How it is to lose a parent in your early twenties

I was 22 when my father passed away in January 2016.

This was something I had thought I would not have to face for perhaps another 30 years. I was woefully unprepared.

‘Passed away’ is not quite the correct phrase. ‘Cruelly snatched’ would be more apt.

Dad became ill in the last week of November 2015. He was taken to hospital on November 28th, a Saturday. I remember it clearly. I was on my way home from work when I received the ‘don’t panic but I’ve called an ambulance’ text.

Within the week we had the diagnosis – mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Incurable. Terminal.

Suddenly we were plunged into a nightmare.

Within two weeks dad went from being ostensibly fine, to dying of cancer.

He came home for 3 days during December, but had to be readmitted after a long Sunday waiting for out-of-hours doctors and shouting at the people on the 111 line who were next to useless.

Mum and Dad married in the hospital on the 21st December, with 3 nurses as witnesses, and some plastic holly from the ward’s Christmas decorations as mum’s bouquet. None of us children were there to see it – I didn’t want to, anyway. It wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

He came home again on Christmas Eve because he was desperate to spend Christmas at home, but it was no Christmas, not at all.

2 weeks and 2 days later he was dead.

2 weeks after he came home, things were unbearable. He was in pain, he was deteriorating mentally, we had the nurses out constantly…St Giles Hospice offered to take him for respite, to sort him out and get him comfortable, so he could come home again.

He died there, 2 days later. I can only describe the circumstances as horrifying. Something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Terminal diagnoses don’t work like they do on telly, or in films. The doctor doesn’t say ‘you have a year’, or ‘you have 6 months’. Because they don’t know. They can make inferences, but it’s a black art. To start with, dad’s consultant was inferring years. There was talk of chemo in a few months, when he was stronger. Then the scans showed it was progressing faster than they’d expected. The years was revised down to months – inferred, though. The doctor was talking about popping into this and that outpatient clinic, several weeks and months away.

In the end we got just over 7 weeks from admittance to hospital to the end. 2 of those were spent relentlessly caring for dad at home.

It’s not that I minded. He was my dad. I’d have done anything. But it’s draining. Whilst he was at home he could do nothing for himself. He couldn’t get up on his own, or eat, or wash, or anything. He needed constant supervision. My mum and I became pharmacists, nurses, carers, cooks, cleaners, counsellors, and in the end, punchbags, even if they were only verbal ones. We were physical punchbags a couple of times, too.

Nobody should have to watch their parent deteriorate like that. Especially my dad. My dad had always been a total pillar of strength. He didn’t do emotion or weakness, my dad. To watch him crumble before my eyes was harder than I know how to express.

To be without him is harder.

I still live in the house I grew up with him in. And the pain is in the little things. I’d lived away from home for the last few years, and only moved back home last September, so the physical absence in the abstract sense was not too much of a blow – because I was used to going about life without him, anyway. It’s the details that sting the most.

It’s the garden, growing this year without his input. Suddenly all of it is in mine and my mum’s hands, and that’s hard. But watching the fruit and veg grow, watching the pond mature, having to do things I’ve always traditionally done with him or watched him do – that’s hard. We haven’t grown potatoes this year. I don’t think I could. That was always something we did together, ever since I was child. I have photos of us picking them together, me a child of about 5, proudly not wearing a shirt, because dad had taken his off in the heat and I wanted to be like him.

I’ll graduate again this summer. Last time I graduated, it was with dad at my side. He won’t be there, this time.

I drive his car. His bottle of lucozade and pot of chewing gum are still firmly in place. They won’t be going anywhere.

I need to buy a new computer soon. I have never bought one without his guidance and input. And the one I have currently is the one he bought for me. It feels like a betrayal, like he’s a little bit more gone, to stop using it.

I have a new job now. I haven’t told most of my colleagues about dad. When they ask, I tell them it’s just me and mum at home, and leave them to make their assumptions. Not because I want to cut him out of my life. But because they always get that look of pity, of sympathy, when they know what you’ve been through. It’s nice just to be another girl, just another person, not someone to be pitied.

You find out who your friends are, when something like this happens. Some friends immediately converged on me, whisked me out of my house, checked up on me all the time. Some turned away, not knowing how to handle it. Some tried to handle it, and failed. Maybe they think telling me that ‘everything happens for a reason’ will help. It’s kind of tough to accept there could be a reason for this when your dad is dying before your eyes.

