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spikegifted.net - Archive Q2 2008

June 2008:
Home: Our boiler, which has been around longer than I care to know has decided to stop working. I have been receiving letters inviting me to join an insurance scheme which covers all repairs and maintenance, parts and labor. However, like many people, I chose to have blind faith in my home appliance and decided to live without this insurance. Well, the chicken has come home to roost. So I had to take out emergency cover and have the darn boiler fixed. Boy, that was expensive - for a few more pounds, I could have bought a new boiler. Never mind that - the important thing was to have the boiler fixed and get hot water going in the house again. Ultimately, it was the circuit board that had given up, which was a five minute job to remove the old one and install the new one. There's a very important lesson to be learnt here: Don't take things for granted; respect these machines that make your daily life possible; and always pay for cover. Lesson duly learnt.
Home: Last summer, we took a little hydrangeas plant from cuttings in Brittany back to London. Until the summer, we kept it indoors as the back garden back then was a bit of a mess. After the lawn was laid and the plants we bought was put into the ground, we found that there was actually insufficient space for the hydrangeas. So we moved it into a bigger pot. While the plant was doing well, we knew the pot we chose was not the right one so after potting it - it was not sufficiently open in the top half of the pot to allow the plant to really bloom.
Home: So we are getting more ambitious with our plants… The fact that two months on, most of the plants we put into the garden are actually doing quite well. So when we were over at the nursery getting the new pot for the hydrangeas, a very smart idea came to our head - why not invest in a rose bush? I must say, the nursery did a good job displaying them and marketing them. Those roses were just sitting there, ‘speaking’ to us. I’d be the first person to admit that I don’t a thing about looking after roses, but I know they are not easy to look after. So we were diving into the deep end! We went for one that was supposed to be known for its smell. So the plant was in the pot and there were flowers waiting to open - we were really looking forward to seeing the roses blooming.
Home: Now that the back garden was neat and tidy, it was time to tackle the front garden. Given the fact that it is lot smaller, it was certainly a less daunting task than fixing the back garden. The Ruler_of_spike had a very simple plan and we have been discussing how to execute it for a while. Actually, we have been looking for inspiration for a while, so we had a pretty good idea of what we want and how we would get it done. The plan was simple, clear out all the plants and weeds in the front and then cover the soil with a layer of water draining cover sheets. Once that was done, pile on some medium size gravel. Hopefully, the gravel and water draining soil protection sheets will drain the necessary amount of water into the ground to sustain the magnolia tree and the palm tree in the front garden, but stopping any weeds from developing. After some tidying up on the front, the place looked a lot better. At least I didn't look like something has gone wild...
Opinion: As anyone who has been following any kind of news in the UK for the past few months, there has been a credit crunch in the financial market, which in turn has been spreading to the general market itself. That, in itself, should be relatively logical - the people who were providing the financing have been hit, so they become reluctant to extend credit to the clients. However, in a bid to generate higher circulation, newspapers have been printing alarmist headlines to attract unsuspecting readers' attention. So, it was with both shock and a sense of disbelief that I read the front page headline of a daily newspaper which said that the number of houses sold in the month of May 2008 was the lowest since the dark days of the last housing collapse back in the early 1990s. While the common denominator of both periods has been fall in house sales, I believe we were talking about two different scenarios. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a period of strong property growth which led to a housing bubble. Buyers simply left the market as the rapid price growth proved to be unsustainable and people take a more sober look at the value of their properties. As a result, there was a collapse of house prices and many people were trapped by negative equity. As such, few were ready to sell at a loss. In the mid-2000s, the UK also enjoyed a period of strong price growth, on the back of nearly a decade of moderate price recovery from the early 1990s. This growth has been sustained by relatively cheap credit. Lenders in general have been turning to securitization to boost their lending capacity. As the credit crunch took grip of the financial markets, lenders suddenly found themselves no longer able to securitize their lending to sell off to other investors. Under this circumstance, they were reluctant to extend lending to new borrowers as their own books were full. Fewer new mortgages mean fewer new purchases. The sellers were still there, but thanks to all these negative news in the press, they're getting more and more nervous and dropped their asking prices. Buyers sensed that the sellers were nervous and pushed for even lower prices. As the market wasn't strong, such stories in the press would turn into self-fulfilling prophecies in the long run. While there is nothing wrong with reporting the truth, the emphasis often have been misplaced, sensationalizing some rather normal phenomena and ultimately causing unnecessary panic in a weak market. Reporters should be more responsible than merely chasing for the next headline
Home: There was one more place the trellis was going to help us securing our garden - the side gate to our house. As the gap on one side of the shed is narrower than the other, I cut off around 30cm of the trellis to make the two trellis around the same height. Then I secured the left-over to the bottom of the side gate, which we believe has been used by the animals to pass under to enter our garden. Now the only way these things can get into our garden by leaping over the fences. I'm not saying that they're not going to do it, but at least we hope this little bit of inconvenience would encourage them to go somewhere else. Like they say: we shall see...
