25-Aug-2016 August… a month of firsts

August was always a celebratory month for us… Jimmy’s birthday the 2nd, our wedding anniversary the 12th and my birthday 25th. This year, of course, has been the first of these without Jimmy. Naturally, there are a quite a number of ‘first since’ occasions and I guess when the second year comes round it will become the ‘second since’ and so on and on. It will always be that way… there’s no getting away from it.

So while these ‘first sinces’ bring sorrow that Jimmy is not here to share them with me, they’re also a chance to remember the good times we had while he was.

This year nothing too exciting has happened on these particular August dates. On Jimmy’s birthday I visited his grave and had a good long ‘chat’ with him about what’s going on in my life. I like to keep him up to date! I also arranged for the marker cross to be put back in at the graveside. When the headstone was put in this had been removed and I had taken it home but decided the best place for it was at the graveside and it looks better there.2016-08-25 Jimmys grave

On the wedding anniversary day I was at Saltburn Folk Festival for the whole weekend. I was staying in a self-catering apartment in the middle of Saltburn and had taken with me the anniversary card I had got for Jimmy last year to ‘celebrate’ the day. I had a good time at the Festival catching up with and spending time with Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby and Allan Taylor on the Friday and Saturday. Drinking Guinness till 2 in the morning at the Spa Hotel with Brian and others was fun too!

And today, my birthday, I’ve again been up to visit Jimmy – I’m glad I did as the headstone was covered with dried out grass cuttings so I gave the headstone a good clean. I received some cards from friends which is lovely and some lovely messages too on my Facebook page.2016-08-25 Val Birthday cards

Last year when we learned Jimmy was not well we each began to write a daily journal. Things we’d done during the day, thoughts we’d had… that kind of thing. Reading back through this brings both sorrow and joy but I’m glad I have it to go back to.

Reading through August’s entries has been fascinating… we were so busy busy busy! It was the month when we finalised and signed off the DVD we had made for Anthony John Clarke and that was such a relief to have that finished. DVDIt is great to have it out there as a legacy of Jimmy’s hard work. If you haven’t already bought your copy you should be ashamed! You can buy it from the albums page of Anthony John’s website and watch an extract on the home page.


02-Apr-2016 In Memorium

I am very much enjoying the walks with the Northumberland Walking Group. I found this group through a site called meetup.com and there are loads and loads of different clubs for different interests. I’ve been on 4 walks in March and it’s a great reminder of the wonderful scenery here in Northumberland – you can’t beat it (apart from maybe some parts of Scotland!).

I spent sometime up in Jedburgh last month chilling out with Anthony John and Julia which was just lovely – and we went for a walk! On my way to visit my son Richard for Easter, I visited Cusworth Hall near Doncaster.

Cusworth Hall Tea Room

When Jimmy and I re-met on 26 March 2002 (after 30 years) he met me off the train at Doncaster station and we spent a lovely lovely afternoon strolling around the grounds of Cusworth Hall. The date fell perfectly for me to visit on my way south and I couldn’t miss the opportunity. I went to the tea room and had a toasted tea cake (this was what I had 14 years ago) and a cup of coffee. Sad but happy memories of that lovely day. Our plan was to have at least 30 years together, having spent 30 years apart, but alas it was not meant to be. This will always be a special place and I am so glad of the time we did manage to spend together.

On Easter Monday I went along to the football match at Cambridge United (against Oxford). My son has supported Cambridge United forever and this was the first time I had been to the ground. It was a good match albeit goalless.

Jimmy’s grave Edgewell Cemetery, Prudhoe

On the Tuesday I met up again with my old work colleague Joyce Freeman and after the Knit and Knatter group, which is held in a room in the Wyevale Garden Centre in Huntingdon, we had lunch there and a long long chat afterward – it was lovely. Thank you so much Joyce.

The final happening for March was the memorial stone being placed on Jimmy’s grave. I went along to watch the work being done and I am so pleased with it. This was designed by Jimmy and me last year and it was good to see the finished piece finally in place. I think Jimmy would be proud of it.


06-Mar-2016 More Memories and Emotions

It’s only been 4 months and it can be so difficult to know what to write and to know what to think or do.

