Archive for May, 2003

(ETA2)3 = 83 hours

May 25, 2003

Hoorah, woke up to find an IM from Bill on Yahoo!, he’s back and safe in Atlanta. *bounce*

Just two days til I leave to go visit him, must do some hard packing today. Shock, horror, Yesterday I actually washed and IRONED all the clothes I’m taking with me. Hope I’m not coming down with something.

And there he is, protesting outside the TSC in Dallas.

.o0(Interesting headgear babe, though at least I don’t spy any white socks.)

..et le Royaume Uni – NIL POINTS!

May 24, 2003

Good Evening Europe.

Oh yes! It’s that time of year again, the highlight of the European calendar, the time when Europe dons it’s funky spandex, struts it’s crazy local ways, bursts into song and each country takes to the stage to perform their little cotton socks off (and judging by this year’s show, most of their clothes). Highly entertaining, and the voting not at all political, honest.

And the result of this year’s contest?

The result is conclusive – Europe hates us!

Not a single vote for the United Kingdom.

Hmm, anything to do with recent activities in Iraq?!! *eyes the rest of Europe suspiciously*

Ok, yes “Cry Baby” performed by Jemini WAS absolutely abysmal (btw anyone else notice that the male singer was sporting what I can only describe as a baby mullet bursting to grow up?!! mmmm tasty) but then so is every single piece of Eurovision fodder!

Tra la la la la.

My vote went to Austria, a truly stunning and memorable performance by a bouncing crazy loon, and some stuffed animal backing musicans with 2d bodies.

And the winner? Despite a close call between Russia’s lesbian schoolgirls (taTU), the Belgian entry sung in an invented language, and the Turkish belly dancers; of course the shimmying tummies got it.

Quality of lyrics? Emotive voices? Nah, get real. you didn’t really think it is a song contest?

Ahhhh, Europe, gotta love it.

May 23, 2003

PUT THE SERVICE BACK IN TSC & THE TSC BACK IN SERVICE

No Bill online for the next few days. He’s on a roadtrip. Currently hauling ass in his pickup over to Dallas, ready for Friday’s protest outside the Texas Service Centre.

We joined a Yahoo! discussion group for people filing I129F visas for their fiance(e)s to enter the States and have been tracking the Texas Service Centre’s progress towards approving these petitions.

The results of our efforts show that TSC is apparently doing absolutely nothing to make headway with the backlog of fiance(e) petitions it gained since abruptly stopping all processing of I129Fs for several weeks back in October. At that time it was adjudicating petitions on average within 30 days, now according to them, the estimated timeframe is 150-180 days, but according to our research this estimate falls way short, perhaps by as much as 6 months. As of 15/05 they claim to be processing petitions with a receipt date of 05/12. Yet we have gathered undisputed evidence that can prove that there are many hundreds of petitions still outstanding from at least October and November.

Thanks to a script written by a member, every day the group is able to run a check to determine exactly how many petitions have been looked at during the past 24 hours. On average TSC receive at least 40 I129F applications per working day, yet they are currently only adjudicating approximately 20. Most days are fairly inactive with only a mere handful being adjudicated. The backlog is steadily growing and our waiting times apart escalating.

Our own petition has a receipt date of 28th February, at this rate it seems we’d be lucky for TSC to get around to looking at our file within the next six months. When we first filed our receipt stated that processing should take 60-90 days, since then the online status has been amended to 150-180 days. Even the last time scale, which is a scarily long time to be living in limbo without one’s partner, is surely grossly underestimated.

Bill and I are currently on day 83 and counting. Damn are we counting! every single blasted hour.

Compare this to the processing times at Vermont, a centre which actually receives significantly more petitions than Texas, but is currently processing within 30 days. In fact, there have been reportings of timescales as short as 9 days coming from Vermont.

US citizens have no choice of which centre to file with, it is determined by the petioner’s State of residency. This is geographically unjust.

Hence the protest.