Home: Thanks to one of my friends, he and his wife recommended that we should try planting pyracantha to block the pathway. It's hardy, is very easy to plant and requires next to no maintenance. Back in early spring, when they suggested using pyracantha, they asked their folks to make some cuttings for us. Unfortunately, those cuttings didn't work out. So when they came over for lunch last month, they went and bought a couple of plants for us. These pyracanthas are such nasty plants - they've some really chunky thorns sticking out everywhere - I had to wear thick garden gloves to handle them. The only problem was that these plants were quite young and they were only around 25cm tall. They would not be much of an obstacle for the curious cats and foxes for quite some time yet. So in the mean time, we needed something else to form the barrier. We picked up a couple of expanding willow trellis from the garden store and we were ready for action. The trellis were secured in place the completely block the gaps down the sides of the shed and then I planted the pyracanthas in front of the trellis. I just hope that they will prosper in the coming years and grow to perform their intended roles.
Home: Since moving in to our house, our back garden had been invaded by a legion of cats and foxes. How very annoying they have been!! They have roam freely in our garden, fouled around the place; they have slept under the sun during the day and have hidden behind bushes at night. All these because our space hasn't been secured - there was no fencing on either side of the horrible 'garage' at the back of the garden to stop access, the only things which stopped people from coming through was junk and overgrown vegetation. The kind of things that had been left there just  showed how the previous owner of the property treated his space - roof tiles, cement blocks, several garage doors, fence panels, plastic plant pots, girders... It was a rubbish tip for him. Back in April, when I painted the horrible cement blocks on the wall of the shed (it was originally marketed to us as a 'garage', but we just use it as a shed as we don't have access), I also took a little time to walk around the block to fix some fence panels permanently to secure the back of our property. While the fence panels might have prevented curious folks from squeezing down the sides of the shed, it would not stop animals - they would just jump and clear the fence. So, we had to come up with additional obstacles to stop the cats and foxes from getting unrestricted access to our neat garden... It took a while and our friends helped us with the solution.
May 2008:
Home: We had some friends over for lunch. The weather played a part in our preparation. Initially, we were hoping that it would be warm enough for us to have a barbeque, but the week passed, it appeared that the weather would not hold up and it would be somewhat less than pleasant for the weekend. So we decided to drop the idea of a barbeque, which was a shame especially now that the back garden was largely finished. Let's hope that there's plenty of nice weather in the coming months and we could have another opportunity to eat outside. 
Work: Things were going a little crazy here. Although I like the idea of transaction management and transaction analysis, it is a highly involving and while the deal I’ve been looking at was in itself not at all that complex, there were many issues outside the immediate remit of counterparty risk management which got dragged into consideration. After consulting with a couple colleagues, the deal was put on an operating committee to bring all the sides of the approval process together - all the parties were involved: market risk, credit risk, collateral management, finance, operations, risk control, regulatory reporting, front office... This ensured that the deal was covered by all angles. Frankly, no one single area could have covered all these angles, never mind walking through the whole process and making sure all the issues were addressed. Moreover, the client involved and the nature of the transaction could potentially cause problems with the senior folks, so we ended up waiting for a response from them. The deal, which was probably one of the most heavily collateralized transaction I have come across, actually had no real credit risk. However, under the market climate at the time, all kinds of little things were dragged up as ‘credit issues’ - pricing issues (that wasn’t my problem), funding rate between treasury and trading (that was a spat between two desks in the front office), booking issues (that was ops), documentation (legal, with some credit input, but still primarily a legal issue), etc. The senior folks were just putting barriers after barriers up on a very simple deal. That was incredibly frustrating.
