What follows are excerpts from the journal I wrote throughout my holiday which will give you a flavour of all that happened together with some of my thoughts and feelings about my experiences.
FRIDAY 24th - I remember ‘M’ saying to me on Wednesday when I was talking of this trip - “you created these options for yourself by your choices and decisions over the last couple of years or so, there would have been no compensation had you not picked up the phone to the police and if you had not appealed the first decision to refuse you compensation, anyone else sat in that first class carriage who knew what you have gone through would agree that you deserve it, you really deserve it!” As she said that I deliberately made myself remain totally focused on her, her face and her words to ensure I stored that away. I knew she was right and was making an astute point. But it is weird to think of myself making good decisions and choices. While I was waiting for the train in Exeter today I saw how busy everything was and had to concede to myself that it was a great decision to travel first class. The leather seats in 1st class are so lovely and comfy! The peace and quiet is so different to the hustle and bustle of standard class. I've had a lot of time to try to get my head around being in first class. There's part of me feeling like “I shouldn't be here, they'll find out soon and turf me out” - there is another part of me which knows I have valid tickets and that I deserve to be there as much as anyone with a valid first class ticket. It's a strange feeling! I also conceded to myself that I am making sound decisions for myself now. I also had to concede I am slowly beginning to grasp and act on what it is I, and my body, mind and spirit, all need. This makes such a change from being totally numb and not knowing what or how I felt or what I needed or even how to make it possible. It's great to see that shift in myself!!
SATURDAY 25th - I am so pleased I decided to travel first class because even the first class coaches are busy. At least I’m guaranteed a seat!! The staff came round with coffee a few minutes out of London which was served in proper mugs!! Soon after leaving London they came round to check tickets. With that formality over I settled back down to my film again. It was really funny that while I was waiting for my tickets to be checked there was again a little voice inside saying “they'll kick me out in a minute, they'll realise I shouldn't be here”. It was very weird! Once my tickets were checked my being in first class was legitimised, I relaxed and finally realised I belonged there just like anyone else with a valid ticket. How weird is all that huh!! The purple heather, rolling hills – gorgeous! It's good to be back among mountains!! The highland scenery is superb. I feel wonderfully energised and inspired amongst the mountains!! It's the same way I feel when I'm in the Alps. I'm at home in the mountains. Don't know why but I am! It's so good to be back amongst this wonderful scenery and to see the light behind the mountains as the sun starts to go down. Pitlochry brings back childhood memories for me - thankfully they're only vague memories of staying in a log cabin in Dunkeld and visiting Pitlochry. Even so it feels scary to be in touch with even so vague memories but good on other levels. It's a strange mixture of feelings!!! My thoughts are turning to joining the tour tomorrow. There's something very special about being able to something I've wanted to do for a long time but wasn't an option for me. I had to wrap my head around the fact that the compensation made it all possible. This was the first thing I booked when I heard about the compensation. I then had to get my head around the fact that I have options now – a situation so outside of my experience that makes it so hard to grasp. Then also getting my head around the fact that I deserve all this as much as anybody and it is legitimate for me to be able to do nice things is tough. It all challenges those awful messages throughout childhood and believe systems which resulted from that. It is hard work to challenge and alter but this is a beginning amongst other things which are all combining to begin to make it possible to challenge those things and put other messages and beliefs in their place. Each time that happens it puts a dent in all those old programmes. What's special is I’m able to do that work now and have the support and workers in place to assist me. That is, I think, the most fantastic thing about my life now after a lifetime's solitary coping and surviving and never believing or daring to think anything could ever change!
MONDAY 27th – I had a really bad accident today. I banged my back and my head badly, had to go to A+E to have my head glued as it wouldn’t stop bleeding. I resisted going to A+E because I didn’t want to have my holiday wrecked by the accident. I realise I was in danger of repeating something from childhood – being injured and not getting medical attention. I’m so glad common sense over-ruled because I am really concussed too! While at the hospital I had a call from ‘M’ in Whitehaven to say Alan died on Saturday. I find it hard to take in the news of Alan's death – the death of my father – and the death of one of my key abuser and one of my rapists. I feel I should grieve him but there is part of me glad he is dead and facing eternal judgement where he won't get away with lies and denials. I feel numb.