I talk about dad, and I wonder if they think ‘oh no, here we go’. I wonder what they think when I mention him in conversation. Do they think I’m ‘okay’, now? Someone once said to mum ‘when you’re better we’ll do this’.

‘Getting better’ does not happen. You never really get over something like this. It just doesn’t happen. You only learn how to live with it, because you have to, and because time numbs the sting. It doesn’t ever go away, not really.

I elected not to be in the room for the ‘moment’. I couldn’t do it. I’d battled with what I would do ever since the diagnosis, but the moment the nurse came and told us it was it, my decision was made. I have peace with that decision. I have struggled for years with anxiety and depression and death is one of my biggest triggers. I couldn’t have been there. I don’t feel like a coward for it. I feel grateful to the nurse who held me and told me it was okay to not want to be in the room, that I was okay, that it didn’t make me a bad person. My brother-in-law came and sat with me after that, and let me snot all over his shirt. I’ll always be thankful for the way he held me and stroked my hair and murmured soothing words and let me cry.

The bit I found hardest initially was coping with mum’s grief – and I think perhaps I still find this the hardest part. My father had two children with his first wife, but I was the only child he had with my mother, and therefore it is me who has to deal with the brunt of her pain. Who had to watch her lose so much weight, watch her not sleep, watch her cry and be helpless to do anything to make it better. In a way it is like losing both parents, because the surviving one is so bereft and grief-stricken that they lose the ability to function as a parent. At the time you need them the most, they too are crumbling. That is hard. I learned to hide my grief, because my mum needed to be strong. To this day I mostly cry alone.

Mum’s pain is different from mine. She lived with him for much longer, and her love for him was different. And she is stuck on the intense trauma we went through during those last weeks, the horror of it all, the absolute, abhorrent cruelty.

It is easy to feel resentment towards my half-siblings. They have lives to get on with. They didn’t have to suffer through the horror of watching dad deteriorate before their eyes. They didn’t have to force medication into him even when he protested he didn’t want it because it would make him feel sick.

When dad died, he and mum had been married just over 2 weeks. This invalidated his will, so he died intestate. Which meant we had to go through probate. Which meant gathering all the paperwork together and putting it in order for the solicitor. Dad had been largely in charge of the paperwork, and it was in total disorder. That was a tough week. My half-siblings didn’t have to suffer through any of that. They didn’t have to leaf through thousands of pages covered in dad’s handwriting, knowing he would never again put pen to page.

They have their own crises, and they come over and tell us about their problems. Oblivious to the agony of living in this house, still, surrounded by dad’s things, by the memories. I can’t blame them for it really; they don’t know what’s it like. But there is still a room I struggle to go in. There are still parts of the house I don’t go to. Things I don’t look at.

There is a whole raft of music I can’t listen to anymore. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to enjoy ELO again. That was our band. My dad adored ELO. It’s too painful to listen to, these days.

So much changes when you lose a parent, and I thought I would have years left to prepare myself for it. There is so much I’ll do that he’ll never see. Anyone I ever start a relationship with from now on will never know him. They will never know the person I was before I was broken in this way. There will be no one to give me away on my wedding day. My children will never know their grandfather.

It was my 23rd birthday in April. I opened my presents as my mother sobbed. I didn’t want to mark it this year, but my family did. I have my whole life ahead of me, and he will never see any of it, now. He will never ever be there when I need him, never be able to come and pick me up after a night out, never make a cup of tea just the way I like it. Never again will he tell me to shush because he was watching the telly, or shout at me for not watching something he thinks I would be interested in.

I don’t know what Christmas will be like this year. I think we will go away, to my aunt’s. Christmas will never be the same, because Christmas will forever be haunted with memories of my dad in a hospital bed in the living room, too weak to open his presents, too ill to really care.

I would never wish the suffering me and family have been through in the last few months on anyone. Not the worst person in the world. But I wish dad were still here. I really do. Just one more day. One more day of him well, and able to enjoy life. I wish that he hadn’t suffered. I wish so badly that it hadn’t gone like that for him. That it had happened to anyone else.

And I miss him. I wish he were here. It’s not fair that he’s not here. And that will never go away.

Three weeks on…..