Home: We went to the gardening center that supplied the turf for our back garden project over one of the weekends and spent nearly three hours there – half an afternoon at the weekend and I enjoyed it! Ten years ago, or even five years ago, if you had told me I would spend half an afternoon during the weekend at a gardening center, I would’ve told you to “stop selling crazy here”. I just couldn’t imagine myself doing such a thing back then. Well, how have times changed! The even cooler thing was that the Ruler_of_spike and I found a number of plants and herbs for the northern and western edges of our back garden, two different types of lavender, sage, lemon thyme, two different types of ivies, a tree that looks like Japanese maple and other bushy plants. That just shows you how little I know about plants and gardening... When we came out of the gardening center, the car was full! It took a while to put all of them into the ground, but it was worth the time and effort.
Home: It has been nearly seven weeks since I laid the turf down in our back garden and the lawn seemed to have established and growing, it was time for the first cut. To be completely honest, I was a little nervous before getting the lawn mower out – visually, the lawn appeared ok, but it was difficult to tell how it was doing until walk over it extensively. My worst fear was that the roots had not grown enough and the mower dragging the turf from the top soil. Well, it was a mighty relieve that the mower cut the grass without any problems. There wasn’t any noticeable lifting of the turf. Harrah!! Now we can move on to other things in the garden to play around with.
Work: Having spent just over a week away from the office, the work load was quite overwhelming when I eventually gotten back to the office. There were two live deals happening - one of them was a structured transaction (which was quite clever, but required some serious bit of legal work to get the structure water tight) and the other was a currency derivative transaction with a lowly rated client (which we required master documentation to be negotiated before getting the deal done). There were new clients to write up and assign limits to; existing clients who wanted to do some new business and other master documentations to be negotiated for agency business. On top of that, I was way behind in my annual review. The front office folks were constantly harassing me for work that I promised but haven't had the time to do for them. I felt absolutely swamped - 'snowed under' as the saying goes. Since December last year, we've lost four people in our team of eleven (of which one specialized in insurance companies, another works part-time), we were not getting replacements. The business side was going mad getting new business done as times were hard and the only way to hold on to their jobs was to demonstrate they could get some revenue. Yet, there were colleagues in other parts of our team who were doing next to nothing as their side of the business was practically on stand-still, but they got all the promotions and got all the new headcount. Where was justice in this world?
Home: The weather in the beginning of May has been fantastic! Having had an under-par summer last year and a long and wet autumn and winter, we just couldn't wait! Well, our luck was in! During the first Bank Holiday weekend of May, the weather was just great. I mowed the lawn for the first time since I lay the turf and the garden looked great. I took our the sun umbrella, barbequed some sausages (the Ruler_of_spike made some ratatouille) and had dinner outside. Excellent! Now, I could only wish that the whole summer would be like that (or at least the weekends, anyway)...  
April 2008:
Home: Although it was a relatively short trip to Hong Kong, but it has been busy and emotionally draining. By the time it was time to come back, both the Ruler_of_spike and I was tired out. Since the day she arrived in Hong Kong, it has been non-stop activities every single day. So, can you imagine our disappointment when we found out that we were sitting just one row in front of the washroom on the plane on the way back? To top it off, there was a screaming child on the flight. I don't mean just crying, it was a bone-chilling scream - for thirteen of the fourteen-hour flight. At one point, I asked one of the hostesses to see if they could sedate the child as we were at our nerves ends. It was a night flight, but we just couldn't sleep. I think I can safely say for the rest of the people on flight that that screaming child just made our trip a misery. It was just such a massive relieve to have gotten into our car to drive home in a little peace and quiet, and personal space.
