Going to England was a different experience for us. Daniel and I have never actually travelled together just the two of us. When I came home from England the first time, his visa was not yet approved so I had to come alone and he came a couple of months later. The next time we went, we had Stephanie with us, and all subsequent times we had kids with us too.

Deciding to go – just the two of us – was hard. I didn’t doubt Stephanie, Dean or my Mum’s willingness to make sure that the kids were looked after. I did struggle with whether or not there would be difficult moments or incidents and whether or not it was fair or reasonable to leave them to deal with that. Abigail had really wanted to go. Not because of anything in particular, but because she doesn’t like to miss out on things and she doesn’t like to think that we aren’t there to do what she wants or needs. When we pointed out that she’d be bored as batshit because there would be no internet and no TV (the accounts/TV license etc were all cancelled soon after Allan died,) no other young people to talk to, and the majority of the time would be spent sorting through and cleaning the house, and it would be fucking cold, she decided maybe it wasn’t so bad to be missing out.

In the time between when we got booked and got the dates finalised and when we left, I did all I could to make them all as prepared as possible so it would be as easy as I could make it for them to manage. The three kids actually took it upon themselves, with no prompting, to plan out a menu for themselves for the not-quite two weeks that we would be gone and I stocked the cupboard/freezer with all I could in advance to minimise the amount of shopping Stephanie and Dean would have to do. It was arranged that Abigail and Kristian would go to my mum’s over the weekend, so they planned with her what they would have/do while there as well. That way Stephanie and Dean got a bit of a break. During the week the kids had to go to school as well so it was not like full 24 hour days that they had to be supervising them.

I still had a bit of worry that there might be an explosion or something, but Stephanie and Dean knew what to do if that happened and I kept reminding myself that we don’t have to cancel our lives because of that possibility. What we need is also important. It was important to Daniel to go. We did not go when Lisa died. That wasn’t a problem, we had seen her six weeks earlier and we were quite aware that it was going to be the last time. We were comfortable with that choice. But this time it was not ‘just’ Allan. The things that needed taking care of, the house that needed clearing out, the belongings that had to be sorted, donated, thrown away, etc. It was both of them, even though he was the only one living there for the last four years. It was the last chance to do something for his parents, and he wanted it not just for himself but so that it didn’t all fall to his siblings to handle. As it is, there is a lot they have to do anyway because we are simply unable, being so remote. When I say ‘they,’ I mean Nikki and Lee, because.. well, Sandie. Chris is the executor anyway so technically it’s all his job but it’s not like anyone is going to just ignore it all and leave for him to deal with.

Something else I thought about a lot is whether or not I was physically up to doing this. I wanted to go with Daniel for multiple reasons, of course primarily because he’s my husband and my heart and I wanted to support him because his Dad had died and it’s pretty shit. But there was also that the whole diabetes thing was still very new and being my strict and paranoid self, I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone else to look out for his needs as obsessively as I would. And like, England food is different. We had been eating so much salad and I knew that winter in England would be.. not very salady. He also was committed to doing the right thing and eating smart, but sometimes forgetful or just not aware when things were ‘yes’ or ‘no’ since I am the main meal planner and maker and had done a lot more research than he had a chance to given that he works full time. So my second reason was because he needed me to look after him. He said he needed me too, not because he’s a useless idiot who can’t look after himself but because he is unaccustomed to having to think about a lot of these things since those are my responsibilities in our team, and trying to start thinking about them all in a foreign country while you’re in a heightened emotional state is a big ask. And it was good to have him say he needed me. So often I feel like I don’t do enough, because I want to be able to do so much more and to have him tell me that he does need me and that what I do does make a difference was really meaningful to me.

Anyway. In terms of my health, I figured that my activities would not be so different in terms of physical demand to my normal life and if it did turn out to be too much, I made sure I bought plenty of medicine with me, which it would not be a problem to take since I did not have to make sure I was available as a responsible and alert adult who could drive. (We only had access to a manual car so I couldn’t legally drive anyway.)

