and get a few groceries in. Still weak and shaky, I thought to moor up before each of the two locks in front of me, suss them out, set them and then slowly bow haul the boat into each one. As I approached the bollards at the first lock landing a couple was out walking in the sun and he waved me on saying, "The gates are open in your favor."
     "I know but I cannot climb lock ladders. I need to get off and bow haul the boat in."
     "Toss me a windless Hen, and we will do the lock for you." With a smile and a wave of thanks I tossed him a windlass and cruised gently into the lock. They are boaters too, living on their baot which was moored up above the lock about a half mile. I thanked them for blessing me with their help and continued onward. At the bottom Chalmondsten lock, adjacent too Venetian marina I pulled over with a windlass in hand and was tying up when a bloke came along walking his dog on a lead.
     "Are you on your own?"
     "Yes I am," I smiled. "It's a lovely day to be out and about isn't it?"
     "Lend me your windlass and I'll do the lock for you."
     "Oh thank you very much. That's very kind of you. Are you a boater?"
     "Yes that's my boat over there," and he pointed towards the marina. Soon enough I was at the top of the lock where a boat was waiting to go in. He handed me my windlass.
     "Thank you very much for your help. You really blessed me today." We smiled at one another and I was on my way once more. It took me five hours to cruise six miles owing to the long lines of permanently moored boats along the upper end of the Middlewich Arm. I don't remember there being so many when Les and I were here in 2012 but I supposed like everywhere else along the cut, it is filling up here in Cheshire too.
     Eventually I made it slowly past the long lines of boats approaching Barbridge Junction. I sounded the horn and slowly made the turn left onto the Shropshire Union Canal and my heart leaped and lifted at the sight of the Welsh hills in the distance. My spirit felt the rightness of this place and I knew I was where I should be. I moored up at 4 pm about a fourth of a mile past the Nantwich aqueduct and the stairs down to the town, knackered and spent. I knew my larder was empty so I switched coats--I wear Les' green down jacket for cruising and my black down coat for town--grabbed my grocery bags and backpack and set off for town. It took me three hours to walk the round trip of two and half miles there and back with shopping in between. I stopped in the darkened square to rest and listen to a busker with guitar sing his last song as it echoed against the wet stones of the empty square. Back aboard NBV I slept well that night.
     I have taken a mail box at the laundrette in the Nantwich Canal Centre and they texted me last Wednesday to say, "You've got mail," so yesteray I waited for the rain to lift and walked in to pick up my mail--a letter from the States and a card from someone over here! What a lovely surprise to open it a find a beautiful card with a Daffodil on it from dear friends, remembering me and Les.
     A walk in the other direction up Welsh Row and into the town square for a Saturday paper brought me up short against a massive, milling crowd of people rammed tightly packed all around the edge of the square. Behind them, lined up in regiment formation were soldiers dressed in both Parliamentary and Royalist regalia. Some held long sharp pikes and others muskets. Horses with riders astride led the procession. I was only about fifty feet from the W.H. Smith news agent's shop across the square but there was simply no quick and easy way to make it across so I waited with the milling throng. Soon drums began to sound, the assembled men and  horses began to move at a marching pace and both armies wended their way through the narrow cobbled lanes of Nantwich, out to the battlefield just at the edge of town. I nipped in for my paper, accompanied on the walk back home to the reports of musket fire and the booming sound of cannon.
Cavalry-led parade of several hundred Sealed Knot troops along Welsh Row
The battlefield reenactment is undertaken by a group called The Sealed Knot. It commemorates a battle to the break the siege of Nantwich which took place on January 25th, 1644.
Pictures courtesy of Eric Price.
Image result for pickled pigs feet     One of the lovely things about being up here is the Freeview television stations I can tune into with the antennae. One of them is a Welsh station. It airs programs I've seen on the BBC and ITV but they are all voiced in Welsh! I cannot understand a word of it, but the sound of it is a song of balm to my heart. I stretch out in Les' recliner in the evening, close my eyes and listen to the lilting cadence, and I am taken back to my childhood when my mother's mother Grandma Lilly used to come for a visit and stay for months at a time. I loved it when Grandma would come and stay with us. For the duration of her visit my parents were on best behavior--even my step father would not come home drunk or engage in any abuse while she was in the house. Grandma's visits were a hiatus from chaos and terror. She was Welsh and I loved the sound of her accent. When I was very small, she would watch me while my mother was at work. At nap time Lilly would fold a large blanket into a triangle and place it across her shoulders. She gathered me into her lap and pulled the blanket around us both--a makeshift Welsh nursing shawl. We used to sit together at the breakfast table sipping tea Grandma Lilly made strong and dark, sweetened with milk and sugar. She would pour a bit of her scalding tea into a saucer and give to me to sip. We also used to enjoy a shared breakfast of pickled pig's feet! At age four I had no idea what I was eating but it was vinegary which I loved and Grandma Lilly loved them so I did too but I did draw the line at tripe and boiled cabbage.   
     I have begun to establish myself in Nantwich and I am applying for jobs in the area. The entire employment thing is completely different over here to the States and there has been a steep learning curve for me. I had to research the definition of GCSE's, NVQ's, and ECDL's. I was ready to beat my head against the table in frustration at being asked to enroll in a six month course to earn national qualifications for something I've done to a very high degree for over a decade. This is when local knowledge comes in valuable. Angela was a teacher in her pre-boat life and she told me to apply for positions I am obviously qualified for due to experience. Once hired if the employer still wants me to earn an NVQ they will likely be willing to help make that happen. Carol Palin (NB Still Rockin') has also been a wonderful sounding board offering great practical advice. Many thanks to both of you lovely women for your help.