Home: Bernard, my cousin, is a hero! In my last couple of trips, he has put me up in his apartment. This time round, he had both the Ruler_of_spike and I in his place. It is not big, even by Hong Kong standards and he could have easily told us to find a hotel, but he welcomed both of us there. Moreover, he told some days off work to take us around Hong Kong. Although I have lived in Hong Kong when I was a child, and have visited the city many times since, there were just some tourist sites that I have never been. So having the Ruler_of_spike with me was a good opportunity to go to those places to let her different aspects of Hong Kong. Time was restricted and there are just so many place we could have gone to. He helped me choose carefully and we went to some really nice sites: the Peak, Po Lin Temple and the massive Buddha statue, the light show on the Victoria Harbour and others. On top of that, we went to a few places to do some light shopping. While I know the 'typical' shopping place, Bernard just knows the really good places to go. We saw many things that we would have like to buy, but luggage place and consideration of our house ensured that we chose carefully.
Home: For the rest of the trip, it was a series of meals with my relatives, which was not a bad thing. To date, most of the members of my family who have met the Ruler_of_spike have been the younger generation - those who are around our age and they have spent some time outside Hong Kong. However the older folks, while some of them have spent time aboard, they are just not as Westernized as the younger ones, which was to be expected. There is all the Chinese tradition to contend with and I just didn't know how they would have reacted.
It was the first time they met the Ruler_of_spike and they were just so pleased. The reception she got was warm and friendly, and they took her in like they've know her all along. I, in turn, felt relieved. Many of them told me how lucky I am to have found such a fine person as a wife, which made me feel humble as well as grateful of Ruler_of_spike being there and being in my life.
Home: After the cremation, we and the rest of mom's family went to have a light lunch. There were some parts of mom's family I have never met! Can you believe that? There were her cousins who I spoke to for the first time. About a year ago, I was diagnosed by my doctor to be suffering from hypertension - high blood pressure. It was so high that I was put on medication immediately and subsequently the dosage was doubled and, later on, a second drug added to keep it under control. Anyway, it turned out that nearly every male member of mom's family suffer from hypertension. So that was my bond to them! How about that? As few of dad's relatives suffered from hypertension at a young age, I've been puzzled by the origin of my condition. At last I got a clue to it. It was an interesting but rewarding experience, meeting people who are related to me, yet I have no knowledge of. 
Home: The actual cremation was a rather brutal affair. We were filed into a low rectangular building and mom's photo was place on a stand and the coffin loaded on some kind of railings set on a platform. After a short prayer, I was asked by the pastor to press the button that would start mom's last journey. In the first attempt, I either missed the button (it was not big) or I didn't press it firmly enough, nothing happened. I was asked to press it again... I turned round, as if looking for support, but only met by a roomful of eyes looking at me. Being looked at by a roomful of people, I was reluctant to do it - I just didn't want it to happen. The pastor was very insistent: "Press the button, please!" I pressed it and the machines started working - the coffin was slowly being rolled back past a curtain. After it had disappeared from the room, a wooden panel on one side of the room opened and we saw four CCTV screens. The cameras were located in various locations in the building and they tracked the coffin's progress through the building towards the cremation oven. There were workers manhandling the coffin, moving it around on a trolley. It was just too much! People left their seats to get closer to the screens to take a closer look at the progress, but I couldn't bear to watch. What was the matter with these people?? I stood back and wish the hole would open up in the ground so that I had somewhere to hide. The Ruler_of_spike held my hand - she couldn't bring herself to watch either. We stood at the back of the pack of people transfixed by the movement of the coffin through the building and we comforted each other. After the coffin disappeared into the cremation oven, we were filed out of the building through a side door. As we returned to the front of the building, there were already mourners for the next cremation waiting outside the doors. There was no privacy, no time to reflect, no room to hide. It was just a conveyor belt process - a 'turn 'n churn' - it was impersonal, lacking in emotion and sympathy, above all brutal. I hated every minute, every second, of what I have witnessed.
