On The Beach

Life’s rich tapestry, eh?

If you’d told me five years ago I’d be on holiday in Dubrovnik on Gail’s birthday with my son and daughter-in-law, daughter and son-in-law, I’d have suggested you get a lint-free cloth and polish up your crystal ball a little better.

To say Gail and I were a self-contained unit would be putting it mildly. We never needed other people and were perfectly happy just being in each other’s company. In my case, people would nod and say ‘Of course he’d be happy just being with her’ but with Gail the supposition seemed to be that she wanted more dynamism is her life and somehow I was holding her back. Nothing could be further from the truth. I never wanted to hold Gail back from anything she wanted to do, and I actively encouraged her to try things she might otherwise not have experienced even if they didn’t involve me. But she often complained to me about the expectations that people had of her, wondering why people only saw a side of her that – while it existed – wasn’t her full personality.

While I knew full well what it was that people got from her company, it was very difficult to describe what happened when someone came into her orbit. Somehow, once they’d met her, they wanted more from her than she was often able to give. It’s difficult standing outside and seeing a personality bubble and shine, yourself a victim of it of sorts, but also with a different perspective on it that nobody else seemed to grasp (This isn’t me giving myself some side here either; Gail told me as much herself).

We’d met people on holiday before and, while happy to make their acquaintance, we didn’t want to spend more than a meal time or an evening drink with them. Gail had said to me ‘Let’s go out for the day so we can get away from [whoever]. The thing is that would suggest we didn’t like these people or didn’t get along with them but that isn’t the case. Inevitably though, the blame for her not being around for these people was down to me as it was assumed Gail would never have turned on her back on their company. I have to be careful here but one of the couples – much older than us – we grew very fond of and I am still in touch with; the other – well, let’s just say the male half was a TV personality – and he and his wife gave the impression that they thought I was locking her in the room so they couldn’t see her. “He doesn’t like you” was all Gail said, barely supressing a giggle.

As far as family were concerned we were both of the opinion that you nurtured children through the early part of their life and they then went their own way. We used to holiday together when they were younger but the teenage years put an end to that – they were Gail’s step-children so it was unfair to foist that trial on her – and while Gail did occasionally go on short breaks with her own daughter – usually to Marmaris to do shopping – the idea of us all going on holiday together just wouldn’t have arisen. Since Gail’s passing, I had been on holiday with both my children and their spouses as couples – itself a major development – but there was no denying this extended Fam thing was a new venture.

Of course, some see this as chance to put that tick next to the box that says ‘Moving On’ or ‘Making New Memories’ and, much as I despise it, it’s pretty difficult to argue against that. I am moving forward at least; I’m still here and determined to do , experience and see things and the fact I was away on Gail’s birthday was certainly no coincidence. I’m need to be somewhere on those days and this holiday, originally planned in 2019, was another opportunity to cover one of them. Of course, it was great spending time with my kids; seeing your offspring becoming fully-rounded adults dealing with life on their own terms is extremely rewarding.

I woke early on the morning of the 3rd and decided to go for a walk. I called up Gail’s music on my phone and went to the nearby Copacabana Beach. The gang and I had spent the morning there a few days before and it was a lovely spot; not crowded even then. Today, it was beautiful morning, warm sunshine and a gorgeous early light reflecting off the Adriatic but with absolutely no-one in sight. I just sat down and played the songs that meant a lot to us. It was very emotional and I felt very close to her. It got the day off to a reverential start for me and it felt good. I distanced myself a bit during the day but the birthday was never mentioned and in the evening we all went into the walled town and had out a big meal. It made a huge hole in the budget but it wouldn’t have been right to do anything else.

We all agreed that Dubrovnik really is a fantastic destination and my kids – better travelled than me even – reckoned it was one of the most beautiful places they’d ever seen. There wasn’t an hour that passed that week though, when I didn’t think ‘Gail would have loved this’. I still feel she’s holidaying with me and I know I don’t ever want that to change.

6am Copacabana Beach, Dubrovnik

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