As per my last post, on Friday 14th of November I had an operation known as a bimaxillary osteotomy, or double orthognathic corrective surgery – in layman’s terms, surgery to completely realign both my jaws, so that the bottom jaw bites behind my top jaw, as it is supposed to, and as it does with the majority of the population.

This surgery was the climax of 3 and a half years of braces and over 5 years on waiting lists. I thought at some point I was supposed to be having the surgery in the summer of 2013 but that didn’t work out. I could have had it in summer 2014 but the only date available was the date after I graduated, 300 miles away. So. November 14th was the date and by the time it got to November 13th, it’s safe to say I was bricking it. I hadn’t really thought about the surgery in the run-up to it. I’m at university 300 miles away, and getting time off for this op was complicated – first of all emailing all the lecturers involved, sorting out extensions, making sure I get all the work done that I need. Then the not insignificant task of booking a train home, packing, actually getting the train home – that was a hell of a journey, which started with a broken lift in my apartment block, featured me breaking my (extremely heavy) suitcase so that the handle wouldn’t retract anymore, and ended with me losing my parents at my home station cause they went to the wrong platform, I assumed they were late and went out to the car park to wait, and we must have crossed while I was in lift and they took the stairs.

The surgery is big surgery. If anyone is reading this blog because they are about to go through it, don’t let anyone tell you it’s like having your wisdom teeth out. I did that last year. Quick whiff of anaesthetic, out for 15-20 mins max, home three hours later. Orthognathic surgery is a big deal, and if you’re going to have it you need to take at least two weeks off work/school/uni, preferably 3-4.

My surgeon left the hospital in the summer because he got promoted so I only met the surgeon who was going to do the operation a couple of weeks before the surgery. Surgeons, as a rule, are incredible people. They wake up in the morning knowing that they are going to cut someone open and poke about at their insides. You can’t go to work a bit tired, as a surgeon, because you couldn’t get to sleep. You can’t have a heavy night drinking before operating because you will probably kill someone. My new surgeon was no different. And three weeks [and one day, if we’re being picky] I’m starting to get back to normal and despite the nightmare of the first few days, the ambulance ride to A&E, and the being confined to the sofa for far too long, I have to say…it’s so nice to look in a mirror and feel like I look normal [except for, you know, all the swelling]. My face is balanced out now. I don’t feel horror every time I look at me. I feel like I have the right face now.

Masters and…stuff.

I started my Masters degree this week! Well, last week technically. Well, actually we don’t *technically* start til next week. Last week was full of inductions and stuff. This week was split in two, as was this year’s cohort, so we could each do a 2 and a half day first aid course to prepare us for…well, life, I suppose. It gets a bit complicated trying to explain it to people. ‘So how are you finding your course so far then?’ ‘Well, we haven’t actually started yet…well we have…oh never mind.’

It’s…strange. It’s very odd to be in the same place (I did my undergraduate degree here, ergo I have been here for three years already) but with completely different people. By far the majority of people from the undergraduate degree have moved on to pastures new. There can’t be more than ten of us coming a back for the Masters. And it’s odd. I’m used to being able to call up friends, arrange to meet, go to events, and see certain people, pretty much whenever I like, because they live in the same town as me. Now they have scattered to all corners of the globe and whilst I have come back to familiar surroundings, it feels very off-kilter. No more running into familiar faces around campus.

I do have an advantage though. If I am finding it bizarre, me, who knows my way around and knows all the staff and where the lecture theatres are and where to go for the best chips in town and if you go down that path you’ll get there in half the time, then the people who are coming here for the first time must be feeling ten times worse. Three years down the road from being a fresher, the new kid in town, the youngest in the place, and I honestly can’t imagine how I did it. It’s terrifying. A new place, new people, a completely clean slate. I don’t think I’d be able to cope as well now, but then I suppose that’s the benefit of youth. And when you’re a fresher, so is everyone else. Everyone is new, no-one knows anyone and everyone is in the same boat.

So I’ve just finished two and a half days of first aid training, after being bored for the three days prior to that, having no work and nothing really to do. My knees are wrecked from two and a half days kneeling next to ‘casualties’ checking for vital signs and bleeding out and why the heck is this person unconscious and unresponsive?! and using CPR dummies and putting people in the recovery position over and over and over. Interesting way to break the ice, that. ‘Hey, nice to meet you. Now I’m going to poke you everywhere.’ And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. The protocol calls for, if no circulation issues are found, a head-to-toe body search to try and discover the cause of unconsciousness. Which requires running your hands over the skull, looking behind the ears, looking in the eyes feeling the brow, nose, jaw, collarbones, sternum and ribs, and prodding the stomach in four places, then feeling the kidneys. Next up the legs and arms – you have to feel everywhere, basically, except for the groin. I imagine this is not a problem in an actual, real-life emergency. But when it’s someone who is still conscious, and merely pretending otherwise, and someone you have only just met and will be coursemates with for the next year – bit awkward.