WEDNESDAY 29th - Thinking again about Alan’s death I wonder how Sheila will be now her partner in crime has gone – I don't actually care how she is but can't help wondering! I've been amazed at how well I've coped with the last couple of days. I realise I've come a long way in how I process and deal with stuff, especially the unexpected. Somehow I've managed to not let it all overshadow and take over and destroy the good things in this holiday. The two have somehow sat alongside each other. Even my accident turned out to be a positive. Everyone asked me how I'd gone on and how I was feeling. I was amazed by how caring people were and how concerned most of them were about the bang and the shock I'd had. That was awesome and incredible!! I've been feeling very emotional about going to Culloden. Tears weren't far away when we arrived there and during my first few minutes there. I had my photo taken holding the broad sword and round shield that my ancestors carried on the battlefield at Culloden. In doing that I felt like I really connected with my ancestors. It felt great and I enjoyed having the opportunity to do that. Once out on the battlefield I felt less emotional and really enjoyed the tour, the views and taking loads of photos. I got myself an electronic gadget which worked by GPS to guide me round the battlefield. It was NOT raining which was perfect. It would have been grim if it had rained. I spent a lovely 40 minutes or so wandering round the battlefield following the tour. It was extremely good. I found the MacLeod graves which were in a mixed clan grave. I felt the weight of history, the weight of ancestry and the weight of the realisation of just what took place at Culloden. I felt that on SO many levels. I needed to go there and it was SO huge and SO important to me. It was healing and grounding finding the graves of my ancestors killed there. My sense of belonging to the MacLeod clan and sense of who I am in relation to my ancestry really came home to me while I was exploring the battlefield. It was very important for me to do that!! I got bitten to death by the mosquitoes at Culloden, there were swarms of them all over the battlefield which was a drag but didn't detract from the experience at all. I had a really BIG treat on Cairngorm today, not only did the weather hold while at the top so I could get the views and photos I wanted and all the way back down the mountain too but I also got to see and photograph reindeer walking along the road by the side of the coach. That was incredible and very special!!
THURSDAY 30th - This has been an amazing holiday. I'm so glad my accident did not overshadow or blight it in any way!! Also the news about Alan's death hasn't spoilt it. I've had to kind of sit along the knowledge of that. I've managed that amazingly well. I am aware there is a part of me who doesn't want to go home and face it all. I cannot take it all I've seen, done and experienced during the last few days. So many things have happened, so many different experiences, so many places visited, so many photos taken which are going to take some sorting through – and I am so looking forward to that job. The incredible thing to come out of this holiday and out of my accident for me is that it's been amazing to be on the receiving end of so much genuine caring and concern! My thoughts often turned to Sheila and how she would have belittled me about my accident and injuries. Yet all I've met here from everyone has been incredible concern, caring and support. The contrast couldn't be more intense and it's been very healing for me to realise that the belittlement and everything else from the programming means I expect and anticipate is not how most people are with people. That's been a massive learning thing for me!! I felt very emotional leaving the tour hotel and could not prevent the emotion from being in my voice. I felt a massive sense of loss over the tour ending. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. The strength of the emotions surprised me! I guess some of those tears were tears I've been holding back for a few days so I could enjoy my holiday. Some of the tears were because it's hard this amazing holiday is ending. Part of me is looking forward to being home back in my own bed with all that's familiar. Part of me doesn't want to be going home because of the painful stuff I'm going to have to face! It has been such an amazing holiday that it is really hard emotionally for me to leave and transition to the next part of my holiday! My stay at that hotel has been very enjoyable and a real privilege. I doubt if I will get to stay in such a posh hotel ever again. The tour has been fantastic. Having good things happen in my life is still a new experience and staying in that hotel has been a 'holiday of a lifetime' thanks to the compensation! I guess it's been such an amazing holiday that I'm sad it's over. It exceeded expectations over and over. So did the weather. I have wonderful memories as well as loads of photos which I shall treasure and enjoy. I had a wonderful time with ‘J’. It was as if we hadn’t seen each other for 13 days never mind 13 years. The years just melted away. ‘J’ was delighted to meet me and catch up with me at long last. I was very nervous but eventually managed to relax with her. We went on the open top bus tour together which was great fun. I’m so used to doing things alone that it was fantastic to do something with someone else and to enjoy it together. By the end of our time together I was amazed at how I coped with it and wondered at how het-up I got about it. I had expected rejection. I expected her not to meet me. I expected me to freeze and not be able to communicate. Before we parted ‘J’ hinted very strongly that maybe two or three years would be a more acceptable gap between seeing each other rather than 13 years. I was astounded by that and realised that my expectations of rejection are to do with programming and is not the reality of my life now as an adult. Between nerves over meeting ‘J’ and the sadness of my tour ending and leaving a hotel where I'm been very happy, very comfortable and really pampered it was a much harder day than anticipated!
