Camping le croix du vieux pont sky

Image: The lake at Camping Le Croix du Vieux Pont, Berny Riviere, France perfect campsite near EuroDisney.

The sky is always there above us and it’s one factor I always keep in mind when I miss my Italian kids. I remember saying to them years ago, ‘When I miss you I shall look at the sky and know you can see the same as there is only one sky above us all’. I think all three of us still look at the sky to communicate before we jump on FB, WhatsApp or the phone.

I look up to the sky when I pray for important things.

I look up to the sky when I talk to my souls who have passed on. My dad’s been living up there since 2007, ‘watching down’ on me.

Heaven, for me, is in the sky. It’s where I will go when I leave this life. I’ll be in the sky, watching down on all my loved ones.

My Italian mother in law, Daria, passed away in summertime, I think it was 1999. She’d been suffering terribly and I had been lucky that she had let me assist her in those last few months and weeks she was with us. This was an enormous stamp of approval from her which I am so grateful for to this day. I remember visiting her in hospital on what was to be her final day, she’d given a nurse some money to buy biscuits and chocolates which she had on her bedside table.

I walked to her bed at visiting time and she used her head to point to the goods on her bedside table, she told me they were to be given to the nurses to thank them for all their hard work. My husband was with me, agitated and left the room to speak to a doctor. In his absence she said

“Goodbye Marianne.”

In my heart I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her and speak to her.

She passed away the next morning.

I saw to it that the biscuits and chocolates were given to the nurses who didn’t want to accept them in such a sad moment but I insisted knowing it had been her wish.

My children were in England that week and we never ‘ruined’ their holiday by telling them their beloved nonna had passed away keeping the news for their return when we could hug them too.

There was just one tiny thing I could say to them to make the blow a little softer.

You see, the day she passed away was in August, high season and our hotel was full of guests. When I had finished serving in the restaurant, after the tables had been relaid for breakfast, the floors swept and washed and the service kitchen put to rights once again, I stepped onto the balcony that runs around the restaurant and looked up at the sky for a quiet moment before heading back in to the busy bar. The sight I found took my breath away because never in my life before, nor since that night, had I seen so many starts out twinkling in the crisp, black mountain night.

So many stars.

‘Hello Daria.’ I said.

Whenever my children were feeling the loss of their nonna which often happened at bedtime I would pull back the curtains, open the shutters and show them the sky and tell them what I have told you adding, ‘Nonno Orlando was throwing a party for nonna Daria as he’d been missing her for so long.’ Which always raised a smile as everyone likes a party.

This week’s prompt for The Gallery 199 is The Sky.

We had a fabulous time on our holiday in France this year although the downgraded hurricane Bertha had messed about with the weather a bit making it very unpredictable, until the day we left of course! However, on a good day there were some stunning sunsets that lit up the sky with thousands of colours and which the lake reflected beautifully for me when I took my photo, like these ones, same lake two different nights.

sunset, sky, camping le croix du vieux pont france

Image: The lake at Camping Le Croix du Vieux Pont, Berny Riviere, France perfect campsite near Disneyland Paris.

Nip over to The Gallery 199 to see more skies.

the gallery photography sticky fingers

family 1967On Sunday it will be four years since my dad passed away and as the anniversary approaches I find myself thinking about him more and more. Of course half of me wishes he was back here so I could selfishly enjoy his company, his jokes (they were bad!) and rib him as Arsenal his team are doing so badly this season!

The other half of me is happy that dad is now in a better place.

This all stems from the fact that I believe. I believe that when we die we pass to a better place. I believe that what we do whilst here on Earth will somehow create where we will be in our afterlife. I think of it as a resting place for souls to regenerate, to ponder on their mistakes and to collectively make the world a better place to live in, a goal which we are way off still but working hard at.

I’m not entirely sure where this belief comes from as I have never been a particularly religious person, always preferring to spend my Sundays out and about rather than rushing to get to mass on time. Confession? Give me a break, I don’t slip into a damp, closed box and whisper to a man I don’t know what I think I have been doing wrong recently but I do chat with ‘God’. I do look at my actions and analyse them to see where I went wrong, to understand if that’s the end of the line or to see if I need to repair, move on or just simply learn. I have a strong internal dialogue that guides me through every decision I make.

Dad had a tough life, he was born of Irish stock into a very poor family and grew up in south London. A jack-the-lad who did whatever he could to get by and to better himself he set off as a waiter on a P&O cruise ship straight out of school. Stopping off in Hawaii together with three other waiters in their white ship uniforms they were mistaken for the Beatles and had Hawaiian leis draped over their heads in grass skirted girls as they came to shore to enjoy a free afternoon whilst in port. He loved that story.

He met my mum in those P&O days, she was a secretary in the UK and way before it was intended I came along just to stir things up a bit I suppose! A shotgun wedding, a new born baby and a man who in all honesty wasn’t ready for it. I shan’t talk about their marriage but safe to say when I was 10 dad left home so I only had him for 10 years of my life really. I remember his tickle fights, I remember his hugs and I remember when he was particularly riled he’d screw his face up into a mesmerising expression which made him look like a monster and you ran fast as should his hand land on your backside you’d be yelling in pain.

Does that make him sound like a monster? He wasn’t but it was the 70’s and parenting was different, it was quite normal to hear ‘Pipe down or you’ll feel the back of my hand’ or ‘You’ll get a smack if you continue.’ A threat such as ‘I’m not telling you again.’ was loaded with the fact that if you didn’t stop you’d get a smack.

Dad had a drink problem, he’d had it an awful long time and probably was part of the cause of his marriage breakdown, after the divorce, the problem escalated and he was diagnosed as an alcoholic. He suffered a stroke and was told to give up the ‘sauce’ if he wanted to live. He was in a relationship with a lovely lady and with her help he weaned himself off but it was a continuing battle for him, set backs along the way, more break ups, more fights – dad had a lot of learning to do about how this life wasn’t all about him.

