Many thanks for all your kind comments, e-mails and even cards of condolence after the passing away of my mother eight days ago. They are all strongly appreciated.
Last time I made rather an alarmed post about the prospect of getting Meg into the country. Virgin Atlantic gave service rather less helpful than would've been desired, but American Airlines were able to save the day. AA do offer very good bereavement fares when they're needed, so a considerable tip of the hat to them for that. The previous night's airport closure and associated cancellations meant that many aeroplanes were delayed on Wednesday morning, but Meg's flight got into the UK only slightly too late to be of much use. Nick Parish, a very good off-LJ friend who may nevertheless be lurking here, was extremely kindly able to help out with a late-night collection from the airport and a bed for the night. (LJ friends who might have helped out instead, I thank you, but Nick has a car and lives as close to the airport as any of you do - plus he's a really, really close friend.) On Thursday, transport went to plan; Meg took a very nice hire cab (pre-booked taxi) to King's Cross, bought the ticket she needed, caught the train which travelled about to time and got to Durham station where another local hire cab was waiting for her.
We often hear about the masses of traffic on the roads in the mornings due to school runs, but one consequence I hadn't realised was that it's almost impossible to get a hire cab at around 8am-9am simply because they're all booked up on long-term contracts to ferry kids to school. Makes sense, but I didn't know it beforehand. In any case, another considerable tip of the hat to Dylan's Taxis of Stanley for rearranging their contracts to get Meg to the crematorium in good time. Indeed, she got there with about half an hour to spare as one of the first to arrive.
Mum's cremation was everything you'd hope for; one of her friends from childhood - a tremendously kind, fun-loving, loving person with whom I am sad we had virtually lost contact except for these circumstances - gave a tender ten-minute tribute, and Dad spoke for another minute or two as well. Dad held the coffin and wished Mum requiescat in pace, which made me cry, and I was set off again by the sight of the curtain being drawn around the coffin at the end. Not looking forward to spreading the ashes according to Mum's wish, which is yet to happen. Back to an inn for sandwiches for an hour and then to an aunt's house to talk with the other mourners; Meg and I both were collapsing on a sofa from a lack of sleep and retired to crash on top of a bed for 90 minutes. All things considered, it went about as well as it could have done.
Meg's luggage was lost in the world's baggage handling systems at large, so we had to do some emergency clothes-shopping before grabbing fish and chips with mushy peas (as unavailable in the United States!), making baggage enquiries and settling in overnight at the unexpectedly beautiful Grey House Hotel here in Middlesbrough while the house was overloaded. Since then, Meg has kept me extremely busy giving my room a thorough cleaning; 80% of each of two book-cases remain to be sorted, then I need to deal with a large number of collections that I have removed from my room. I have also been indoctrinated into the cult of storage bins. If this is the legacy of this visit, then it is a very fine one.
We also unexpectedly managed to get to spend our anniversary together - we date our relationship as starting on the 12/3/4, which is easy to remember, though we didn't get to tell you about it until the 13th. I took Meg on a (short) mystery tour to the seaside town of Whitby, a dark 90-minute train ride over the picturesque-though-we-couldn't-see-much-t
Meg has been absolutely brilliant throughout this trip - everything you would want from your companion and your love. I am not sure how the future will work out, not in general terms but in terms of coming to terms with Mum's death; this is something that isn't going to happen overnight - it may take weeks or decades to fully sink in. As Meg says, the hard bits come at the points when you realise that you desperately want to tell Mum something but she's never going to be there to hear them again.
This unplanned trip was mostly about family; not just family past and family present, but also about Meg gaining acceptance as family future. Roll on the rest of our lives.