It’s the end of December and I had planned to offer you a list of the books that I have most enjoyed this year. But circumstances have changed and this is going to be a different kind of post. So much so that I don’t want replies, thanks. This is personal and I’m sharing it because I want to record how important books have been to me and what the friendship of bookish people has meant.
Some of my book chums will know that I came to book blogging as a result of finding myself having to give up working as a result of severe stress and clinical depression.
In an attempt to give myself a challenge and something to keep my brain working, I began my book blog. Slowly, tentatively, it took shape. That first post, for Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin was a tentative foray into book reviewing five years ago in December and slowly as I grew in confidence, I found that book blogging gave me back confidence, introduced me to some of the best people I have met and provided me with endless reading delights, deadline driven activity to keep me focussed and a host of book festivals to introduce me to new authors and like minded people.
This year, despite some challenging accessibility issues (I need a new hip) I have felt renewed and positive. There have been setbacks; an accident at the Edinburgh Book Festival has had long lasting repercussions for my mobility, but I still felt positive and determined to celebrate a big birthday by taking a fabulous luxury trip to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
It was indeed fabulous, and though I could have wished for better mobility to enjoy it to the full, I am so glad I took the trip. Again I met some great people and the sheer beauty of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam alone was worth the journey.
What many people didn’t know was that my partner of 15 years had very significant health issues which meant that we had to stay apart; he looked after in a care home; never well enough to make the journey to Scotland to be closer to me, but ever hopeful that he could make that happen. We talked most days. We knew he was on palliative care; frequently hospitalised and yet so supportive of my making the trip to South East Asia to celebrate my birthday.
I made the trip knowing he was very unwell, but he’d been that way for at least 5 years. Did he know? I don’t know. But when I got to my final stop in Hong Kong, I was concerned that I couldn’t make contact. Arriving back in London, I found that he had passed away on 23 December. Moved to a hospice while I was away, he left instructions that I was not to be told until I returned to the UK.
So this year has ended on a note that is pretty much breaking my heart. And yet, his life had so little quality, there is comfort in the fact that he is at peace now and his pain has gone. I wish I could have been with him; that will be a source of endless regret for me and yet his selflessness in refusing to bring me home (because of course I would have come home had I known) is typical of the way he would behave.
I’m angry with him, so angry at not telling me, but we make our decisions and for better or worse, we have to live and die with them.
I find though, that in grief, I turn to the remembrance of both the joy we had and the great times we had together and then to the new path I have found on my own in making book friends and forging a new life out of shared passions of a different kind.
So this post is for all of you who have helped reshape my life; who have given me new friendships and things to look forward to. Those who have come to events with me, discussed books and authors, and met me over drinks and yet more books.
I took December off book blogging for my trip. Right now, I don’t feel much like blogging, but what I have learned over the last 5 years is that renewal is possible and that it is possible to take great comfort from people I have never met, yet who feel like old friends.
Tonight I am going to burrow in, have another wee cry, and tomorrow I’m going to do my best to start a new year fresh with a new book and a brand new reviewing slate.
It isn’t everything, but it is something. That and my own friends and family will keep me sane and keep me going. For now, that’s enough.
Thanks for listening and a Happy New Year to you all xx