She did well, she turned him around and they set up a cosy life for themselves but then at the young age of 42 she went and died on him whilst he was at work. She was doing some light gymnastics in the front room before heading off to her nursing job at a hospital for the terminally ill and she suffered an ictus she’d probably been laying there all day until her son came home from school and found her. Can you imagine the shock?

Dad on a rare visit to Italy with Tom and Megan

In a matter of months his cosy life was turned on its head, her two children from her previous marriage took everything they could from the family home and he never saw them again. Dad sold the house moved up north somewhere and had a new lady on his arm in record time that spelt out REBOUND in massive high letters. She was a lovely lady but it was never going to work. Dad had a cupboard full of alcohol and he was drowning his pain and pretending to have a ‘normal’ life again.

The relationship crashed in its very early stages but alcohol, dad’s new best friend remained.

Us three kids new about it, we didn’t like it one bit as we could see dad slowly deteriorating in front of our eyes. The man who was held so high in our esteems, our dad who we were so proud of wasn’t shaving, sometimes wasn’t even washing himself, his clothes were dirty, his house was a pit and more worryingly

He. Couldn’t. Care. Less.

It got to a point where I would dread seeing him, it was heartbreaking to watch this broken man with such a big heart hurting so much and unable to help himself.

My dad was brilliant for advice, he was an excellent listener and his advice was always spot on but he wouldn’t listen to his own.

I knew he’d given up way before the tragic event had happened.

I knew I could do nothing to change his mind to spur him to rethink.

I found myself wishing his time would come quick for him.

Does that sound really bad? I couldn’t watch him in this degenerate state any more, this wasn’t the man I knew and loved, this was a shell and I was unable to accept it. Some may think it harsh but with my belief which is so strong I felt it was worse keeping him here as he had so clearly made his mind up.

Of course, although I ‘knew’ and realised that I was right and that it was going to happen anyway I still wasn’t prepared for the loss when it banged on my door.

He’s gone.

I know he’s happier now, I sometimes ‘feel’ him close by, I once heard him laughing and I turned round to see where he was. My love for him is as great as ever, if not greater but I miss him and wonder when our paths will cross again.

A very long entry today which I’m linking up with Cafe Bebe’s Flashback Friday, thanks Karin for giving me the opportunity to talk about my wonderful dad

I would like to send my condolences to David Cameron and his family as having lost my own father a couple of years back I know how devastating it is and how the loss never completely leaves you.

Many people have lost their dad, some to health problems, some to accidents and some to old age but all have to cope with the same gap that Dad filled in their life.

My dad was the fun in our life as we grew up. Mum would look after our day to day life making sure we were clothed and fed and emotionally balanced and dad would tickle us, chase us, play ball with us and cuddle us when we needed that big man hug. Don’t get me wrong, mum was full of cuddles too and fun but I seem to associate my dad with this aspect of my childhood more, maybe because he left home when we were still kids and therefore all of the discipline fell on mum’s shoulders as we journeyed through adolescence.

My dad came from a poor background growing up in London’s South Bank, now a trendy ‘it’ area but back then a quarter for Irish immigrants. He changed many jobs in his lifetime leaving mum strapped for cash and even without a house at one point but dad was dad and as kids we adored him, he could do no wrong.

He always knew what to say in every occasion and was convinced he could converse both with kings and paupers. One of his greatest sayings was ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.’ which installed in me a sense of ‘Don’t worry, all in good time’.

Dad married twice and lost his second wife very suddenly returning from work one evening and discovering she had died of an ictus whilst exercising before work. He never got over that and the disaster sent him back into the world of escapism via alcohol that she had helped him leave years earlier.

Dad was on the road to self ruin and nothing me or my brothers said or did could stop him. He became devious, hiding evidence and lying to us on the phone. We would invite him for family get togethers and he wouldn’t turn up. We would get so angry with him. I would stop talking to him and only after discussions with Paul ‘He’s an alcoholic, he can’t help himself.’ would I phone and make up with him.

I never stopped loving him through all of this mess but I wanted to push him into doing something with his life.

Throughout my failed marriage Dad would call once a week and it was a lifeline for me. Many times I didn’t tell him about my problems as I was so happy to hear his voice and wrapped up in my own world and too young to know any better I never asked about his problems and his world.

On my return to the UK I was determined to make up for lost time but he had other plans, well he didn’t actually have any plans really. He just wanted to sit in his dirty flat and wait.

On one visit he pointed to a piece of paper from a notepad on the coffee table.

‘I’ve covered it all’ he said.


‘My funeral costs. And of course there’s a little something for all three of you too.’

‘Shut up Dad,’ embarrassed to be hearing this and uncomfortable with the conversation I moved on. Trouble is, in my heart, I never did. I was so angry with him inside, he was wasting his life away I even thought ‘He’d be better off in Heaven.’ at one point.

Then I got the phone call, ‘Dad’s passed away.’

Every fibre in my body screamed ‘Noooo!’ but calmly I replied to my brother. ‘I’ll tell work and get to you as soon as I can.’

WThe three of us spent two days registering his death, emptying his council flat and sharing out his fully stocked freezer!

The boys kept his Arsenal t shirts to clean their cars with (they supported Chelsea, something my dad never fathomed out but accepted) I took a few ornaments I’d given him, a plant which still thrives to this day and a print called ‘Footprints in the sand’ that hung in his hall.

But no object can replace the man I lost and no plant can comfort me as he used to. I’d rather have him back and be angry with him that not have him at all.

Have you lost someone close to you? Tell me about it if you’d like to share, how do you feel about it now?