20 comments:

Jennie said...

My bird recognition skills are not the best, Jaq, much to our son's disappointment who has makes his living from his passion for ornithology, but I think it might be a sparrowhawk. If no one comes up with a definite answer, which I am sure they will, I will ask our son. I am so pleased to hear you are feeling better and have managed to move on safely and delighted to hear you had help at both locks. Jennie xx

Anonymous said...

I am as ever in awe of your determination and abilities! Glad you are feeling better. If a letter of recommendation would help let me know. I could use my posh academic credentials not my Online ones 😂.
Sally

Anonymous said...

What impresses me Jaq is that you just keep putting one foot in front of the other in front of the other. It will get better and one day you will be glad you endured during these bleak days of loss and winter. AND I love your quotes. Also, share your new address with us if that is possible.
No winter here in Pullman - Karen

Marilyn McDonald said...

Hi Jaq,
There is a great osteopath clinic in Nantwich. http://weaverhouse.com/ Ph 01270 629933
Ask to see Grace - I went to her a few times while we were moored about where you are, and she is great: empathetic, skilled, thorough.

Have been thinking about you lots lately, as you know.

Kia kaha, my inspiring friend, and sending you Biggs hugs,

Mxxoo

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jennie,

Oh lovely, a Sparrowhawk. Well it was a boon to see it sitting there. It often lands on the picnic tables along there. Les would have been chuffed to bits to see it.

I too am grateful to feel at least well enough to move when I needed to do so. the weather didn't take long to close back in, with rain and high winds. I had thought to stay in the marina for four more days but when I looked at the long term forecast I quickly realized I might find myself stuck there even longer due to the weather.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sally,

Thank you. Even when generally feeling ill and under the weather if something must be done I usually just gird my loins and get on with it.

Thank you for the offer of a letter of recommendation. I may take you up on that!!

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen,

There is a lot to take away from childhood abuse and not all of it is bad. For those of us who survive and make a conscious decision not to be like our abusers there is the knowledge that one cane and has survived worse and in doing so we are made of tough stuff indeed. I had to out one foot in front of the other in front of the other to grow up enough to get away and take control of my own life. It has stood me in good stead through adulthood.

I am glad you love the quotes. I have always been a quote collector. They make a declarative point around which to write an essay, find a title or make a point. I will send you my address in an email.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

HI Marilyn,

Thank you for the tip on the osteopath. Will do! And thanks for continuing to hold me in your thoughts. I so appreciate it and it really does help.

Love Jaq xxx

Ian and Irene Jameison said...