As it turned out, I had a really good couple of weeks. A lot of what I usually do was greatly reduced as well as being shared by Daniel. We only had to feed ourselves, we only had our own clothes to wash and dry, when we went to the supermarket he was there to help and we were free to move as slowly as I needed because we had the luxury of time to go at my pace. The first day after we got there I was feeling pretty terrible and had to keep refreshing the PFs regularly, but I think that was a result of airplane confinement and the ludicrous amount of walking that happens in airports. And though we did a lot of emptying of cupboards and shelves and drawers, and sorting through all of the stuff we found, I was able to sit for a lot and we also took regular breaks when it started to get boring or painful, and the breaks were actually breaks. At home when I take a break from one thing it usually means going and doing another thing for a while so that one part of my body stops hurting and another one starts. Hips hurting from doing dishes? Go and fold up some washing until the burning in my back becomes too much. I didn’t have other jobs to do and other responsibilities to make sure I managed to complete before everyone got back from school and work so when I sat or laid down to take a break I could actually let go and relax. It was ok if I fell asleep for a bit. The opportunity to take real breaks and listen to my body and move at my own pace without constantly feeling the push of the clock and the weight of responsibility and the need to manage everything before I got too tired and too sore was quite eye-opening. Because I am figuratively wading through molasses so much, making a lot of effort to achieve what sometimes looks like so little; because I am so exhausted by what I do manage but I am also victim to that social expectation that the modern woman should be able to manage home, kids, hobbies, a job, a side business, a perfect relationship, charitable work and do it all with ease and grace; I feel like I am letting my family down. Not having to manage what I usually do made me see that I do a lot more than I often give myself credit for and having the luxury to listen to my body to keep the pain and exhaustion at minimal, manageable levels was a reminder that I am doing enough. It was also a bit sad to feel so comparatively good and remember that for most people, that is normal yet for me it felt almost revelatory.. oh yeah, this is what life is supposed to feel like. That you become so accustomed to hurting and aching and pain and exhaustion that you literally cannot remember what it is like to feel ‘normal’ is one of the hardest and cruelest parts of having a chronic illness. Because the aching and hurting and tiredness become normal to you, it is easy to forget that your normal is not everyone’s normal, and when you feel like you’re not achieving much it’s so hard to not blame and doubt yourself.

I even felt good enough for us to decide to go for a recreational walk around the lake one day. I don’t know when the last time I felt like that at home was. Sometimes we try to do things like that anyway, because I get tired of not doing things, but it’s always with the knowledge that it’s going to come at a price. Anyway. We did try to go for a walk and it was nice but we stopped for a rest at a bench and then we decided that was enough of a walk not because it was too much for me but because it was FUCKING FREEZING. It was also very late in the afternoon, like maybe 1530 or something ridiculous so it was starting to get DARK and even colder so we were like, nah, fuck this.



We had of course already had midsummer at the weekend. Christmas Day was a Wednesday and we were sitting in bed just watching videos, reading, playing games, etc. Just a weekendy type of day and enjoying that Daniel didn’t have to go to work and wouldn’t have to for another week or so. Abigail and Kristian were both doing things but weren’t too noisy and weren’t disturbing us. Stephanie was at Dean’s, so that she could have Christmas with him and his family as well as having had midsummer with us and my mum.

So, it wasn’t odd when Daniel’s phone rang, we often spoke to Allan on the weekend and especially on special occasions like Christmas. It wasn’t Allan though, it was Nikki, and although we don’t often speak to her it wasn’t immediately alarming that she was calling us because it was Christmas. So Daniel answered brightly with “Hi Nik! Merry Christmas!” And then she started talking, and he went quiet and stopped smiling.

Abigail had heard the phone ring and come in to say hello to Grandad. She was shushed away and told to come back in a few minutes. Daniel listened to Nikki for a bit and then thanked her for calling and they said bye.

I knew it was going to be something bad but I thought maybe he was sick or in hospital or maybe someone else was. But after trying multiple times through the day to call Allan and finding out that Lee had also been trying to chat to him but had been unable, they started to get really worried. (Being the 24th of December, it was the main celebratory day, per Danish tradition.) So Nikki called Pat and John since they live a lot closer to Lincoln and asked if they might be able to go over to check on him since he’d not answered his phone all day. It was already evening by this stage and they were out somewhere and had to then drive to Allan’s, so it was quite late at night by the time they got there. They have a key because they helped him look after Lisa a lot when she was sick and also because it’s always a good idea for someone to have a key to your house in case something happens to you..

