2007 — 9 December: windy, unsunny, not quite so wet (yet) Sunday

It's now 08:33, and I'm listening to On the Media with a bizarre set of reports on NPR about media freedom in the Putin-era Russia, with (currently) a Stalinist mourning recent changes. "It's now a different freedom of speech"... how can that be? There's both an official opposition, and a set of (excluded) extremeists. Another chap (the editor of Izvestia) is asserting: The Russian TV networks are "well-balanced, cautious, and absolutely pro-government, just like in many countries. Can you show me any country where the sources of mass information are not controlled?" And, he asks, why doesn't the EU issue open date visas for visiting Russians to assist cultural and social exchange of ideas and values? Why don't Americans "start with yourself, and Bush?" Too much for my mourning morning brain, I fear!

At least I have a tentatively arranged New Forest stroll for tomorrow morning after the driving lesson. Thanks, Mike!

Studying Christa's study

After breakfast I shall, once again, try to get my head around her various filing and other systems. She was incredibly well-organised and can teach me a lot. She was also a squirrel in terms of keeping stuff, and had an amazing ability to keep calm when communicating with (for example) the "tax" man or the "NI" man. But I have to say this occasionally upsetting process would be a whole lot nicer if she was still here1 to talk to and ask about things!

I like to think this could well have been her reaction:

Christa in March 2007

Taken by the side garden gate. She often suspected I was trying to catch her on a bad hair day — not so, my love!

Winter weekend thoughts

As I've just mentioned to my stalwart frequent co-pilot, I used to like weekends very much, but then I also used to have a happy companion with which to spend them. She's had to go away, with no predicted return date. This new and remarkably unpleasant situation is (of course) taking some getting used to, and I can't say I'm there yet, though I fully understand time will eventually do the trick. I've been warned that the "grief process" can take six months or a year to work through, which (at this early point) is an appalling prospect. Dr Grayling has also considered these matters:

When we fall in love, for example, we do not think that we will one day lose the beloved, but so we will, as surely as the sun rises every day — through death at last, if our loves are deep... Such is life, and even the brightest optimist has to accept the fact.

AC Grayling in the essay "Loss" in The Reason of Things

I don't honestly think you can spend your life contemplating impending mortality, can you? Unless you're employed as a university philosopher, of course. It would remove too much of the joy from life. "Loss," says Dr G, "reshapes our world, and obliges us to learn again the task of navigating it." He got that bit right, I can assure you. The Stoic philosophers advised people only to possess things they would not mind losing, but frugality with your emotions leads to a bland2 and stunted life:

But the cost of avoiding trouble is a terrible one: it is the cost of having trodden the planet for humanity's brief allotment of less than a thousand months, without really having lived.

AC Grayling in the essay "Loss" in The Reason of Things

Before her death, Christa and I both agreed that, given the choice, we'd still very happily "do it all again" with the exception of the last six months, of course. We had no regrets, and loved each other most dearly. But I can see now how absolutely right she was when she told me I would have the more difficult job after she'd died. I must say, though, the awful weather right now isn't helping elevate my mood at all! Thanks for popping round again, Roger. I do enjoy our little chats even though (as John Ebdon used to say) they come to no fixed conclusion other than agreement on the pretty rotten state of the planet and its hordes of humanity. Still, it's now nearly time (11:40) for my lunch date with Len and his mum. Tally ho! Up and at 'em.

Back at about 3pm after another 36 miles or so of driving practice thrown in for good measure after a tasty helping of turkey. The rain has mostly held off, though the clouds are gathering again. What on earth does one do, I wonder, to cheer oneself up? Well, tomorrow's walk in the New Forest is going to help, I'm sure. And, if the weather does indeed improve, we may yet have another one on Thursday.

Thank you

A set of "thank yous" today. To Len for the lunchtime company. To Mike for his cheery afternoon phone call as we planned how to take bits of the New Forest by storm while avoiding the dreadful roadworks in Totton. To Peter across the road for his offer of shopping company as, once again, the Mounce stock of foodstuff gets steadily diminished by the continuing Mounce appetite. To Cathy for her evening phone call and the very welcome offer of New Year hospitality. And (since why should I leave her out just because she's unavoidably detained elsewhere?) to Christa for your foresight in buying in a small supply of tinned herring, mackerel and similar that I've just found to be delicious, though I probably told you repeatedly for many years that I cannot stand the healthy stuff. Lidl and Aldi triumph yet again, my love!



1  Though, of course, it would also then be unnecessary, he added unnecessarily.
2  As depicted, for example, in Anne Tyler's character Macon Leary in The accidental tourist.