Last hurdle

J. is back in hospital for her fourth and final course of chemotherapy, the last remaining hurdle prior to the sprint for the finishing line. Emotionally, sending her back was even harder, as I realize how much better the world ticks over when she’s at home. It’s not so much what she does – though the ironing does help – but the fact that she’s there so we can support each other.

A week on from her return, and I am decidedly brittle. It’s been very hard juggling everything I have to do in the time available, and the result has been some 18-hour days. I recognise all the early signs of nervous exhaustion that twice before have forced a week or so’s break from working life, but this time round I don’t feel I have the luxury of taking time off.

So instead I’ve torched a few events that simply create stress, and for which I am currently ill equipped to handle: it means no attendance at wargames show Cavalier in just a week’s time, as the next working week consists of three days, which is barely enough time in which to deal with incoming orders, let alone pack and replenish show crates. And it means I’ve taken the decision not to go to the industry’s biggest event of the year, Salute, in March, because with J. due out of hospital shortly beforehand, I cannot now conceive of leaving her alone for the three days that show will take out of the week.

Blowing a show that provides half a month’s income in cash in a day is not a decision anyone takes lightly, but the truth is that advance orders account for 70 per cent of income, and the remaining 30 per cent involves a lot of hard work. I should be on track again here by the time the autumn schedule of shows rolls around.

So I find myself back on the journey to Southampton General Hospital. The ferries are on WightLink’s appalling depths of winter timetable, which so far has meant a 45-minute wait in Yarmouth after being deposited there by the bus, and a half-hour wait at Lymington Pier for a train up to Brockenhurst. At least it’s a cool but pleasantly sunny day, so hanging around isn’t so bad.

There have been ups. With a long wait in prospect at Yarmouth, I had an early lunch at Gossips Cafe, at the root of Yarmouth Pier. I’ve had the first coffee ever in an Island café that I can truly say that I’ve enjoyed, because Gossips has a proper Italian espresso machine (it also has a ubiquitous filter coffee machine that turns out brown stewed liquid that is to be avoided). I had an Americano, nicely made with an impressive orange crema, and not too diluted, with a delightful roasted flavour. It captured the elusive flavour of the coffees I have on skiing holidays, and which until now I have been unable to replicate back in the UK.


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