I rented an apartment in Melbourne for a week, a chance to chill by myself I thought, to kind of brace myself for the next bit when I am meant to be “moving on”. I'm not sure how you do that, I just seem to be moving back. So many memories to haunt me and so many ways to be alone.
I got the apartment off Airbnb and it belongs to Kirk. Living at Kirk’s is a hoot. It seems Kirk lives alone; he must be a pretty trendy guy I think but his apartment is a study in why men need women to live with. Honestly, it’s so funny. Firstly, it is teeny tiny but immaculate with everything brand spanking new. I’m not sure what he does in here but it can’t be too much since it doesn’t look as though he has ever used anything. But he has a massive telescope, massive televisions and no sofa!! So you can stand and watch TV or you can stand and gawp through the telescope.
He also has a bad case of that classic man’s disease, “appliance fever”. Brian had it very badly too, he was always buying weed-eaters and dust-busters and other random appliances that just make more clutter and the fact is, the appliance doesn’t actually do the work, someone still has to do it. I think Brian thought that if he bought the appliance, he never actually had to do any other work. Perhaps Kirk is the same – he has the most amazing vacuum cleaner I have ever seen, working it is probably like flying a plane and we also have dishwasher, waste disposal, microwave, washing machine, all sorts of toastery and coffee-making things and very swanky saucepans,plus some kind of high tech thing that Laura says is Apple TV. I am too scared to even look at it.
So, tech, tech, tech and no dishcloth!! Get the picture? I think he must also have made a flying visit to Ikea and swooped up the towels,sheets and things but the basics escaped his attention - 10 faceloths and one towel!!
And then there is the artwork, really edgy I suppose but I am not all that comfortable looking at the scarey face with the word, OBEY written underneath. I have it from a reliable source that this is a skater logo but to me it’s just not a happy image to have in the tiniest living room with no sofa and a huge telescope!!
But mustn’t grumble, it is nice,convenient and the temperature in Melbourne today was 34 degrees – how lucky can I be?
The weather is now sunny as, but a bit of swell, high seas in fact. I suppose some people might be feeling a bit sick but not us, we love it. And meanwhile Reuben has gone AWOL, a dark beauty having something to do with that. No questions being asked by the mother. He is now dining at the Captain’s table while Laura and I lurk furtively down in the peasant's dining quarters.
Laura has retired from over-eating and is now hitting the gym, but I am masterfully applying all my legendry fortitude to making sure that nothing on the buffet escapes my attention. A day of reckoning looms. Hope Laura is safe in the gym; whenever I am out of sight, the sharks pounce but she is cool, keeping her sights off Aussie lads with too much Bundaberg rum on board, instead working on keeping her sunburn away from any further damage and loyally keeping her mother company – what a girl she is.
Today is a day at sea, and establishing ownership of the sun-loungers is a priority for some but I think I might go and check out the morning trivia quiz and the ice carving demo. Yes, we really are getting in to it (ice carving - would you believe it of me?)). I met someone yesterday who had been on a world cruise, 180 days. They said they loved it, for me I am not sure, but there is a certain attraction to the idea. I guess I could end up being one of those that say, oh yes, this is my fifteenth cruise!! L
How to be a widow
Going on a cruise turns out to be a master stroke for us; we are happy together but not too together. We have time to have good talks with lots of that old favourite, telling each other stories from our family life, each from their own perspective. I realise now, that there are so many shared stories that Brian and I know (knew) but the children do not. Or if they know the story, they have the version that you tell the children. It is time for the grown up version now.
We go to bed early, don’t really get into the drinking and partying part of this journey, it is not quite on the money for us. Too old and lame for the kids and a bit too stressful and uncomfortable for me, so we are happy to eat and eat and eat and then watch movies and sleep. The only bad bit is that the weather has been pretty uninspiring, hot but overcast a lot and today, when we were anchored off the idyllic white sand and coconut palm fringed Champagne Bay in Vanuatu, it has been raining. Laura and I still went ashore and had a lovely snorkel around the coral, but sun would have been better
It is weird being amongst all these strangers who ask questions. We need a story to explain why we are here but every time you say, my husband died six weeks ago, the whole thing goes frozen. I guess it is awkward and they could get trapped in some major outpourings of grief or something that might put a downer on the holiday. So it’s easier for them to move on. We need some kind of buffer story but to be honest (sorry - to just about everyone I know), I don’t want anyone thinking I am divorced, it kind of seems disrespectful to Brian. So, mostly we fudge it or don’t drop that part in until we are ready to leave anyway. It is difficult to find the right balance, to be honest but to avoid getting ourselves into a whole new round of overshare. I am working on getting their story first. Today I had about an hour of hearing all about someone’s husband’s depression. That was good, where my husband actually was, never came into it. So I guess that is lesson one of how to be a widow.
