I'd been thinking about a particular group of people in Christchurch - those who have recently lost their partner and now suddenly have to cope with the aftermath of the earthquake on top of that.
I was talking to an out-of-town friend today and mentioned this. "I know one", she said. Her Christchurch friend lost her husband three weeks ago.
Then there are all the people who have just lost their partners in the quake itself, or even worse, don't know where they are or what's happened to them.
Anything I try to write to express my sympathy comes out sounding trite and banal, but I am so very, very sad for you all and I hope you have loving people around you to help you through this.
There will be no new posts on Elsewoman for a couple of weeks. My lovely housesitter will be here taking care of Dorothy, who is going steadily downhill - well, she is 85 in human years.
Well, it's been a very mixed weekend. The previous few days, after Jonathan and Eric left on Wednesday morning, turned out to be very busy. I also found out that in her Tuesday afternoon web review Ele Ludeman, who had previously discussed my food blog and Harvey's blog on National Radio, had talked to Noelle McCarthy about his death, the Last Post I put up on his blog, and the new focus for Elsewoman. They said lovely things, so thank you both very much.
A while ago, a friend who has lived on her own for a long time gave me one very useful piece of advice - she said to always make sure I had something booked in for the weekend. Otherwise it does seem to stretch out like an endless desert to be got through. I thought I'd done well this time - I was well aware that it was my first weekend on my own for some weeks.
Saturday worked out fine - it was gorgeous still weather, so I replanted all my salad pots and reorganised my gardening stuff, then settled down to get some paid editorial work done before I needed to start cooking for the first of the guests I've asked to dinner this week (to find out how it went, see Something Else to Eat).
Sunday wasn't great. I'd planned to take myself into Te Papa, as they had two interesting free things on - a lecture about how Western artists reacted to "primitive" art from the start of the 19th century, related to some of the paintings in the "European Masters" exhibition; and a screening of short 1950s fairy-tale films by Lotte Reiniger. There's a good account of her life and work here. She created amazing animated films using intricate hand-cut black paper silhouettes.
The lecture was good and the films were brilliant - I'd read about them years ago and had always wanted to see them. But there was hardly anyone else there. It was sad they hadn't been better advertised, especially to parents and children, because many children would have absolutely loved them.
So then I came out, walked along the waterfront in the sun, caught the bus home - and realised that I hadn't spoken to anyone all day and was feeling very low indeed. I managed to stop myself going into a complete downward spiral by calling Lesley down the road and asking if I could come over for a pre-dinner drink (she'd been away and I hadn't seen her for a while). Five minutes later I was round there with a nice cold bottle of pinot gris. Her and Paul's warm company was exactly what I needed, and I was able to come home, eat my dinner quite happily accompanied by "Grand Designs", and go and do some work. I've learnt another useful lesson: it's not enough just to have things to do - a generous measure of human contact is essential. And at the moment, anyway, I need to make sure I have it on both Saturday and Sunday.
Today is the 13th of February. The supposedly unlucky 13 was always lucky for Harvey and me. His birthday was the 13th and our beloved villa was No. 13. But the only special thing about today's date is that it precedes Valentine's Day tomorrow.
We never made a big fuss about it, but we did always find each other a soppy or silly card (sometimes one of each). One of my favourites from Harvey said, "On a scale of 1 (lentil soup) to 10 (hot fudge sundae) - you are an 11." Or the one that asked wistfully, "Shall I tell you my most secret, fond and optimistic dream? Maybe one day you'll love me as much as chocolate." Whereas I, when I wasn't being soppy, tended more to the bizarre, like the one with a ferocious looking woman calling out to her husband, "What's the matter, Harvey? Cat got your tongue?" while he hides round the corner clutching the cat lovingly to his face and saying, "Oh my God, she knows about us!"
This is of course all simply a feeble attempt to feel better by remembering how lucky I've been to be able to give, and get, Valentine's Day cards like these for thirty years, instead of feeling unutterably sorry for myself because I won't be getting or giving any tomorrow.
My partner of thirty years, Harvey McQueen, poet, gardener, educator, 13/9/1934 - 25/12/2010
The Colour of Food: A memoir of life, love and dinner
This is an e-book - click on the cover to see how to buy it.
This Piece of Earth: a year in my New Zealand garden
Harvey's memoir, now available as an Awa Press e-book - click on the cover to see how to buy it.
At my book launch - Lois Daish, me, Mary Varnham of Awa Press. Click on the photo to go to the book's Facebook page.
MY FOOD BLOG
Click on the lemons to go to Something Else To Eat
Harvey's last anthology, These I Have Loved: My favourite New Zealand poems, published by Steele Roberts, was launched on 10/10/2010. To see what Beattie's Book Blog has to say about it, click on the cover.
"I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most." — Margaret Atwood