What a gorgeous day it was, the fifth of December two years ago, when we knew that in the afternoon we would have to say goodbye to Uncle Jonny. We all trundled down the path between the dunes, under a brilliant winter sun, the wind invogorating and the sky that gorgeous shade of blue we often see up here. The final walk with Jonny: he who had walked so many hundreds of miles in his long lifetime and seen so much in so many places. One last donning of the ill-fitting Barbour jacket, at which the gusts tugged so cheekily, as if drawing attention to Jonny’s being too big for it and how mean we were for not getting him the next size up.
The tide was way out so there was lots of room for fun and frolic, that special kind of dressage which is retrievers at play. Barnaby gambled in and out of the surf, and Newman looked for his beloved seaweed on the shiny sand. Jonny himself, still up for it despite everything which was bringing him low, threw up his head in one final bout of high-pitched indignant barking. This was fun! But the long shadows haunted us all and were not to be outrun. Careless of the consequences, there was one more gaudy night of feasting for Jonny: he watched in awe as two freshly-made steak pies were cut up for him, while the bowl of tea stood ready to wash it all down. Delicious!
After that it was all friends and relaxation. A deep sleep of contentment on the sofa, surrounded by the babies he had known and loved all his life. It is an image which inspires us every day, the first thing we see when we go to write the blog. A beautiful day in every way, on which to say farewell: sunshine, clarity and warmth which lasts forever, transforming the sadness into a strength to draw from – his legacy to us.
But today, the second anniversary of his death, has brought a great storm to the northern part of the country, from the Fens to the top-most tip of the kingdom. Storm-force winds have stomped across Scotland, bringing down the roof at Glasgow station and turning out the lights across the Highlands. Trains will cease, roads and bridges close; probably some poor soul will perish. All along the east coast, warnings are in place for the biggest tidal surge in thirty years, some ready to leave their homes for safety. And here we are breakfasted and wait patiently for an outing that may not be possible all day. Instead – when we can – we must make do with the garden and bother whatever birds are snatching at the feeders and dashing out for the bread between the frightening gusts. As I write, the rain is running down the windows and charging hither and yon as the storm intensifies over us in Northumberland. In his realm, Jonny is thinking about his friends in dear old Aldeburgh and Orford, hoping that at Smugglers’ Cottage they have made good preparation against the flood. He, though, is with us here in the warm security of home, where he will always remain. Let us hunker down together on this day of days.