Home: The next day was the cremation. We started from the funeral home where the pastor read a short prayer. Then we were off to the cremation center. The plan was for mom's body to go in one of vans and all the mourners to travel in another minivan. For some reason, I felt compel to travel with mom's body in this final journey, so I sat alone in the van with mom, for the first time for a long time and sadly it was also the last time. During the brief trip, I felt I had many things I wanted to say to mom, but, of course, I couldn't - her body was there but she was not. A lot has happened during all these years since her dementia set in and our communication broke down. There was so much I wanted to tell her: about the Ruler_of_spike (who mom barely knew), about our house in the UK, our lives, our plans, etc, but there was no point. I felt guilty for not being by her side during her last days; I was regretful that I couldn't share more with her. Above all else I was sad - indescribable sense of loss. There I was, carry mom's photo, sitting immediately in front of mom's coffin, occupying a whole roll of seats in the van by myself, lost in my thoughts. A couple workers from the funeral home at the front of the van, chatting and driving towards our destination. 
Home: One of the first things after the arrival of the Ruler_of_spike was attend mom's memorial service. I haven't been to a funeral since the passing of my granddad and that was when I was three, so I had no idea about how the memorial service would be like. For me, it was highly emotional. I did not know what kind of turn out to expect, but it was larger than I expected. Thanks to mom's and her family's involvement with the Evangelist Church, the service was a very run affair, during which I read a tribute. The pastor was fantastic, he was sensitive without being condescending and he moved the service along without being pushy. It could have been a really sorry affair, but it turn out to be a kind of celebration of mom's life. Nevertheless, it was a really emotionally draining affair.
Home: Finally, the Ruler_of_spike joined me in Hong Kong. It has been a difficult few days since my arrival - it was hot, emotional and, at times, grinding. My mood hasn't been great. Having a little time to myself did not mean I had an opportunity to straighten things out in my head; if anything, the previous few days had made me even more confused. However, it was good to have the Ruler_of_spike with me - not only is she a great support, but also because it was the first time being in Hong Kong, I would like to take her to go to places that would be interesting for her and that in turn would be a distraction for me. It was just great to have her with me. Luckily, the weather had calm down a little so it was not too hot, so it didn't shock her to much.
Home: My uncle showed me the picture of mom which will be displayed in the memorial service. He was telling me that they had great difficulties in getting a picture of mom when she was in the medical home. For a good many years, mom's hearing had been deteriorating and it got so bad that it was impossible to communicate with her. That was before she went into hospital. A few years ago, my uncle actually managed to get a hearing specialist to go to our apartment to fit a hearing aid for mom. However, she never got used to wearing it - she either forgot about it or she wasn't wearing it properly. After staying in the hospital for a while, the hearing aid was somehow lost. To communicate with her, my uncle got a pair of headphones, and I really mean big headphones which totally enveloped the ears, and a microphone so that visitors could have their voices amplified without disturbing other residents in the home. Unfortunately, in order to get mom to smile at the camera, she had to have the headphones on... Moreover, mom was so weak she was having difficulties coughing out phlegm, so they opened up a hole in her throat to connect a tube to suck out the stuff to help her breath and to prevent infection. Moreover, she had drips of all kinds connected to her and pipes hanging all around her. Finally, although the medical home was quite neat and tidy, it was nevertheless not an ideal setting for taking photos. So, I was expecting a real mess. However, when I saw the photo, mom looked excellent! My uncle had found a graphics design student and he worked on the photo with Photoshop and did a heck of a good job. The headphones were gone. He tidied up her hair on the sides; got rid of the pipe in her throat and filled the background in white. Mom looked happy and at ease in the photo which was amazing given her conditions at the time. For a brief moment, I really wished I came back before her passing so that I could see her, like in the photo I was holding. But that was an illusion. What I was holding was not how mom looked like. The removal of all the medical equipments and other items on and around her gave a completely different impression of the person. I could not reconcile the image of mom in the photo that I was holding and the image of mom when I saw her last in intensive care unit - wired up to sensors, connected to pipes and was breathing through an oxygen mask. Seeing this idealized image of mom brought me waves of sadness, but at the same time I was glad that I didn't see her when she was in a worse state than the last time I saw her. Life is full of paradox.