He was in his bed. They called the ambulance and everything but it was clear that he had already been gone for some time. We thought that it was likely that his abdominal aortal aneurysm had ruptured, as he had been getting monitored for it regularly and it had been slowly growing. He told us that the doctors had said that usually they would operate at 5cm but a lot of stuff in the NHS was in a state of uncertainly due to the mess of Brexit so they now had a guideline of 6cm for surgery. After the last check up he told us it was at 5.8cm. It was something we were keen for him to be able to get fixed, because while he had it he was unable to travel, especially by air; and he had decided that he was going to try to come here but was unable to make any proper plans for it because of the AAA. So I think most of us thought it had been the aneurysm, but we wouldn’t know for sure until after his post-mortem examination. We were aware that it was Christmas Day and then Boxing Day and didn’t expect that would happen immediately, but I myself thought that they’d be open the next day (Friday, 27th December) because services like that are pretty essentially and only close for the minimum public holidays, right?

So, so wrong. Turned out the coroner’s office was closed for Christmas and New Year and wouldn’t be open again until some time in the first week of January. But it’s ok, I thought. It’s just a few extra days and he’ll have to be one of the first to be processed since he has to be one of the first to have come in after they closed, having died on the 24th of December.

It wasn’t because we were anxious to be certain about the cause of death – I actually don’t think most of us considered it likely at all that it would have been anything but the aneurysm – but because we had a difficult situation to coordinate where three of his children were in one country and one was in another, Christmas and New Year are notoriously uncool times to travel, especially when it’s “last minute” and we needed to try to plan when a funeral could be and how to get there and we could not even begin to do this without the death certificate which wouldn’t happen until after the post-mortem. To add to the frustration, Daniel was already off work this whole time as his office was closed between Christmas and New Year (but it’s not like they’re performing an essential service to the community) so it felt like wasted time that could have been used when he already wasn’t at work, saving us some of his holiday time as well as the fact that his father had just died putting rather a damper on fully enjoying the time off that he did have.

So then the few extra days passed into the start of January and it emerged that he wasn’t “first cab off the rank” or even anywhere near the top of the list because the whole “closing for Christmas and New Year” had actually started a couple of weeks before Christmas and as such they already had several weeks worth of autopsy back log to get through. This whole thing left me so frustrated and incredulous that a public service can be run in that way. If it is determined that a person needs an autopsy, then you cannot hold a funeral or burial or whatever it is you want to do until after that is done. For us, it was frustrating and annoying and drew out something that felt like it should have been able to be handled and managed and put to rest so much more quickly and smoothly. I’m pretty sure that there are other religions and faiths, though, that have strict guidelines on how and when certain rites should be performed following death and I can’t imagine how distressing it must be if you are unable to observe those because the coroner’s office has been closed for over a month and has a lot of bodies to get through. As it turns out, this seems to be the way a lot of government services operate in the UK. It shocked me and made me glad again and again that we chose Australia, even though it is far from perfect.

I need to back track a bit. After Daniel finished talking to Nikki, he basically repeated to me what she’d told him. He was clearly shocked, it was just so unexpected. We all were, really. I cried and I hugged him and then I took a deep breath and went out to talk to Abigail and Kristian because I knew they would be waiting, and of course I was not going to make him have to do that.

Twice now I have had to tell them that a grandparent has died and it is the most horrible thing to do. This was especially harder because they are older and have had more of a relationship with Allan than they did with Lisa. They too were waiting and hoping for the day that he would come back here, and stay. Grandad was funny and silly and a little bit spoiling them but also firm with rules, all the things that Grandads are meant to be. He was the only one they had and I hated having to tell them that he was gone.

