My memories around Alistair’s death (2)
1st to 4th November 2015
Editor´s note: This story follows the series of articles “The Life and Times of Alistair Martin”. To remember the last part – click here.
By Kathy Martin…
My blog continues from when my darling man, Alistair Martin, died.
Sunday 1st November I sent out an email to tell Alistair’s regular readers of his weekly ramble – more on that later – saying that he was still in hospital and they would have to wait until next week.
12.41 (I know the time ‘cos I looked on my phone later) my phone rang and a man said “Alistair Martin”. Said “yes he was my husband”. “Heart attack”. “Do you mean he is dead?”. “Yes, you come Lefkoşa Hospital, NOW”. And that is how I was informed that my wonderful man was no more!! I appreciated the language problems, it was just such a shock!
My hands were shaking and I rang my very good friend Suzee (married to a lovely Turk called Huseyin) and told her and said there was no way I could drive to the hospital. She was brilliant, calmly told me to phone another friend, who unbeknownst to me she had already warned that I may need help. Rang Graham Deacon and he said he would be round in 45 minutes.
Then it was my turn to make the worst call of Sasha’s (our daughter’s) life. She said she would be with me as soon as physically possible. They (Sasha, her husband Jon and 11 year old son Alex) had just returned from five days in Amsterdam for the October half-term break. She told me later that for me to call at 11.00-ish on a Sunday was unprecedented, so she “kinda” guessed before she answered that something bad had happened!
Graham arrived and drove me down to Lefkoşa State Hospital. He got a wheelchair and pushed me round all kind of places. We started at the ward Alistair had been in, because I couldn’t remember where Intensive Care was. Anyway, to cut a long story short I had to pay, expected that, but the credit card machine would not work “Internet problems”! The cashier tried about five times and then I remembered I had changed some sterling the week before, so I had enough cash in my bag (1,950 lira = roughly £450). Several friends have since told me that if he had been in a private hospital it would probably have been double that! Also, we had to get the form about his death to give to the cemetery people, so the cemetery committee could fetch his body for the funeral………
My stomach was causing me serious problems, we managed to find a loo, just in time! Amazing what distress can do to one’s body! We were sent to the main A&E exit/entrance and Graham explained were his car was parked, he was directed to it and left me in my wheelchair. Again had to make an emergency dash to the loo! By this time I was worried about our half-hour journey back home!
When we got back to my flat, I needed the loo desperately. Graham had agreed to walk across to see an ex-pat friend (known since our first trip here in 2005), Michael Pickworth, a lovely man who lives on the corner opposite our flats and give him the sad news. I just asked that he did not come round, as I wanted to be on my own.
As I got out of the car, had an embarrassing moment, luckily not witnessed, but just made my way as fast as possible to our flat. Shouting thanks to Graham, as I went! After a refeshing shower I felt a bit better. (The upset tummy continued on and off all night, so once again not much sleep!)
That evening I rang Sasha and she told me that Jon had managed to get them all onto an Easy Jet flight to Paphos, South-West corner of Cyprus, arranged a hire car with the correct insurance to allow them to drive it over the border into the North and booked the Olive Tree hotel in the village of Çatalköy, which is very near the Happy Valley. Said I would meet them at the Happy Valley, as this was a place they knew from previous visits, and we could have the biggest hug ever!!
Back to the Random Rambles
For just over 2 years Alistair has been writing approximately 1,000 words a week for a local on-line newspaper the KibKom Times (although since his first bout of pneumonia in June they had been shorter).
He kept it anonymous, as far as the readers were concerned, so that he had complete freedom to say what he wanted about idiotic government practices etc! He really enjoyed this activity – although his cry on a Monday “what am I going to ramble about this week?” followed by my reassuring words that I was certain he would find something, which he always did! He always emailed it in on a Sunday and the owner of the paper, Soner Kioufi would upload it on a Monday.
Monday 2nd November
Rang the British Greenhills Cemetery Committee – this is an excellent group of gentlemen, who all do excellent voluntary work to assist ex-pat Brits get through the various red-tape procedures surrounding death!
They have three phone numbers: 0542 852 0236 – 0533 845 2306 – 0392 825 2443
Chose the one for my mobile phone network. My contact was Tim Harris and he arranged to meet me in our local village Doğanköy coffee shop at 10.00.
Tim gave me various forms and took the hospital form I had been given, so that they could collect Alistair’s body on Thursday 5th November 2015.
I had already agreed with Marion Stuart for her to hold a non-religious affirmation of Alistair’s life (Marion performs marriages and funerals here). We had been to the funeral of our friend, Rod Lloyd, 3½ years ago, where she had done an excellent service and we had both said at the time that if she was still around we would like her to “do” ours!
Tim told me that I would have to go into the morgue at the State Hospital at 08.45 on Thursday and formerly identify Alistair’s body, before the committee were allowed to take him away. Not something I was looking forward to doing! He explained that I have 30 days to get the death certificate issued and that I could get a copy in English, necessary for our bank and Alistair’s pension company.
Went to our friendly chemist and got myself some Imodium as it was still very necessary!
About midday I went to the Happy Valley (HV) – did you ever see the American show “Cheers”? Their catch phrase was “the bar where everybody knows your name”. This is exactly how I feel about HV!! Took my PC and a few overnight things in a carrier bag, as I had already decided that I was going to stay in the same hotel as Sasha, Jon & Alex (11) (S,J&A), could not bear to leave them!
During the day several friends came and saw me there, joined me for lunch although all I could eat was half a bowl of soup! One particular couple, my very good friends, Gill & Ivor Moon, stayed with me until 17.30, when they had to leave as their dog needed feeding! I was content sitting reading my kindle.
