Skip to content

Trail talk: Et mortuus est

It was time for a walk. I needed to think on recent family matters and autumnal exercise was required. I headed to the North Downs prepared to do battle with mud while labouring up a couple of modest inclines.

Wide ride through Hucking Estate

The North Downs of South-East England offered recently unexercised muscles the perfect antidote. An opportunity to find a variety on my not-so-local local walk and think a little while walking the paths through trees and fields. Family loss has visited recently and I realise I am simply one of many to experience this. An outward gruff and accepting exterior would benefit from physical expression, albeit a simple walk that provided time for thinking, as opposed to simply sitting and morosing.


His little green Polo was given to a young family member. Eventually, reluctantly, his beloved motorhome was also driven away. At the start of a second year battling his disease, Covid took his sister, my mother. His memory began to fade. Life was slowly, brutally, ripped from him.

Lone tree

A ninetieth birthday came and went. Love poured through the ether from three continents. Balloons and cards. WhatsApp and Royal Mail sufficed, I self-isolated under instruction, denied attending even such a milestone. Eventually I returned. He was older maybe, but no better, only worse, always worse.

White berries

Pained groans as his body was rolled to the side for changing, cleaning, wiping, dressing while bedding exchanged. Further pained resigned sighs as the body was rolled back, and back again, practiced hands gripping sheets to reposition, ‘paws not claws’, don’t add to the pain, there is enough of that already. Fucking cancer.

Path across field

We took turns, a family rota was formed, cars arrived and left, doors opened and closed, hugs, “any change?”, a peek in the bedroom, a new overnight bag in the spare room. Teabags by the hundred, coffee by the jar.


Lucidity occasionally rose but the memory struggled, moments of shared recollection were enjoyed, but only moments. Dry humour in the first months, then even that left. Carers came and went. If every there was an accurate description of a profession. Masked faces and PPE gave way over the months to smiles and hand holding, everyone loved him.

Brew up in Leeds Castle estate

“I’m going to have a little nap, if I don’t wake, I love you all

Young Beech plantation, planted 2000

The nights were long, so long. The armchair faced him, just a metre away. Cough… cough, cough. Sustenance was eventually abandoned. Slivers of ice, lips moistened, 12 hours of sleep a day became 15, then 20, then 22. A pump periodically started up. It’s hum always intrusive in the darkened room. Valves clunked and the hum died. Breathing laboured but continued, the prostrate figure lived.

Path back up on to the North Downs

Cough… cough, cough, a bowl for spat dark puke, cough… cough, cough

Autumn trees against evenign sky. Hucking Estate

I had to look into those confused and wearied eyes with no answer to his questions. He demanded to know why, why were we letting this continue?

North Downs Way viewpoint on Hucking Estate

Eventually, finally, thankfully, release… et mortuus est

I stood atop the North Downs with the Weald of Kent stretching left, right and ahead. At this times of year the days are short and the light was already fading. Pin pricks of light would soon be appearing in a hundred distant unseen homes. A cold wind rolling up the slopes bought tears to my eyes. I wiped them clear and turned inland for the two mile woodland walk back to my car.

Three Points of the Compass with Len Tharp- Tug Master, kind and gentle man. Sadly missed. 1931-2021
Three Points of the Compass with Len Tharp, Tug Master, 1931-2021- a kind and gentle man

2 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing this. My mother went through it. My late wife struggled with cancer and severe rheumatoid arthritis. You and your family did everything that could be done.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Three Points of the Compass on

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 294 other subscribers


%d bloggers like this: