A Touch of Autumn

It’s Thursday 8th October, nearly 11 months since I lost my beautiful son, Danny. I still can’t get through half a day without feeling that tingling in your nose that you get when you’re trying not to cry. It’s a long and tough journey, this road through grief. It is what it is. I just have to be a bit more patient with myself and know its OK to feel this roller coaster of emotions. Putting the jigsaw of my life back together will be an ongoing process. It’s a lonely trail.

I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that I’ll see Matt soon and praying we’ll get to be together for the first anniversary of Danny’s passing, and for our birthdays. We were all in November and it’s always been a fun month for us. Matt and I need to make different memories. Danny would’ve been 27 this year. Being with Matt is all I can focus on at the moment. I am also keen to get to know his girlfriend, Meg, better. We had a lovely week together in Prague last October and of course I saw her at Danny’s funeral. But I’d like a chance to see more of her in better circumstances. She’s been instrumental in getting Matt through this ghastly time of loss.

Back here on Momo, Bernie and I are getting on well. He’s nearly done with two big translation jobs, so we’re hoping to go sailing for the next couple of weeks. We might head to the Bay of LA, and then to Santa Rosalia in the hopes of meeting up with Utopia and Love & Luck. Arena might come too, so we’ll all be together again which will be great fun. We’ve got some maintenance jobs done and others planned, as well as getting Bernie’s passport off to the Canadian embassy. That was a relief! Everything is so tricky in these weird Covid-19 times!

The kittens keep us laughing and are a comfort to me when I am feeling low. They seem to know and both show up for cuddles the minute I start sniffling! We gave them their first rescue lesson two days ago. A dip in the sea and a scary scramble up the net over the side, gave them enough of a shock to slow them down for 24 hours! But they are away again now, defying gravity at great speed!

We’ve had some lovely times with Jamie & Steph, from Arena. They and their four kids are a delight and I love them to bits. It’s been nice having another woman to talk to and share stuff with. Steph’s a nurse too, so we have a lot in common. Between them and Bernie’s gentle kindness, I am very blessed in my support during this tough bit of the year. They’re all so understanding when I lose the plot and need time out to give myself a pep talk! We go for happy hour margaritas fairly often and usually end up getting yummy Mexican food! It’s so cheap! Their youngest, Lochlan, turned six recently. I thought he was older! They’re all so tall! Jamie is 6’4″, so not really a surprise!

There is finally a touch of Autumn in the air and we had a foggy start to the day today. It was a beautiful morning, all misty and calm. Its still in the early 30’s during the day but the heavy humidity has eased, and the nights are in the 20’s. Much kinder on a sleeping body!

09.10.20: If there were room to be doing cartwheels rounds Momo’s deck I’d be trying! I’m very happy because Matt & Meg are definitely coming to the USA. Meg has a somewhat personal project she’s doing so they’ll be here for six weeks. We’ll make more definite plans once they’re here and know what they’re doing!

Bernie and I watched a film called “My Octopus Teacher” last night. Everyone has been raving about it and it purports to be a documentary. The cinematography is great but a documentary it is not! It’s more like a soppy, cheap Mills & Boon nature equivalent. It annoyed the hell out of Bernie! I just took it all with a grain of salt and enjoyed the underwater scenery. But it’s all made up, a load of BS, nothing ‘real’ about it. I’m getting quite a lot of amusement out of how much it got under Bernie’s skin though. Truth and honesty are important to him in a very visceral way, and with the way they present this film, I can understand his irritation!

The kittens are scrapping. Again. Jack is feeling very full of himself. He bit me hard this morning, so got held up by the scruff and told “not on!”

Bernie’s painting the shower, so there’s stuff all over the saloon. It amazes me the positions the kittens sleep/relax in!

I’m polishing some of the rust off the endless stainless steel a yacht possesses! I quite like doing it but it’s hard on my back so I do it in stages. I don’t have to be as obsessive as on a superyacht either!

It’s been a hotter day again, real feel of 41°C. So we’ve just had a swim and it’s nearly wine time! Good job!

Morning Watch

It’s 0453. 18th, maybe! In the Navy this period of four hours from 0400 to 0800 is called the morning watch, so I guess I’m subconsciously on duty! For whatever reason I can’t sleep anyway. I had nightmares when I went to sleep and am now awake again with a bit of an upset tummy. We went out for drinks with Jamie & Steph, and another couple from another boat in the marina, Josh & Morgan. I hadn’t met Morgan before and she seems like a nice girl, but we’d both met Josh before. Bernie’s really funny about Josh, doesn’t like him much at all! I don’t think he’s too bad but he is a bit of a blow hard! So, we had a couple of margaritas and some finger food. I guess that’s what upset my tummy. It’s not bad though. I’ve always found, when travelling, that it’s best to cook your own food. Especially in countries like this!

Once we got home, we sat on deck, on the bow, as we often do. Most days, in fact. We had a good long chat about the future, where we thought things might go, and so on. Didn’t solve much, lots of “don’t knows”! But good to toss stuff round. I find Bernie easier to talk to, on just about anything, than any other man my age I’ve met. He’s incredibly non judgemental. It’s refreshing.

On a totally different thread, I’m cat sitting for Kim at the moment. She’s gone to her place in Tuscon for a few days. She has four cats and the sister to our boys, so I’ll go twice a day to feed them etc. Our kittens have really settled in and love it here now, I think. In fact, when I got back this afternoon, they were calling to me, happy to see me, and Alex did that kneading /sucking thing wee kits do. I forget how young they are. Normally they’d still be with their mum. Bernie and I sat on deck watching a TV series and they stayed close all the time.

Alex and Jack are getting bold though, and have nearly gone over board chasing each other or attacking halyards! They seem to think the whole yacht is a fancy playground designed just for them! We laugh so much.

On Monday we took the dingy and went exploring the harbour. The ride was a couple of hours before high tide (springs) so we went up the river a ways too and saw a beautiful white Ibis (I think, lol). Then we hopped ashore on the isthmus to the west side of the harbour. It was actually pretty spectacular and I couldn’t resist a swim in the fresher cooler sea on the other side.

24.09.20: I’ve been feeling weird this afternoon. On edge. Emotionally delicate. It’s not all Danny this time either. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I haven’t earned any money for nearly a year and it worries me to be living on savings that have taken a life time to earn. I don’t feel I can say anything really. Bernie has enough on his plate right now. He needs me to be supportive at the moment, with things in NZ giving him sorrow. So I get that it’s on me that I’m letting it ride for now. Though I did mention I’d applied for a job in Fort Lauderdale.

We had a nice night out with Steph and Jamie this evening. They’re Christian and we aren’t and it’s never been discussed between us. I don’t know how it came up tonight but next thing I know Bernie is really getting into one of his passionate dissertations. He’s so educated and articulate about it, it’s impossible to argue with him. I was embarrassed. I think they’re entitled to be left alone regarding their belief system. So I’m feeling a bit fed up. I hope it doesn’t affect our friendship cos I love them to bits. They’re great people.

I don’t know. I just feel in limbo. Like I don’t belong anywhere any more. The jigsaw is a bit shakey just now. If it wasn’t for the kittens making me smile today, I might’ve given in to a good old sulk and grump session!

It was a gorgeous morning though, with stunning light on the sea at sunrise.

I’m still not feeling 100%. When a girl can’t drink her happy hour margaritas, you know there’s something wrong! I did get some grocery shopping done this morning though, so at least we have fresh goods again. But had to ly down when I got back.

Sunday, 27th September.

Where has this month gone! There’s a lot of local traffic in the bay today and many of the ignorant a-holes are screaming past us so close, making Momo bounce all over the show. You can tell I’m in one of my really tolerant moods!

We’ve both been productive today. Bernie’s been filling screw holes in the shower cubicle, readying it for painting, and I’ve cleaned the whole deck and done a ton of laundry. It’s too hot to do more now. It’s 36°C. I wonder when it starts to cool off for the Winter. I’ll be happy when the sea temperature drops. It’s almost the same as the air!

Alex and Jack are doing well. I rather suspect Kim has incorrectly sexed them. I had a look for myself now they’re happy with us handling them. I think Jack might be a girl and Alex a boy but I’ll see what the vet says when we take them in for their first rabies jabs. We’ll have to do that soon, though they never go ashore to have contact! But we’ll need the record for sailing to other countries.

Kim took us for drinks and nibbles at some friends of her’s house two nights ago. Nancy and Glenn. What a cool couple. We had a great time. They live in a lovely place between here and Guaymas, overlooking the sea. They also have rescue cats from Kim! And two dogs. They’re educated, articulate and a ton of fun. Great attitudes to life. Glenn is a psychiatrist and Nancy managed health care facilities for indigenous populations, I think. Really interesting to talk to. Glenn is now involved in running a local medical clinic and three ambulances. It’s free to use and supported by donations. The staff are paid so it’s a well run, successful local enterprise. I offered to work for them while I’m here and Glenn was very keen for me to. He was keen to have me do some education and go out on the ambulances. Bernie was very supportive which I appreciate, because if I do it, I will be exposing us to Covid-19. No doubt about that. Glenn said its prevalent and killing people regularly here.

We both went in to hang out with Steph and the kids for a little while this morning. Bernie needed to collect his tools. He’d been helping Jamie do some work on Arena yesterday. Steph had had fun with her two older girls, putting temporary hair colour in their hair. They’re great kids. While there, Ada found a sick young sparrow. I helped them try and pipette some sugar water into the poor wee thing. But it didn’t live so they asked us to do a burial at sea for it on our way back to Momo!

What day is it?

One or other of us asks that every day, I’d say! The days are blending together. We’re getting things done though, slowly, Mexican time. I’ve learned that everything will be done “mañana” – tomorrow! Today could be Tuesday, I think. I could look on my calendar but I rather like living in this zone. I’m sitting on the bow, it’s 0630ish and the kittens decided we should come on deck and enjoy the extraordinary calm.

The stanchion bases we took off and got an engineer in Guaymas to strengthen, are back on. Momo’s engineer did a great job with help (holding screwdrivers etc) from his deckie. The deckie also tidied up, she’s good at following the engineer round and mopping up stray tools and filthy cloths! All that’s left to do on that job is restring the netting, not a job I’m looking forward to as it requires me to be bent double for long periods. It kills my back.

We bought some garden type solar lights the other day and I’ve put them on the bow and either side aft, as a precaution against idiots at night. The commercial sight seeing boats aren’t too bad, but the sea fleas (jet skis – bane of a sailor’s life) are ridden by total eggheads. That’s me being polite about them. They rocket round at 30 knots, so close to us, unlit at night. Et cetera. Loathe them. I’ve asked the skipper, repeatedly, for a 50 cal to mount on the bow, but it must be on back order, coz I’ve yet to see it. I could’ve had so much fun with that… The fringe benefit of mounting the solar lights is it’s stopped the pelicans from sitting (& shitting) on the bow, something that gives me perverse pleasure!

We had Kim for dinner last night. She’s a neat lady. She raised the kittens. Alex was so happy to see her. It was adorable. Jack didn’t seem as engaged!