Then there was Stephanie. Being that much older than Abigail and Kristian, she had spent more time with both of her paternal grandparents than they had and I knew she would be devastated. And unlike us who weren’t doing anything on Christmas morning, she was. She was with Dean’s family and they were doing the whole thing. Nikki and Chris decided that they were not going to tell Alice, Sam and Max until Boxing Day so as to not take way the joy of Christmas from them, and I don’t judge them for making that choice, but I did not feel like it was an option for me. So I called Dean’s phone, so that I could give him a forewarning that I was about to break Stephanie’s heart and to be ready to catch it. I don’t know if it was worse telling Abigail and Kristian in person or telling Stephanie on the phone. She was sobbing, big heaving gasps and I could see her in my mind and I hated having to do that to her but someone had to and I knew that she would ultimately prefer to know immediately rather than later. I was glad she had Dean there, and the festivities of Christmas with his family to try to take her mind off it a bit.

It ended up being the 16th of January before the post-mortem was done and his body was released to the undertakers. 23 days. Personally I think that is disgusting but also I have absolutely no control over anything so no one gives a shit about my opinion. It also turned out that it was not the aneurysm, but a stroke while he slept that bled out into his brain. When we were cleaning things up in his house, we cleared up a lot of his medication and some of what he was taking were blood thinners, so it was kind of inevitable I guess that any blood loss where he didn’t have immediate medical attention was going to be fatal. There was a bit of comfort in knowing that he was asleep while it all happened and likely wasn’t aware of any pain. In a way, it was kind of a relief that it wasn’t the aneurysm, because I didn’t know what the situation would be then. We knew that he had been waiting for surgery and it had been pushed back and the prerequisites changed, and the thought that he might have died from something that he should have been able to have fixed but hadn’t because of a bunch of political bullshit made me angry. But again, I don’t know what anyone would have done about it, anyway. .

Eventually the funeral was set for Tuesday, 11th February and Daniel and I arranged to go to England for two weeks, to help with sorting and clearing out the house and to then be at the funeral. We went on the 1st of February and Stephanie and Dean stayed here to be in charge of Abigail and Kristian while we were gone.


yays and nays

Having been a while since we last travelled to the old land, there were some things we noticed and others we had forgotten about. Some good, some less so..

