I arrived at Nip and Ellie's feeling like I could burst with hurt. I was worried that they might think all I would do was cry the whole trip. I let go of that worry. They are good friends and we were all feeling his loss. So why pretend? By being open surely that was better?
They have a stunning home and we had an 'eat up' BBQ and a couple of glasses of wine. We all talked about Clive and every now and then the tears just flowed and flowed. Ellie was worried that she felt useless. I reassured her that the biggest help is by simply being there and just letting me cry. She has a great taste in music and I just let the rhythms and words take me. A LeAnn Rimes track 'Right Kind of Wrong' seemed poignant from our early days of friendship.
I was so glad we'd arranged this tea and sleepover as it minimised my risk of backing out. It also shared the airport responsibility. I do enjoy my new independence but sometimes it is good to let someone else do it, e.g, what time to get up.
I went to sleep quite easily which surprised me. Perhaps all the upset had drained me? I awoke before my alarm at 4.30 with mixed emotions of both excitement and melancholy. I stroked the empty side of the bed and visualised how tremendously excited Clive would have been. A child on Christmas morning level! That thought made me smile and I got ready.
I wore a checked dress that I had got in York last year. Clive had won a small bet on a race, we shared the winnings and a challenge to find ourselves a treat each in 20 minutes. This had been my booty! I teamed this with a short sleeved denim jacket he'd chosen with me. And the obligatory matching underwear!
Ellie commented that I looked very pretty and gave me a huge, much needed hug. It was so much appreciated. I know my friends feel for me by relating it to how they think they would be feeling if they lost their partner. We can't know how we would react until it happens but we can empathise. My advice is to savour as much as you can.
Nip and Ellie's house is on the edge of York and has an open outlook. The sunrise and mist on the fields in the distance heralded a new, beautiful dawn.
We headed off.
I gladly accepted Nip's offer to drive. The strong and brave Elaine that people describe felt vulnerable today. It was a pretty drive. There had been talk of strikes today but thankfully once at the airport all was running to plan. Waiting in the bag drop queue I reminisced how I loved to be at airports with Clive. He was so cool about everything! His travels as a speaker had instilled this in him. It was a pleasure to be with him - my knight!
I gulped HARD as we walked past the arrivals door. Several times we'd met here - with open arms, a kiss that made the rest of the world disappear, and flowers for the 'arrival'. We'd walk back to the car hand in hand, excitedly catching up. It hurt today to know that will never happen again with him.
We were all amused by a group of middle-aged men dressed as women! There was even a belly dancer! Once through passport control I spotted a huge stand of the suntan lotion P20. When Dom was little it was the only one that didn't upset his skin but he hated it! I sent him a picture to which he replied 'NOOOOOOO! Evil in a bottle :) have an ace time :) x'
That made me beam from ear to ear! Dom had wanted to be Clive's replacement on this trip but due to school and other reasons I felt Mum was more appropriate. His comment made me so proud of him though.
Mum was flying from Liverpool so I was anxious to know she was okay. A text confirmed she was. After a drink and a brief delay we were called to the gate. Then suddenly bang! A tremendous wave of grief crashed on top of me. Surrounded by strangers and good friends the feeling of loneliness was incredible. No Clive. No hand to hold. No gentle tutting and teasing at his excitement as we boarded. Gone. No more. Forever.
Silent tears flowed. I wanted to sob hysterically, fall to my knees and scream 'why'?
I didn't! A reassuring 'we're here', smile and 'just knowing' from Ellie was just the tonic and gave me strength to get on the plane. The first half an hour I was still tearful but settled into my Prima magazine from April! I just haven't made the time or inclination to read it yet today I did and enjoyed it.
My tears turned to smiles as I commented what relaxed and easy travel companions Nip and Ellie were. I recalled that although Clive was great in airports he was a pain on the plane. His 'Mr Cool' was replaced by impatient '7 year old'!
'Are we there yet? Whatcha reading? Are we there yet?
She's noisy - do we all want to hear her? Are we there yet?
What's that about? Are we there yet?'