I think Alex is the more sensitive of the two. I was having a wee weep over Danny’s absence today and Alex came into my cabin and snuggled with me, doing that kneading thing kittens do, purring, meowing and being just so sweet. It made me feel better and I couldn’t help thinking how much Danny would’ve absolutely loved these kittens!

They’ve worked out they have cool as cat doors all around the yacht! The scuttles seem to be their favourite mode of getting in and out!

We watched a documentary called The Social Dilemma, about the effect of social media on us. It was disturbing, to say the least. Worth a watch. I found it more disturbing than A Private War, which really got under Bernie’s skin. He got pulled down by that and I actually felt bad. He’s missing his daughters. They’re not great at keeping in touch and that hurts, understandably. I told him he just has to keep trying because a) they’re teenage girls who see things in black and white and think it’s all about them most of the time, and b) they’ve got different lives they’re focusing on but will one day raise their heads from and see him there again, as long as he keeps trying. I hate seeing him sad. The same way he hates it when I’m having a melt down about Danny. But that’s our lives and the reality of it, so all we can do is support each other. It doesn’t really help, I guess, that my family are all so close and talk /message every day, or that Matt and I call each other every few days and talk for hours. It throws the lack of communication from his family into rather sharp relief.

I’ve had lovely talks with my nieces, Hannah and Kelly, in the last week or so. Both are doing so well, as are Suzie and Elsa, though I’ve not talked to them lately, just messaged. I’m very proud of all my nieces, and nephew, Sam. Such lovely young people they’re all growing into, navigating the trials of life in their own ways and with increasing maturity. ❤️ I’m going to do something a bit special for them all in the next few months. It’s a secret! Not telling yet! Matt has another wonderful idea, too, for when we both get back to NZ.

2030 on the 16th September. We’ve just come in from our usual Sundowners on the bow with the kittens. They’re getting very bold. Jack is an absolute greedy guts and I have to watch him like a hawk at dinner times. He eats five times as fast as Alex and will steal his food with zero compunction! Would you believe, I haven’t taken any pics of them today. 😉

I went into the marina at lunch time today to fill the water drums and collect the laundry. But I met up with Steph, from Arena, and we went for lunch together. Nice girl time. She’s such a honey. I really hope they get to NZ next year too. They’d Canadian and want to emigrate.

Yesterday afternoon I took the dingy out to the heads, then went in with snorkeling gear, towing the dingy, and snorkeled my way back. It was nice to get the exercise and cool off, though the water is almost at air temperature, but the sea life is so disappointing here. The impact of the hugely increased human population is so evident. No fish, no sea plants, zip. Pour visibility, a grey sludge over everything. Amazing, when 80nm away at San Marcos island the wild life is abundant. But no one there. Remote. Just incredible. I want to go back.

My back is giving me gyp at the moment, not sure why really. My beds too hard but not enough to cause this much grief I wouldn’t have thought. Oh well. I’m looking forward to getting my fancy topper mattress though. The kittens had me up on deck for sunrise this morning. It was a good opportunity to ring Johan too. We haven’t caught up for a while and it was great to hear his news. I’m so happy for him that his new job is going well.

Marina San Carlos

04.09.20

We’ve been here a week already and I did say I’d fill in the gaps! First, though, Brett sent some more photos of my taonga which I’ll put in. It’s very beautiful and thoughtfully made. I will certainly treasure it.

Since arriving in San Carlos Harbour, Bernie has got on with his next translation job and we’ve started on a few maintenance things. We’re preparing for the Pacific crossing next year. We’ve ordered bits and pieces online and getting them brought down from the USA by a lady, Debbie, who does that a lot for cruisers. I’ve ordered a mattress topper as I find this bed too hard and my back complains. It was damned expensive but at least I know it’s a good one. The couple on the yacht Kyrie have one and let me try it! Bernie’s ordered a new battery charger. We’ve also taken the stanchion footings into Guaymas to get strengthened and if the guy seems to do a good job we’ll get him to make a couple of new ones as well.

We did take the dingy out the harbour mouth to snorkel around a big rock there. It wasn’t amazing snorkeling but was nice to freshen up in the cooler sea. We saw some as yet unidentified birds.

We’ve been pretty social, spending time with Arena, Kyrie and meeting a few “locals”. Kim, on The Cure, who has the kittens, is mending our dingy cover. Hopefully.

Did I mention we are adopting two kittens? They’re tortishell males which isn’t common. It was Bernie’s idea and I totally second it! I tidied out a kitten zone for them today, in my cabin!

5th – Jamie and Steph have gone into Guaymas and messaged they’d get litter and food for the kittens. So we might be able to get them today. Super exciting. I only have a photo of one at the moment since they were hiding when we visited Kim yesterday.

We watched the French movie The Intouchables last night. I’ve seen it before and I was pretty sure Bernie would love it. The deckie was right again. We both laughed our way through it. Such an awesome film. Last time I watched was with Matt and Danny at Christmas and I fell asleep with my head on Danny’s lap.

We talk a lot. The weirdest things, or thoughts, provoke long philosophical discussions, which I love. Bernie has a very wonderful way of seeing the world, partly because of his historical education, partly their life of sailing and partly because he’s one of the most self questioning and introspective people I’ve met. He has better insight into himself than most of us achieve, and with humility. I very much appreciate it. Its good for me too, when my less tolerant side wants a say! The meditation, while not quite as routine as we hoped, is going well. I enjoy it and Bernie has helped me learn to settle into it. I was really struggling with the concept but he’s explained it in a way that makes sense. We go and sit on the cabin roof, get the air on our faces and feel the sea beneath us, close our eyes and tune into our (not quite) daily lesson!

I’ve been slowly going through all the cupboards, cleaning things out and generally making Momo easy for me to operate in. I wasn’t sure about doing this at first, because she’s not my boat, but Bernie gave me the go ahead since he wants me to stay. We’re quite different in how we approach things. I’m a neat freak and very methodical, but do know how to pick my battles! Bernie leaves stuff all over the show and manages to lose incredible amounts of stuff on 13.3m of yacht! I get endless amusement from watching him look for things. He’s huffing and sighing, going “oh god” in his lovely Canadian accent, and I’ll say “lost something”? knowing damned well he has. 9/10 I can either see it from my seat or can tell him exactly where I last saw it! So I guess the deck/nurse has her uses! I’m usually rewarded with a sheepish grin.

We’ve both had messages from Michelle and Bernie had a long chat with her yesterday. She and the girls really like Dunedin, which is great, and her literary endeavors sound wonderful. She’s a very clever girl! I think it’s so good they’re still close friends because it means they can talk over things about their daughters and parent together still. I wish I’d had that level of support. Bernie set up financial support as a matter of course, he’d never not do that, whereas I had to beg and fight for every little thing. So unnecessarily exhausting. Still, it’s all in the past and not worth thinking about, except as context.

It is very hot. We literally drip! I’ve washed all the seat covers and we’ve got towels on them now. Easier to clean those! Sheets are not needed at night, only to ly on, and even then you feel wet! I can’t say I mind. I’d so much rather be hot than cold. Though I’m also glad we’re not labouring physically in this heat. The light grey shade cloth strung above the boom makes a huge difference and every little breeze is appreciated! We have fans too. I’m glad a brought a stack of surgical sponges with me as they make great mop cloths. Yeah, I know, gross!

9th – The kittens have been here four days now and have settled in beautifully. They’d never been outside so their first two ventures on deck with us were interesting. It was a mixture of abject terror and ‘eyes on stalks’ intrigued. The great side effect was they suddenly put us in the “good guys” zone, realising we’d save them from any Mexican equivalent of the Loch Ness monster!

11th – I’ve had nice long chats with everyone back home over the last few days, as it was Pip’s birthday on the 9th and Lucy’s is today. Also Mum and Dad’s wedding anniversary is the 9th, this year 59 years. Wow! Matt has rung a couple of times for long catch ups. I miss my big son so much.

Bernie and I went with Kim (off the Cure) into Guaymas yesterday. Got things for Momo and the cats, and passport photos for Bernie. Unfortunately they aren’t the river size, when he got back and checked the Canadian requirements. So we’ll have to try again. We also started putting the stanchion bases back on, a messy job. The guy, Luis, who fixed them did a good job.

I’ve started doing Spanish on Duolingo, which is fun. At least I can do greetings and basic stuff like that now! We’re going to be here a while so I figured I should at least give it a shot!

Kim told us about the cartels and their influence in this area. Apparently their families traditionally live or holiday here so there was a bit of a no go zone for killing each other, but the truce broke down recently and they’ve been murdering the police and each other again. Bit scary. I have no desire to get caught in their cross fire. The quicker we get our maintenance done and foxtrot oscar, the happier I’ll be.

The kittens have worked out how to get up on deck and back in my cabin scuttle, jumping down onto my bed. They’re so small it scares me that they’ll try to jump through the hatches. But so far they’ve decided it’s too high. Thank goodness.

I’ve just worked out what the hell WordPress does with my photos. It automatically crops them. So maddening. I have to deselect “crop” every time. Still, at least o know now.

Isla San Marcos to San Carlos.

02.09.20

Our faith in Windy App is a bit shakey just now! Either there is a ton of local anomaly or they just get it wrong all the time. Whichever, the wind we’re expecting seems to be continually at variance with what actually is! So, as my captains in the Navy used to say “look out the window, sailor!”

I think it was the morning of the 28th, we got up to a strong NNW blowing us onto the lee shore of San Marcos island, the anchor pulled up tight. I said to Bernie “I don’t like this much” and got some sort of a grunt in reply as he was (again pretzeled) wedged on the nav station floor mending something. I went outside and started readying Momo for sea, not wanting us to be caught out not ready in a difficult spot. All the weather forecasting apps were giving different info, with Accuweather being least wrong!

Mid morning I went below and told Bernie I thought we should make tracks. The weather was looking increasing awful and I really do not like being blown towards rocks. Not healthy. He came topsides and decided I might have a point so he tidied up below and we lifted the pick around 11am, heading out on the engine. I took the helm and Bernie got the sails up but there really was little wind, bizarrely, once we got out into open water, though the sea was rough and confused. Another plug for lots of variance in local weather in this area. Mon capitaine (I might’ve mentioned he only likes to sail!) bemoaned the engine noise and suggested we turn it off, to which I replied it was up to him but I wouldn’t just yet! There wasn’t really wind in said sails and we were still not clear of the island which boasts grand rocky outcrops just begging over confident sailors to get too close! We kept motoring.

Initially the waves were quite big and coming from two directions, so not wildly comfortable, but once we cleared San Marcos and were heading east of Isla Tortuga, the sea was less confused and there was a decent breeze from the ESE. Bernie happily turned off the engine and we were sailing close hauled nicely on the auto helm. It was mostly overcast and we’d even got a solid, though short, bit of rain which freshened up Momo and ourselves. Bernie forgot to shut one scuttle in his cabin, though, and his bed got totally drowned. Luckily the couch in the saloon is also a comfy bed!

We sat together on deck for a long time, yarning, then Bernie went to kip and I stayed up till about 2100,when he took over watch. Having expected  20+ knot winds, we ended up having a lovely sail all night, with mostly 10-15 knots, sometimes even a bit less. I took watch from 0100 to 0500,then had a wee sleep before we stayed up together again as we approached the Eastern coast of the Mexican mainland. And very spectacular it was.

