On this day (27/12/2014) I physically gave up the battle of the last few years: the wet beds, the airport hassles, the long car journey preparations, the short car journey preparations, the loss of logical discussions; against the cuddles, the company, the compliments and the sheer presence of him in the house with me. I finished packing up his essentials , put them in the car, helped him on with his coat, and drove the 30 miles to the end of the peninsula that is called Ards, to the beautiful little town of Portaferry. From Portaferry, there is a ferry boat which crosses regularly to Strangford, the town on the other side of the narrow mouth of Strangford Lough. Writing the word ‘Strangford’, I’m wanting to put a ‘j’ after the ‘f’, having just been to Norway back in September. ”Strang-fjord’ is nothing like the fjords of Norway, with their steep sides and wonderful waterfalls cascading down into the sea, but it must have some connections to those Norwegian examples, which I need to research…
Since his diagnosis of Alzheimers, about 3 years ago, we have been getting to know this peninsula, and Paul has come to love it. I have personally fought against making it an extension of ‘home’, as having been brought up in Belfast, and after spending most of my adult life in Holywood, my leanings have been more in that direction. Bangor, which is in the opposite direction from Holywood and about the same distance as Belfast, does nothing for me. However, during my first marriage, to Chris, we lived for a time in Killinchy, on the other side of Strangford Lough, and he developed his business around the area of Newtownards at the head of the lough, before his sudden death from leukaemia. So I had got to know the little towns around the lough: Comber, Killinchy, Newtownards, Kircubbin and Portaferry. And just after Paul’s diagnosis, the Alzheimers Society directed us to the newly formed ‘Memory Cafe’ which met in Comber. So Wednesday mornings usually found us driving over the Holywood hills through Craigantlet, turning right at that awful staggered crossroads (near the home of my previous partner John, but more of that later!), through Dundonald (where Chris and I had our first house!) and on down the winding country road to Comber. There we got to know other couples and singles coping with this same awful disease, and friendships were formed.
So we would have preferred a care home within 10 miles of home rather than the 30 miles to Portaferry, but either the care manager didn’t care enough to make sure we got a nearby place, or as he insisted, I ‘didn’t understand the system’, after we were offered two local places that went to someone else just before I confirmed we would like to take them!
Paul has settled in very well, unlike many residents who constantly ask to ‘go home’. he has a lovely room overlooking the sea and the Mourne Mountains in the distance.