I have a kitchen of my own, which is nice. I have one room and one en-suite. So I don’t even have to go through a door to get to the kitchen. It’s right there! It’s lovely, even if the fridge is a bit noisy, and I have a balcony and a double bed and it’s all rather fab. And despite living 5 miles further out from campus than for the last two years, I only have to leave my flat 15 minutes earlier than I did last year. Which is cracking, if you’re like me and hate early mornings.

Finished Uni – Now What?

I have finished my degree! Had my last exam on Thursday, spent Friday packing, and Saturday travelling home. It’s so lovely to be home. So lovely.

As students will be finishing uni up and down the country and facing the transition into ‘the real world’, we all have to come up with some kind of answer to the question ‘What are you going to do now?’

It is a bit of learning curve. For the past 21 years, we have been buffeted from pre-school to primary school to secondary school, and then perhaps to A-Levels, and those of us finishing degrees, on to uni. It almost feels as though we have been blindly stumbling along a pre-planned path, and now we’ve reached the end of that path and have to figure out how we’re going to pay the bills and put food on the table. It is a slightly daunting prospect.

For some students, the inevitable will be delayed by embarking on a Masters degree. Masters undoubtedly make you more employable. They also cost a lot. Others will get a job. Others will travel. Some will go on and use their degree to begin education in a different area. I have friends going on to Medical School and Vet School. Others will volunteer, or go into internships. Some will get jobs that are related to their sector of preference. Some will get jobs that are utterly unrelated because of a need for money. Some will get married. The issue of funding is relevant to all these. With government grants and loans no longer and option, the money has to come from somewhere.

Everyone is also faced again with the slightly odd situation of people with whom you have become very good friends, and shared formative experiences with, will all disperse to various corners of the country, and sometimes, various corners of the world. Having spent three years together in a small town (in my case), suddenly you will never see some of them again. It is a slightly dizzying prospect, a time of huge change. Three years tucked up in a little insular world of studying, partying, lectures, exams, essays, trying to wrangle finding a house and living together, which sometimes goes well, and sometimes not, forming new relationships, some of which may last a lifetime, and suddenly we are flung, blinking, into the chaos that is the world, with all of its crowds, it’s rushing, a whirlwind of decisions to make, numerous balls to juggle with.

Everything is about to change.

Are you ready?

A date has been set…ish.

Been meaning to write this blog post for ages. Of course I would finally get round to it the evening before my first final exam at university. I suppose I ought to be going over my references again at this point. Most of the information is in my head but trying to make references – names, dates, studies – stick is more difficult than you’d expect, and I’m slightly frazzled because I have yet to either look up, or remember, any of what are known as ‘outside reading’ – references you can slip in that you didn’t cover in lectures. Maybe that is my job for after I’ve written this post. 2 for each of 5 topics shouldn’t ought to be too hard to find, or remember, but again, you’d be surprised. Due to various slightly devastating events I have to do immensely well in tomorrow’s exam to do well in the module.

Anyway. I have had braces for 3 years, and 1 month precisely (today being 6th May 2014). 3 years is a long time to have wire glued to your teeth. And believe me, it hurts. Not 24/7. Mostly it’s fine. But the wire doesn’t just sit there. It tugs your teeth about in your mouth, straightens them, neatens them. So every time you have the wire adjusted, it is accompanied by horrible aching at every touch to your teeth, for several days.

And then of course, having metal rubbing against the inside of your mouth is not a lot of fun, and tends to cause many ulcers. These, too, are particularly prevalent in the first few days and weeks after an adjustment, until the inside of your cheeks harden off, as it were (they don’t literally harden. They just toughen against the irritation). This causes something of a double whammy – achy teeth and a sore mouth. And I’ve had these braces for three years.