The closer we got, the more inspired by the rugged mountainous coastline we were. There was some debate about where we would be rounding into harbour. The deckhand was right 😜!!

Thursday 3rd September @2100

I’ll go back to fill the gaps but I have stuff I want to get off my mind.                

Today was a pretty good day but ended in a rush of emotion I should’ve been prepared for.

We had an easy start with Bernie making crepes for breakfast, then we both worked online till lunchtime. Around 1530 we went ashore to go see a yacht which is looking for homes for kittens. We’ve discussed having a Momo cat and both of us are keen. Of course, we’re both soft as, so I was pretty sure once we saw them we’d end up wanting one! Turns out the two male tortishells (yes, I know that’s rare – so cool) are super close mates so naturally that’s what we want most. There’s really been almost no discussion about the wisdom of this move. I’m pretty sure we’ll just do it! We’ve been researching (well, Bernie has coz he’s like Matt and is the research guru while I just go “sounds awesome”) boat Cat bed /litter systems. It’s a thing – who knew. I have a feeling you’ll get photos before long. Of the new kids 😜

After that exciting interlude, we used the fresh water shore showers, not an everyday luxury we’re making the most of courtesy of Arena (they’re regalvanising their anchor cable so have to be on a berth).

Then went to have a few bevvies on Arena with Steph and Jamie. Had a great time but then I got a text from Brett saying he’d just done the marae visit on my behalf, receiving the taonga from Hope’s family.

I don’t know why it threw me but I did rather lose the plot. I knew it was on the 4th but its the 3rd here and I just hadn’t quite factored that in. I’m not sure if I explained before but Hope (the girl who killed my Danny) has an uncle who is a respected carver of Maori Taonga (treasure, things of value, usually culturally). He offered to make a piece to represent Danny and be a memorial. I so badly wanted to be there to receive it myself but can’t be. And I wouldn’t want to rush him in making something so special, to get it done before I left NZ. So my very dear friends Brett and Raewyn stood in for me. However Raewyn wasn’t well so Brett went on his own. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures.

I’ve talked to Raewyn and Fizz since then and feel much better. Bernie’s gone to bed but I’m sitting on the bow. My brain is still wide awake. I’m listening to country music, missing my boys but in a better place. Fuck it’s tough, this road to learning life without Danny.

Steph and Jamie are just a gorgeous couple. They’re so kind, generous and I’m really happy they’re here with us. They have four adorable kids who are learning life in the most amazing way, just like Bernie and Michelle did for their girls. Ada is their oldest daughter at 14, then Riley at 12, Bronwyn is 10 and their only son, Lachlan, I think is 6. Steph is a nurse too, so we can swap notes! Then there’s the other yachts we’ve been anchored near the last few weeks. Utopia are an Aussie family (yay, cuzzies!) of Andrew and Karen with three of their four kids on board. Tristan is 19, Max is 17 and reminds me of Danny (he is who he is and adorable with it) and Ava, their gorgeous little sis! Love & Luck (Mark and Julie) I think have three kids and I haven’t spent enough time with them to get it all sorted out! Pretty sure it’s Fenton, Lucy and Heidi, but I’ve never been great at getting it right straight off!

Since I’m being all open and honest with rum on the bow by myself, I might as well state that I reckon Bernie and I have a good chance of making a great team going forward. Apparently he told Michelle that already, before I even knew he was thinking it! I arrived here originally after Danny died, not even knowing they had irreconcilable differences. I was simply crew. I came back in a similar mind set but have come to realise things are quite different. We have talked a lot and though it’s early days, we do get on well and are good, caring shipmates. That’s enough for now. I appreciate Michelle and the girls coming to Danny’s funeral very much. I think it would be wonderful if we could all be supportive of each other in our lives, though the dynamics might have changed more than I ever envisaged. God knows I realise life can change on a dime.

In a way its similar to the changed relationship between Richard and Sarah, and I. Danny’s death has brought us all together in way that would not have happened otherwise. I mean, I’ve always tried to work in with them, but it’s not entirely been reciprocated. But losing a child has a way of stripping away those petty games. For the first time ever I feel they’ve recognised I gave my every atom of my heart and being to my boys. I love them so very much and this has taken the pieces of my life apart and I don’t know how to put it back together. But I will. For Matt. For everyone else I love. For life, because we’re lucky to have it.

EIGHT MONTHS OF COPING STRATEGIES

Since Danny died I’ve been reading quite a bit on the psychology of grief and resilience. No doubt that is unsurprising and a normal, healthy way to deal with the events of the last eight months.

Among my favourite (or perhaps, most helpful) authors are New Zealander, Lucy Hone, and American, Mark Manson. Lucy is a consummate professional and acknowledged expert in resilience, and also has lost a child to a car accident. She talks us through her experience and coping strategy in her book “What Abi taught us”.

Mark is harder to describe; a blogger, writer, has studied psychology and philosophy, and has a unique way of putting things. Blunt, could be one way of describing him. He has a take no prisoners, harden up attitude, tempered with down to earth common sense, which appeals to me.

Both allude to various exercises one can do to test our view point or help us strategise how to cope with difficult life events. I’ve done a few of them. Mostly, I’ve felt I haven’t needed to, but it’s a good way to check I’m not feeling too much of a know it all health professional! After all, just because nurses deal with a fair bit of trauma and death, doesn’t mean we should cope any more easily than anyone else when things happen to us. It’s one thing to know recommended coping strategies but not necessarily so simple to take one’s own advice.

Anyway, almost all the authors I’ve read, at some point, urge some version of the WHY Game. And, of course, the point of it is to make one examine the roots of our feelings and values. They’re not talking about the superficial bullshit we’d rather focus on, like “Why am I happy?”… “because I’m eating ice cream”. No. They want the Why question to lead to a whole scary bunch of other questions that force you to focus on the next step, and the next one after that.

For example. “Why am I feeling my life has lost its joy and meaning”?           “Because my son was killed in a car accident due to someone else’s mistake”. “Can you change the outcome”? “No”. “What can you influence”? “I can only influence how I react to it”. “How do you want to do that”? “I think I need to try to redirect my anger at the unfairness of his loss, towards ensuring the offender doesn’t do it to another family”. “Would Danny want you to feel sad all the time, angry or without direction”? “No, I know he wouldn’t. He would want us to find happiness again, continue with our plans and look after each other”. “Are you able to do this? How are you going to do this? Do you need help to do this?”

And so it goes on. I quite like this exercise because it keeps me honest. If I start to fall off the wagon, so to speak, to let anger and thoughts of revenge pop up, or thoughts that life isn’t worth living without my son in it, or that I don’t want to travel /get my yacht masters…. any of these things, it gets me back on track to ask myself to rationalise my wishes going forward. It works every time.

Naturally, every time I do any exercise designed to help me find a way to live life without Danny in it, the process always brings me back to Matt. I was the mother of two sons. In a way I always will be but the reality is I only have one living, breathing and very precious son. As Matt so poignantly said “We don’t want to do life without you, Danny”. Yet, we must. And, for me, part of coping is being thankful for my wonderful older son. He is a truly beautiful human; intelligent, hard working, loving, full of humour, giving and helpful, family and friends oriented, a joy to me in every way. So my focus, going forward, is to help him live a joyful life. We will make new memories and treasure the old ones.

Part of the idea of questioning one’s feelings and digging into them, is to identify what drives you, what you want to stand for, find your defining values. It can be easy enough to do this but working out if they’re good values to live by requires more self awareness than and honesty than we might like! Some of the values I try to live by are honesty, vulnerability, standing up for myself and others, respect for myself and others and not being judgemental.

I’d never thought about it until I read his book, but Mark Manson says good values are reality-based, socially constructive and immediate and controllable. Also that bad values are superstitious, socially destructive and not immediate or controllable (eg: dominance through manipulation or violence, being narcissistic, wanting to be rich, or pleasure seeking). That simple definition makes it easy to see where you might be heading wrong!

In the end, it’s all about picking your battles! Matt might laugh at this, because it’s something I’ve always said, and tried to do! I even asked him once how he dealt with some of the things a certain girlfriend did, and he replied “you taught me that, Mum. I pick my battles”! How I laughed. But it also have me a wee rush of pleasure to think I’d done a good job of parenting!

So, pick your battles, choose how you respond to various life events, take responsibility for how you react. In all things, at all times. It’s amazing how empowering that is. Choosing to focus on using the justice system we have in New Zealand for youth offenders to try and ensure Hope (the girl who killed my son) never repeated her mistakes and hurt another family like she hurt me and mine, was my way of redirecting my anger into a more useful channel.

Although I entered into this with a dose of scepticism, feeling nothing but jail could come close to justice for my son’s death, I knew she was unlikely to get a custodial sentence. I did have a moment of ranting and crying at the poor policewoman who told me that, about the unfairness of it all, but she encouraged me to engage in the process, saying she was sure it would help me find some peace. She was right and I thank her daily. I made a conscious decision to use the family group conference as a tool to change Hope’s attitude to life, to see if I could get across the huge price we were paying for her poor choices. Instead of ranting at her and abusing her, I tried to project encouragement to change, to use her life in a better way, to be thankful for her life and opportunities.

And, miraculously, in trying to help her, I helped myself. She and her family not only accepted responsibility for her actions that resulted in Danny’s death, but acknowledged the gift of my understanding (Forgiveness might be a bit of a stretch still) and thanked me for sharing our feelings with them, and for making Danny a real person to them, instead of just a name on the legal documents. For myself, I felt a sense of justice I hadn’t expected and did indeed find some peace in the knowledge that she took responsibility and was genuinely remorseful and wanted to change.

Friday 21st August 2020

I’ve been on Momo for over a month now. Bernie keeps asking me if I’m bored yet, lol. Not going to happen. Anyone who knows me at all well, knows I don’t get bored!

I’ve got three books on the go, do most of the cooking, all the laundry, can swim and snorkel as much as I like, do whatever maintenance stuff I’m in the mood for, do nursing education and listen to podcasts or music, write, take the dingy off somewhere – no, I don’t get bored. Bernie and I have started a little meditation routine too, in the morning after our coffee. I’m quite liking that.

We talk a lot too. Bernie is so knowledgeable about so many things. I’m too lazy to do research like he does. Hashtag Matt! I work on a need to know basis! He’s always educating himself! We’re both pretty liberally minded and non judgemental, on the same page about a lot of things, but also totally comfortable with our differences. I find it refreshing that he doesn’t try to bend me to his way of thinking or will.

We’ve been watching the weather closely the last few days, as we had hurricane Genevieve on the warpath. But it’s moved offshore to the north west, and we didn’t even get too much wind in the end. The gusts were maybe 40 knots. The visibility for spear fishing isn’t that good though. The swell courtesy of the hurricane has stirred things up.

