I'm very sorry to say that my lovely former ground floor neighbour in Godalming died in his old people's home on Sunday night. It's been something of a shock, really, even though he was elderly (nearly 90 - how I wish he'd made it to that big day) and had become increasingly unwell over the last few months. I'm glad I was able to see him last Thursday for half an hour or so - I didn't know then it would be saying goodbye - and I'm glad we were able to chat, albeit briefly.
Funny how I've known Henry for 18 years as a neighbour sharing the same house as us, and funny how it became friendship almost from the start. He was very much part of the reason we stayed in the house all that time, and odd how when he left it for the home early last year, everything changed. I'll really miss him. He was always kind and courteous, and nothing was too much trouble - in many ways, and K agrees, the fact that he's gone seems like the end of an era for us. There's no-one left in our old home now who was there when we arrived, and that feels odd.
Things I'll remember about Henry:
* His daily chopping of wood for his fire every morning at 6.30am, come sunshine or rain, or even snow - it was somehow very soothing and an excellent alarm call.
* His fascinating and very moving stories of the war, and how the terrible things he'd experienced as a young man in Germany changed his life and led to his absolute and deep-seated belief in peace, his hatred of any kind of war and his commitment to Communism.
*The time when we went on holiday and forgot to leave contact details - and when we got back our water tank had burst, flooding his flat below for a week, and he'd misplaced our keys so he couldn't get in. While I was traumatised at what happened and couldn't apologise enough, he smiled and said (in that inimitable accent of his), "Ach, Anne, it was nothing compared to the Russian front in Winter ..." No doubt very true, and there's no answer to that.
* The time when I was trying to find him at the home, and was told he was in the living room having a sing-along with the other residents. I asked the staff not to disturb him as I was happy to wait, but he came along anyway as it was me (what a gent!). He happily told me he'd been learning some wonderful English war songs which he'd really enjoyed singing and, how much he'd loved learning Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag as, "with those sort of tunes, no wonder the English won the war." Marvellous. However, he did admit, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was probably wise not to offer to teach them the war songs of the German army ...
* The marvellous fact that he was possibly the only man in the country who has been decorated both by the Third Reich (for looking after his tank which had broken down in Russia and which he managed to hang on to) and the British Government (for saving the life of a tramp who was on the railway line when he was working here as a prisoner of war). And did Henry ever tell me that himself? No - I had to find out from his daughter.
Anyway, this morning it was good to meet up with his son and daughter again over a coffee and just catch up with what happened, although we would all have preferred different circumstances could have instigated it. He was a good man and I'll miss him. RIP Henry.
The free giveaway of The Gifting at Goodreads continues for another 16 hours only so there's still time to enter. I'm amazed that 450 people have thrown their hats in the ring (I expected 10!) and I hope the 5 winners enjoy the read. Sadly, however, I've been blooded at the hunt (as they say) with my first 1-star review from someone who really hated every word of the beast. Ouch, indeed! Though I do wonder if it might be my mother getting her own back for the fact that I almost forgot her wedding anniversary, shame on me ... In which case, I deserve all of it and more!
However, some kind of balance was achieved in the literary universe by the fact that the Los Angeles Public Library has just bought an e-copy of The Gifting, so I'm hoping some good people might borrow it once that's available. Here are the next few sentences:
In any case, this battle has been a bloody one. Even though it has been fought largely in the realm of the mind, already it has claimed too many. And destroyed too much.
Other good and unexpected news is that my spiritual novella, The Prayer Seeker, has been accepted for publication by DWP Publishing - so that's a huge thrill and I've sent the signed contract back to them today.
Along the same lines, I've finally had the courage to press the "send" button for the second in the Gathandrian Trilogy, Hallsfoot's Battle, and so it has today winged its way to Bluewood Publishing for consideration. Here's hoping ...
On a rather naughtier note, you can enter the free giveaway at Jessewave reviews today for a copy of For One Night Only, so good luck with that one! You can also read a brief 4-star review of For One Night only, and Tommy's Blind Date also gets a 4-star review at Goodreads, so thank you to both reviewers for those.
Vulpes Libris has a review of Alice Hoffman's marvellous literary and very human novel, The Story Sisters, and I do thoroughly recommend that one. It's intense but definitely worth it.
Finally, to end, here are this week's meditations:
Water on your skin
and the sharp dazzle
through the dark curtain
wash your sins
and prepare you
to serve God one day.
Music and laughter
draw you to the window –
echoes of delight,
sunshine and dancing
in this bright morning sky –
and you catch sight
of such celebration
to welcome God’s arrival.
whispers behind you
where riches and old comfort
bind you to the night.
The music is already here.
It’s existed for all time
and no time.
It’s folded into the air’s
and contained afresh
by the arching sky.
It whispers over your skin,
waiting to be allowed within.