Home: One of those errands was to go with my uncle to the hospital to identify and 'collect' mom's body. That was really grim! Mom's body looked so thin. Owing to her continued ill health, she lost even more weight prior to her passing. However, I was glad to see that her expression was a peaceful one - may be because of her passing, she was finally free from all the suffering. It was a very emotional event and I was glad the my uncle was with me. We didn't exactly collect mom's body. After the identification and going through the paper work, mom's body was released by the hospital and picked up by the funeral home. Those folks would perform their tasks and make the body ready for the funeral and cremation afterwards. After the hospital, my uncle took me to see the medical home where mom was staying when she wasn't in the hospital. The kindness of the people there overwhelmed me. It looked like mom was, when not being treated in hospital, living in a friendly and relatively comfortable environment - it was airy, there was a good view (mom loved trees) and the place was relatively quiet (away from the busy traffic of Hong Kong). It wasn't a château or our old apartment, but I could see mom was being well looked after.
Home: From memory, April is typically the most humid month of the year in Hong Kong. According to my cousin, there was a typhoon just prior to my arrival, when meant that much of the humidity was dragged away by the wind. The weather was excellent in first few days after arriving in Hong Kong - sunny, clear and hot - it was unseasonably warm, hitting the high twenties in Celsius. I love weather like that. At least the weather helped me to dispel some of gloom. The Ruler_of_spike, owing to not being able to get all the time off for the trip was to fly out a couple of days later. I'm not saying that it was good, but those couple of days give me some room to think about things and sort out a few things related to mom which would be quite depressing to drag the Ruler_of_spike through. I was glad that I got through those errands before she arrived and she didn't have to endure those chores.
Home: Finally, it was time to go to Hong Kong. In the past I've used to look forward to go Hong Kong - it is such a different place compare with London, it was refreshing. Also, I spend so much of my childhood there that there were always some things I could do to remind myself of past times. The last couple of trips have been difficult as mom's conditions deteriorated. In my last visit, she was in intensive care unit the whole time. The obvious question would be: Why haven't gone back to be by her side? That was a very good question. However, I had two further questions for myself: 1) Knowing that mom has deteriorated further since I last saw her, did I want to see her and then to remember her in an even more pitiful state than eighteen months ago? 2) Would I be able to do any good being in Hong Kong? The answer to the first question was probably not. I love mom and I don't think I can handle seeing her in a worse state than the last time I saw her. And for the second question, the answer would be a definite no. I would not have done mom or the Ruler_of_spike
or myself any good by being in Hong Kong - I would not be able to help mom if I was by her side; I have to earn a living in the UK, I could not just pack up my bags and ask for a sabbatical to be by the side of mom; the Ruler_of_spike and I give each other so much support that I don't think I could have coped away from her. There were selfish decisions, I would admit that. However, as in all things in life, I had to find a balance between the need of mom and the need of the Ruler_of_spike and myself. There was no right decision, just the best one under the circumstances.
Home: As the Ruler_of_spike was going to accompany me to Hong Kong, she had to take time off also. As it was her mother-in-law that she would be attending the funeral for, she was entitle to compassionate leave - two days, that company policy! In real time, if she had flown from London to Hong Kong and then back, without spending a night in the city, that would have taken two days! Two days might have been plenty if the funeral was in London or somewhere in southern England, but not a city that is nearly 10,000km from London which takes nearly fourteen hours of flying time to get to. Sadly, there was no flexibility on this, 'policy is policy'. How about that for a caring employer.