Bernie’s been working hard out on his book, trying to get the translation finished. I’m trying not to interrupt! This morning I went snorkeling with Andrew, off Utopia, and he showed me a stone fish. Ugly things and scarily hard to see. If you stand on one the poison can kill you, or at best, be excruciatingly painful. Just reinforces my opinion that I should be on top of the sea, not under it (except with dive tanks!). I wish I had an underwater camera though. The sea life is amazing. I saw a crazy looking puffer fish today and some incredible starfish. There’s also loads of Cortez Round Stingrays, unique to this area. And the kinna are ginormous – up to 10 inches across. For those Kiwis reading this who know how the snapper go crazy for kinna at home, they don’t here! I tried. Very disappointing!

We skinny dipped last night, after returning from an evening on Utopia. There is so much bioluminescence in the water and we just had to experience that. Your whole body lights up. It really is spectacular.

22.08.20: An awesome day today. Bernie and I decided to go fishing since the visibility has improved a bit, though the water is still green. Apparently the bioluminescence has gone for now. It’ll be back no doubt.

Anyway, we (Bernie really) hunted until we had enough fish for us and the Vanninis on Love & Luck, who are anchored next to us. They’re a family of 6, so it must take some feeding! I did take the gun at one point but the fish I had in my sights was such a good one I didn’t want to mess up and miss! So I let Bernie take it! Also my fish recognition skills need to improve. I don’t want to take things that aren’t good eating or are on the endangered list. We have a great local website with heaps of pertinent information.

There’s a mother gull, similar to our Dominican gulls, with two young, who watch the filleting avidly, and scrap over the leftovers!

There’s lots of pelicans here, also boobys and frigate birds. Not much on land but the sea certainly supports an abundant variety of wildlife.

One good thing about the hurricane having gone past, it’s a bit cooler. Only 32 degrees today and last night I even had to put my sheet over me, as it dipped to 27°! Have I mentioned that in these hot climates all my menopause symptoms disappear? It’s great. No more hot flushes. So weird. And my body hair stops growing, or slows right down, which means I shave about once a month! It is quite bizarre but I’ll take the wins!

Bernie speared a small relative to tuna right under the boat this evening so I’ll turn it into a spicy coconut recipe I like for tomorrow’s dinner. It needs a gamey fish to go with that sauce. We’re out of fresh produce and I traded the fish we caught for an onion earlier, with Julie (Love & Luck) so at least I have something to put in a sauce! We’ll go across to Santa Rosalia on Monday for groceries. We’ve only spent 250 pesos in a month, so can’t complain.

26.08.20

We’ve had an eventful few days, and productive. Bernie had finished the book and sent off the translation so we could get on with other things. We had to go into Santa Rosalia for groceries and it was a crazy hot day on Monday. We left San Marcos early but it was getting on for midday when we arrived. Andrew and Tristan were there so we had lunch with them before heading to the supermarket. Bernie was really feeling the heat but we eventually got it done and collapsed in wet puddles back on Momo. I found a salsa with Danny’s name on it!

Tuesday was better as we went ashore early to explore a bit. I wasn’t that inspired by Santa Rosalia; it’s pretty dirty and smelly, especially the marina area. The town itself has some interesting buildings and a lot of history. There’s even a church designed by Msr. Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame! I bought all the masks I could in the pharmacy and new sun screen. Then we had lunch before grabbing a few more groceries and returning to Momo.

We headed out, expecting to motor back to San Marcos island but the engine died. Andrew and Mark, off Utopia and Love & Luck, rescued us. I’d write a lot more about this but am feeling a bit stressed right now, so maybe later. Boating, while great, is not always roses and rum.

27.08.20: Bernie’s diagnosis that it was the impellor was spot on and he spent yesterday pretzeled on the saloon floor fixing the engine. It’s fine now and running better than ever! No surprise when you see how bad it was.

I talked to Matt for ages yesterday too. It was so good to have a decent catch up. I miss him so much. It’s looking less and less likely I can go to France. Borders are closing as Covid-19 increases again across Europe. Matt and Meg have just attended the Awake concert in Croatia. Ben and Michael Gorman joined them, so it was nice for him to have time with his friends.

They think they’re going to get the virus as there were people there who’ve tested positive. So they’ve decided to stay in Croatia another week and make sure they’re not taking it with them. I want to go to see my boy. 😢🙏

We went snorkeling this afternoon, in a couple of different spots. Got 3 fish so Bernie is making cerviche and I’m making guacamole for our friends off Utopia and Love & Luck. We’re heading to San Carlos tomorrow pm with a view to sailing overnight and arriving mid morning.

Friends and Hunters

It’s the 16th, I believe! The days get lost in each other. I spent yesterday afternoon on Arena, with Steph, getting to know her. Such a honey. She’s a nurse also, her specialty being neurology, another theatre nurse!

While I was there the kids off all the yachts had congregated to make flowers for a memorial tribute to the 14 year old boy killed by another boat speeding through an anchorage while he was swimming. God, there’s some idiots out there. The 5 knot law around anchorages is there for a damned good reason.

Steph and I then followed them all out into the bay in the dinghies, and took photos and videos while they placed the flowers on the ocean and watched the tide spirit them away. It was a sweet and beautiful thing to do. Good young people. 💖

It gave Bernie a chance to get a lot of work done. I think he’s nearly finished the current project. After dinner, we sat on deck in the cooler night air, and were treated to a marvelous display from a large pod of dolphins. Wonderful.

Today, after morning coffee and meditation, we decided a fishing effort was required! Getting low! So we snorkeled near the point opposite the light house and Bernie got 6 fish. My awesome hunter! The spear gun really is efficient, I must say. I’m very impressed with it. He did get another fish but it got off the spear and before he could retrieve it, two moray eels got it! I wouldn’t argue with them either! As well as a stunning array of fish life, Bernie saw a turtle and I saw some skates. We both saw the sea lions!

Steph and Jamie are coming for dinner, to share our bounty of the ocean. The other epic hunter in the group is Tristan.

San Marcos Island

It’s the 11th August. Bernie and I got up about 0530, me with more enthusiasm than mon capitaine, to get ready to sail to San Marcos island! This involved stowing all the diving equipment, taking down the sun shade, removing the sail cover and getting the dingy on board. We were going to do it last night but ended up sitting on deck watching the sunset with rum! As you do.

So we were underway by 0710, just as the first bees thought they would start hassling us. I’m very grateful to leave them behind. It’s now 0840 and we’re sailing nicely along at 5 knots. I’m on watch as Bernie is tired! Those extra two years are telling! He can’t handle the rum sessions! I am sitting on deck aft, and just saw a shark cruising near Momo. Awesome. Happy to admire from a distance!

Bernie’s sleep lasted all of two minutes because we hooked a fish on our long line. A mahimahi or dorado. Great eating. He’s just filleted it and cooked some for lunch. Probably less than an hour from hook to plate! So good!

I don’t like the way WordPress has changed the formatting. Now you have to open each picture to see it fully. So annoying.

Great conditions coming along the west side of San Marcos. There’s a gypsum open mine at the southern end. Very rugged island. There is an incredible number of stingrays here, it seems. They treated us to a wonderful display of leaping. We had to bring the lure in, in case we accidently hooked one.

1528 and we’ve dropped the pick! Utopia, Arena and Love & Luck are here too! Great day’s sailing. 😍⚓

12.08.20: We went over to Love & Luck last night for drinks. So did the crews off the other yachts. Fun evening catching up with everyone. The kids put on a play for us which was cute! Both of us were fairly tired so didn’t stay late

This morning we put up the sun shade and I washed clothes & sheets. Then I went for a swim but unfortunately swam through a bunch of tiny jellyfish (I’m assuming) that I couldn’t even see. But my skin all over was, and still is, tingling and bloody uncomfortable. The usual vinegar trick didn’t help, but hot water, aloe vera and manuka oil all seem to give a bit of relief. Not pleasant. Rather gun shy about swimming here again! Bernie suggested wet suits.

Saturday 15th August: The month is half gone in such a flash. Bernie had been working long hours on his translation so I’ve been endeavoring not to interrupt him. I’ve read a lot and been sleepy. I guess it’s partly the heat and partly catching up on nine months of continuous stress, devastation, intense sorrow and dealing with Danny’s affairs and Hope’s trial and sentencing.

We had dinner on Utopia the night before last and everyone except Karen got pretty hammered. Knocked off the better part of two bottles of Rum between the four of us. Great conversation, such an epic bunch of people. Karen made a beautiful meal using some of the fish Bernie smoked, that Tristan and Andrew had caught. It probably saved us, as we weren’t hung over, thankfully! I adore their kids, three of the four being home. Their oldest has flown the nest and Tristan had gone for a while but was visiting when lockdown happened, so he’s stayed. For me, it’s nice having a couple of nearly grown boys around again. They’re all smart, worldly and articulate, a credit to the lifestyle, as were Bernie and Michelle’s girls when I met them.

Bernie and I had a quick run ashore to explore a bit and then took the dingy around the caves nearby. It’s pretty spectacular, but too hot to climb inland. We took some posey photos, being silly, because Matt and Meg’s pics always look so perfect! It does not work when a couple of middle aged, scruffy sailors do it, lol! We just ended up cracking up over our foolishness 🤣🤣

We’ve had a fair bit of wind and it was enough to get us out of bed and stowing things on deck, a couple of nights ago. It caught the saloon hatch, too, unfortunately, tearing it right off its hinges so a fix up job awaits Bernie. He’s very good at fixing things and seems to enjoy it. But he’s focused on his deadline with the book atm.

My interview with Karine Rayson of The Crew Coach, was aired on Yachting International Radio this week. I think we did well and got the message across well. The idea was to get across that trauma and grief have no time line and each person can use the coping tools provided by mental health experts in any way that suits them. I also wanted to get over that recovery requires a positive commitment and resilience, that you can’t move forward by wallowing and expecting other people to put you back together. So far we’ve received great feedback and heartfelt thanks from crew who’ve watched it. For me, I think that’s the last thing I want to do following on from Danny’s death.

Bahia Concepcion 06.08.20

It’s Thursday so I’ve been in Mexico for two weeks now. We’ve arrived in Bahia Concepcion where we’ll stay for the foreseeable future. The other yachts with friends on are here too. The Deeley family on Utopia, the Vanninis on Love & Luck and Jamie & Steph (another nurse!) on Arena. We all gathered semi ashore for a catch up. That means we took the dingy to shore but floated around with our drinks, talking and doing social distancing! Funny and fun! Bernie did a bit of a number on himself with rum and mango juice! He’s such a happy tipsy! Mind you, I was pretty happy too!

Bernie’s been feeling not quite 100% but I think it’s because he’s been doing a lot of diving with the spear gun and is just tired and maybe a little dehydrated, though we drink plenty of fluids. He dropped a screw driver in the tide yesterday so I free dived for it this morning while the water was super clear. I’m not good at free diving. My ears hurt like hell and I’m so buoyant it’s hard to go down. But he was trying to work on translation and I wanted him to get a break from diving. It took me three goes but I did it. So I was pleased I succeeded! We’re anchored in 18 feet. I have seen a bunch of skate cruising below us today, even some baby ones. So cute. Potentially good eating too!

Bernie’s canning tuna just now and I’m sitting under the shade cloth on the cabin top. My laptop updated over night and deleted all my files. I had to contact Microsoft and they talked me through restoring it all. Thank god.

