I’ve never felt any affinity with those epigrams that seem to be so popular on social media; those little smart comments and bon mots that garner so many likes. The fact I get so irritated about them when I could just as easy ignore them seems to say something about me though. I think it’s because I’ve always struggled with the concept of putting everything in a nice neat box. I’m guessing it’s probably something to do with the difficulty I’ve always had in dealing with groups and organised social structures.
It’s not liked I’ve not tried over the years to be become a part of something, join in more things, but I’ve always had this strange reaction where, as soon as I’m with like-minded people discussing something I’m interested in, I always try to find a way to subvert it. Then again, I’ve made a small side-living out of doing it, so I can’t really complain
Nevertheless, despite my dislike of a well-worn phrase I think the old Groucho Marx quote about ‘Not wanting to be part of a club that would have me as a member’ sums me up pretty well.
Which is why I find myself in an odd situation here in February 2021.
The UK is in full lockdown and I’m unable to get away for the holiday I like to take to cover the whole wedding anniversary / valentine / birthday thing. However, I managed to arrange some work either side of the days (and one in-between) in the West End of London, meaning I can get away in some small way by choosing not to travel home every night but to stay in a top Mayfair hotel.
The hotel I’m staying in is a prime W1 address and is right next to a place I used to work, the company I was working for when I first spoke to Gail, in fact. I always said I’d stay here one day. It’s not the full experience; there are few other residents, the bars and restaurants are closed and I’m having to order in every night and London of course, feels very, very strange, but conversely the memories of this will linger long. A walk around a deserted Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Soho, Regent Street, Oxford Street and Bond Street at 10pm is not something many people will have ever seen and – I’d like to hope – it’s not something I’d want to experience again any time soon either. But there’s no denying it is an experience.
Shorn of things to do I’ve spent most of the time walking, I’ve zoom called my children – something I’d probably not have done had I been away somewhere abroad – and I’ve also caught up with my ‘membership’ – which is really what this is about.
Because I’ve joined a Facebook group for widowers.
Nobody is more surprised about this than me and the fact I’ve seemingly embraced it has really shaken me to the core but the strange thing is I’ve found it rewarding because – even though the sense of unity only lasts a while – I’ve found I’ve been comfortable enough in this company to be able to talk about those odd things, those crazy things, that nobody else goes through – only to find that many are going through the exact same thing.
I’ve attended online a few support meetings built around various issues but the one that intrigued me the most was one of the discussions on ‘waves of grief’ and how people were affected by the most ludicrous things. I found the courage to tell somebody for the first time about a plastic tub of talcum powder that Gail bought on our last holiday in Marmaris, Turkey. For no particular reason, I can see us clearly in that shop buying several things including the talcum powder. I was going to say I don’t know why I can recall the detail of that small incident as well as I do, but the fact is that day is burnt into my memory as we sat in a gorgeous restaurant in Ichmeler later and spoke about coming back the following year both of us aware of what was hanging in the air but not accepting it.
The talcum powder was in the suitcase in the loft on the day Gail died. It stayed in the suitcase as it would have done anyway and, barely having any use on that last holiday, it had subsequently travelled with me to Hong Kong, Egypt, Madeira, Sorrento and various places in the UK. However, the talc was getting very low and ran out completely on the first night in the Mayfair hotel whereupon I – frantic with frustration and anger at myself – spent the best part of 30 minutes trying to prise the top off so I could refill it from another container because I simply couldn’t throw the empty Turkish one out.
In one of those moments where it’s as if you have an out-of-body experience and can peer down watching yourself doing something crazy, I considered a situation where I actually managed to prise off the top, filled the old container with new talc from Boots or somewhere and then pushed the top back on only to find on my next holiday that I opened my suitcase to find my bag overflowing with white powder. Why was I doing this? It was insane! But it made no difference.
Not only was I able to tell complete strangers this but those strangers fully understood and also had their own stories of being unable to part with inanimate objects. It seemed to me after that everyone is so busy discussing pieces of furniture, little knick-knack’s, clothes, keepsakes etc that nobody ever mentions the real things that drive you to despair.
There have been other discussions, of course. Things that will probably make more sense to those who tell you “I’m glad you’re speaking to people about it – it will help you” as those are the very people who can never understand your affinity with a plastic Turkish container – one that sits just a few feet away in my suitcase – but it’s that discussion that keeps coming back to me; that one discussion that made me think I might have at last found a club I’m comfortable being a member of.
In conclusion I was going to finish this blog with a photo of the talcum powder container. But I decided to go with the lockdown London 2021 instead.
It still makes more sense.