Week 1: Wednesday 12th to Tuesday 18th April 2023

It is really hard being back in NYC without my precious Alfie.
Sometimes my heart just aches for him and then the tears flow. There are so many places that hold memories of the times I had with him here. At the same time, he has sent me several signs he is around me, still looking after me

(notably the thunderclap and rainbow with no lightening and a tiny amount of rain in the bluebell wood in the early morning before I left Bristol, after I asked him for a sign). I would give anything to be able to cuddle him again.

And so I compensate by taking Debbie’s seeing eye dog, Ellie, to Riverside park every morning where I used to walk my Alfie and persuading her to go to the “Dog Park” where dogs can be “off leash” (not allowed here after 9 a.m. or before 9 p.m.

There are loads of dogs here and the dog owners understand my grief. I am slowly learning to remember the younger Alfie and not just the elderly infirm angel that I willingly nursed in his later months and I must remember that many people do not have the privilege of being with their angels for 15 years.

My flight from Heathrow to Newark on Wednesday 12 April was delayed and then smooth-running. A lovely cabin crew called Karima, based out of Heathrow but living in Utrecht, befriended me as I talked about Alfie – she told me all about her deceased 4 cats and ended up giving me 2 different kits from Business Class. I tried watching “Everything all the time all at once” and gave up. How did it win so many accolades? Instead I enjoyed “A man called Otto” with Tom Hanks, and laughed then cried.

Arriving at Debbie’s at 9.45 p.m. it was good to see Jeanette, the door person, hug Debbie and then walk along the top of Riverside Park with Genia where we saw 3 baby raccoons peaking over the top of the high wall.

They are local residents, far outnumbered by the rats who run around with impunity (I heard that the lack of cats contributes to their proliferation. The city has now appointed a “Rat Tsar”.

I didn’t get to bed until midnight US time, 5 a.m. UK but actually didn’t experience any jet lag at all (taking melatonin 2 nights in a row also helped). Going back to the UK is always more of a challenge.

On Thursday it was 29 degrees Celsius. I trotted down to the very Southern tip of Manhattan – South Ferry – to organise my “Senior travel card”. NYC is so full of every nationality going that they do not challenge the British accent or ask for proof of residence – and half-price fare on the already reasonable subway (a fraction of the price of London) is worth having.

I then had a short, if hot, walk around the Battery, at South Ferry, looking at the Statue of Liberty from a distance and discovering the Battery Urban Farm with its pretty wrought-iron gates.

Alfie and I spent many a happy afternoon at the Hungarian Pastry Shop which is opposite the Cathedral of St John the Divine (one of my favourite buildings in NYC) so off I went to enjoy a cheese and cherry strudel and unlimited coffee. The owner remembered me and Alfie sitting outside on many occasions and was very sympathetic when I told her he had passed.

On Friday  I enjoyed a fantastic orchestral performance at the Metropolitan School of Music and a great viola performance at the Julliard. Nearly every day I attend amazing concerts at the Julliard – the music soothes my soul and eases my grief.

Saturday was again hot: in the afternoon I took the subway down to the Meatpacking (now historically) District and first visited the brand new “Little Island” that has been created out of the huge concrete segments that look like cupped flowers.

After that, a walk along the iconic High-Line, and a visit to a small art gallery. In the evening there was a viola recital by a very talented, girl – Bowie Ma, with pieces from Bach, Vieuxetemps, Jerome Begin and Yuchan Li.

On Sunday it was more cloudy but warm. I was missing Alfie very badly and so took myself off to St John the Divine for the Eucharist, followed by coffee, sandwiches and cakes and a chat with the vicar (a very tall Korean man with a gentle demeanour and 4 children) and other lovely people. I then lost my phone in the garden and eventually found it after walking round in circles for an hour, finally deciding that if I prayed to Alfie and St Anthony (Patron Saint of Lost Things) that it would manifest itself. It did immediately!

Debbie was jamming with other musicians in her flat, and so Genia and I walked to the Northern tip of Central Park and then down to Shakespeare’s garden. She had never visited either, despite living here all of her life!

In the evening, at the Julliard, were a bunch of mixed ensembles with, randomly, flute, piano, violin, viola, cello, clarinet, guitar and harp playing music from Dutilleux, Prokofiev, Martin, Ravel, Ibert, Saint-Saens, Brahms, Piazzolla and Gareth Farr. I am always astounded at the level of the playing of these students, that often far exceeds what I have heard from professional players.

The morning walks with Ellie are followed by our usual breakfast of cinnamon and raisin toast with almond butter. In the afternoons,  I often visit the Hungarian Pastry Shop to do some writing while enjoying their coffee.

On Monday evening Gillian Elizabeth Bobnak played baroque oboe, accompanied by a harpsichord – music from the 15th and 16th century by composers I had never heard of: Philidor, Platti, Janitsch and Lotti. It was enchanting – another wonderful Juilliard experience.  To be equalled on Tuesday evening when Tiffany Wong, who I have seen a few times, played the harp beautifully – works by Tailleferre, Bach, Piazzolla (very tango-like, accompanied by a violin) and Posse.