Hi Jaq, I'm pretty certain the bird is not a Sparrow Hawk. The markings seem all wrong. Most likely a common Buzzard but like Jennie I to am open to suggestions. Glad to see you are now on the mend after the flu. If the strain you had was the Australian flu and having had that in Oz last year, I know how ill you felt. I would not have wanted to go through that alone and how you coped with the everyday running of Valerie is beyond me.
How lovely that you got help at the locks. Restores one faith in mankind and now that you are in Nantwich I hope your job hunting will be successful. Hope to see you sometime later this year ( we are off in the motorhome to Ireland over the summer)as we plan to head up the Shroppie. Sending love and hugs. Xxxx

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid to say it's not a sparrowhawk but a red kite. You were right that it is a bird of prey.

Marilyn McDonald said...

Hi Jaq, darling,
If you don't already have one, consider finding a folding shopping trolley for your supermarket excursions - David and I bought two in Argos, £14 each. They are the go for making bringing shopping easier to bring back to the boat. Saves the shoulders, arms and back.
And if you want a treat, Simply Thai, 17 Welsh Row, is a lovely restaurant ...
And have you been to DWP yet to sort out the Job Seeker Allowance or whatever it is called in the UK? I am fairly sure you qualify, and the conditions, while actively job seeking are reasonably easy to fulfil.
Mxxoo with more of those Biggs hugs.

Neil Corbett said...

I never fail to be moved by your posts Jaq, sometimes to tears, sometimes laughter, but always admiration. You are an amazing woman!
Kath (nb Herbie)

Tom and Jan said...

Who do you think you are kidding Jaq. You'll need another bag of cocoa shell in six months. Everyone knowns even little Alaskans are full of it! We've all read how much shovelling you have to do. :-)

On a more serious note. Did you recover much usable tank capacity once the 'crud' had been removed?

Judith Emery said...

Lovely post. Glad to hear your on the mend and at your intended destination. A lot of hard work for you nice to have help with the locks, there are some lovely people about. Was the fuel polishing an expensive job to have done? It's something we could do with having done but the only quote we had last year was £400+,so at the time didn't persue it. Hope you have some luck with the job hunting. Take care. XXX Judith nb Serena

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Irene,

You are correct it is a common buzzard. I manged to find it in a bird book after comparing it to a Kestral, a Red Kite and a Sparrow hawk.

Yes the flu was absolutely debilitating. It was all I could do to keep the fire going and bring coal in, I ached so badly. I managed to think ahead a week prior and went to Holland & Barrett for throat lozenges and Sambucol, and to the grocery store for Long Life juice, Strepsils, aspirin and Kleenex. It dawned on me that I no longer have a husband to nip into town for things should I fall ill so I have to be proactive now. good thing I was!!

I hope we do catch up with one another over the summer. That would be a delight and something wonderful to look forward to. Many thanks for the good wishes. I need them. I have been applying for jobs since November with no response.

Love to you both,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi again, Marilyn,

I have sent you an email regarding some of the things in your comment. I do have a trolley but I am using cloth bags in order to keep me from spending too much on groceries. I am limited to what I can comfortably carry in the two bags. It seems to be working.

I will pass on the Thai food. I dislike Thai and Indian foods-curries, etc. Best to eat in and save dosh. :)

No more Job Seekers allowance. Now it is Universal Credit and it is pretty dire. I have applied and I am hoping they can review my CV and application skills to see what if anything I may be doing wrong. I've applied for six jobs since mid-November and not gotten a nibble on a single one. Still beavering away at it though. Hope springs eternal.

Love to you both,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Oh Kath that is so kind of you to say. I am pleased I entertain and do not leave you bored. Perhaps we might meet up over this next summer if you and Neil are heading north? If not I will continue to enjoy your blog as always.

Love to you both,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hellooooooo Tom and Jan!! How lovely to hear from you.

Well I cannot deny anything you'v aid so I shall just nod my virtual head and smile. Yes I do find the tank holds more diesel now. It gives me a measure of peace as well.

Love and hugs to you both,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith,

Yes the canals are still overwhelmingly filled with lovely folks.

The cost of having the fuel polished with Cheshire Marine Services was about half the cost of your quote. Roger is the Me's name and he is brill. they do charge extra if they have to come out somewhere and find you. I was in a marina about six miles from where he lives so that helped.

Jaq xxx

Judith Emery said...

Thanks for the info. When we move out from Stourport-on-Severn later in the month we will head up the Shroppie so may give it a try. Hopefully we will finally get to meet as we pass. XXX Judith

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs