And off we went to England, now one week ago. For “The Great Big Farewell England Tour”. This time with Andrea and Bernd, German friends of mine who moved from Germany to England 25 years ago and recently moved back. They did their own Brexit….
Although these two weeks will mainly be a tour, filled with memories, it will also be a tour about meeting somebody very special. Somebody who I had never seen before.
Last week I met Freda. She was one of the moderators of the forum of the MSA-trust, where people with MSA (multiple system atrophy) and their caregivers, family and/or partners could find and share information about this nasty disease. Freda also lost her husband to MSA. Leo was also very active on the forum. In the first instance he wanted to have answers on the many questions related with MSA. But later he became of great help for people by providing information about all aspects of living with MSA.
She is living in Berkhamsted, not too far from London. Since I was not so eager to drive to her place, (roads in little villages in the UK are often quite narrow), we met on a campsite she had advised us to go, where we had a magnificent place with a stunning view.
After Leo’s death, in March, I asked Freda to notify the people on the forum. And that is how our contact started. Even in emailcontact I felt a very strong connection. Although she had never met Leo either, she knew him in a way. Of course for me it was of a great help that she understood what MSA is and that she knew the dirty details. In the last months we wrote a few emails. And even reading her name when I received an email, without knowing the content, made me cry. It is amazing how internet works. How a human being, never seen before, can be so close.
But life can be very hard. After losing her husband 3 years ago, she had met another man with whom she was very happy. But only some weeks ago he died.
I remember that Leo often spoke about this special lady from the UK. I know that he appreciated her humor and her commitment to the forum. Not very seldom I saw him laughing behind his laptop; Freda and he together found each other also because they shared their taste of black humor. Not difficult with such a nasty disease as MSA. It is amazing how both Freda and Leo could continue to be active on the forum, because so many very horrible stories were shared there.
I also remember that Leo was crying when he read that Freda’s husband had died.
It was very special and very nice meeting with her. Not only seen the very intensive contact Leo and I had with her before abouth the MSA, but also because she turned out to be a very warm and inviting woman. And not only that, with 79 years old, very active in many different ways. Active in local politics (“somebody must do it”), volunteer in the local hospice. She used to be a teacher of pottery (now she started to work on that again)…
Of course I often thought that it was a pity that Leo does not know about me meeting her. But probably he might have expected that I once would see her in person.
The following day she showed us around and we had a wonderful walk in Ashridge Park (www.chilternsaond.org). Also, we were invited to her house. I liked it very much. Freda, thanks again, I am very happy that we could meet. Also thank you for everything you did for the forum and also for showing us this beautiful forest. And thanks for your hospitality; it is very nice that you invited us.
The day after we met Freda, we drove to Santon Downham, a tiny village. And although my family does not allow me to camp in the bush, I did with Andrea. And after nice walks here in the Thetford Forest, we drove to Southwold, a very small touristic harbour village where we had a very nice walk as well.
Well, right now I am sitting in Happisburgh in the camper. With sea view. Andrea and Bernd are visiting friends here, living in the village.
It was quite a weekend. Meeting friends and other friends and other friends….. In a way it was boring since 6 out of 8 friends of Andrea and Bernd are doctors (including a veterinarian and a tree surgeon) and Bernd himself is also a doctor…. But diversity is quaranteed as the backgrounds differ substantially; German, Greek, Indian, Scottish… You can imagine discussing the Brexit with this bright collection of nationalities was not boring at all. Unfortunately the Brexit influences their lives significantly in different, not specifically positive, ways.
I met Karen and Alan (who I already knew from earlier visits) and their dog Sonny (good for Spits, who is joining us this time again). We were invited at Beates’ and Michalis and their children for a wonderful meal and breakfast. We slept in the campervan in front of their house in a decent street of Norwich. And yesterday we went to Andrea and Pravin who live in the country side of Norwich. They own a house where the camper easily could be parked in the living room. We stood for the night on their drive way. Not smaller than an average campsite with 20 places…. Let alone their back garden with a view on the country side. Spits was in paradise. And so were we. Andrea cooked us this delicious Indian meal with “ladies fingers” (a vegetable)…. and we had a relaxed Sunday Breakfast with the best croissants ever (from Tesco’s).
Another highlight was shopping at Long Tall Sally’s in Norwich. A shop especially for tall, really Tall women. When Andrea once visited the shop with me she really felt like a dwarf, surrounded by giant ladies; since the sales assistants are tall as well. I bought trousers. Black ones. How surprising…! Norwich itself is a wonderful city full of restaurants, cafés, and hundreds of charity shops for different purposes. Charity in the UK is often a very important part of financing. Freda told me for example that hospices are only paid for by the Government for 20%! The rest has to be raised by charity.
Tomorrow we will go for more coastal areas. Bernd needs to work for some days and that will be his last days working in the UK.
Saturday we take the ferry back.
But right now we are discussing whether or not we will have a shower today. The showers in the campsite are not so warm. We better have a “tin bath”; it means that you just spray a little bit around….
Lots of decisionmaking!
Prachtig verhaal lieve Syl. Ontroerend dat het zo goed was met Freda. Het idee dat ze mijn broertje zo goed kende. Werd er warm van. Tor gauw. Liefs.
En natuurlijk nog veel plezier samen met Andrea.