Tomorrow Bill is joining many other petitioners to picket the TSC in an attempt to highlight our situation and encourage the Centre to process these Visa applications in a more timely fashion. Actually, it’s possibly worth pointing out that at this stage of the process it’s not even the Visa application as such that is being held up. That step is completed by the US Embassies in the beneficiaries home country. Here, we are simply waiting for the TSC to confirm that both parties are willing and free to marry, and that the initial paperwork is in order before being shipped out to the consulates to decide whether or not to issue the requested Visa following a medical and interview. Apparently it’s only a matter of 15 minutes work per file for the TSC, assuming that the applicant has filled in and provided everything correctly..

*screams*

Bill has also prepared a detailed report to be handed out to the press at a press conference due to be held tomorrow morning if the TSC don’t step in with some answers and action beforehand.

It’s been really frustrating being stuck in England while all this has been going on. I hope this works out, the thought of even another month stuck in limbo with no guaranteed date of reprieve makes me want to cry. My career and finances are also going down the pan while we wait this out, not to mention our relationship (not that I’m really going to let that happen, it’s just exceedingly hard at the moment).

Anyhow, even if this effort fails, my sincere thanks go out to Bill for taking his hard earned holiday, driving for 11+ hours, standing outside the TSC waving placards for the day and, although he hasn’t mentioned it, missing Bubbapalooza, just for the slightest possibility to be with me sooner than the TSC seem determined to insist upon if this action wasn’t taken.

I love you babe, you’re the best. Wish I could be with you now.

Randomness

May 21, 2003

Been down at Bawcombe lots recently, had to have a break from the computer for a while as it, or more specifically, Visa crap, was doing my head in. Not that I managed to stay away completely though, still managed to nab Bill every so often for a chat. Hoorah. It was actually better too, less zoning when I was online, more conversation. Yay. I was missing that.

And talking of missing things, I phoned Pengie in New Jersey on Sunday. *Surprise!* That was fun, it was very good to hear his voice again and see how he’s doing. Although I did get a little excited and probably babbled inanely at him. Oops. Anyhow, thinking of him this week as he flys across the Atlantic.

Lynsey received her TKD uniform yesterday and was happily trying it on and strutting around Bawcombe like a true Ninja Prout. Go Lyns!

Managed to catch my hand in a linen press at the weekend and give myself a nasty burn. That was interesting watching it bubble up into a nice big blister. Eeek. On good authority from both Bill and Melly I tore up one of mum’s plants and poured its sappy gunk onto the burn, seemed to do some good. Hooray for Aloe.

Saturday night we also managed to drag Lynsey out for a Chinese!! Blimey, Lynsey going out is almost unheard of! We went for a lovely meal at the Birds Nest in Tavistock, courtesy of Senor Sprout. Very yummy indeed. Managed not to end up down the hospital this time too which is always a good thing.

Quote of the week from Senor Sprout:

-“so, you’re going to ‘merica then Chelle?
(me) – yup (blah blah)
-“I flew over America to get to Las Vegas”

Other gems of wisdom included: “Morroco, that’s in Belgium isn’t it.”

*stiffles a snigger* Sorry, Nicky, I know, I know, but I just HAD to record those pearls. I think your dad is great really! He can’t help it if he’s “Cornish.”

(ETA2)3 7 days!! Wheeee! Then I get to see my Bill for 3 whole weeks, hoorah!

Oh gosh, and crikey, I know Nicky is a touch on edge at the moment, but I never thought I’d see her punch a pregnant lady. I’m in shock! What a cow.

Shit! And I just sat on my mobile and it dialled Sy and Mel. Could hear it ringing, then Mel’s voice which sounded like an answer phone, got out of bed to figure out what was going on then realised. Feck! I’m in trouble now 😦

May 12, 2003

Hmm, off to do some painting in a bit, got some stunning Burnt Orange, Buttercup Yellow, and Eggnog Cream paint to daub all over the bedrooms in Coriander. I hope Farmer Prout doesn’t get too scared.

