What a glorious 6 weeks at home that was and I am still glowing from the experience.
My love batteries are fully charged.
I am “loved right up”.
From the moment MrsB met me at Rennes airport, all the work we did together, the laughs we had together and all the times we just were at one with each other, it was a quite incredible and joy filled leave.
However as is often the way with life there is always a down side to that much of a high, there has to be a ying to the yang, and for us it’s when I have to go back to sea.
The morning I fly out to go back to work is always fraught with emotions barely concealed. Our deep love simmers below the surface as we both put on the brave face of pragmatism prevailing over passion.
It is our coping mechanism.
It is how we have learned to deal with the gut wrenching emotional turmoil of parting, particularly when we have been in such close harmony.
On the last morning we carry the demeanor of two people heading to the gallows, desperately hoping to hear the phone ring with a last minute reprieve, but at the same time putting on a front and carrying on as though it was normal day. As though I am just popping out for a while and not flying half way round the world for 6 weeks.
Once we have checked the lottery numbers (one more time just in case) it is the drive to the airport full of chat, reminiscence, “don’t forget to’s”, and affirmations of love.
With the “I love you’” lingering in my ear and tingling of the last embrace still with me, I shoulder my bag and head to departures and MrsB drives away.
I wander into departures where I adopt my “travel mode” which enables me to cope with the 3 or more days it will take to get to the ship. For MrsB it is the lonely drive home to the sheds and a massive therapeutic tidy up to prepare for 6 weeks of her “other life” ahead.
Over 30 years we have developed our strategies independently for this lifestyle of 6 weeks on and off, however, no matter how well practiced we appear to be, it doesn’t become any easier when one has to be separated from the half that gives you light in the darkness. It is an enforced solitude however we are soul mates not “sole” mates.
There is no substitute for being in the company of your chosen ‘life partner’.
There is no prosthetic for that.
My usual routine is to fly into Southampton, pick up hire car, drive down to Bridport to sort out any business that needs to be attended to and say cheerio to mother in law, then drive up to Somerton and say cheerio to my mum and then drive up to my preferred Holiday Inn (Simpson Way) at Heathrow for the flight out to Singapore the next morning.
Because I needed an MRI scan on my knee I had a couple of evenings more than normal in the UK and will cover them in my next writing of “Loved Up stage 2” but for now we leap forward from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning,
I drive up through the glorious and eye pleasing Dorset and Somerset countryside from Bridport via Beaminster (not forgetting to parp the horn twice going through the tunnel and not look in the mirror) through Crewekerne and up to join the A 303 at the “holey tree” (so called as it has holes in it not for any religious nonsense) and then up to Somerton and pop in to say hello to my mum.
As ever she is really pleased to see me and shows me how much she has been doing in the garden and the newly painted shed and the bags of gravel and peat she has been hauling about.
All this form a 85 year old woman with dodgy knees, a bit of parkinsons and who gives up every millimeter of her physical independence with fierce struggle.
Her mind, as ever, is as sharp as a tack and we catch up on the progress of the house in France (that she would adore if she were well enough to visit) and news of my half siblings and their spouses and children.
Her latest cat (a male seal point siamese) looks at me for a while and then deems me worthy enough to offer me its back for a small stroke as mum tells me of his latest exploits.
I remember with great pride my mother’s earlier years as she became a renowned breeder of Siamese and foreign coloured cats in the UK, with numerous grand champions to her name. She was often invited to cat shows not to enter her cats but just so people could see them.
The same woman who would jump into her car and drive (“fast” as was her liking) all over the country with her latest champion in the making. I remember her receiving phone calls from the UK and Europe where she would be consulted on pedigree and blood lines etc
Because of this visits to my mum over the years have usually meant finding an exquisite example of an exotic cat that normally with the demeanor of a super model or an oriental royal, which in the cat world they often were.
With her they live in heated lambs fleece luxury and enjoy a diet of only the best freshly cooked chicken breast or salmon.
Had she been born into better circumstances (rather than a Banardo’s foundling) and had she been given a better emotional and educational start in life as opposed to the awful, inhumane and emotionally starved treatment of Banardo’s children homes in the 40s, I have no doubt she would have been a roaring success at whatever she chose to focus her mind on. As it is now she is an old lady who although has much wisdom and insight to offer often feels alone, isolated and uncomfortable in a crowded room or other company. It’s who she is and I can do no more than love her for that.
While we were sat there nattering away I saw this chap coming up her path with two young children and then my half-sister whom I haven’t seen in 7 years or more. It isn’t that we don’t get on, it’s just that we live in different countries and we just don’t get it together to see each other that often.
As a family unit (siblings) we have always been a bit disjointed which was compounded with me going to sea as soon as I was 16 and rarely being in the UK for the next 8 years, therefore I never really filled the “big brother” role that perhaps she and her younger brother might have hoped for,(or could have done with) having been estranged from their father when they were still young. I was more interested on traveling the world in party mode. As a teenager and I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to understand, or recognize, that potential responsibility. By the time I was old enough to be less selfish they were already grown up individuals making their own way in the world. That said we all get on without any animosity. It is what it is and we are who we are.
Although 5 years younger than me she is already a granny (ha ha) and so I got to meet for the first time my grand niece and grand nephew and although the niece was a little shy of the big loud beardie man ,the nephew was most keen to show me his new pirate ship and when he found out I was a seafarer and noticed the gold earrings, tales of derring-do on the high sea had to follow.
It was lovely visit with mum and great to catch up with sis and her new chap who is a lovely fellow and hopefully they will get out to see us in France next year.
So I then jump into the easy to drive and natty looking E class Merc (hire car) and drive it like I stole it (which is how I drive hire cars) up to the Holiday Inn Heathrow where my son and daughter and her partner have arranged to meet me for dinner.
I absolutely adore and admire my children for how they are living their lives and for being the quite remarkable, striking and enjoyable people that they have grown into. I am constantly proud and am happy to just sit with them while I listen to the updates on their lives and the stories of what they got up to when they were children that like any parent I had no idea of.
I am (as they are without knowing) eternally grateful for their mothers unrelenting love, wisdom, intelligence and gentle warm grace that was their foundations as human beings.
Our gatherings are always full of laughter and easy company and my daughters long term partner just blends right in with us and knows that he too is accepted as part of the family and admired for his work ethic and his determination (currently training to become a helicopter pilot) and most importantly of all for his respectful and total love of my daughter.
A dad (or mother) can’t hope for more than that.
All three (and MrsB and I) are enthusiastic gourmet foodies and each meal will be marked like an episode of Master Chef, and as to be expected the Holiday Inn, while perfectly acceptable for a snack, would have been out in the first round, but it served its purpose of allowing us to spend some prime time together, which due to our various commitments and work patterns might not happen for at least another couple of months maybe even longer.
The get together was full of love, laughter, bawdy jokes, outrageous tales and beaming smiles (along with bemused but intrigued waiters) and it served to top up my love batteries to absolute brim full for my ensuing 6 weeks of work on my ship in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand where I now sit and type this .
I can say with complete honesty and accuracy that I am “loved right up”
Love and Peace