0610 on the 7th. Blowing like buggery. Momo is bouncing like an excited kid on her anchor. I’ve hopped up at regular intervals to check all is well. Had to rescue the sun shade at one point and one of the solar panels flipped up! Otherwise fine. At least its a bit cooler – a pleasant 25°C.

2030 – been a very hot day, not really conducive to swimming either, with the wind. Bernie has worked diligently and I’ve done some nursing education and cooking. We sat on the cabin roof for Sundowners and Bernie’s gone to bed now. A pod of dolphins just cruised by.

I can see the stars from my bed. Danny would’ve loved this. God, I miss him so much. I miss them both.

08.08.20. I’ve just cleaned the saloon and the bathroom. And made a sauce to go with pasta for lunch. So feel I’ve earned a wee sit on deck. At least the bees have gone for the day. They swarm us every morning. Which I do not like! When I was out earlier, doing laundry, a couple of stingrays had a leaping competition right near Momo. They looked so cool. They’re incredibly graceful. I wish I could photograph them! Bernie got an awesome picture of a Boobie sitting on the bow, a few days ago.

09.08.20: Last night didn’t dip below 30°C and it was hard to sleep! I ended up talking to Kiwis in the early hours! It’s been a really hot day too, still 36 degrees now, at 1730. Bernie and I started doing a meditation course this morning, after coffee. Nice way to start the day, sitting on the cabin roof! He’s worked steadily on translation all day and I’ve done some nursing education and starting cleaning the hull. That’s quite a physical job so I only do a bit at a time. You can practically see it growing in these warm waters! The water temperature is 29 degrees! So we’re told! Could be more.

Bernie offered to do dinner tonight, mainly coz I wasn’t feeling 100%. I was getting postural hypotension whenever I stood up, which is really unusual for me. So I’ve been trying to keep my fluids up and rest this afternoon.

We had an invasion of bees today. It freaked me out somewhat, as I’m not great with buzzy things. Bernie had to deal with them for me because I was descending into squealy teenage girl territory!

Monday 10th August.

After the morning ritual of coffee, we decided to go ashore before it got too hot. It was well worth it, to see just how extreme this land is. Incredibly dry and challenging. Saw a few birds but not much else. The plants look twisted and tortured! Great view back over the bay to Momo, bobbing cheerily on the waves. Its a bit windier today, I think the edge of a fiesty weather pattern offshore to the west. No diving today.

Upon our return, the bees turned up with a vengeance. I really really do not like them in swarms. Bernie is my hero, currently! I hid in my cabin, thoroughly unnerved, while he dealt with them. Hundreds of the little fuckers. He even got stung 😢 Rusty, you can have your bee keeping all to yourself! 🛑

I’m very keen to sail on to San Marcos island! 🙏🙏🙏🙏⛵⛵⚓⚓

August 1st. Ramada Cove.

Yes, we’re still here. When we got up this morning the water visibility had cleared so much, Bernie suggested we stay another day. Sterling idea. So I made a Mediterranean breakfast, then we headed across the bay. It was a great morning’s snorkeling. I saw 3 turtles, two together grazing right below me and another swimming away some distance. Also saw a stingray. There’s a lot here I think. We both saw them jumping out of the water many times yesterday. I found a rock with fantastic coral growth and numerous species of reef fish. I even wished for dive tanks, as I’m useless at free diving.

Bernie caught two fish so that was lunch sorted. We swam a long time and are both knackered now! Currently having post lunch nana naps! This is good for my shoulder and knee. They’ll be strengthening up nicely. I’ve lost so much fitness since my knee injury.

We sat on the bow, as usual, last evening, yarning. A motor yacht came in close to sunset. She’s a Sunseeker, British built. I have never seen such a shit job of anchoring. Honestly, it was both hilarious and embarrassing. We were relieved when they finally anchored well away from us! At one point I even got the radio, because we thought she was going to back up on us. I tried calling her on Channel 16 but they ignored us. Must’ve got the message though because they moved away. Bernie didn’t want me to call up but I wasn’t about to leave it till the situation was totally fubar! He seemed quite pleased I had, afterwards though! I think he secretly likes the “take action” side of me! Makes up for the simple mind, lol!

There are a lot of bees here, constantly flying into the yacht looking for fresh water. I wish they’d go and ask someone else. Buzzy things are not my favourite. I was trying very hard not to react last night but one stung me for no reason, miserable little beast. Bernie thought it was so funny, equally miserable beast! Revenge is a dish best served cold, they say, and he wants me to cut his hair! A mullet, perhaps? I’m delaying it because I like his hair long! It suits him! We agree to disagree on that and he’s apparently not that desperate for a cut that he’s begged me yet! I think I’ll get it out of his ears, maybe, and leave the top long! 😉

These are some of the fish etc I’ve seen while snorkeling!

Cornetfish, fusiliers, groupers, parrotfish, wrasse, dragonet, moray eel, rays, turtles, goatfish, snapper, trevally, butterflyfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, unicornfish, damselfish, bream. And Bernie with his spear gun! Some I’m sure of and others I think it might be one of those!

2.08.20 – lying in bed while the coffee pot does its thing! It rained briefly overnight, just a quick electrical storm NE of us. We both dived out of bed to close the scuttles and hatches. And I grabbed the towels off the guard rails. I threw a kikoi round me but Bernie is wholly unconcerned about nudity! I often wonder what his daughters thought growing up. Teenage girls SO do not want to see their Daddy’s boy bits! Just no! But I doubt very much Bernie took that into consideration over the years! I must remember to ask during one of our bow/rum sessions! It doesn’t bother me at all but I don’t feel the need to bare all myself. I guess if we were a couple, it’d be different, but we’re friends is all. So I wear togs to swim in and put clothes on whenever I’m out of bed!

We watched a documentary yesterday about a study initiated by an (ethically fucked up) American Psychiatrist. He separated twins and triplets at birth and adopted them to different families. The doco was primarily about triplet boys, each sent to a different socio-economic family. The parents knew nothing about their son’s background, certainly not that they had identical twin brothers. They were told the boy was part of a study into adopted children and the study group was given permission to interview the child every 6 months. For years. However when one of the boys was 19 he went to college, and on arriving had people coming up to him saying “great to see you back”, girls kissing him hello, that sort of thing. Of course it turned out his brother had attended that college the year before and dropped out. So they met each other. It ended up in the news papers, and so the third boy got to find out about his two brothers. It was a crazy story, so ethically wrong that those involved should’ve been hung out to dry but never were, the families got zero answers, the study was never published so a complete waste of time. Quite tragic really. It upset me but, interestingly, Bernie didn’t seem to see that it was so bad. We have very different takes on some things. Children seems to be one! Makes it interesting to be ship mates!

We got underway pretty early this morning. Set off on the engine as the wind was on our nose, its not far, and it does the engine good to have a run. But it’s 1045 now and I can hear Bernie putting up the sails. I’m lying down as I’ve got a wicked tummy ache. Don’t know why but not concerned as yet.

Before I came to ly down though, we sat yarning, as we do, so I asked him if he pranced around on deck naked when the girls were still here. Of course he did. Not all the time of course, but changing sails at night, that sort of thing. I laughed and he looked a bit sheepish! I like that he’s comfortable with who he is. It’s a good trait. I wish I was less self conscious, but I never recovered from the years of my husband poking me and telling me I was fat. I never was of course, but the damage was done. Intellectually I know I’m in pretty good shape for a woman my age, and looking back on photos, actually find it very sad that a man thinks it’s OK to shred an attractive young woman’s self confidence like that, but that wee voice in my head still makes me want to cover up and hide. And, there’s the fact I’m a nurse – not much I haven’t seen! So I don’t give a rat’s arse that Bernie bounces out starkers in the night to fix something!

Oh, peace. Nice. The engine is off and we’re sailing again. I think I’ll find it hard to go back to a motor yacht with the constant noise.

The island we’re going to today doesn’t have a real anchorage so we’ll be deep water anchoring. No decent chart info either, but we’ll go in slowly on the engine, and take it easy. And it’s only lunch time so we can move if necessary.

1616 – Well, we’re at anchor and a great wee spot it is. The island is almost totally devoid of vegetation and sprinkled with guano from the prolific bird life. It looks like a dusting of snow. The 30+ degrees heat belies that! 😉

It took two goes to set the anchor but we gave it a good hard tug to check! Then we bailed for a bit of snorkeling /hunting! Very different underwater terrain so new fish to check out. Not that many bigger species. My favourite was the simply awe inspiring schools of small fish, completely unconcerned by my presence, surrounding me. Millions of them. It was like being in a snow globe.

After quite some time, I realised I hadn’t seen Bernie in ages. Initially I wasn’t worried because he spends a lot of time under water. So I watched but couldn’t locate him. After about 5 minutes I got a bit stressed and got in the dingy for a better view. I still couldn’t find him, so pulled up the anchor and started looking round the bay for him. As time went by with no sightings I really got almost panicked. It suddenly occurred to me I really didn’t want to learn to solo sail the hard way. I was literally screaming his name. Not that that would’ve done a frigging thing if he was under water! I actually had to get a grip on myself. I decided to go back to Momo, get my sunnies and hat, fill the fuel tank and look more carefully. As I returned to Momo I suddenly spotted his fins as he duck dived. God, the relief! I motored over and beckoned him out to the dingy. I was so relieved my eyes got black dots in my vision as the adrenaline released me!

The poor man had an almost tearful shipmate plastered to him, saying “don’t ever fucking do that to me again”! I really got a fright. Ironically, we’d been talking about what our fears were earlier today, so I said “well, I know what scares the hell outa me now”. The thing is, it’s my own fault really. When I first joined Tohora I got Brett to show me all her systems; starting the engine, generator, lifting the keel, everything. But I didn’t do any of that with Bernie on joining Momo. I was so wrapped up in grief I didn’t care. I suddenly realise I do need to know. So tomorrow Bernie is going to show me it all. I mean, I daresay I could work it out, but best not to learn in an emergency, huh!

Monday, apparently! 3rd August. If it weren’t for my phone, I’d have no clue! It’s amazing to me that it still keeps the date and time correct when we have zero internet at present. How does it do that? Must ask Matt. Anyway, we got underway early because I woke Bernie to tell him the wind had veered and the anchor chain was noisy. Due to the rocky anchorage we didn’t want to risk wrapping it round any rocks in deep water. That would’ve meant Bernie having to get the dive tanks out and scuba down to release it. Way too much admin!

It was a SE breeze so we sailed to our next anchorage, more of a lee of the land than real shelter. But it’ll do for tonight and Bernie got two fish when he went over the side, so we’re fed again! What a good hunter he is! We’re almost out of fresh goods. I think there’s a couple of onions, garlic, a tomato, an avacado and some Kiwifruit. Oh, and potatoes.

Sailing Again 29.07.20

Bernie cracked the whip over the pair of us this morning, saying we’d take the solar panels down as soon as we’d had morning coffee. To be translated as “actually, let’s start now”! So we were ready to lift the pick and get under way by 10am.

We started with a nice breeze that dropped off as we tracked west of Islas Los Coronados. It picked up again after an hour or so of ‘goose winging’ the sails, trying to capture every puff. I rather like doing that. It looks awesome. The rest of the way we had a solid breeze on our starboard quarter, running at a pleasant 5 knots.