The reason I have braces? My bottom jaw is too far forward, and my top jaw too far back, as seen here:

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This does not necessarily cause huge medical issues. But it does make eating flat things difficult, and it looks horrible. I have no cheekbones (apart from having a flat face anyway) and my bottom jaw and lip stick out much too far. Most people I encounter exclaim that they haven’t noticed. Whether they are just being polite or not, I can never quite work out. But whatever other people think – I hate it. And I’ve been waiting for the operation for ages. I thought it was going to be last summer, but that was miscommunication with the hospital. Then I thought it would be this summer. But my teeth are not ready, there is no slot, etc etc.

I had my wisdom teeth out in preparation last April. And this April, I saw the surgeon again, and finally got a date set. Sort of. It’s very provisional, and unfortunately my surgeon has a promotion, and will be leaving, so it depends on the replacement as to whether it will happen on that date. But it should be sometime in November.

This makes things rather awkward. Last week I was accepted onto the Masters programme I had applied for at this university. So if everything goes ahead as planned I’m going to have to have some serious talks with the professor. The reason for it being November, and not, say, December, which would minimise time missed and give me time to recover over Christmas, is that on the Masters programme, a field trip to Kenya is scheduled for early January, and I need substantial time after the operation to recover and be ready for this.

I will need 6 weeks of taking it easy. 2 weeks of heavily taking it easy. They will breaking my bottom jaw and taking a bit out, breaking my top jaw and moving it all forward. 6 metal plates. They are also going to remove a strip from my top jaw, so that when I smile, less gum is visible, and this here doesn’t happen.

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I will go in on a Friday morning, spend Friday night in what is Intensive Care in everything but the name, with specialised nurses who are specifically trained. Then I should go home on the Saturday, bar any complications. But as you can imagine, with a broken jaw, I won’t be able to eat properly. Liquid food, soft food, anything that doesn’t need chewing, that will be the order of the day. The surgeon warned me to expect to lose 10% of my body weight. This and the enforced diet will leave me with little energy, and so… go out in the morning? Spend the afternoon asleep on the settee. I think I may have to prepare a stack of films and boxsets.

But even though I am 3 years+ into my orthognathic surgery journey, I thought I’d develop this blog into sort of tracking what happens, as we near the business end of the journey, and things start happening. For a long time now I’ve just been going to and fro to the hospital whilst they change this wire and adjust that module to make my teeth straighter. Not the easiest, when I’m at university 6 hours away from the hospital I’m having my treatment at, and I have appointments mostly every 6-8 weeks. But I’ve got through. Anyway, I shall be updating now after appointments (and in between, if I have other things to say. I won’t strictly be blogging about hospitals). I hope that people who are about to begin the process, or are in the same shoes as me, find it. I guess that’s what I’m aiming for with this. Because let’s be honest, when I started the process, easily 4 or 5 years ago, I was given a DVD to watch, to help me understand what to expect. It had interviews on with people that had gone through it. And the one that has always stuck in my mind is this one woman, who said, of waking up from the jaw surgery:

“I woke up, and I felt like my face had been run over by a steam roller”

I won’t lie. That’s…not the most reassuring thing I could have heard. Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. I’ll have to wait and see.

My Mad, Day-Long Trip to London

I finished my final term of lectures at university last Friday!! images

So surreal. Can’t believe how the time has flown!! Spent the final week at a Biology Undergraduate Conference, with each of us presenting our research that we’ve done during third year with an 8 minute talk. I was terrified, but fortunately mine was on the Monday morning, so I could relax quite early on. Anyway, having arranged with my parents that they would drive down on the Sunday, stay over Sunday night, and then drive me and my stuff home on the Monday (due to the fact that I needed to bring a crapload of work home and the trains were still broken in and out of Cornwall), I decided on the Monday night/Tuesday that I wanted to go to London on Saturday. Yes. Crazy, I know, considering I live 6 hours from London by train when at uni, and I needed to be home by Sunday afternoon to meet my parents.

Anyway, this trip had been arranged for a while, with The Gatiss Guild, Mark Gatiss’ fan club. Mark’s lovely husband Ian Hallard was in a play, King Lear, at a little theatre in Marylebone called The Cockpit, and it was closing on Saturday 29th March – so it was my last chance to go. Due to the size of the production, meeting the actors after the play was pretty much a given, particularly as they were planning to go to the matinee performance, after which the actors would have to hang around for the evening performance, and I had been a fan of Ian for a while. Anyway, the Guild had a spare room at the hostel, and the theatre wasn’t that dear…so having previously written to Ian the week before, lamenting not being able to go, I sort of shoehorned the trip in. I didn’t really have the time nor the money, but I didn’t care! (totally can save the money next term…who needs to eat…right?)

