Monday, 16 February 2015

Reflecting

Our land is on the flight path for quite a few flights. Ian
follows them on a flight tracker to see where they are
going.
Well we are back in Latvia after spending time in the UK for Ian's mother's funeral. It did feel a little surreal at times, firstly we stayed in his mother's house and of course she was not there. It was a sad occasion, but everyone was really happy to meet together. I think every member of the family almost felt guilty for enjoying the time we spent together, as everyone pretty much made a weekend of it. I think part of the reason for that was that her death was not unexpected, she had been ill for so many years and she seemed tired before Christmas. In some ways it was a relief to see her go and not suffer any more. I think we all dreaded a time when she wouldn't be able to cope on her own at home. She was adamant she was not going into a home and the thought of having to make that decision would have been immensely hard on the family, especially those living close by. So going after just a brief stay in hospital seemed the kindest way to go for her.

Grandma Lolly at our daughter's wedding
Grandma Lolly in her younger days
The funeral was a fitting tribute to the feisty little lady. She had planned much of it herself and all was paid for. That made the planning much easier on Ian's brother and testament to her thoughtfulness on such issues. Her two eldest granddaughters read a eulogy with a great deal of love and warmth and her youngest granddaughter, our daughter, sang Amazing Grace beautifully in her own distinctive style. One of Ian's school friends turned up for the funeral unexpectedly. He had read the obituary on my blog and checked out the details so he could be there. All three of us were amused that he had been mistaken for one of the undertakers by a family member and became a bit of a running joke through our catching up conversation.
It has been sunny here for the last two days and Sofie has
been lapping up the sun in the sunniest spots in the
greenhouse


Hard to believe that this morning it was -18C outside but
the temperatures in the greenhouse have been going up
during the day. Could Spring be on its way so soon?

Green in the UK when we left and definitely still white here
Funerals do have a tendency to make you reflect on life and the meaning of it. One reflection was how things have changed since Ian's father died eight years ago (not nine like I mentioned before - not that anyone is counting really). The same two granddaughters read the eulogy then and our daughter sang at that funeral too, but a few spouses had been added along the way and the number of little family members had grown. All of our children were single at their Grandad's funeral and now all of them have spouses and children in tow and our children weren't the only ones. When we went to the wake after the funeral each of the brothers had a big round table with their families around them, there was no fitting around one table, it was physically impossible. Seeing all my own family sitting there, really brought home to me how much our own family has grown.
Our two little grandchildren choosing their evening meal
(Photo courtesy of our son)

The remnants of the ice from the greenhouse broken up
and showered on the path by Ian's hard work and then
the snowblower
One family member lamented that the matriarch had gone now and wondered if we would all fracture into separate entities. After all when we go to England our primary focus will be our own children and grandchildren and that was expected of us and not said in a begrudging way. It doesn't help that Ian's family live so far north and our family is scattered around the UK. I'm sure we will be able to work something out, maybe holidays with family up in the North East would be the answer. Only time will tell though and it will take commitment on all sides to keep in touch.
We visited my mother and father too. This is a view from
their window - they had a bit of snow as well (Photo
courtesy of our son)

Deep tractor tracks to deliver hay to the animals
One of the things that struck Ian was how a connection with part of his past has gone. He can't ask his Mam if she remembers an incident and when we were looking through the photographs there were so many who he didn't know. It made us realise how important it is to document things so the information is not lost. We would hope to scan in photos and make comments on them, so that our own children will know who the people are and know part of their own history. As our son-in-law commented it will be nice to have the photos on the computer and they would take up less room than the bags upon bags of photos and mementoes. Having said that, there is also something special about holding history in your hands.
Grandad Ronnie and Grandma Lolly on their
wedding day

