Two funerals, three continents and a trip to hospital emergency – it was certainly an emotional, eventful, stressful and busy end to April. Throw in the added complications of the Joker’s broken collarbone and you can imagine the month we have had.
So it’s been a while between posts. Too long. And silence is not how we planned to celebrate one year of blogging and a year in Cambodia. But, to be honest, we’ve had a few distractions that have kept us away from the keyboard and this post is one of the hardest I’ve had to write.
For those who don’t know, we left Cambodia on April 19.
It was always our intention to stay for 12 months and we were there for 12 months, one week and one day. It was a phenomenal year with so many highlights, filled with wonderful people and great experiences. We chose a low key farewell after realising we’re returning to Siem Reap in the near future. Still, we had mixed emotions as we packed up our apartment and said goodbye to many new friends. We loved living on 20 Street and being greeted by familiar faces every morning.
Sadly, our departure coincided with the unexpected shock that my uncle had passed away the day before we left Cambodia. We were headed to the UK to see him — he had been unwell with cancer — and we were looking forward to visiting him and my aunt on Alderney — one of the Channel Islands. Instead, we arrived preparing for a funeral.
Another wonderful aunt and uncle picked us up from Heathrow. The night of our first day in England, jet-lagged and emotionally drained, the Joker had to pay a visit to accident and emergency at the local hospital. My uncle was dragged out of bed to drive us there and it was 3am before we were back home and in bed, thoroughly exhausted. All is okay but I’ll let the Joker tell you about that ordeal in more detail.
The following week, the day we were due to fly to Guernsey for my Uncle Vic’s funeral, we received more shocking news — Steve’s grandma passed away over night. She was 103 and 11 days but it was still a shock and a huge blow for the Joker. He flew from one funeral in Guernsey, across the world, to make it in time for Granny’s send off.
So this post is my tribute to two wonderful people. Two people who made a difference in the lives of so many. Two people who were especially important to the Joker and me.
Wishing you fair winds and following seas Uncle Vic
He’s a man who loved life and lived large. Well, that’s my understanding of the uncle I met only a handful of times but connected with instantly and loved very much. We had so much in common, and yet so little, which is often the way with families, isn’t it?
I first met him when I was eight. But we really connected when I was 19 and he took me on a sight-seeing trip around London. His knowledge of history was phenomenal and he took me to all sorts of interesting places I only vaguely recollect now. The one that stands out though, is a visit to Buckingham Palace, where he pulled a few strings with the guards on the gate and I was able to stand on the doorstep of the palace. Of course, these days there is public access to Buckingham Palace but in 1990 there wasn’t. It was one of the perks of being a member of an elite group of policemen — the Special Escort Group, who provided special escort to anyone important from royalty to dangerous terrorists. But it was over lunch that day, when we both opted for the blue cheese sauce to go with our salad, that a real bond started to develop.
Like most of the Walker clan, Uncle Vic had a deep love of cheese. Unlike his brother (my dad), he didn’t carve off paper thin slices of it to add to his crackers. No, he carved out great chunks, which he added generously to crackers or sandwiches and ate with relish. He was equally fond of butter and lathered it thickly on biscuits and bread. I have a similar memory of my grandfather (his father) doing the same thing when I was very young.
He was well-known as a lover of dogs and there are many stories of the various K9s in his life. But one that sticks with me, is a story of Lodo, a former guide dog whom I didn’t meet, but he was apparently equally fond of cheese — he found the right household to retire to. My parents told a story of how Lodo stole a big block of cheese from the table and it got stuck in his mouth and he couldn’t chew it, swallow it or spit it out. Yes, he was in the right home for sure.
Every Christmas a newsy letter arrived from Alderney outlining the activities of Uncle Vic and Aunty Jan. I have to be honest, reading this letter exhausted me. I really don’t know where they found the time and energy. Between them I think they were into every aspect of island life.
Uncle Vic had many roles over the years, including chief gaoler, sargeant and sheriff of the court of Alderney. He was also an avid sailor and loved being on the water. He became a sailing instructor and commodore of the Alderney sailing club. He was a member of the Alderney Shooting Club and represented Alderney in the Island Games and I only recently found out he was a Freemason. He apparently embraced his Scottish roots and was a member of the Caledonian Society, donning a kilt for special occasions. The events and activities of all these organisations and associations as well as catch-ups with friends and trips to Spain and the mainland, ensured they were always busy — or so it seemed, when reading of their news.
A sociable, personable man who loved animals, but particularly dogs, and had a thirst for history as well as a good glass of wine or beer and perhaps a dram of whiskey. I wish I could have known him better.
May you have smooth sailing Uncle Vic.
May your lolly jar always be full Grandma Linehan
Grandma Linehan is not a woman you forget easily. I met her in 1994. She must have been 81-years-young. A cigarette hung from her fingertips as she held counsel around her kitchen table. I crowded around it with the Joker and his uncles, listening to the endless stream of banter. The air filled with smoke from the cigarettes and the wood stove, which crackled and popped and warmed the chilly room. She still cooked on this wood stove. Cups of tea and coffee were constantly brewing, served with biscuits from what appeared to be a bottomless biscuit tin. And the lolly jar was never far away. Grandma would prise it’s lid off with her arthritic fingers and thrust it forward offering the selection of treats to anyone in the vicinity. The football was screening on the small TV on top of the kitchen cabinet — perhaps her team, Essendon, was playing. Either way, she had plenty to say about the players and their game and who should be dropped from the team or rewarded for their efforts.
The scene never varied much at Grandma’s. She could always be found in her chair at the end of the table, usually with a cardigan draped around her, a book close at hand and the kettle boiling ready for the next lot of visitors. There was always someone coming or going. In summer the doors and windows were open, cricket replaced the footy on the small television screen but the tea and coffee continued to flow.
Spirited, strong and feisty, she was not one to suffer fools lightly. Grandma was a woman who spoke her mind and called it how she saw it — regardless of what those around might think. You could not help but admire her strength of character and her sharp wit, even if your opinion varied. But she nearly always ended her conversations with her trademark shrug and a small smile, as if conceding this was her opinion and others may have their own.
The matriarch of the Linehan clan left her mark on this extended family. And it’s quite a legacy. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.
The Joker has written a far more fitting tribute to this incredible woman. Read about it and his other misadventures here.