So I got the 6.45am train out of Cornwall on the Saturday (I know. Yikes.). 3 trains and a bus later, I got to Paddington at 12.37pm, and met the rest of the Guild at the Pizza Express on Baker Street, at which point I promptly spilt lemonade all over Nicola, and made a general tit of myself. Great start, Soph.

We went off to the play, which started at 2.15pm, being the matinee, and can I just say – wow! It seemed like an odd time to be  putting on a production of King Lear, what with it being on at the National, and it was a small cast. David Ryall was playing the title role, and having undergone chemotherapy during rehearsals, which had severely affected his memory, he was on book (performing with a script), but nonetheless I thought he was good in the role. Of course, I was biased as, being a fan of Ian’s, I was looking forward to his scenes the most, and enjoyed them as much as I expected – Ian is an excellent actor (see here for details) and didn’t disappoint in his role as Duke of Cornwall (apt, considering I had travelled all the way from Cornwall to see it).

The scene just before the interval was particularly shocking (given that King Lear was first performed in 1606 then I don’t think “spoilers” really counts, but if you don’t want to know details of the story, skip to the next paragraph) – it saw Ian’s character firstly gouging out the eyes of the Duke of Gloucester (and if you have seen the theatre, which consists of a floor-level stage, surrounded by banked seating on all four sides, you will understand that for anyone sitting on the first or second rows, as we were, you were immensely close to the action, and the fake blood was thrown around with abandon, making the scene all the more shocking). Cornwall then died a dramatic death, dropping to the floor dead just as the lights went down. Which meant he took no part in the second half, sadly…

…however I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the cast, and in particular, this production’s Edgar (who definitely made up for the general lack of Ian’s Cornwall in the second half).

Dominic Kelly played Edgar/Poor Tom. I had been told by a friend who had seen it a couple of weeks beforehand that he was very good in the role, but I was impressed (she says, like an expert. I’m a scientist, not a theatre critic…), even going in with reasonable expectations after that review. He was quite brilliant to watch. He switched with apparent ease between Irish and English accents, between Poor Tom and Edgar. He seemed unafraid of physicality, spending the majority of the play in little more than a loin cloth, and covered in dirt and mud and grime, and threw himself about the stage, before appearing back in the guise of Edgar at the end of the play, his poise and elegance restored.

I do feel a little mean for picking out these two actors, for, as wonderful as they were, everyone in the play was really great in their roles. At the end of this I’ll attach the cast list from the programme and you can check everyone out at your leisure, should you so wish.

After the excitement of the play, we were all a bit hyped up, and decided to calm down in the theatre’s bar with a nice cup of tea. It was a bit surreal as at some points it was difficult to tell actor from civilian – most, if not all, of the actors were remaining at the theatre because of the evening performance at 7.15pm, and so some were hanging out in the bar, bustling through, some leaving the theatre to make phone calls and then coming back in…it was quite odd. First of all Dominic came past. One of the people we were with, Aimee, had been the previous week and had met Dominic, so he stopped to say hello to her, before continuing on his way. And then Ian came to see us.

Two of our group had missed the start of the play due to hurriedly getting some Cornish biscuits for Ian from a local shop. I don’t know why I didn’t think to get some from actual Cornwall, in hindsight, it could have been lovely. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. So they had some rather apt presents for him.

I would have liked to have said hello a little better, but I couldn’t speak at that point and was shaking quite hard, more than a little starstruck. Nevertheless, Holly, one of the Guild mods, got him to sign her ticket, and he said hello to us all and thanked us for coming to see him, and was generally lovely. They say never meet your idols, but he was friendly and kind, despite the fact that he must have been tired and then had to go backstage and hype himself to perform it all over again (fortunately he had only one performance left, so that must have helped his mood), and gracious towards us afterwards on twitter.

After he returned backstage, we stayed a little longer, as Holly was on crutches and we were all a bit tired and wrung out (some of us, at least – early start!!). Dominic came back out, and Aimee got him to come over and say hello to everyone. I hope he was pleased to see us, we were all pleased to say hello to him, and he too was delightfully friendly and lovely (and perfectly clean after being covered in such a mess of dirt for so much of the play).

