Itinerary

This year it won't be Norway or Normandy,
St.Petersburg or Portugal,
It won't be Strasbourg, Alsace, Luxembourg,
Germany, Holland and Flanders:
This year I'm doing cancer.

Sandra was a barrister. Having reached retirement age in July 2004, she at that stage stopped taking on any new cases. Although she did not have to, she felt she should put off her actual retirement until her last case had been finally decided -which turned out to be four months later, in November.

Itinerary lists some of the places we had intended to (re)visit during her first year of retirement. For two of them (St.Petersburg and Alsace), we had already made detailed plans and were set to visit in early 2005, with the rest being at still-unspecified times later in the year. Meantime, her cancer was diagnosed so we didn't visit any of them.

At the time that she wrote Itinerary, Sandra and I both thought that our plans would merely have to be postponed for a year, whilst she was undergoing hospital treatment. That turned out not to be the case.

With hindsight this piece invokes "if only" with a vengeance. If only we hadn't put things off until she retired. If only she hadn't continued working for those additional four months. If only we had taken better advantage of the breaks early in her treatment. Speaking for myself, it's the "if only"s which are the hardest things to bear about her loss. They also caused Sandra herself much distress during her closing months, as Thief and Destination make clear.

When going through her papers after her death, I found a single handwritten sheet headed "Places I want to visit before I die": this so upset me, because I knew she hadn't managed to visit any of them, that I just screwed it up and threw it away. If only I hadn't done that.