As we turned into the main York Road I began to speak and barely stopped until we got to Headingley! Verbal diarrhoea or what? We drove passed many places that have special memories for me - the path through a small wood on York Road where we would walk Clive's boxer dog Peeka. Just before Christmas when Clive had his first knee replacement I sent him a picture of us there.
We also had walked the path back home in sunshine, rain, frost, snow and merry from our nights out 'in town'. I smiled at those memories. It took us a long time as we'd often just stop for a cuddle. We felt so very close on those late night walks - making plans; coping with our latest challenges; telling one another what we meant to each other.
We passed his favourite pub The Coach and Horses. It has closed just after Christmas 2010 and he had been in mourning almost a year! He had been a regular customer for years there and landlord and landlady Dave and Maggie were like family. However, we had returned to the 'new' Coach and Horses on Christmas Eve and also New Year's Eve and Day. We also went in on the night before he died. I smiled as we passed there.
Next I commented on another of his 'places' - the betting shop! Clive liked to have a flutter and he taught me the basics. However, in the last year we had gone in less and less. Our social life and 'fun' had begun to take on a different form than his single days! At least now I can go to the Races and have a slight idea of what happens.
A photographer took pictures as we turned into Westgate, passed the Queen. More smiles. Then the undertakers where I had given him his final kiss the day before. I remembered how he used to say he'd had his 'last first kiss' when we got together. I was so pleased I had seen him in there as I could picture him inside the coffin in front of me - but I knew what I'd put in his pocket and I knew what he was holding and that gave me another reason to smile!
Next was the school where his adored great niece Emily would have been busy inside. She called him her 'huggle buddy'.
We then drove slowly passed Tadcaster Fire Station where all the staff were standing outside in his honour. It was here that he washed a fire engine one day and saw the 'Vapour Trails' of an aeroplane when he vowed that one day he wanted to leave trails that others would follow...
Sitting beautifully amongst the firefighters was his beloved Peeka. We all gulped and fought the tears. He truly loved her. Last year we thought she'd had a stroke and was very poorly. She pulled through but he dreaded her dying. Only a few weeks ago he'd commented that at least when she did it would be easier for everyone as we were all used to periods without her. Clive and Sara still shared her. Little did we know it would be kinder for Peeka. I miss her too but Sara and I have mutally decided that it would be cruel to bring her home as she would sit looking out of the window all day for him.
From there we headed into Leeds. Me still wittering. I remember saying that I must be annoying everyone else in the car but I was genuinely excited about the Celebration. Was that wrong? Yet what good would weeping and wailing do?
Once we reached the Ring Road the hearse turned right instead of the usual route we took. We all questioned if they knew where they were going (sorry Tony!) but I had every confidence in them getting us there. It turned out to be an interesting route and prettier than the main road through the centre. We drove through areas of Leeds that I had never seen before. As we reached the last mile or so to Headingley I declared that I should have gone to the toilet before we left. With that we all said the same and wondered if there was a service station en route! We all got giggly!
On arrival at Headingley we drove into the grounds and parked alongside the cricket pitch. It was all deserted! I suddenly panicked - 'No-one is here,' I exclaimed, 'Have they got the right date and time?'
Everyone reassured me that they would be in the stand.
Once out of the car we made our way into the tunnel which leads onto the rugby pitch the other side. Instantly a queue for the ladies toilet formed! I gave Jamie Jones Buchanan and Ricky Mathers a hug and thanks for carrying Clive, as representatives and friends from his Rugby League passion. I must add that they weren't in the queue for the ladies! Within minutes more people appeared (phew). Two smiling faces greeted me as my sister Claire handed me her daughter - my beautiful niece Sophie in her cute cream fur coat and hat. She looked adorable and was so cuddly.
With that Clive had been lifted out of the hearse and was being carried by six men who loved him. My Mum offered to walk with me but holding Sophie and said I wanted to do this myself. I was just so delighted my vision had come true! My Clive would be so pleased.
On the pitch he was surrounded by an arc of balloons and was carried on to 'Summer of 69' played loudly (at his request). Someone on Facebook had suggested we let balloons go in his memory. This idea had grown in my mind and in discussion with Dominic and I had 'seen' a backdrop of balloons on the pitch to make a 'stage' for Clive. A phone call to http://www.balloonstudio.co.uk/ made that possible. The bright colours I had asked for provided the perfect backdrop! No wonder I smiled. It looked like a party - with a coffin in the middle! Just what Clive had wanted, although Headingley was my idea, prompted by my neighbur Michelle who had asked if he had a 'special place'. This was it!
The staff assured me that everyone was here who had wanted to speak and so the Celebration began....
Thanks to Neil G Campbell for this picture.
The rest will follow...