After leaving the theatre, we sadly had to say goodbye to some of the group members (Aimee and Laura) and the rest of us temporarily split up, with some going to seek out somewhere to eat that night, and the rest of us taking bags and going to check into the hostel (which was rather out of the way but very cheap). We thought we’d get the tube – big mistake. Firstly we managed to split up in the tube station, Waterloo, I think, we managed to break off into two pairs, and couldn’t find each other for about five minutes. Then, when we finally found each other and got on the correct tube train, it was about a twenty minute walk from the nearest tube station (we had not realised this), and that was without Holly on crutches. Fortunately there was a bus stop just outside the hostel, from which left a bus which went into town – we got on that after we’d dumped our bags, and got off at Waterloo Station, getting the tube from there into town. At which point we promptly got lost and couldn’t find the others. We ended up on Shaftesbury Avenue, which was rammed with people, it being Saturday night, but eventually we found them, and spent a fun evening talking about our shared loves, Mark and Ian, and everything else, over a few drinks. And also generally dying over the pictures Dominic posted on instagram that evening, including ones of Ian (x x) (all the pictures he posted of the cast were great, of course, but hey, it was a meet up of the Gatiss Guild, so what can you expect……).

Getting back to the hostel was…interesting. We got off the tube at  London Bridge station, which, as it turns out, is right underneath the Shard (which is huge!!!)

1723782_1472387319645021_303031322_nAnyway, as I said, we got off at London Bridge,  which won out over Waterloo due to the lack of steps for Holly, but the road outside the station with the bus stop we needed to get a bus from was shut, so we wandered up and down the road, and in and out of the bus station several times (which sounds like nothing, but considering we were all knackered, had no idea how to get back, and had one person on crutches and one with several stonking blisters (don’t wear heels for 18 hours in London)…). Eventually, a clever app on Holly’s phone told us to get the tube to Bermondsey, one stop away, and from there we could get a bus to just outside the hostel. By the time all this was sorted out and we finally reached the hostel, it was getting on for 1am, and taking into account the fact that we managed to pick the weekend on which the clocks change, it was gone 2am before we were all in bed. A very late night. But fun.

All this was followed by a rather early morning, a bizarre trek across London on the bus, which was made doubly complicated by the tube line we needed being shut for maintenance, and then a 20 minute tube journey up to Paddington, saying goodbye to everyone (which was very sad), and finding the right train back to Cornwall.

Despite the fact that I had travelled for 6 hours to meet up with people I had previously only known via twitter, it turned out that one of the girls was in fact from Cornwall, from a place two stops before mine on the mainline, and we were actually both getting the same train back. I found her very shortly after getting on the train. It was lovely to have a travel companion. I am at uni 6 hours away from home, and so regularly make 6 hour and more train journeys alone – it made a nice change to have a friend.

And so followed 2 and a half hours on a train, then just over an hour on a hot bus with air con that was supremely ineffective, followed by a further train. Blanket (the nickname of the girl I was travelling with – no, I don’t know why) got off at her stop, and I continued on with my book (which was this, rather appropriately), happily managing to finish it before I arrived at Truro (I had had it on the go for a couple of weeks, as uni kept getting in the way of reading time. I know. How dare it.).

Now, frustratingly, I was due to have a 45-minute wait at Truro before I could get the 15 minute train back to the branchline station in my village. However, my parents were driving down at the same time as I was on the train. We were in some kind of bizarre race all the way. They caught us massively during the bus replacement journey, and over took us while we were waiting at Plymouth (there was a problem with a train door so we were delayed leaving), and in fact they arrived at Truro 20 minutes before I did, which was nice as I could meet them there and go with them straight to the Premier Inn they were staying at rather than hang around on the cold platform for 40 minutes.

And thus ended my epic weekend of travelling. Unless you count the 6 hour drive back home the next day. My mileometer was pushing 850 miles by the time we got home at about 5pm on Monday evening!!!

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The Wheatear

Sat on a rock watching the world

Listening to the waves crash against the shore

Watching the oystercatchers feeding at the water’s edge

Fluffed up against the cold, the wheatear sees

Its friends, pecking in the seaweed,

Sees the seagulls calling to each other,

And soaring high above on the wind.

Sees the sand whipped up into a swirling frenzy,

And it stands.

 

Just a moment.

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