Aaargh! I had got quite infuriated with him on several flights!
Knowing Mum would be in the arrival Hall lessened the sinking feeling of loss. I quickly checked my emails to discover one from a BBC Breakfast journalist who wants to speak to me about bereavement blogging! It may lead to a tv interview! I hadn't even got through passport control and I had something exciting to go back to.
I am very proud of my parents. Seeing Mum in the Arrivals looking amazing and confident shows where much of my strength comes from! It's not all down to Gotty!
It was good to have Nip sort us with the correct Shuttle Bus and off we went to Hilton Vilamoura.
The pink marble front is impressive and from then on, nothing disappoints! The booked king-sized room was changed to a twin and we agreed to meet by the pool after unpacking.
The bedroom was just as the pictures showed. Tasteful decor in tones of pale blue and beige. There was a big bath behind a glass screen which could be curtained off and a shower room. Gorgeous!
The big beds and bedding were pure luxury. I smiled as I suspected that had Clive been here it would have been more than unpacking that would have gone on!!
I made home and we joined Nip and Ellie by the equally stunning pool with the padded sunbeds I had booked because of!
It was unanimous that we'd made the right choice.
As I lay back and relaxed into my music, once again the tears flowed depending on the song and association. Mum initially told me to stop it but I carried on. I needed to let my emotions just take me. It is healing. It is calming. It is my way of dealing with Clive's death.
I still struggle with the memories of the evening he died. Finding him blue. That last gasp as I tried CPR. The growing realisation that he was dead as I tried then the paramedics did to revive him. The growing horror of it all. I can still feel the icy coldness of his lips as I kissed him for the last time in his coffin, with my hand on the post- mortem stitches that I could feel under his blue Leeds Rhinos shirt.
I defy anyone to erase memories like that easily. But I know I HAVE to make new, happier memories.
One way I find helps is to make a concerted effort to live in the 'now'. So instead of laying in the sun thinking about the coming week I focused on the place, people and sensations I could feel right there.
I took out my earphones and listened. Birds. Waterfall. Voices. Children's laughter. I could taste a saltiness on my lips. I could smell the fragrance from the pretty flowers around the pool. Coconut suntan cream. I felt my body in the softness of the towel and the mattress. The warmth of the sun.
Best of all with my eyes closed I could see Clive's adoring, smiling face bending over me to tenderly brush his lips against mine, with his usual line - 'I aDore you'. He once said that if he ever went he would come back in the wind. I lay there allowing the warmth of the gentle breeze over my entire body, to soothe and caress me.
Gone but not forgotten.
Before I knew it the afternoon had passed and it was time for showers and dressed for the evening.
I as apprehensive about going down to the harbour as I had happy memories of last time here with Clive. I put on my 'Rhodes' dress and felt okay. Some other friends of Nip and Ellie joined us with their 4 year old little girl. The dynamics changed and I felt I couldn't relax as much as I didn't know these people.
I wanted, maybe selfishly, to be indulged in memory lane. I wanted to talk about Clive and I felt I couldn't. Perhaps this was better? We had a meal at the harbour. I chose Caesar salad because Clive would have. As we walked along the marina later on I ached for him to be beside me. Two years ago he'd bumped into an ex-girlfriend and a couple from Tadcaster.
At the end of the Marina I was desperate to go into a bar called the 19th Hole. Two years ago Clive would wait for me each night in here whilst I got ready. He'd enjoy a pint and wait for me to arrive! I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman with the 'you're stunning' line. He made me feel so special. So adored. So loved.
I just wanted to sit in this bar to feel close to him. I ordered a pint of Guinness, probably to the disgust of Mum! But it was good just to be here. There was a band playing. We all just sat. I was itching to dance.
The band ended with 'Summer of 69'! Clive's exit song in his coffin!! I fought the tears and won! Mum grabbed my hand and joined me in the chorus.
Soon after we left. Ellie confessed that she also had wanted to dance. How often do we miss opportunity by 'not saying'?
We got a taxi back to the hotel and sunk into the luxurious white bedding.
And so ended the first day. I was pleased I had come.