Work: Time and tide wait for no-one... nor it seems the progress in investment banking. Since the beginning of the credit crunch last August, those who had not been fired have been going about their business frantically. They were bringing clients that were poorer in terms of credit quality and smaller in terms of potential business. All these activities were to demonstrate to our firm's management how valuable the sales people were to the business, especially in a time of internal (my bank announced that it will be splitting its investment banking activities from the 'core' retail/commercial bank) and external (the general market) uncertainties. Some people in the office who were difficult to deal with in the past were now just plain unpleasant. After I found out more about mom's funeral arrangements, I immediately booked my compassionate leave and targeted my work so that there would as little unresolved issues as possible during my absence. Of course, there would always be unresolved issues, but at least I would minimize the amount of inconvenience caused by my absence. Also, on issues that I had been dealing with, I would much prefer if things would be on stand-still while I was away rather than having someone dealing with them and I had to play catch-up on my return. All this meant that I had a very busy couple of weeks until my departure for Hong Kong. I only told a small number of people that mom has passed away, and I tried to work as much as possible without showing that too much emotion. I just wished that I could scream at the top of my voice and shout: "Back off!! Stop giving me a rotten time! I have enough on my plate to deal with you morons hassling me." Of course, I couldn't and wouldn't do that. So it was just a case of getting on with things.
Home: My uncle informed me that owing to some particularities in Hong Kong, after life arrangements usually take around two weeks after the person's death. In case of mom, there were other complications, which meant further delays. All this meant a very frustrating time. My work place has offered me a compassionate arrangement where they would pay for my ticket to Hong Kong (this was gracefully accepted), but not for the Ruler_of_spike's. However, owing to the uncertainty regarding timing, we were not able to book out flights nor our compassionate leaves.
Home/Work: So I went back to work to try and get my mind away from continuously thinking of mom’s passing. The thing was - nothing seemed to really matter. Yes, there were things that got me worked up and angry about. But did it really matter? No. Each day, I sat there, did my work and went home. I tried to look for things that were positive but found few - the only thing that really made me happy was spending time at home with the Ruler_of_spike.
Home: So, it was the beginning of April and we have snow! Last year, April was an excellent month with unusually warm weather. This year, March has been cold and wet, and April has started with snow. It came overnight during the weekend, so when we woke up on Sunday, it was a scene of white, and it was still snowing! Since moving to London nearly twenty years ago, I haven't seen that much snow, so I was running around like a kid in a sweet shop. It was just too beautiful to spoil (and it was quite cold). I even temporarily forgot that mom had passed away a few days ago. I managed to take a few pictures of the snow from inside the house... (1, 2, 3 & 4) I'm such a big kid!
Home: With the passing of my mom, I asked for a couple of days off work. While I thought I could handle the news (poor mom had been unwell for such a long time, her passing was kind of expected), inside I was a mess. I could not get anything done. I could not sit still; I could not think. Basically, I was a wreck. I logged into the work e-mail to try to get some forms of distraction, but all I got was people chasing me for stuff that I would have done. Thank god for the Ruler_of_spike. She comforted me as best as she could after her work day. Whatever she said probably wasn't getting into my head, but that wasn't the point - she was being there for me. I tried to distract myself by painting the horrible wall of the massive shed, that faces our kitchen window, at the end of the back garden. It wasn't doing much to distract me, but at least I managed to escape a little.
Home: After a very long battle against various infections and diseases, my mom finally lost the battle against her illness. I received the phone call from my uncle around 3pm on Wednesday April 2, informing me that mom has peacefully passed away. He informed me that the medical staff informed the family of her declining condition early in the evening and they got to her in time. But then, she gradually drifted away from us all. While I have been frequently briefed on her continual deterioration of her conditions, this was nevertheless not the news I wished to receive. I felt all energy drained out of me. My mom has had many trials and tribulations throughout her life, not least suffering three strokes (the first one when she was carrying me) and two forms of cancer. She was determined and courageous and had the never give up spirit. In the past few years, her health deteriorated gradually, but became substantially worse after suffering a fall at home about eighteen months ago. She did not deserve to suffer like this. While it was admirable and indeed a miracle the she had put up such a fight for such a long time, I did not wish to see her suffer unnecessarily. So, it was almost a relieve that she finally passed away from us peacefully. I only wish that circumstances have allowed me to be by her side when she passed away. However, my life is firmly planted in the UK at the moment and given her situation, I could not have spent extended period of time away from here. Rest in peace, mom, you live forever in my memory.