Vile did actually come online for a little bit just after I posted last night’s entry and we had a brief chat before I timed out. He was still at work and I know it’s not his fault he has to keep running off leaving me hanging, and I realise I can’t expect to have his undivided attention. It’s not him I’m really angry and annoyed at, I’m just so godamned frustrated. I wait and wait, and almost kill myself staying up to stupid o’clock just to get to talk to him, and then when I can it’s never enough.

*deep breath*

16 days

May 12, 2003

I have no idea what I am still doing up. Bill’s at work so no chance of talking to him, but I still find myself hoping to catch him online. Though even if I did he’s so busy at the moment, I seem to just end up hanging waiting for sporadic IMs, my head caving in, getting frustrated. I perked up no end when I booked my flight to see him, but now I feel so blue and mopey again. Can’t sleep. I can’t do this. Thank God it’s only 16 days until I don’t have to look at my pooter for three whole weeks. I hate my pooter right now, but I can’t get away from it.

Nanna and Aunty Jenny came over for lunch today. Matt too. Molly almost behaved herself around Nanna. Nan seemed to like her, but won’t go near her at all so we had to continually ensure that Molly was being held or in a different room at all times. Course, the one time our attention lapsed we were at the dining room table and Molls snuck all the way between everyone’s legs, pounced on Nan’s feet and settled down. Nanna screamed and I had to capture the puppy quick.

Going to visit Viley

May 9, 2003

YAY! YAY! YAY!!

Just booked myself a return flight to Atlanta to see my Bill!

Am most cheerful and excited now. It’s been horrid not knowing when I will see him next. The uncertainty with the Visa processing is definitely getting to both of us and the thought of sticking it out and not seeing him til I have my K1 Visa in hand (which isn’t likely to be until at least August) is unbearable.

I’ll be leaving from Gatwick on the 28th and returning the 19th June, only 19 days to wait! I am now just fearful about being turned away at immigration because I have a K1 pending. I’m not doing anything wrong though, I don’t intend to violate the Visa Waiver and will definitely be returning to Tavistock on the 19th so hopefully I am just worrying over nothing.

*bounce* *bounce* *bounce*

Feel so much happier already. Want to run around the house drinking my beer and driving Molly mad, but as everyone has gone to bed I guess that’s not very wise.

Funeral

May 8, 2003

St Werburgh’s Church, Wembury
Tuesday 6th May 2003 at 3:00pm
followed by committal at Drake Memorial Park

***

Yesterday was a beautiful day, the sun was out in force and casting radiant sparkles on Devon. Mum and Dad went into Plymouth first as they had to pick up some people on the way and Mel, Sy and I followed in afterwards so we didn’t have to leave Molly alone for too long.

Arrived at Nanna’s house bang on time, the black procession cars on our heels. Had just enough time to pop into the house and see Nanna, wave at and hug various relations who had made it down from across the country and be pointed in the direction of Bill’s card that had been delivered that morning. Nanna was very touched by it and particularly appreciated the message written inside.

Then we all departed to the church, Mum travelled in one of the funeral cars, the rest of the Downes contingent following behind in the Peugeot. It felt very surreal driving through Plymstock and out across to Wembury Beach, it was such a gorgeous day it didn’t quite seem real. As we crossed the crest of the hill and dipped down towards Wembury, the sea view opened out before us and the Mewstone became centre stage. Couldn’t help but remember all the times we had gone to the beach with Nanna and Grandad when we were young. Putting on our wellies (galoshes) and traipsing through the pebbles, hunting for tide worn pieces of coloured broken glass, bits of driftwood, cowries and other treasure washed ashore. Grandad would be ever vigilant against traces of ship tar, and always ready with a smelly tobacco drenched hankie should, despite warnings, Sy or I have got mucky.

Wasn’t at all sure what to do when we got out of the car, Sy and Mel had each other, and Mum called Dad over to her. Felt like a right lemon til Dad held his hand out for me too and gave me a hug.

There seemed to be quite a few people already seated in the church when we arrived. The family were led in as a procession and the church looked fantastic, all decked out in white and yellow floral arrangements.

Mum got separated from Dad and I in a touch of confusion regarding seating, but at least we managed to get a pew behind her if not next to her.