S,J&A were hoping to get to the HV by 18.00, but they had a hard time finding the crossing, if you are not up with the “Cyprus Problem”, you may not appreciate the way the Greek Cypriots feel about the Turkish Cypriots in the north! They do not like us very much!! (Understatement!)
Consequently the sat nav S,J&A had with the car directed them to Nicosia (their name for our capital Lefkoşa), but the sat nav would not even acknowledge the north existed! Also on the previous occasions when S,J&A have been out here they have always been driven by a taxi driver!
They eventually arrived at the HV at 18.30 we had an emotional reunion! I phoned the Olive Tree, as S,J&A immediately agreed that I MUST stay there with them. Riaz was more than happy for my car to live in his car park for the next five days! After they had eaten, I managed another half bowl of soup – with hindsight maybe I should have saved my lunch time one and just reheated it – JOKING!
We went to the Olive Tree hotel about 20.00 (only 18.00 to S,J&A’s body clocks!) and checked in. We had rooms 326 and 329, which turned out to be like mini villas! Alex discovered the hotel had a pool table, which took three lira coins (about 70p) and they played a couple of games.
Tuesday 3rd November
S,J&A and I went to change £500 into lira (Alistair and I had lent the money to another ex-pat friend and he repaid it to me on Friday 30th and obviously I had not had a chance to change it). Then, we went to our flat, so I could pack a few more things for a longer stay. S&J said they would come back tomorrow and take all Alistair’s clothes (apart from three of his big, chunky warm fleeces that I can cuddle up in as our winters can be very cold!) to a charity shop – where most of our clothes had come from in the first place! I had pointed it out to them on the way to our flat.
We returned to the HV, but on the way stopped at our local supermarket, Supreme, and whilst S,J&A got themselves some bits & pieces, I went around the store showing them my mobile phone with the message (in Turkish) explaining that Alistair had died – this was thanks to Huseyin, Suzee’s husband (I had asked for it!).
Most of the staff have known us for a very long time and, since June, Alistair had been sitting in the car whilst I did the shopping and so they all knew he was unwell and were often asking me about him. Their reactions were all so kind and understanding, I may not have understood every word, but those I did understand were lovely!
At the HV we met Marion Stuart for lunch and she talked us through the way the Affirmation of Alistair’s life service (did not want to call it a funeral – too depressing a word) would run – she asked us all to say something. Sasha immediately said she would write something on her phone and email it to Marion. Jon and I said we couldn’t say anything. Marion was sorry but said she understood. We agreed that Alex would be the music man!
My Daddy was an amazing person. He was kind, considerate and a true gentleman.
He taught me values and morals and to always believe in myself.
I’d like to share some memories with you about my father:
My father loved to play with car engines, back in the day when you could pull the whole thing out and put it back together again (often with a few spare nuts and bolts left over).
I learnt at an early age that the generic term for any part of a car engine that refused to work as expected was called a “fukit”
When I was old enough to learn to drive we would spend Sunday afternoons driving through East Sussex in my old mini, that was as old as I was and needed topping up with oil and water more than petrol. One time shortly before I took my test we were on a dual carriageway and he suggested I attempt overtaking. I seemed to get the hang of this and quite liked being in the outside lane, until my father gently suggested I pull back in and later told me I had been driving in excess of 80 mph.
My father was a true eco warrior who was on personal mission to save the planet. So you can imagine how he felt when we were on holiday in Zimbabwe and overlooking the Zambezi escarpment and he lent on a bin, which tipped up, emptying its contents into the unspoiled valley below.
In keeping with his love of the natural world was his desire to prove that bumble bees are harmless to his grandson he decided to tickle one. It turns out that bumble bees don’t react well to unsolicited contact, and promptly stung him.
Finally I think the best memory is from when he used to smoke a pipe, when I was a young girl, and no matter how many pipe cleaners he bought he never seemed to be able to find one that hadn’t been turned into a stick figure or other creature by his daughter, but never complained.
Contacted my friend Gill Moon, who was able to lend Sasha some speakers to attach to her phone so we could play the music, which Sasha downloaded from the web. Isn’t modern technology wonderful!
Later that day we returned to the hotel and had a pleasant evening reminiscing happy memories.
Wednesday 4th November
Woke at 02.30 with the words I would like to use at the service spinning round in my mind. Put the light on and wrote them down, so I could return to sleep. At about 06.00, was wide awake and so typed them up on my portable PC and, after reading it to S,J&A, emailed it to Marion saying I had changed my mind and would say something, with her on standby to take over if I could not speak.
We went and had breakfast at our local supermarket, Supreme’s, new cafe – S,J&A had seen the beginnings of it’s building during their May half-term holiday earlier this year (they were so glad to have had that time with Alistair, when they could see that his breathing was not good).
Alex & I were left at HV with our iPad (Alex) & PC (me) so we could use Riaz’s wifi, whilst S&J went to the flat, via a photographic shop where they had a small print of Alistair taken at S&J’s wedding in 2000 enlarged to 10×4 and put in a frame for us to put up at the Affirmation.
Have that picture on a table near the door from the living area to the bedroom/loo/front door and talk to him as I leave the room!
S&J put all Alistair’s clothes in black sacks and dropped them off at the charity shop, a friend commented was this not too soon and I replied if they had not done it I would have found it FAR too hard to do!
S&J joined Alex and me about 15.00 (we had eaten – had managed one of my two eggs & a few of the chips, as food still had no taste!). They had a late lunch and again we shared happy memories.
Returned to the hotel where again we spent a quiet evening watching Alex challenging his parents to games of pool – he is a very good player!
Later we went to the hotel’s restaurant where they had an “all you can eat” buffet for 45 lira (about £10) a head. I felt that my two tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce was probably the most expensive meal of my life, as I still had no appetite! But S,J&A enjoyed their meals!
Next time – the affirmation of Alistair’s life onwards