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Hemel Hempstead and St Albans

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Yesterday I said goodbye to Dave, who had to drive back to Manchester. It was really hard for both of us. At least when I get back to Ecuador I can start enquiring about time off - Dave is going to fly out and visit me for three weeks, hopefully in June. We're hoping to go to the Galápagos Islands and a few other places we haven't been to before...

Something else to look forward to, but in a much shorter term, is Mum coming to Ecuador next month! She's decided to visit me during UK half term. I can't wait!

Emma, Mark, Dave and I went to Kate and Andrew's for dinner last Saturday. Venison stew and rice pudding were on the menu so who was I to refuse such an invitation? :-D

Company was great, as ever, and the food was delicious. Venison stew with dumplings served with peas and mashed potato with sautéed onion mixed in, with rice pudding afterwards and some clementines later on. We'd had some deliciously sweet, crisp, juicy red grapes beforehand. We played a board game about Britain after dinner, but I've forgotten its name.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:53 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom sisters dave mum st_albans hemel_hempstead british_cuisine Comments (0)

Saddest Epiphany

St Albans

I don't think I can do this justice to be honest, so I will just say that Dad's funeral and the gatherings afterwards in the church hall and then at our house were inspiring and heartwarming. The church was full, the tributes were amazing, the music beautiful and very fitting and the Christmas tree had deliberately been left up for Epiphany. The rain held off until after the burial - in fact the sun came out at one point - and in the church hall afterwards it was clear to me how many people's lives Dad had positively touched. We had spent ages creating photo boards that were put up around the walls; these were poignant to look at but also showed just how dedicated he was to family and friends, how many strings he had to his bow, his sense of humour and so much else.

Speaking of poignancy, however (and I'm sorry if anyone finds this upsetting to read), the moment I found the most affecting during the whole day was when the hearse arrived outside our house to take us to the church. Mum said something like "Dad's arrived" and I suddenly remembered the bright sunny summer's day when we moved into this house back in 1993. Then a contrasting image from the early hours of Christmas morning invaded my thoughts; the image engraved onto my brain of him leaving the house, unconscious, carried in a wheelchair. I was standing in the hall and I saw his eyelids fly open as he got jolted on the last step or two of the stairs; I got a glimpse of his eyes for a second or two but could tell he was not seeing anything. I guessed right then that he was probably not going to re-enter the house.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:36 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom christmas dad st_albans st_peter's_church Comments (0)

New Year's Eve

St Albans

Today Mum and I chose the clothes for Dad to be buried in. Nice comfortable clothes he liked wearing, along with his new Montecristi hat.

A quiet night tonight. Dave and I had dinner at a Thai takeaway on Hatfield Road that allowed us to eat in at no extra cost. The food was lovely - I don't know why I never got round to eating there before.

Then on to Emma & Mark's to play some games of Bananagram and have some cherry brandy on ice (in my case) before watching the fireworks on TV at midnight.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged united_kingdom sisters dad dave mum st_albans Comments (0)


St Albans and London

In this blog's original appearance, on Travelpod, I wrote this retrospectively in January 2014, although I dated it to the day after the events happened. This was because I was not up to posting anything at the time.

This is something I truly hoped I would never have to write here. I don't know how to write it so I will just write what comes into my head.

Dad has died. My lovely warm kind loving Dad, always so generous especially with time and help, who despite a wide range of terrible puns could be very funny...

In the early hours of Christmas morning he lost consciousness and never woke up. He had a massive bleed in his brain which could not clot due to the cancer having spread to his liver.

There were only four of us in the house at the time; him, Mum, Dave and I. The paramedic was brilliant but he couldn't get Dad to open his eyes. I was there in the room while he was there so I saw how good the guy was. Then once backup arrived with the ambulance they carried Dad downstairs in a wheelchair and put him in the ambulance; Mum got in too and off they went to Watford. It was 5.30 am when I watched them depart, came back inside and went back to bed. I couldn't sleep at all. I was unbelievably glad that Dave was with me. We stayed behind to start Christmas dinner preparations, ring round to tell people what had happened, be here once guests started arriving and just hold the fort in general.

I found out later that Dad had some seizures in the ambulance. At least I know that since he had already lost consciousness by then, he almost certainly wouldn't have known about them. Nor, later that day when he was transferred to hospital in London and had emergency brain surgery, would he have been aware of that. He had gone already by then, really, in bed.

Mum came back home for a couple of hours to have some Christmas dinner and a rest. Then we opened some presents. There were twelve of us there by then. Although part of me had guessed that morning that Dad was not going to wake up again, Christmas dinner and present opening was a distraction and made another part of me start to override the other, convincing itself that everything was going to work out OK actually and Dad was going to come back at some stage. I'd be able to give him his special Montecristi (Panama) hat, for example.

So when Mum came in and made an announcement, having slipped out to ring the hospital and see how Dad was doing, it jolted me back to reality. The hospital had asked her if she was coming... indicating that it was now time to come and say our goodbyes. So that is what we did.

They had to wait for 24 hours before doing more brain tests, so we went back to London the next day (well, Mum stayed the night at the hospital; the rest of us went home and then came back). We arrived just in time for the consultant to come and tell us that the brain tests had told them what we had already guessed - there was no brain function left and only the breathing machine was keeping him going. Although I think we had all already guessed this, it was still horrible to hear. So we all said our final goodbyes to Dad before going home. The hospital was great and let us take however long we needed.

I love you Dad and always will.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:28 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom christmas dad mum st_albans Comments (0)


Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow and St Albans

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Edit from January 2019: Again, in this blog's original appearance, on Travelpod, I wrote this retrospectively. Originally I had this split into three separate entries, but I've combined them here.

A near- four hour wait at Amsterdam Schiphol, but time passed quickly because of the amount of duty-free shops to look round. I also saw works of art by Franz Hals, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Karel Appel and more at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol.

At Heathrow Terminal 4 it was wonderful to walk into the Arrivals lounge and be enveloped in hugs by Dave. Kate was there too which was lovely of course - as it was to see Emma once we had joined her upstairs in Wetherspoons, where she was sitting waiting for food to arrive (having thought incorrectly that she had time for a quick bite before I arrived!) I didn't order any food but I did have a Diet Coke and relieved Emma of one or two of her chips.

It was well after dark by the time we got back from Heathrow. Dad opened the door and Mum was close behind. Not much more to say here apart from a repeat the same word from the last entry - wonderful.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:03 Archived in Netherlands Tagged art airport museum sisters dad dave mum layover st_albans Comments (0)

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