We anchored for the night around 1630, in a lovely little bay called Ramada Cove, just north of San Juanico. It’s been a hot day so we put the dingy in the water again and went to a reef to snorkel and hunt. Bernie got dinner with the spear gun. He saw turtles and rays up close but I had stayed in a more sheltered spot and saw a load a beautiful reef fish, soft corals and some really cool starfish. They had kind of fat bodies, not the long legged variety, and were covered in structures that look like studs! I told Bernie they should be in a gang, which comment required explanation and made him laugh once he understood! He’s learning Kiwi again! Soon he’ll be fluent in yet another language!

Once back on Momo, Bernie filleted the fish and nominated himself to cook dinner, which I appreciated. So I’m writing this! It’s a week since I left home and will be a week since arriving on Momo tomorrow. We started our isolation yesterday, after getting the water. Can’t say it makes much difference! Even after we catch up with Utopia and the other yachts Bernie had been hanging out with before, we won’t be going ashore at all. So we have what we need on board and what we can catch for fresh fish. Happily this region is abundant, encouragingly so.

It’s been nice catching up. Although I think Bernie is pleased to have some company, I doubt I challenge his intellect even faintly. His formal education far surpasses mine and he continues it. While I’m reading a war novel or historical romance that requires zero brain power, he’ll be reading some deep thing the average Joe (me) wouldn’t begin to grasp!

30 July 2020.

We decided to stay another night in this bay. There’s no rush to catch up with Utopia since we’re in quarantine.   So after our morning coffee we went ashore and went for a walk before the serious heat of the day kicked in. It was interesting to wander through this arid land, so harsh and challenging. We saw little wild life – a few lizards and birds, one road runner and a rabbit! I said it was a shame I didn’t have a gun! Bernie was surprised I thought I could hit it from where we were, lol! I told him I’m pretty lethal with a gun. Lol.

We returned to Momo for an omelette for breakfast. Then I did a quick bit of laundry before getting ready to go snorkeling. The sealife is amazing here. Bernie saw turtles again. And again I didn’t! Grrr! Ruth and Orges would love it here. So much variety. Even just looking for starfish, I saw maybe 5 different kinds. Wonderful. Bernie caught lunch. I think we’re both a bit weird because we both feel bad for hunting the fish, yet we have to eat! Ah well! I did mashed potatoes and salad to go with it. The avocados are amazing! We’re making the most of fresh salad stuff! Once it’s gone, that’s it! Tinned and dry goods only.

We snorkeled again later in the day, after reading and lazing the afternoon away. Yours truly was the only one not to see a turtle, yet again. Hot damn. Resumed our favourite spot on the bow after dinner, shooting the breeze. Bernie told me some adorable stories about their time in this area when Lola and Jana were little snappers. Seems amazing to me that he and Michelle circumnavigated the world in little Momo, faithful wee ship. Bernie says he’ll never sell her, never change yachts. I can understand why, though I’m not convinced she’d be an easy vessel to live on as he gets older. Just getting on and off is a challenge. Luckily for him he’s a very fit, healthy guy, no health issues at all really. Rare, and very blessed! He’s astonished at how many surgeries I’ve had, never mind the associated limitations that go with that. I know I couldn’t live on this boat long term. At the moment I can haul myself out of the water and into the dingy, then up onto Momo. But in a few years? Who knows. No, I want a yacht with a swim deck!

31 July – Friday, I think!

The wind really got up during the night and I got bugger all sleep. Bernie didn’t even notice, lol. The difference between sleeping in my cabin in the forepeak and his down aft! He was surprised to hear it was probs hitting 40 knots and I got up to check we hadn’t moved, multiple times! There were 5 yachts in this wee bay over night so I guess the others were hiding from the weather for the night. Two left first thing but there’s still a catamaran and a ketch in here with us. We’ll head north a bit further tomorrow.

After morning coffee we went snorkeling/hunting again. I saw a turtle, hallelujah! Another successful mission and Bernie cooked brunch. He made this yummy sauce, pan frying the fish in it, on rice. After I commented how good it was he said it was made with a chocolate sauce! What? Really? I was astounded as you couldn’t tell it was chocolate at all. He said he didn’t tell me before I tasted it on purpose! Clever guy. He knows I’m not a sweet tooth – at all! So I’d have been unenthusiastic if I’d known, I’m sure! In this, we are diametrically opposite! Bernie puts that disgustingly sweet Condensed milk in his coffee! I rarely eat Ice cream even! Can’t stand creme brulee!

We have talked a lot about our respective losses: me learning to live with Danny’s death and his separation from his family. Its not the same, obviously, as it was a choice for her to go ashore and him to stay on Momo. Yes, he might be deeply sorrowful about it but he could go too. Really. I do understand why he doesn’t. He’s a sailor through and through. He loves this life. But it’s still a choice. Danny had no choice. His life was taken. Suddenly and much, much too soon. Matt and I get no choice in that either. We can’t just say “oh, let’s pop home to NZ and see him”. I wish. Every moment of every day. Bernie could go visit his family. (granted Covid-19 has complicated that a little) We do look after each other though, because we all have days when it’s just too hard.

We have no Internet at present but I did manage to talk to Matt before we sailed. It’s so good to hear he and Meg are making their work / travel plan work so well. They’ve done a lot of miles on the bike (my bike, hehe!) and I’m grateful every time I hear they’re safely at their next destination! I can’t help worrying but it’s not fair for me to put any anchors on Matt’s life just because of what happened to Danny. And I’m not exactly staying home being safe. After all, couch potatoes probably generally have a shorter life expectancy than adventure lovers! I wonder? Be interesting to check that out. High risk life style versus poor diets /no exercise etc!

Anyway July is a wrap. Another month gone in this new phase of my life. I’m grateful to Bernie for having me back, even if I am a lesser companion compared to Michelle and his girls! I am who I am. Not going to change into an intellectual die hard overnight, nor stop trying to be a decent kind person. He commented he doesn’t like people being too nice to him! I understand he means he knows he’ll take advantage of it, but I don’t see it. He works hard on his translations, does the hunting, helps cook etc. So I do other stuff and it seems to be good team work. I can’t get titchy over things that aren’t a problem. But it has made me suddenly feel uncertain about giving him positive comments. Which annoys me. I shouldn’t let it bother me. It’s not my issue. So I should just carry on being me!

I’ll have to add photos before I post this, when we next get Internet. I might go on deck for a while. Loving this weather.

Well, HELLO MOMO!

24 July 2020 – 7am and 27° 😍

I can hardly believe I’m back on board the good ship Momo! Bernie certainly looks at me as if I might be an apparition about to evaporate! It was harder leaving home than usual, not entirely sure why. I was a little apprehensive about the trip but the planes and airports were about a third full, everyone was sensible about social distancing and masks. I had a whole row to myself on the air NZ flight and slept lying down. Almost first class 😜

I got through LAX in record time and grabbed a cab to my “pod” hostel for the night. The guy who owned it was really great and took me for a boost, very fast 😁, in his Polaris 3 wheeled car. Hilarious looking thing but a ton of fun. I was a bit worried I might get stung for my overweight bag on the small Air Alaska plane but the guy at check in let me off. So I’ve got the whole way here so much overweight but no extra fees! Happy about that!

The flight down the Baja Peninsula was awesome. It’s a wild and rugged desert landscape. Mountainous, volcanic and with huge salt plains at the Northern end. I could check out all the islands in the Sea of Cortez along the way. As we descended into Loreto, I could see Momo at anchor. Made me feel rather nostalgic! I’ve been dreaming about her cheerful and colourful profile for weeks! And here I am!

Of course, my Mexican card, which I’d topped up using Ding, with US$85, didn’t work, so I couldn’t let Bernie know I’d arrived. But really, he couldn’t miss our incoming flight so wasn’t stressed about that!

The poor man had to wait quite a while for me to get to the marina though. I got chosen to have my bags checked. Every damn nook and cranny, and there were lots! The lady was great about it and didn’t seem stressed at all the medical supplies and boat parts, lol. Just took ages! She dropped my kindle though, and cracked the screen, which I’m less than thrilled about.

And yes, my bag had been last off the carousel!

So, I’ve unpacked and given Bernie all his boat presents 😉. Potentially the favourite is the new BIG coffee pot! Or maybe the serious set of knives! Actually, it might be that I can hopefully clear his blocked ear for him!

We had a few cold beers and Bernie made dinner. I was ready to sleep by 8pm! Then, of course, awake half the night! It’s unbelievably great to be warm again. And I woke to the sound of fish jumping and dolphins blowing. Happy sailor.

Sunshine and Storms

That’s life really, isn’t it… the good with the bad. I have to admit I’ve come a long way from my last post. I’ve achieved a lot, both physically and emotionally, in a practical sense and in finding some peace going forward.

The Family Group Conference was not really at all how I expected and left me with hugely different emotions than I anticipated. In a good way, I am pleased to report! I thought I was going to be confronted with a nihilistic teenager who had no remorse. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. Pip and Lucy came north to support me, for which I was intensely grateful. The three of us, Fizz, Richard and Sarah, Emma James, Brian & Olivia and Mum and Dad had all prepared Victim impact statements. We also arranged to play some of the funeral video – everyone arriving, plus Queenie’s and Matt’s talks, followed by the Humble and Kind song with the slide show of Danny’s photos.

Hope was there, of course, with her family for support, her lawyer and social worker. Also present were the two Police Officers involved and the Youth Justice Co-ordinator. She (and they) listened to our presentations with respect and emotion. She met my eye and cried, as did everyone there. It was incredibly emotional for us all, very confronting for her, and I found a sense of justice that I hadn’t expected to feel.

She read a prepared apology statement and I did feel her remorse was genuine. All her whanau were upset and ashamed, very apologetic to me and sorrowful. It did indeed help me to realise they had real understanding of our extreme loss. They thanked us for making Danny real as a person, sharing who he was with them and said he was no longer a name on a piece of paper but someone who’s loss they also felt now.

We went out for dinner that night at the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant in Ohope. Brett and Nicola joined us, but Finn was in Gisbourne unfortunately. It was a lovely end to a very emotional day and I felt a weight had been lifted off me. I could only trust that the legal teams will come up with a plan that changes Hope’s future into one of positive productivity.

We cannot do anything to bring my darling Danny back. All I can control is my reaction to it going into the rest of my life. I recognise I’ll feel anger at times but I’m not going to let it rule. All I can hope for is that Hope never does this to another family and becomes a better person.

Last Friday, the 3rd of July, was Hope’s youth court appearance, held on the Wairaka Marae. I was led onto the marae as an honoured guest, ahead of everyone else, and given the traditional pouwhiri. It was rather awe inspiring. There were initial speeches in Maori, followed by morning tea. I couldn’t eat anything as I was nil by mouth for my knee arthroscopy that afternoon! Then we were called into the formal meeting hall. This is a lovely room steeped in history, with photos of the ancestors framed with traditionally carved woodwork.