We have met lots of lovely people, mostly pretty laid back having themselves a nice easy holiday and it truly is easy. The odd bit of ghastly smug retirement skiting about the size of their superannuation and yesterday at breakfast, I had to endure two couples both so old and wrinkled, competing with each other about who had done the best, working for the railways or being a self-employed painter!. Both of the silly old duffers saying they would never have done so well, and been able to go on so many cruises if it weren’t for their wife being so careful with the saving. Hah, guess they are paying the price now, dependent on her telling them what to do. Annoying, crass as well, going on about my accent, thinking getting you to say six is funny. Hmm, as you can all imagine, Ms Wallis was NOT amused. However, had to stay a while to eat my amazing pancakes with maple syrup before I could get the hell out of there.
Minor irritations aside though, we are really loving it. Everything is thought of for you, so for those silly old buggers who obviously don’t think much and never have, it is perfect. And for me right now it is too. I can blob out on the sun-lounger- and all of that stress of travel, managing your stuff, finding your way, figuring out where to go and when, is all so smoothly managed by someone else, who smiles and operates as though nothing is too much trouble. I still seem to spend ages trying to find my own cabin but when I get there it is just fab (thanks Rebecca). Big balcony and peaceful, outside the party might be raging but in here, it’s soundless, sea passing smoothly and everything I could want, even down to when you come back to the boat- oops we call it a vessel apparently, after a day on shore in the heat, there is the big box of chilled face-towels to cool you down,waiting for you. Small things – all designed to make you feel really well looked after, and we are. It is just the intransigence of that big yellow sun although I guess, since every time we get a bit of sun, we get sunburnt, I should not be moaning.
Isle of Pines – 29 October 2014
We got that sun today, and in spades. Sunburnt everywhere. We spent the day at Isle of Pines which is this tiny island about 50km off New Caledonia, very few inhabitants, Norfolk pine trees, white soft sand lovely vegetation – Bougainvillea and flowering trees. Hot hot, hot. We snorkelled all day and lay about in the sun, rotisserising shamelessly and now I look a bit like Kentucky Fried. But still managed to eat half a kilo of the most amazing garlic prawns for dinner and now scrolling the TV channels. Bliss. L
New Caledonia – ha – how did that happen? Just like that, we are now transported into another slice of life, not ours of course but for a day we can share.
Reuben and Laura and I are on a Pacific Cruise – it is amazing – so far we are loving every single second, even though the weather has been patchy and we are lumped in with “Aussies-on-Tour”.
I think all the RSL clubs in Australia are empty right now and all the patrons are on this boat. The bums and tums of Australians on holiday is a sight to behold – I am gobsmacked. Meanwhile, we are making a mighty good fist of catching up. Reuben just consumed three breakfasts and Laura and I just could not pass up all those croissants either. The food is to die for (and some people round here look like they will actually die for it, the amounts they are putting away) but you just can’t pass it up. Everything you ever wanted to eat in triplicate. Beautiful formal restaurants, which have Caesar Salads better that any of our Wellington affectations, cafes that actually compete with Wellington’s coffee snobbery and people just walking round all day, offering you cocktails - Mudslingers, and Raspberry Pina Coladas. A Mudslinger turns out to be like a massive chocolate sundae, how could anyone have two?
I expected not too much class, and being the snob I am, was getting myself prepared to tolerate Oz up-close-and-in-your-face with icy Kiwi restraint. But actually, who cares? Not me and everyone is so friendly, happy to be on holiday and loving having someone to talk down to a bit. Australians always talk down to kiwis, treat us like we are slightly slower, naïve cave dwellers or something. But we don’t mind, in fact Reuben positively encourages it by asking questions that appear intersted to get them going. So we listen to their advice and just do whatever we please.
Laura and Reuben have both managed to get sunburnt, classic, you still need your mother for something after all, even if it is only administering copious after-sun treatments (which never work anyway). And I am now thinking about buying a fourth pair of togs, it seems nothing is quite up to scratch when you are trying to make a silk purse out of a very old sow’s ear (and other unmentionable parts of a sow!)
Laura has had her 30th birthday which was not too sad, we had a wonderful meal at a very classy restaurant and she was graceful and happy. And yesterday was our 38th (or maybe 39thn can’t quite seem to remember) wedding anniversary which was pretty sad but better to be sad here than there, I reckon. The awful irony is that Brian would have absolutely loved this, more than any of us, off to the restaurant early to get the big bacon and eggs for breakfast, cracking out his first drink at 9.30 and getting down to it with all those old cobbers, yarning boringly on about all their other cruises. He would have been interested, I’m not!! He would have loved it.
We are all gaining here though, gaining perspective, an idea of how we can make some sense of what happens next and gaining weight for better or worse. But for now, it is the fourth pair of togs for me and the cafes of Noumea to sample – C’est la vie.
This week has been a thank you card marathon but I know there are still many people who have been missed out, either I don’t have your address or you passed quietly through the blur of the last few weeks. I hope that if you are one of those people, this little photo will serve as a kind of thank you, not exactly personal, but as good as I can get.
We leave on Sunday morning for a little holiday in the sun and cannot wait. I will send you some blogs, hopefully with something cheerful to say.
Thank you again for the way you have all connected and cared for us all in so many different ways. Lesley