I had to try very hard indeed not to simply burst into a proper flood of tears throughout the service, was very glad that mum had thought to provide me with a packet of tissues, clutched them throughout and tried to use them as discreetly as possible, but turned a good few of them into a soggy mess.

The hymns were arduous, I can’t sing at the best of times, and always feel particularly uncomfortable mouthing the words in church. Though I don’t think I could have made a sound even if I had tried, my throat was so tight and sore I’d have really strangled “The Lord’s my Shepherd” and “The day Thou Gavest”. Dad more than made up for my lack of vocals though and it was good that I at least knew the hymns chosen for a change. I’ve always hated hymns in church when you’re supposed to just belt out the words but no one really has any idea about the tune except the organist (and I sometimes wonder about that too). Took me back to years of school assemblies when Tavistock College was much more religious, and attending church with the Brownies and Guides. Couldn’t remember if Nanna and Grandad came out one year to watch me carry the Guide Flag in the Remembrance Sunday Parade to St Eustachius.

Anyhow, the service was odd. Weird enough being in church when you only attend for weddings and funerals, without the vicar being strange. He spoke about Grandad in a formal prayer with his back to the congregation and the coffin which seemed a bit weird, though I realise he was addressing God. Still, wasn’t expecting that, thought a memorial service would have been a bit more personal in a way. And, as soon as the service was over Dad and I noticed that the vicar pegged it outside to his car and had a crafty cigarette!

After the service we then had to follow the funeral cars over to Drake Memorial Park. Right by Saltram House where we used to go feed the ducks with Nanna and Grandad, across from the deer gateway, is a large park of remembrance where, together, Nan and Grandad had chosen a plot for their final resting places. Surrounded with trees it seemed very tranquil and a perfect spot for Grandad.

Somewhere between the church and this park I suddenly felt a kind of relief. I was so glad that the weather was so nice, even though I wish Grandad had been around to see what a beautiful day it was, it felt appropriate and I was glad. Still had to concentrate hard on keeping the tears at bay, but somehow as we drove towards Saltram, past the Fairy’s Doorknocker, it felt better.

I’d not been to a committal before. Nanna Downes was cremated, her ashes are scattered up on Pork Hill. So, I had no idea what to expect. Certainly didn’t foresee the tatty green temporary shelter erected over the grave with made it difficult to stand around it. Felt very alone again and trailed Mum, Dad, Sy and Mel around like a lost puppy.

Went back to Nanna’s afterwards for light refreshments. The whole funeral seemed to have gone by very quickly. Actually, it was this part of the day that was the strangest. The house became filled with all these people I didn’t know, but who seemed to have rather a lot of information on me! More and more of the family ended up congregating in the kitchen under pretence of serving duties.

Missed Bill very much and kept almost bursting into tears whenever he was mentioned. I was very glad that he had come over at Christmas and had the chance to meet Grandad but couldn’t help wishing that he’d made it to see us married. I know it was unlikely that he’d have been able to travel to the States for the wedding, but Bill and I are hoping to eventually have some sort of family get together this side of the pond too.

Also, it’s been upsetting me that despite the ordeal we are undergoing at the hands of the Texas Service Centre, if we had had a timeline similar to Vermont I probably wouldn’t be sat here now and would have been unable to attend Grandad’s funeral at all.

Eventually Sy and Mel decided to make a move and go back home to sort Molly out so I went along with them. It was still a beautiful evening as we drove across the moors and past Cadover Bridge, another place I associate strongly with Grandad. I wish he’d been able to hang on longer, but despite everything, it’s comforting that I have no bad memories of Grandad and know that he was up and driving about and still enjoying the countryside he loved until his death.

Grandad

May 7, 2003

Last Sunday the phone woke me up with Nanna on the other end in a panic, saying that Grandad had taken ill and that a Doctor was there treating him. Mum and I raced to get across to Plymstock and as we were crossing Roborough Down another call came in to say Grandad had been taken to Derriford Hosipital in an ambulance. We diverted and were at the hospital when Nanna and Grandad arrived.