The Judge sat in front, with two Kaumatua next to him. Brett and I sat facing them with Hope & her family next to me. The legal team and social workers were on the left, the police and other Kaumatua on the right. Everyone gave their mihi (introduction) in Maori then English. Then the judge announced the order of hearings. We were first, so everyone else left. Hope’s lawyer said his bit, then the police, then the Kaumatua took turns. They didn’t pull any punches. She was made to feel the wrath, disappointment and shame of her whole Iwi.

I was asked if I wanted to say anything, which I hadn’t expected and was unprepared, but did anyway. I reiterated the huge void Danny’s passing has left in our hearts and lives, and said all we could pray for was that Hope changed the course of her life and became a better person. The judge commented on that in his summary, entreating her to see that for the gift it was and to not let me down. She afterwards thanked me for my kindness in supporting her efforts to change, instead of berating or abusing her.

As well as dealing with that event, I’ve had a bunch of other stuff going on. Matt and I have finally TODAY (06.07.20) got Carly off the books and the house into our own title. Thank effing God. Cost so much more than it should have and I’m still stunned that someone I gave an amazing opportunity to could be such a greedy grasping piece of work. But, it’s over now. I’ve bought a bottle of bubbles, the real deal, to take to Fizz’s tomorrow and celebrate! The biggest bouquet to our bank manager, Tim, who is one epic dude and totally helped us every step of the way. He’s defs in the friend zone, not just the banker! Matt and Meg have just headed off to Paris and I’m catching up with the whanau in Chch.

I’ve also had my sailing friend, Bea, to visit, which was awesome and had a weekend with Raewyn in Tauranga. I love spending time with her family and animals!

And on Friday afternoon, after the meeting of the youth court in the marae, I had my knee arthroscopy in the surgeon’s private theatre in Whakatane. He fitted me into a last minute cancellation, for which I’m very grateful. It’s doing well.

Other than that I’ve wrapped up all the legal things pertaining to Danny’s estate, found lovely new tenants for the house, arranged for Finn’s guys to build a new fence along the west boundary of the property, got the loo door and bathroom cupboards fixed, changed the locks upstairs and rekeyed the downstairs door, sorted the garage to the point where Chase can get his boat in one side and I can get my car in the other, had a wardrobe built into the room Danny built and begun glueing the floor tiles down. That will now have to be finished by an expert, since my knee is recovering! I’ve also had the window in Matt’s room fixed, the Internet cable extended for downstairs, and Brett helped me take out two dead trees. The Roofer is coming next week to try and find the leak in Allan’s room, for the second time. I think I’ve done pretty well, really!

It’s now July 9th and I’m at Fizz’s. Dad, Mum and I came down on Tuesday. Pip, Sam and Lucy came on Monday. Kelly is home and Suzie, also, on holiday from Massey. It’s been a wonderful couple of days. So long since we’ve all had time together, other than Danny’s funeral.

I caught up briefly with Jake and Daniel, the young friends I made while in lockdown here. It was particularly wonderful to see Dan. He is a truly amazing guy (with an epic name, of course!), a hard and honest worker with an unusual amount of self awareness, and a caring Dad to his young daughter. Last night he picked me up after work and while he had a shower, I got the fire going and cooked him an omelette. He then showed me the guitar he’s bought for Briar, and tuned it ready for her. Very cute. I hope he goes well and happy for the foreseeable future. Another rare and treasured friend. These connections in my life are a joy and keep me going in darker days when my loss threatens to overwhelm me.

Fizz, Lucy and I sat up after everyone else had gone to bed. I’m blessed in my siblings. My life has been reduced in such an enormous way. What seemed important to me before, is no longer. Things that drove me, do so no longer. I haven’t the energy for extreme endeavour now, only an honest existence.

Tomorrow we head back to Christchurch. Its going to be hard leaving Mum and Dad. There seems a fragility to them I hadn’t seen before Covid-19 came along, an unseen, unpredictable foe, frightening for the older folk. They are amazing, so brave and strong really, considering they have four score years each. I’m blessed in my parents also.

Saturday 11th sees me return to Ohope. This new land I’ve named my home calls to me in unexpected ways. The ocean, the Bush, the wildlife. It is pure spirit food. I may be gone a while, but I feel next time I come home, I might stay. Time will tell. I rejoin Bernie on Momo on July 23rd after flights via LA and Loreto. I’m looking forward to being on board again. I do have a permanent job in France starting late September. Who knows how that will pan out. I mostly just want to see Matt. I miss him deeply.

A Future Always Less

Bernie asked me this morning (25 May) if I had progressed at all in deciding what I am doing next. The short answer is No. I very much want to run back to Momo. I’d give a lot to see her cheerful profile out in the harbour, to be hauling myself out of the tender aboard. It’s too easy to want to hide behind Bernie’s tranquil good nature, his calm lack of judgement.

At some point, however, I have to face real life again, get paid work. So I’m treading water. Let’s not forget how good I am at that! I will do the last bits and pieces for Danny’s estate, sort out some house stuff, and apply for boat jobs meanwhile. I’m getting my “Danny tattoo” soon and must renew my marine medical. Once these jobs are done I’ll have to make a decision. It’s a bit hard on Bernie but as usual he’s being undemanding and patient with me.

June 15th 2020

Where is the time going? Guess what, I’m still treading water. Well, not totally, I’m going forward at a slow crawl, one might say. I’ve renewed my ENG1 and got my “Danny tattoo”, which I’m thrilled with. Tristan did a wonderful job of coordinating Danny’s design with mine.

I’m in Ohope sorting out new tenants for our house. Matt and I are a heart beat away from having sorted out Carly, thank god. What a nightmare that’s been, on top of everything else. Ohope is wonderful as always, so good for the spirit. I do feel close to Danny here. He loved it so much.

I have a lovely Canadian, Allan, staying with me at present. It’s nice to have company and he’s a hard worker. Brett, too, has spent time here and helped me do a few of the jobs Danny had been going to do! On Saturday (13th June) we took out two dead trees. I played with the boys’ electric chain saw. Lots of fun, though I’ve rediscovered a few muscles!

On the job front, I’m waiting to discuss a potential position for a two year contract with the yachts owner /captain. She sounds a really lovely lady so I’m optimistic. The only down side for me would be forgoing doing the crossing with Bernie. That’s actually messing with my head because I badly want to do that. But with Danny’s death and then bloody Covid-19, I haven’t worked for 8 months, in paid employment. Normally I’d do a seasonal job, finish September /October and then be able to join Bernie for the crossing. But jobs are scarce and the season is fucked up. This job doesn’t start till September, nearly the usual end of the season! Argh!

Bernie is being wonderful about it, though realistic. He needs me to commit one way or the other so he can find someone else. So once I have the full information, I’ll talk to the whanau and decide.

The girl who killed Danny, Hope Wilson, is required to attend a Family Group Conference with us this Thursday (18th June). I’m nervous but feel I need to face her and make her realise what she’s cost us, how much less our lives will be without Danny. I just hope (it pisses me off so much that’s her name) I don’t lose control and throttle the bitch. Hats off to all those people who say they “forgive” the person who murders their loved one. But I call bullshit. I don’t feel that way. I think I’ll be able to do this and move past it but I’m damned if I forgive her. If it was an accident, then yes, but it wasn’t. She had broken so many laws so many times and knew full well she was putting others at risk. I wish she’d died, not Danny. I refuse to be ashamed of my feelings. My son was a good person. She is not. So I’ll get up and tell her what she’s done and she can listen, like it or not. I’ll show her Danny’s brother having to say goodbye at his best mates funeral, I’ll make her listen to Danny and my song, while watching photos of him scroll through. Fuck her.

I should probably stop!

ANZAC DAY 2020

This day has had special meaning for me since I went to Gallipoli in 1988.

It was not a tourist destination back then. We had to sweet talk the local military guard to even get on the peninsula. You could wander anywhere. There was shrapnel and bits of bone amongst the heather. The poetic monument, a message from Turkey to the Allied Forces’ families, was incredibly emotional.

Since then I’ve attended Anzac Day parades almost every year. I did it in uniform for 9 years. I’ve taken my sons, they even walked at the head of the Darfield parade one year, as I was the only Navy representative there, and “the Navy is here. Ma’am, lead the parade” I was told by an old salt!

But this morning. I’m not even sure I can find the words to describe my feelings. I wasn’t in uniform. I wasn’t wearing my medal. No colleagues were with me. My sister, bless her, got up with me. I’ve said or listened to those words we all know so well – “age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn…” but this year they held a particularly poignant sense of time and place.

I now know exactly how the parents of all those lovely young men and women felt, who’s sons and daughters have died before their time. Because my Danny will never know the ravages of time, will never get to leave his legacy in deeds and descendants. His memory will be forever young, though we grow old.

Matt and my friends/tenants in Ohope took Danny’s photograph and my medals and did their bit at the front gate. They sent me a gorgeous picture of the two of them rugged up for the occasion. I appreciated that.

We will remember them.

In pursuit of “more” resilience

8.04.20

It’s nearly 5 months since Danny was killed.

Time is weird. It feels more immediate now than while I was on Momo. I get that it’s because the world is in this crazy limbo, with Covid-19 keeping us within strict borders. But it has a strange irony, because Momo was my escape /relief/coping strategy and yet that name is from the main character of a book about time! Read it!

I feel like I had resilience. I feel I was doing quite well. I feel I was helping the whole family cope. I could see a way forward. Positive action. Don’t wallow. Do what I think Danny would want. Look after those around me. Must eat. I thought I could do all the legal stuff, organise all Danny’s estate, get the house sorted, managed it all alone. I’m used to that.

But this enormous limitation put on us all, on top of Danny’s death, has taken the wind out of my sails

I can’t do it all. By myself. I’m drowning. My struggle between empathy and compassion, that I’ve always had, has collapsed.

Still, I guess, no, I know, this recognition means I can do it. I can. Kiwis don’t die easy! I can act on the strategies other health professionals have identified. I have a head start.

12.04.20

I was supposed to leave for Europe yesterday with my new tattoo, a copy of Danny’s, on my arm. If course, neither of those things has eventuated.

But I’m making new friends down here, enjoying the time with my sister, Fizz, and niece, Kelly. It’s a beautiful place to be stuck in, if one must be. So lots of walks.

I’m putting a new pic on my wallpaper each day, on my phone. Friends from round the globe. I was using pics of Danny but it’s too bitter sweet and I think I need to stop.

Here’s some of those wonderful people who’ve touched my life positively in the last 2 years. Apart from family, of course!

Home South

26.03.20

I arrived at my sister’s place in Alexandra yesterday. Air New Zealand kindly took on my overweight bags! Probably because there were hardly any passengers. In fact, when I arrived at Rotorua to check in there was NO-ONE in the terminal. It’s a bit freaky. My bags were full of Winter clothes! I’m distinctly nervous about how cold it is down here! There might have also been a new bottle of Ardbeg in there!

It was a beautiful flight down and I got some lovely photos. I felt quite a lot of the anxiety and sorrow I’ve been overwhelmed by this last fortnight, fall away as I headed south. And now I’m here, I do feel much better. Fizz is so happy to have me here, I’m wanted, and I can relax.

I snuggled in bed for a very long time this morning, hoping the air temperature would have warmed up by the time I emerged! I had two cups of coffee and long conversations with Matt, Mum & Dad, and my northern friends, Brett & Raewyn, before piling on three layers of merino and braving the day. (BTW, it’s 1520 and 14 degrees!)

