It is five o’clock in the morning. And I am not in my bed.
I whisper “Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim” over and over again. Then I turn the key in the engine.
And continue whispering “Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim”. Jake asks me what I’m chanting. I reluctantly translate for him “In the name of Allah who is most gracious and merciful”.
I tell him it’s just a little something my mother taught me to say before a long drive. What I don’t tell him is that this is the first time I’ve ever said it. Or that this is the first time I will ever have driven on a motorway. And that is why I really need god to show me (and him) a bit of mercy.
Of course it would have made much more sense to start off with a little jaunt to Brighton. But that would have been far too sensible. And I am a person of extremes. So my foray into motorway driving is going to be a ten hour roundtrip from London to the Lake District.
I feel euphoric when I manage to get us (and the car) there in one piece. We have a full English breakfast before we begin our hike. I let Jake take the lead. Partly because he knows what he’s doing. But mainly because I like watching his pert bottom.
It’s hard going but I am enjoying every moment. It feels invigorating to have the wind in my face and fresh air in my lungs.
It is just the two of us surrounded by nothing except nature. And it feels incredibly cathartic. Although I do find the sheep a little disturbing; I don’t like the way they look at me.
My legs are absolutely aching by the time we reach the top. And the climb has clearly made me delirious because I find myself (involuntarily) bursting into song “There’s always gonna be another mountain, always gonna wanna make it move”.
Aside from the (embarrassing) fact that I am singing a Miley Cyrus song, I am tone deaf. But I don’t care. I never thought I could climb a mountain.
This is the second time today that I have challenged myself. And triumphed. I can’t help thinking that Jake is playing a part in that.
The wind is ferocious. I lay giggling with my arms and legs splayed on the tent trying to keep it down while Jake attempts to pitch it.
Our teamwork pays off. And it’s not long before I’m warming my hands on a hot mug of tea. Then I realise that I need to pee. Oh dear. I ask Jake not to look while I stick my bum out of the tent.
Then I turn around to see the bloody sheep staring at me. I get stage fright. My bum almost freezes off by the time I manage to pee.
I drink as little as possible for the rest of the night. There is absolutely no dignity in having a pee outside. And it’s bloody freezing. I put on another layer. Then Jake zips me into my sleeping bag.
The ground is uneven and very uncomfortable. I have never slept in a tent before. And I never will again. Jake falls asleep easily.
The wind is howling outside. The top of the tent is too close to my face. I am starting to feel claustrophobic. I unzip the bag and start frantically pulling my layers off.
I am finally dozing off when I feel something pushing hard against my leg. It must be Jake. I try to wriggle closer to him. Then I feel it again against my right shoulder. And realise that Jake is on my left. I scream at him to wake up.
He tries to calm me down by explaining that it’s just a sheep nudging the tent with its head. But I feel very vulnerable and exposed. It occurs to me that the tent is probably thinner than a shower curtain. And that makes me think of ‘Psycho’.
“But all kinds of rapists and murderers can just slash the tent and get in can’t they?” Jake tries to reassure me “Most people don’t climb a mountain to commit a crime”.
I concede that is a rational argument. And pretend that I’m feeling fine. Then I spend a sleepless night trying to avoid the sheep’s head. And the minority of rapists and murderers who get a sick kick out of climbing a mountain before committing their heinous crimes.
I am relieved when the sun comes up. And I can get the hell out of the tent. I have no make-up on. And my hair is a mess. But I am too cold to do anything about it. I sullenly refuse Jake’s offer of breakfast. And we make our descent in silence.
I warm up in the car. Then stop off at a service station for a caffeine fix. And to sort my face out. It’s amazing what a little bit of mascara and blusher can do. I feel much better as we hit the motorway again (with the music blaring to keep me awake).
“Bloody lorries, can you smell that rubber?” He can. Then he notices that people are pointing at our car as they drive past. He turns the music off. They are also tooting their horns. He winds his window down “I think that smell is coming from our car”.
Then the steering wheel suddenly veers to the left. “Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim, Bismillah al-rahman-al rahim” I somehow manage to manouver the car across two lanes of traffic and on to the hard shoulder.
I would like to put that down to my awesome driving skills. But I think it was simply because everybody else on the road was giving me (and my burning tyre) a very wide berth.
We get out of the car. My legs almost give way when I see what is left of my shredded tyre. The RAC man turns up very quickly.
Apparently I was driving on a flat for some time. He changes the wheel. Then suggests I get the car realigned.
We have to complete our drive home in the slow lane. And it seems to take forever. I run a bath for us as soon as we get back. Then Jake lovingly massages my aching body until I feel wonderfully relaxed.
We managed to survive a night in a tent, my strop in the morning and a flaming tyre on the motorway. He is definitely a keeper. I fall asleep in his arms grateful for my nice warm bed.
Then I wake up in the middle of the night filled with anxiety. The RAC man said we had been very lucky. But what if we hadn't? What if I had died?
I have made a will so I have provided for Mia financially in the event of my death but not emotionally. There is so much I would want to tell her that would be left unsaid.
I tip toe out of the bedroom. And sit down at my computer.
My Darling Mia
I’m not really gone sweetheart. I would never leave you. It's only my body that isn’t there anymore. You can’t see me but I will never leave your side. You will feel me close by. My love for you will never die. Be strong but know that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes too.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from our family and friends. Talk to them about me, ask them any question you want, they will answer you honestly. I will only really die if you forget me.
Keep me alive in your memory and in your heart. Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way you want to. Know that you’ll come out the other side. Try not to go into yourself for too long. Let other people in. Try to talk to them about how you feel.
It’s ok to feel angry that you can’t see me anymore but try to understand that there is a reason for everything . And always remember that you are never alone.
Always be true to yourself and how you feel. Always remember that you have a choice. You are a bright beautiful star.
Don’t turn me into a saint. I wasn’t perfect. None of us are. Keep me real. Forgive me for any mistakes I made. Accept that they are part of life. But know that I always tried to learn from them.
Know that you were the best thing that ever happened to me. You made my life complete. I don’t know how long I had with you but I do know it won’t have been long enough.
Build your castles in the sky and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. Be happy. Don’t look back unless it’s to gain understanding. Always live in the present with one eye on the future. Never accept less than you know you deserve. And know that you deserve the best.
Never be afraid to say how you feel even if other people don’t like it. Never compare yourself to other people. You are you; a unique combination of strength, wisdom, beauty and compassion.
Never think that you have to fit a stereotype. You don’t have to be one thing or the other. Be everything that you know you are and don’t be afraid of contradictions.
Don’t worry about other people understanding you. Just understand yourself. Live your life with generosity of spirit, kindness and compassion for others. Above all, live! Know that you’re alive. Embrace everything life has to offer, the good and the bad.
Be honest, with yourself and others, however painful it may be sometimes. The truth will always free you. Trust me on that.
Look to others for guidance but always follow your own instincts and intuition and make the final decision for yourself. Consider others but always make the best decision for you.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And don’t beat yourself up for them. Always try to turn a negative into a positive. Always be willing to learn and to grow. Don’t be dictated to by society’s ‘norms’ and restrictions; live your life the way you want to.
I know that whatever you choose to do I’ll be watching you with pride. Know that you could never disappoint me.
I love you.