Grandad actually looked surprisingly alert and was surprised to see us, I remember his greeting to mum and I when he recognised us as the trolley whizzed past on the way to the observation ward . He had been making sandwiches and preparing to take Nanna out for the day when he suddenly keeled over and lost consciousness, but on the way to the hospital he’d come around and although confused, was sat up and seemed perkier than I was expecting.

Because Nanna was obviously in shock and very upset we were first taken to the Visitors’ Room while Grandad was initially assessed. It was horrible, Nanna kept blaming herself because she’d sworn at him, and she never swears. (It finally came out that she had petulantly said “..damn sandwiches”). I can’t really remember everything that was said in there that day, but it was horrid. Tears and anger and accusations flew out of Nanna, towards herself at first, and then later, when the Nurses had assured her that it wasn’t her fault, towards mum.

Eventually we were allowed to go in and see Grandad. I didn’t get to see too much of him as obviously Nanna and Mum went to talk to him and there were lots of people in the cubicle. I think he saw I was there though because he gave me a smile. He was complaining of a pain in his back and kept showing the Doctors and Nurses where it was by tracing the area on their backs. It was very relieving to see him responsive and the Hospital staff buzzing around him making sure everything was alright.

An x-ray needed to be taken of his chest so we were asked to go and stand back outside again, I went off to try to find some refreshments for Nanna and Mum while we waited. Not an easy task, first I found a drinks machine but didn’t have the correct change, then when I went into the main hospital I found a cafe but they wouldn’t serve me with takeaway (even though the person in front of me was clearly taking her drink away!) Gah. Finally managed to get some change and went back to Casualty. Wandered back into the observation unit en route looking for Mum and Nanna but just found Grandad surrounded by Doctors hard at work. Didn’t want to get in the way so slunk back off again and bumped into a Nurse who said not to worry, she’d sort out some drinks and pointed me back to the Visitor’s Room.

We were here waiting for some time, until finally a Surgeon came through to see us. The main artery that goes from the heart to the legs had swollen and was leaking and Grandad had to be operated on immediately. There was no further opportunity to see him as he had been whisked away to theatre as soon as they had decided to operate. 😦

There was nothing left for us to do but to go back to Nanna’s and wait.

I fixed Nanna’s phones while we waited, half of the pre-sets had been wrong so whenever she had tried to use them they were dialling incorrectly. That morning the Doctor had also tried to call us from there and had ended up having to go use a neighbours phone.

Auntie Jenny drove across from Dorset and arrived at Nanna and Grandad’s in record time. She was there when the hospital rang around 4 or 5 hours later and we were informed that the procedure had been a success and we could go back to see him in Intensive Care in an hour.

Which we did. We weren’t really prepared to find Grandad quite so heavily sedated though, he was being forcibly kept unconscious and would apparently be kept in that state for at least a week. When I last saw him he had been cheerful and still Grandad, now he was lying there, all his life functions being performed for him. He looked very peaceful though, and nowhere near 82, he looked as though he had never left his 50s. Sat with Nanna while she held his hand for a while and left there hopeful.

***

Was in bed that night when Mum got a call to say that Grandad was not responding to treatment and that anyone who wanted to should go in now because they would be stopping the drugs and letting him slip away. Everyone hurriedly got up and piled into Plymouth. By this time Auntie Karen had been told and had travelled down from Leicester too.

Grandad didn’t look like Grandad any more. His body had been soaking up fluids and not passing them. Sat and held his hand beneath the bed covers and got very confused listening to the conversations going on between the Nurses. While we were there it seemed that Grandad had started to respond to treatment after all and that they would be continuing with the drugs. Felt awful leaving Grandad again that night, seemed terrible to leave him on his own in the hospital.

***
Despite our hopes and fingers crossed the next morning Mum had another call from the hospital, Grandad had deteriorated during the night. Mum and Dad went in for the final time. I couldn’t face going in again and decided to stay at home instead to look after Molly.

Grandad died about 11 o’clock in the morning of Monday 28th April.