Fizz and I had eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach for brunch. Then I went for a long walk along the river. I reacquainted myself with this stunning and demanding part of our amazing country. It was after all part of my formative years, having grown up in the high country at Lake Tekapo, and holidayed down here annually. So in a way I’ve come home! My walk was grand. I saw, with joy, the plant life of my childhood: Viper’s Bugloss (often known, erroneously, as Borage) with its prickly stems and enchanting blue flowers, which I used to freeze in ice cubes at Christmas time and Lamb’s Ears (mullein), nature’s softest toilet paper substitute (might need that!). Of course, as everywhere down this way, lots of weeping willows, sweet briar, wild thyme, lupins, poplars, sorrel and stone crop. And the pathway was naturally paved with the colourful stones and sparkly schist of this region. I also saw some good sized trout in the river which I felt would look good on the end of a line, but…. better not. Out of season!

I was keen to go mushrooming too, but Fizz reckoned the local boys in blue might not see that as essential forraging! She could have a point. Bummer, as I know some good spots near Wanaka. Lots of rabbits around too, that would go well in a pot, if I could get my hands on a 22! I suspect we’re not going to starve, isolation notwithstanding! We have decided we should attempt to limit our alcohol intake to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Mmmm. Time will tell how well that goes!

I think I’ll miss the sound of the Tuis though!

Pile it on, Universe, why don’t ya!

20.03.20:   Do I start with the rant now, or slip it in part way through, subtly, or just end with a roar?

Difficult decision. Not worth the effort anyway, perhaps! One of my “direct your energy” things. More on that later.

Well, isn’t 2020 shaping up to be…. Mmm, what’s the word I’m looking for? Interesting? Challenging? Oh, that’s it, a Shit Show. For once they had it spot on, on TV.

I’m learning a lot about grief. I mean, as a health professional you get a fairly unique perspective on that, and you kinda think you know a fair bit about it. Well, hell NO, baby. Take a back seat prior knowledge, you actually know fuck all (sorry, Ella, another $1 fine).

I have a mantra running through my head most of the time. A couple actually. One of them goes “Why Danny? Why us? It’s not fair. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.”           Then there’s the rational brain that kicks in with “Why shouldn’t it be you? Why should you be exempt from the horror and pain others endure? Get a grip woman.”

I know there’s no right way to do this. I know there’s no time line on grief and how you get through it. I know it’s important to accept the fact he really is gone, that no amount of wishful thinking or bargaining will change that hard fact. Any one of us in the family, of the generations up from my boys, would swap places in an instant. I’d give my life for theirs 100 times over. But that isn’t how this works. Bugger it.

So, as I’m not very good at sitting around doing nothing, my coping strategy has been to do things, like joining Momo for a while. Now I’m back I’m trying to be busy getting the legal side of things wrapped up, help in the house since I know the flatmates didn’t bargain on having me home, get maintenance done, do exercise each day and eat healthy food. It’s hard being forced to stay home when I had so many plans, especially as I don’t feel welcome.

But it’s tough titties really. Just one more thing I have to suck up. And this Covid-19 is a million times worse for those in China, Europe and the USA. I guess it’s because having seeing Matt to look forward to was keeping me positive, and now I don’t even have that. I’m trying to find positives in really small things. So it really hurts when, because I smile over one little win, those around me stare at me as if to say “How can you smile? You’re supposed to be so unhappy you can’t do that.” The harsh judgement of those who have zero idea how it feels to lose a child is bad energy I can’t deal with.

My lovely friend, Raewyn, has invited me to stay so I’m here at her place for a few days. We’re going sailing for the weekend, which will be wonderful and healing for my further bruised heart. Her family is wonderful; strong and independent grown kids, like mine. There’s animals and a stunning view. It’s a good place to be and I’m so grateful to her. Her granddaughter, Ella, is fund raising for the Girl Guides Jamboree next year and is fining everyone $1 per F bomb! Hence my earlier comment! I’m trying to substitute Foxtrot. The boys just pony up in advance, they tell me!

Part of me feels I should be trotting along to the nearest operating theatre and offering my services, but I tried working at the local dementia care unit the other day and couldn’t deal with it. I was clock watching after a couple of hours. The sorrow of the place made me want to cry. How can I care for others if I can’t manage my own emotions yet? I’d be better with emergencies where you don’t have time to process, just act. Best of all would be my boat job back, but that’s impossible just now. This is why I said earlier that I’m trying to place my energy where it will do most good, not where it’ll drag me down. My stamina is still a work in progress.

My heart goes out to all the people whose jobs are on the line, to those whose age and health puts them at higher risk. The healthy and strong among us will have to step up and look after them. I’ll have to shelve my feelings for a while. It’s interesting (and normal) how the fear of this uncertain future is making many people react unkindly. One of my tenants is a pharmacist and said customers are being so rude she doesn’t want to be at work. That’s sad. Allied health workers have no choice but to continue to help and should be supported, not subjected to unkindness. Matt said this morning that he’d seen the same thing in England. I suggested he offered to be a bouncer for the local pharmacy!

0400 Thoughts. Some good, some not.

0415 3rd March: My sleep patterns are totally messed up. I’ve been trying really hard not to resort to temazepam since Danny died but eventually I have to force sleep on myself. Mostly I try to meditate, which I’m useless at by the way, take valerian (legal everywhere) or bufti (depends where in the world you are!), read my book or listen to a podcast or music. Usually I get between 4 and 7 hours, not enough, but then I’ll wake at 1am and that’s it for the night. That’s when I get out my slide of the hard stuff the next night. One slide of 20 lasts me about a year! I’ve got 4 left from last March’s prescription!

One thing Matt and I decided was that losing Danny, who we loved more than even we realised till he’d gone maybe, gives us the right to do what we like for a while. For a start we’re both blown away at how much it’s affected us mentally and physically. Both of us have pretty good brains and can usually remember things without much trouble. But I feel as if my brain was resected the moment I got the ghastly news. For the first month I couldn’t remember anything for more that half a minute. Literally. If that. Matt said he was the same. It’s slowly coming back but I still can only deal with one day at a time. I write absolutely everything down. Then there was the complete loss of physical strength. If you’ve not experienced this you cannot imagine it. I wouldn’t have understood what someone was telling me before having had this happen to me. I had no strength at all. I went from being really fit after 6 months on Lucky Wave, to barely able to climb a set of stairs without stopping. Overnight. Faster, in fact. A completely physical reaction to an emotional trauma. I’ve always thought stress to be a bigger factor in our general health than we realise. Now I know it is.

From a nursing perspective its fascinating, but by God, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s as if my mind and body have totally shut down in response to this intensely painful emotional trauma. I consider myself to be fairly resilient. And I brought up my sons to be also. But nothing prepares one for this. Over three months down the track, we are slowly climbing out of the abyss but neither Matt nor I feel ready to be pushed in any direction.

Which brings me to my next thought, next point of discussion! As you may remember, I started my yacht master offshore last year but had to stop when Carly’s greedy attempt to get at my life savings upset and distracted me to the point I couldn’t focus on the course. So I still plan to do that at some point and Bluewater have been really understanding about it all. But there’s no way I’m in the head space for it yet. However a family member, having being told once already that I wasn’t going to do it yet, decided to really push me. “you must” blablabla. I’m the end I burst into tears and said to damned well leave it alone. It’s up to me to decide when I’m ready. And I’m not. I couldn’t. I can’t remember things yet. But I was angry at him for pushing me when I’d already asked him not to. I need, at least from those close to me who should understand, support not judgement. I’ve lost my son. You don’t just snap your fingers and get over that. I’m doing my best, dammit.

One of the common statements I hear being made against the use of social media is that “people only show the good side of life”. I don’t actually find that to hold true, when you randomly scroll through Facebook. More so, perhaps, on Instagram where its primarily photos. Anyway, I’m being pretty straight up here. It’s certainly not all high tea and dancing lately, don’t you think. I’ve gone from being in one of the happiest times of my life, to the absolute worst. And to feeling I’ll never get that back, never be able to fill the huge void Danny’s death has left inside me. I still, many days, feel he’s just in another country. I wish. It’s unbelievably unfair that such a beautiful person was taken from this world. There plenty of black hearts to choose from, so many people who are selfish and cruel. And please don’t any religious proponents tell me “god wanted him back home”. I have zero time for religious ferver. Everyone is welcome to their beliefs but keep those ones to yourself. A modicum of common sense and scientific learning is enough to show the error of those ways! As far as I’m concerned religion and knowledge are mutually exclusive concepts (wait for the outrage!). Apart from anything else, religion is responsible for more death and heartache than any other one cause throughout the centuries, I’ll be bound.

Well, it’s nearly 6am, a roughly normal hour to be awake. I’m going to get up and pack. Ohope today. Flight leaves 0930.

2031. Really tough day. Give me another please. I can’t do this.

Wednesday 4th March. 0230ish.         So, yesterday was even harder than I knew it would be. Brett collected us from Rotorua, bless him. It felt great to get here really. The climate is so welcoming, softer than the bracing challenge of our southern region! We immediately got lunch and a rose, and toasted Danny and other absent friends. Later, after Brett had gone home to Tohora, Fizz and I walked to the beach, had a wonderful swim and lay in the sun. Then we went to Cadera for Tuesday tacos. And that’s when I came crashing down. So early to bed in a messy heap.

2120: We’ve had a lovely day actually. Into Whakatane early and got a few jobs done which was satisfying. Then lunch and a good walk round the estuary to the beach and back, a swim, shower and then dinner with Finn and Nicola. It was lovely to spent time with them and hear the news. I’m tired now so bed. We plan to walk round the sea to Whakatane tomorrow.

0515 Saturday 7th March                      Can’t sleep again. I’ve been trying for the last two hours. I give up. We’ve had rain in the night which will make everyone happy. Fizz and I have had a good few days. Both my nieces, Hannah and Kelly are here now, Kelly arriving yesterday. We all went to the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant last night for dinner. Raewyn and Brett joined us too which was awesome. So good to see them both. The restaurant has changed a lot. Tom has employed a manager and he takes a more relaxed role I guess. Only saw him briefly. And Elias has taken over as chef. He’s doing superbly too. He’s a real gem, that guy. I hope Tom pays him an outrageous sum! I popped into the kitchen and said hi quickly. Other than that, we’ve gone for walks, had a couple of swims and I’ve got the odd job done. Slowly ticking off my jobs list, though new ones have cropped up too.

I heard from the local policeman who’s in charge of Danny’s case. Hope, the girl who killed him, is now home recovering. I have mixed feelings about that, which is not very nice of me, even if it is understandable. Why should she get to go home and have a chance at a normal life again, when she took that chance from Danny. I think they’ll be interviewing her soon. I wish they could charge her with murder. That’s what it is. She drove like a maniac, wilfully putting others at risk. But she’ll be dealt with by the youth court and will no doubt get a slap with a wet bus ticket.

I was in the garage yesterday and found the container Finn dropped off with Danny’s work gear in. It made me cry.

It’s 0708. I might go and make coffee.