All the signs of spring seem to be here, with daffodils flourishing and birds starting to sing earlier each morning. The gardens at Apley are showing their increasing maturity and the benefit of all the work which has gone into them. So far we have not really suffered too much from bad weather, and must count ourselves very fortunate compared with so many. It all seems to be rubbing off on me, and I have felt the urge to make a start on one of those tasks which I have been promising myself that I would do, namely tidying up some of the records in my study.
Having been married to a former secretary for almost 45 years, at first sight things look to be very much under control. Indeed, friends are usually very impressed with the rows of labelled box files charting my personal affairs. Unfortunately, I do have this tendency to simply file the latest bills and communications, without attempting to slim down the bulging file by discarding more ancient history. Indeed, at one stage I had kept all of my bank statements (with the exception of the very first) for over 50 years!) Whilst there might be some potential for a dedicated social historian to take an interest, it does seem unlikely, and I now try to content myself with the last few years.
One of the problems I encounter is that of trying to remain detached. Simply throwing things out, or shredding, is not too bad if you don’t take too much interest in the documents. However, it is all too easy to glance at the detail and to start thinking “Did that only cost so much back then?” or “Is it that long since I bought that?” Then the job then starts to take much longer! And, of course, there are some items of memorabilia which I really cannot throw away.
Obvious examples include details of past holidays spent with Pat, and sometimes other friends, where maps and brochures bring back so many happy memories. They are all part and parcel of the memories, along with photographs and slides, and I certainly will not be parting with them in the near future.
Other significant records are my lecture notes, both received as a student, and those created by me during my lecturing career. The former are not too bad to dispose off: partly because I can no longer understand them, and partly because I changed my writing style subsequently and cannot even swear that they are really mine! However, disposing of the lectures and assignments which I wrote when teaching is much harder, and much more akin to losing a child you have brought up. Nobody else could have produced such wonderful material, could they?! And they also bring back many memories of earlier years and former students.
Nevertheless, I have bitten the bullet and disposed of nearly all these. One of the results is that I now find myself with empty storage boxes and folders, and the temptation is there to start filling these with other material, of course! I am not intending to generate much, but I have a daughter who does see my house as a convenient warehouse for keeping her overflow items. I have some sympathy with her predicament, as her house is somewhat smaller, and she does have a couple of teenagers who help to add to the things she has at home. So my suspicion is that the storage boxes will not remain empty for long: however, the important difference this time around will be that it will not be my problem to empty them in due course!
If only I felt up to tackling my garage, which is in need of a real tidying. Unfortunately, I am finding it hard to face that, as my health is not as good as it was. My last meeting with my oncologist resulted in the confirmation that the gradual spread of the cancer has now reached out from merely spreading in the bones to the pleura of one lung, and my medication is ineffectual, with no real alternatives. So my treatment has ceased, other than some steroids, and we shall have to see how things progress. Given that I have lived around cancer for a long time (it is almost 23 years since my wife’s mastectomy and over 5 years since her death, whilst my own diagnosis came nearly 6 years ago) I am only too well aware that it is impossible to predict the future course of events in terms of time scale.
In the meantime, I remain determined to participate in life as much as I am able. In that effort, the support of the hospice is immeasurable. So, for example, I still try to play my flute after lunch at the Day Hospice, because I am aware that my playing is appreciated. Indeed, I recently played a flute duet with one of the student nurses who brought her flute along, and the fans loved it! I have managed to join the monthly choir a few times recently. The hospice team will also be guiding me along my future steps, which is a great reassurance. So many opportunities!
Of course, I am not the only one with problems. There have been some changes in those attending as a few people have passed away – not without real battles, it has to be said. So that has meant the opportunity for others to come along, and to hear about their lives and interests. The one unchanging characteristic of all those attending is the positive outlook which they demonstrate, and which the hospice does so much to foster. It really does me good just to go along and be with them.