FRIDAY 31st – The peace and quiet of Premier Inn overnight has soothed my raw emotions and I feel like I’ve transitioned from the amazing tour towards heading home and I feel much better about it now. Reflecting on the past week I think “well, what a week I've had!” So much has happened. So many places visited! So many fridge magnets bought! So many photos! I run out of words! I always knew it was going to be a great holiday but it exceeded expectations in every possible way and then some more!! I've had a glimpse into how the other half travel and I'm enjoyed it too. It still felt funny to be travelling in such luxury but for a journey of that length it was a no-brainer – and also using the compensation to really treat myself is special too after all I've gone through! While travelling between Edinburgh and London I checked the Whitehaven News to see if Alan's death notice has been published – and it has. Funeral at Distington Crematorium on Tuesday afternoon – it's interesting that the funeral will not be at St John's Church!! It's ironic that they didn't get the date right in the formal notice – the date of death given is Sat 28th Aug when he died on Sat 25th Aug! I noticed the mention only of Sheila and Stuart in the announcement – the airbrushing of me from their lives is complete and very chilling! It would have been extremely odd to have seen my name but it confirms what I always knew and speaks volumes about them!! Seeing the formal confirmation of his death helps make it real although my feelings and responses are very mixed and all over the place. It's not possible to find words.
SATURDAY 1st SEP - Every aspect of my holiday has been amazing. Similar to my Christmas trips I have created positive enriching memories which I will treasure. The difference is I have created memories at another time of year which doesn’t hold all the tough emotions and memories that Christmas does. I have got photos I will also treasure and enjoy! They are photos I’ve longed to get but never dared to dream I would be able to have one day! The week has gone surprisingly quickly when I think that this time last week I was on a train headed towards London! What a lot has happened!! I feel very blessed and very privileged. It has been hugely emotional as well, which I hadn't banked on!! It has been one of the most incredible and amazing holidays I've ever had!! In many ways the life I have now is far better than anything I could ever have hoped for, dreamed of or imagined possible. I know there are hard times ahead, especially in therapy. I have a long way to go but I have already come a long way. I have absolutely wonderful memories of a once in a lifetime trip to the Scottish highlands, on the Scottish railways. This is just the beginning of a brand new life I am creating for myself and it is far better than anything that has come before. I wondered as Inverness was coming to an end would it be possible to beat it then I remembered this is only the beginning! I will be travelling Silver Service with Leger at Christmas, on Eurostar for my birthday then through Eurotunnel with Leger in May to Austria, not forgetting my overnight in London in March, then Annecy and Chamonix in September. I have much to look forward to. And it’s all thanks to the compensation! It makes what has comes before more bearable and a little easier to cope with too!! It's not long to home, back to my own bed, all that's familiar, my snooker table, putting and of course, and maybe most importantly, the new life being created out of the ashes of the old one!! It’s wonderful to be going home with incredible memories and images in my mind. Memories of amazing sights, changeable weather which created photo opportunities which wouldn't have existed but for the weather, people genuinely caring and being concerned about me, my precious time with ‘J’ and the fantastic hotels I stayed in as well as travelling first class!! Phenomenal memories I know I'll treasure whatever lies ahead!! And no-one can take those memories or photos away from me either which is fantastic!!