Berry bushes just poking through the snow
One of the sad things was parting with so many things that reminded us of Mam and Dad. There was only so much we could take back with us, such as some of the special gifts we had given them from our trips or just the little things that reminded us of them. We don't want to clutter our own home with too much stuff, just for the sake of it, after all that would just be a headache for our own children too one day. In one drawer was a whole load of tablecloths and napkins, so reminiscent of my own grandmothers, the difference was that I remember my grandmothers actually making those items and I had no idea if Ian's mother had sown or crocheted any of those things or if they were made by family members. Since I have a draw full of those things I didn't really feel I should take any of these, but I was so pleased to find a friend of ours who lives nearby to Ian's family who was able to take them for her own photographic projects and to share with other creative types. That seems a very fitting use for them.
Grandad time (Photo courtesy of our son)
Looks like Aggie is communing with the chicken. Wonder
what they are saying?
There were also reflections on what happens when we go! Our family will not only have our funeral to deal with, it is likely to be in a foreign place with foreign laws to deal with. What will happen to the alpacas? Will we still have them by then? Would they still want the land we are so passionately connected to? Would it pass into the family or be sold off? What would our legacy be? Would our grandchildren be saying kind things about us or will we hardly know them? So many things to think about, but at least as we processed these thoughts we got plenty of time to watch and cuddle our grandchildren. Mind you, I am not sure I want to sing "Row, row, row the boat, gently down the stream, if you see a crocodile don't forget to scream" and various other versions for at least a little while. I was our little granddaughter's in-car entertainment for many an hour.
Thar's snow on them thar hills. Actually there was snow in
the garden too
Diamond encrusted trees
We stayed for part of the time at our daughter's new house. It was really weird to be in a town in Derbyshire that we knew so well and now our daughter is actually living there. We have walked the streets of this town so many times and then walked back to our car and driven home in years past, this time we just walked up the hill to her house. On the night we arrived our daughter invited some old friends of ours to a meal on the night, it was lovely to hear their plans for the future and talk about where we are at. We also tried to visit a cafe that we had been to more times than I can remember and was one of the treat places for our kids too. We didn't take them to McDonalds or places like that, we took them to little cafes in Derbyshire mainly, where we would have cakes and drinks. We didn't often have meals out, as we couldn't afford them very often and I wasn't going to take them somewhere to eat junk food. Unfortunately Caudwell's Mill in Rowsley was as popular as ever and we couldn't get a seat and a certain little lady wanted some lunch. It was only afterwards that I remembered, if we were going to eat there, we went a tad before 12pm to get a seat. Still we ended up at another little cafe, The Eating house, Calver, that we have also been to before and the cakes were super and came with a little bowl of fruit too. I am sure it made the great wedge of cake healthy.
Our little grandson
Animal tracks and chicken tracks
There were a few irritating thing that happened before we left for the UK, one was the U-bend on our sink coming apart. It does do this from time to time due to the pipe leading to the tap that is extendable interfering with the outlet pipe somehow. That meant a flooded kitchen unit that needed emptying and leaving to dry while we were away. Ian has now tied up the pipe to try and stop it happening again. Another and rather more serious problem was the hand brake on the car freezing again and now the hand brake doesn't really work. The brakes aren't that good too and so it was a little worrying heading into Riga. Ian fortunately tends to use engine breaking rather than the brake pedals, especially on the ice, but they are still useful. He tried to fix them today, but it was -18C and the barn doors won't open enough to get the car in, so he had to try and bleed them on a bit of a slant.
Daddy time
More crazy patterns on the greenhouse
Another irritation was getting our clocks wrong. On the day of the funeral we needed to get up early and so I set the alarm on my ipad to get up at 7am. We thought we would be up early anyway, but just in case I set the alarm. Hmmph! When travelling one should make sure that all clocks are changed on all relevant items or at least take the time difference into account. Latvia is two hours ahead of the UK and so we actually woke up at 5am and by the time I realised my mistake it was too late. Ian rubbed it in! The next day, we had kind of come to and I asked what time it was? Ian said 7:20am but it wasn't. In the dark he cannot see so well without his glasses at that distance and it actually was only 6:20am. What a pair we make!
One of Ian's family holidays, this one to Ostend, with his
father, mother, godfather and his godfather's wife.
His father isn't in this picture - long story.

Caption time! 
We went to an alpaca farm while we were up in the North East. We were intrigued how they had managed to go from a few alpacas to over 100 and wondered what were the issues when scaling up. She said up to 25 was as much work as 3 or thereabouts, but above that was rather different. That probably explains why quite a few have about 25 and only a few are much bigger than that. We would probably aim to have around 25 and then see where we go. We think our land could support that many, but above that we would have to buy in hay or rent land. A lot of money had been poured into that venture too and that is something we can't do now, but at least it has given us some ideas, so watch this space.
This is Ian's father in his later years
Snowdrop in meditative mood and sat next to her daughter.
They don't often sit next to each other these days.
Our animals were in good hands while we were away and have not misbehaved since we got back either - remarkably! We did get an early phone call while we were away though as our youngest alpaca didn't eat her food that morning. Our friend looking after the animals knows herd animals very well and knows that when a herd animal goes off their food it can be serious very quickly and so he was obviously worried. Fortunately we guessed the reason might actually be the trace of spit from her mother in the bowl. Snowdrop is our alpaca that is likely to spit and has been known to spit in everyone else's bowl and then none of the others will eat, she then goes and polishes off all the food. She is much better now than she used to be, but still! Anyway later on in the day the little one was fine.
Playing nicely at my parent's house

So there is the ramble through the last two weeks and now we are kind of back to normal, with me finishing off some work for the blessed paper I have been writing for years (well it feels like that) and some work for my online job and Ian back out on the land, shifting snow, poo and hay.

8 comments:

Pene said...

Glad to hear that you had a good visit with all your family members.

Joanna said...

Thanks Pene

Gina said...

It is sad that as we get older it is often funerals that get families back together for times of reflection. But good that you were able to relive some happy times.

Joanna said...

I can see the truth in that Gina. Thank you

Bill said...

I'm glad you were able to have so much time with family, even if there was an air of sadness about it. Funerals do make you reflect on life, you wrote. I can definitely relate to that, having attended the funeral yesterday of a 94 year old neighbor--a fine woman and one of a dying breed. A touching service including (like that of Ian's mother) Amazing Grace. It all made me ponder the legacies we leave.

Welcome home. As we deal with the bitterly cold days (especially where you are) let's take heart in the fact that the sun is staying up a little longer every day now.

karen said...

yes, funerals are very often the only opportunity for full family reunions, a gathering with meaning though, remembering a much loved individual. I often think of my kids having to sort through all my things, poor kids, a skip might be the best option....

Joanna said...

Thanks Bill.

I do indeed take encouragement from the lengthening days. Stay warm where you are

Joanna said...

A skip! Not for your lovely things, maybe for some of our stuff kept for upcycling though, because the end results aren't always so pretty as your upcycling