The emotions are all over the place. Some days are better than others while others are just god awful with a dreadful feeling in the pit of the stomach and the realisation hitting you hard – I will never speak to or see my lovely Jimmy ever again. He’s gone… just gone. And then I feel angry ‘cos it should never have happened and then I feel sorry for myself and then feel guilty about that because I’m still here and Jimmy isn’t! He didn’t want to go. He often said that in some ways he was the lucky one (!) ‘cos he wouldn’t have to deal with afterwards so it would be worse for me.

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking through our thousands (and I mean thousands) of photographs so I can put together an ‘album’ on CD for Jimmy’s son Lyndon and everything just everything has a memory which then carries an emotion. I wouldn’t want to not look at photographs of Jimmy though… in fact I have printed off quite a few and they are dotted around the house so he’s always with me and I can ‘talk with him’.

I’m trying to create some normality to my new life but when your whole world is turned upside down and inside out it’s hard. For years you have a way of life with your wife/husband/partner. You do certain things together, you have ways of talking to each other, there’s a routine of togetherness, a purpose because you’re there for each other, a reason for being. So here I am alone for the first time in my life and so all of that ‘normality’ is gone and trying to find or create a new ‘normality’ is not easy.

But, dreadful as the saying is, life does go on and I just have to get on with it. As you know I do get out and about I have been trying new things that I just wouldn’t have done otherwise.

2016-03-06 12.14.10

Morpeth to Bothal circular

I’ve met up with two lots of friends this week for coffee and it’s always lovely to catch up with people. I’ve been for another long walk today (8 miles this one!) with the walking group I joined. Very muddy but very enjoyable. I’ve planned and booked a week in Rome (with my son Richard) for the middle of April. I’d always wanted to go to Italy but somehow we never quite got round to that one. We’re both looking forward to that.

I’m playing my guitar everyday in the house but slow progress on expanding the repertoire but I’ll keep plodding on. I’ve tried out a few songs but they don’t quite ‘do it’ so I’ll just have to try some others. There’s loads of songs I like but just because you like a song doesn’t mean you can do proper justice to it.

I’ve a trip to Jedburgh planned for later in the month and then I’ll be heading down south again to stay with my son over Easter so plenty to do and plenty to look forward to.

The first guitar for sale is now up on eBay so fingers crossed.

Till next time…


28-Feb-2016 Memories

The past two weeks have been a bit quieter – no travelling.

I find I’m watching an awful lot of telly – current and old – not sure it’s totally good for me and I’m sure there must be better ways to spend my time. But… it keeps me company. It wasn’t something Jimmy and I did very much of, we always seemed to be so busy with other things. The news and history programmes were mostly what we watched.

I met up with some old friends Ann and Terry for a meal at The Badger. Lovely food and good company. Jimmy used to play in a trio but also as a duo with Ann in the late 1970s. As a duo they were called ATS – the Austin Towler Sound. (This was after I had left him to go to London in the early 70s). We’ve met up a few times over the past few years and it was good to catch up with them again and have a natter.

I went for another walk last Sunday – 6.6 miles this one! It was lovely and very enjoyable. It was a circular route from Beadnell to Low Newton – walking along the beach and then back along the top over grassland. Afterward some of us popped into the Craster Arms for food and drink. I decided it would be OK to have a half of Guiness and it was lovely and refreshing. No snow this time!

jiva set up at Thank Folk it’s Friday

Friday I popped along to Woodhorn Colliery – last Friday of every month they have an event called “Thank Folk It’s Friday” and friends Jim Wigfield and John Campbell were sharing the 1 hour slot. This brought back some memories as Jimmy and I have played there many times – the first in 2010 and last in 2014 and this is a picture of our set up. But it was good to catch up with friends and watch them perform.

Didn’t get on a walk today as I had pre-arranged to go to a songwriters’ afternoon session at Core Music in Hexham (organised by Steve Gray). Jim and Allyson picked me up so we went in one car. It was a relaxing afternoon and good to catch up with friends. Afterward Jim, Allyson and I popped into The Heart of Northumberland and had their Sunday pork dinner – absolutely yummy. Short stroll round Hexham – the bells were ringing – and then back home.

I have decided to sell some our beloved guitars and to that end I have someone who will be helping me. He came over last week and took lots of photographs so he can get them advertised. It’s been a difficult decision to make but, with the best will in the world, I can’t play them all. Good guitars, in fact all guitars, deserve to be cherished and played and I hope they will all go to good homes. If anyone wants to know what is on offer then just get in touch with me – you never know I may just have what you’re looking for.

Till next time…