The is without doubt the hardest blog post I have ever written …
The day after Nick and Cynthia left we had a devastating call from my daughter. My sister had developed pneumonia and I was to fly back to UK immediately. Tragically she lost her battle 24 hours after I arrived and 3 hours short of her birthday. Her four sons were all with her, three of them had also flown in from various parts of the world including her 4 month old granddaughter. In fact other than her eldest son and his fiancée who came down from Lincoln, her whole family live overseas. We all felt completely shell shocked as it was completely unexpected and very fast. We had both been looking forward to me coming over to spend a couple of months with her helping her to adjust to life in a wheelchair but I was now here for a different reason.
Ian and my kids flew in over the next couple of days and with so many of us needing accommodation, we gratefully took up the offer from a great friend of Netta’s, Sue Whitmarsh, to stay with them. They had a beautiful home overlooking the Weald of Kent with a lovely large garden and plenty of space. The UK was enjoying its hottest summer on record and we spent some lovely times with Sue and Jerry enjoying their wonderful homemade yoghurt, bread, jams and apple juice. We drank wine on the terrace admiring the view, talked for hours about Netta, walked around their garden and were made to feel very welcome.
We had to wait for two weeks before we could hold the funeral, which was hard as none of us were in our own homes. We took the opportunity of showing our kids our old stomping ground and so we piled into the car and visited some of the towns of Kent.
Folkestone was the town my grandmother used to live in. When I was growing up this town was old fashioned, run down and seemed full of old ladies. It has changed dramatically and is now a funky coastal town, with a hip ‘n happening feeling. There are lovely arty shops, a boardwalk running down the length of the beach, people eating and drinking all along the streets and many renovated newly painted Victorian houses. I was really surprised at the changes – it shows how long we have been away.
We also spent some time in Whitstable, Ian’s hometown visiting family and friends. Whitstable has now become a favourite day trip from London for many people and so it was really crowded. We had a drink at the yacht club and caught up with some old friends, we also took our kids to the pub Ian and I met in 33 years ago! We celebrated Ian’s sisters birthday and met his nieces fiancé. These were some of the nice benefits we had during this unexpected visit.
We also spent a few days staying with my 93 yr old mother who is house bound. Her house is in the centre of Canterbury which is a gorgeous city. I grew up here and used to know it like the back of my hand but it has also changed and I found myself feeling like a tourist again exploring all the little lanes and alleyways. Canterbury is one of the most visited places in the UK and as a result the main streets are full of pubs, restaurants, and arty little cafes. Somewhere inbetween they manage to squeeze in a couple of clothes shops, pharmacy’s and tourist shops… but it was very crowded and we found ourselves going out in the evening when most of the tourists had gone home. Kent is a really beautiful part of the world.
After two weeks we held the funeral. It was held in Boxley where my sister had spent 30 years raising her family. Mum’s carers brought her over from Canterbury which was hard as she had not left her home in over 3 years and she is very frail. The carer did an amazing job and it was lovely that she was able to come. It was standing room only with people coming from all over the country – she was very loved. Her four sons and I did the eulogy’s and we all went back to the pub for the wake.
The day after the funeral, my daughter Emily and son Johnny had to return to Australia for work commitments. Ian and Steph left a couple of days later and during the following week most of the family flew home. Amid the hugs and tears we had shed over the previous two weeks, there were also many hilarious times where we laughed ourselves silly – these will be the moments I hold close when so look back on this time. I don’t know how long it will be before our two families are together again – hopefully not too long.
I decided to spend another month in Canterbury with my mother. It was wonderful to spend such a long time with her as usually it is for much shorter visits and with other people around. We talked and talked and I managed to sort out some business things for her. I also managed to catch up with my cousins who were at the funeral. I hadn’t seen them for nearly 30 years so we had a lot of catching up to do. I stayed at their farm where I had spent many happy hours as a child and it seemed like we had just seen each other last month. It was such a fun evening finding out all their news and it will definitely not be another 30 years before we see each other.
I spent my last few days in the UK staying with a girlfriend in Harrow and my cousin in London. Big hugs to my mum and I boarded the train to London. Loretta met me at the station and we went up to Harrow. Loretta is a modern languages Master at Harrow School (Winston Churchill is one of their more famous old boys) and as it as school holidays the town was quiet. The next morning we took a walk around town and the school. So much history attached to this place. That evening my girlfriend Camilla came over and us girls went out for dinner. I love seeing these old friends because we have so many memories stored up and we had so much to catch up on but mainly talked about our kids…. go figure.
The next day Loretta and I went shopping and she dropped me off at my cousins house in Islington. I spent the last couple of nights in the UK with my cousin Fiona and her husband James. James and I went for a long walk the next day down to Camden Lock and the markets. They have really grown since I lived in London I The early 80’s – they are now a massive tourist attraction with heaps of stalls selling everything and more. My old haunt ‘Dingwalls’ is still there but not a spit n sawdust place anymore. It was fun and we walked up to Primrose Hill to look at the view and sunset over London and wandered back through the maze of lovely old Victorian terraces London does so well. That night we met up with my two cousins Fiona and Sally and had a fabulous pub dinner. Another fun evening….
I flew back to Tanzania six weeks after I first arrived in the UK. So much had happened and there was so much to get my head around. I cannot believe it was only 7 short months ago she was with me in Thailand jumping in and out of the dinghy having such a good holiday. Life will be different now but the healing has begun…