The previous Christmas, 23rd December 2017, Gail and I had stayed overnight in Flemings Hotel, Mayfair in London so we woke up there on Christmas Eve. I so wished I had done this before.
Every year we spent Christmas Eve in central London but normally we travelled down during the day, wasting valuable time – although we didn’t see it like that to be fair – but the previous year, I’d decided to stay there so we could get into the day early our big occasion.
Back in the day when I first knew Gail, I worked just a few streets down from Flemings and I always loved the way it looked at Christmas. I’d vowed I’d stay there one day – it being above my pay grade back then – and I was so glad we did it in December 2017, as we had a lovely stay there. Quite why we hadn’t done it before I can’t rightly say, we’d been able to afford it for a few years, but these things – like many others – tend to be the questions you ask yourself after.
So, as the Mayfair stay had worked out so well, I though I’d do it again for December ’18 and surprise Gail with a two-night stay this time in another top hotel. It was a surprise she never saw. I’d actually booked the Chesterfield in January and I’d realised by the end of the summer I had a difficult decision to make. Did I stay as I would have, but without Gail, and face the poignancy of that? Or cancel and face the similar emotion of knowing I wouldn’t be where I’d planned to be?
Not for the last time, I decided to go, yet take Gail with me. Her ashes in the box, securely tied and in the suitcase, I went to stay the two nights I’d booked returning home late on Christmas Eve.
As I said; This is the surprise trip I booked back in January. We’re both here tonight.
As you might have expected, it was a hugely emotional experience. One of those moments where its like watching yourself in a home video on holiday somewhere; knowing it’s you who you can see, knowing how it feels but somehow removed from the reality of it. But I’m glad I did it and didn’t cancel. The staff were wonderfully understanding and I’m certain I’d not have felt as close to Gail as I did during those two days.
In fact, as it transpired, I found travelling back home from the West End to home late on Christmas Eve was perhaps the hardest part. This was our time. I stopped off at a country pub we used to like on the way back; sitting in front of a glorious open fire, laughter and jollity going on all around me, just marvelling at how incredibly painful loss can be.