  • People seem to be smoking everywhere. I’m not sure if there is actually a greater portion of the population smoking, or it’s just that they do not have many of the laws regarding public smoking that we do. (Ok. Googled. There are slightly more people smoking there, but only a percent or two.) We hate it when we come out of a shop or something here and get hit in the face by the stink of someone smoking just far enough from the entrance. When it’s anywhere outside in public and the shopping areas are open street malls… it sucks!!
  • Also, there are shops everywhere for electronic cigarettes/vapes, and you see people using those walking along the street too. I know that people do have them here but I’ve only ever seen Neil using it and that is at home. Possibly because Queensland prohibits using them if the liquid contains nicotine, and isn’t that kind of the point of smoking? So maybe people just don’t bother. So that was kind of strange to see.
  • I went into a shoe shop and I tried on like 8 pairs of shoes. I’ve never had this happen before in my life. And there were lots in my size that I didn’t try on, as well. Amazing.
  • You can buy alcohol in some strange places. Like the supermarket. And the cinema. Now I think you can get a glass of something if you go fancy and do Gold Class here, but you can’t just get it at the general snack and drinks counter. Strange. (And I thought Aussies were the ones who had the reputation for allthedrinking?)
  • Do they have something against salt? We kept noticing when we had fries from a variety of places that they had practically no salt on them. WTF? As Neil likes to say, if you don’t have salt, your arteries won’t harden and you won’t stand up straight. (And I need that, since I have a problem with that.) Also, it tastes nice.
  • I can’t understand how 90% of the population is not suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It starts getting light a little before 8am and getting dark around half past three. That is only 7 hours of light, which is not even that light anyway! I found the strangeness of light patterns made it particularly difficult to have my body orient itself in time. I would wake up and it’s pitch dark outside so I think it must be like three in the morning or something. But then I will glance at my watch and see that it’s actually 7am and it’s just so disorienting. Strangely, I don’t recall noticing the light thing to this degree either of the other times that I have been there at the same time of year. Perhaps because the first time, I was 18 and had just arrived to be with Daniel after six months apart. We didn’t notice much of anything except each other. And the second time we had a 10 month old baby and I was not well.
  • Bread clips. Why do you not have them, UK? It’s so freaking annoying to open and close the bag of bread with a bit of tape that gets progressively less sticky every time you do it.
  • Cadbury Drinking Chocolate, we likes it. It’s quite different from the Aussie version of exactly the same name. We also likes Galaxy Hot Chocolate. We also discovered that it is quite pleasant to put some of each in a cup and have double hot chocolate. Mmm.
  • So many channels on the TV. SO MANY. Not really that much more to actually watch. Though we did enjoy watching the Doctor Who Christmas Episode live on it’s first showing.
  • Squirrels! So cute. So, so cute. There were some playing in Allan and Lisa’s garden but I suspect not as many as there could be since Allan doesn’t like them and won’t let people feed them :P And the neighbour has a squirrel feeder. Stephanie did try sneakily leaving some nuts out there but they must not have been the right kind because they just stayed untouched for a few days.
  • We drove down to Reading one day, to visit Daniel’s brother and sister and to see some friends. Daniel sent a general invitation out to a bunch of his old friends to meet up with us for lunch and in the end only two were able to make it. One was Melissa (accompanied by her own personal Antipodean/husband Steve who is from NZ) and the other was a guy called Mark that Daniel went to school with. I have never met him before. So he introduced himself and then he said “And this is my husband, Jason.” And I restrained myself from squeeing. Because they are the first really truly legally married same-sex people that I have ever met. And I’ve been waiting a really, really, really long time for that. So that was a small moment that was really special for me.
  • Tampons. It was an unfortunate set of timing that both Stephanie and I needed tampons while we were over there. We did each bring a whole box with us but we ended up needing more. So we went to the shop to get them. There were, and I am not joking here, only TWO to choose from.. the supermarket’s own brand and one other brand. All the rest of them were those spring-loaded missile-firing applicator shite. Are British women delicate about touching their vaginas or something? I was really not feeling the luxury of the feminine hygiene product buying experience.
  • The passport stamping lady when we arrived in Manchester stamped my passport and Stephanie’s passport and Abigail’s passport and Kristian’s passport but she didn’t stamp Daniel’s. Because he has a Danish (EU) passport and there is freedom of movement between countries for EU people so he didn’t need one. And when I asked her if she could just stamp it anyway, she refused. Big stupid meanie head. The Australian passport stamping man, on the other hand, was quite happy to put stamps in ALL of our passports when we came back when I asked if we could have them. He seemed a bit amused that I was so pleased at his willingness to do this. AU 1, UK 0.
  • I saw nieces and nephews and cousins with numbers that I have never seen before and that was really awesome. I liked seeing them all but it was especially cool to see Stephanie, David and Sammy because Sammy is the youngest member of my level of the family tree by far so he is kind of extra special :) And he also has a ridiculously cute baby french accent that could turn anybody’s ovaries to goo. And the other that was a little bit extra special was my birthday niece, Cerys. Who is now 6 years old!
  • There are people we saw while we were there that.. it’s likely we won’t ever get to see again. This was the main sucking thing about the trip. Some are getting old, some are sick, some are both. I knew that they were old and/or sick before we went, of course, but it is a little different to see it in person. To see just how much time and illness have taken their toll on them. So while it was lovely to see them, the very visible reminders of their (well, and everyone’s) mortality was sad.
  • One last thing. On the plane on the way there, four or five hours away from Manchester. Completely tired, very sore. I was sitting next to Abigail. She was awake after having slept through most of the trip so far and she decided to look out the window. She asks me about a green thing she can see. I somewhat sleepily tell her that planes have various coloured lights on the wings and underside and she can probably see one of those flashing. She didn’t seem quite satisfied with that explanation but left it be and continued looking out the window. Then, a few minutes later. “Is it possible… like, can you see the, um Northern Lights from where we are?” And I sat up very fucking fast and leaned across her to look out the window, because I knew that we were in fact flying up over the far north of Russia and yes, you CAN see the Northern Lights from there!! It wasn’t a particularly intense display and we were approaching the end of darkness by that stage but we still saw them! Bucket list item achieved!
yays and nays