Month: July 2016

Between Funerals

One of the reasons I keep a blog is to try and make sense of my world. P1480802

It has been a difficult month. My mother hadn’t been well for sometime and I got a message from my brother, that if I wanted to see her before she passed away, I should get over to England quickly. I booked a flight and managed to get to York before she passed. My brother, his wife and one of my sisters were there too. My relationship with my siblings hasn’t been great since my dad died (2011). I didn’t get back when he was dying, I wasn’t expecting him to die so soon, and in his life he didn’t like a fuss, I thought I’d be okay seeing him later but that was a mistake, he died. I made a second mistake in not returning for his funeral.

mum and dad 2008

Mum and Dad in York, 2008

I arrived in York on Tuesday 12 July, Danny (my brother) and Jan (his wife) were with mum in the Oaks, a nursing home in York. I was quite shocked to see mum so emaciated and uncommunicative. She had been refusing treatment, and was being kept as comfortable as possible, the nursing and caring staff there are wonderful. She had refused fluids, so we knew it would only be a matter of time until she passed, too. It is surprising how long someone can last without fluids. I contacted my wife in Georgia, each day to let her know how things were going. She hadn’t come with me because the procedures for getting a visa would have taken too long. On Friday 15 July, I called her to update her with my news and she informed me that sadly her mother had died. This was a shock. Zoia had some health issues (diabetes and high blood pressure) but had seemed fine when I left for England. The funeral was scheduled for Tuesday 19 July. Jan, through Danny, said I should go back for that. So I booked a flight and left York on the Sunday getting to Tbilisi at 4am on Tuesday morning, the day of Zoia’s funeral.


Me with Zoia and Lazare (June 2016)

Zoia’s body was laid out in the living room, as is Georgian tradition. As the time got closer to the funeral more people came to pay their respects, an emotional time. The funeral was around 3pm in a site across town in Saburtalo. I threw a handful of earth onto her coffin. After the funeral, there was a supra (Georgian feast) and many people asked me how my mother was doing, it was difficult to explain she was dying. The same day, my mother died.

My mother’s funeral is on Friday 29 July, I have volunteered to read the words of tribute (eulogy). I have booked a flight, the journey from Tbilisi to York takes around 16 hours. I was thinking of putting a rough draft of the eulogy on here and inviting feedback, but now I think it might be imprudent. My brother was disappointed when I posted news of my mother’s death on Facebook, before he had informed the family. I have apologised.


Remembering Freda (my mum) and Zoia (my mother-in-law)

So now I find myself between funerals and with a eulogy to write.


A trip to Racha: Day 2

This post follows on from A trip to Racha: Day 1

Because some of our group were enjoying the previous night’s supra (Georgian feast) until 3am, Sunday didn’t get off to an early start. After we’d breakfasted and got everything ready,  we finally left the guest house at 1pm. The weather on the Saturday had been hot and dry, on the Sunday it was cooler and  more overcast with some rain.


Khvanchkara, a rich red wine said to be Stalin’s favourite

Stalin’s first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, was born in Racha, tragically she died of typhus at the age of just 22. Stalin reputedly said ‘This creature softened my heart of stone. She’s died and with her have died my last warm feelings for humanity.’  Stalin allowed her funeral to take place in an Orthodox church despite his atheism.

Our first visit would be to another church, the chapel of the Virgin at Barakoni in the village of Tsesi built in 1753.

The grass around the church is still cut with a scythe.




Barakoni Chapel (Interior)

The church was closed and desecrated under the Bolshevik rule. It suffered further damage, though not serious, in the 1991 Racha earthquake, but was quickly repaired.

After Barakoni we took a long unpaved muddy track up into the Khikhata range to the church of St George in the mountain village of Mravaldzali. The views over to the peaks of Svaneti were awesome. We passed another vehicle, whose driver suggested we had just another 2km to travel, half an hour later we finally reached Mravaldzali church. Nika’s driving was exemplary.

The interior of the church felt holy. A sanctuary from the outside world.


Khato prays at an icon in Mravaldzali Church.

We didn’t stay long at the church and returned along the muddy track admiring the view until we came out by the River Rioni.


River Rioni

Then, as is the Georgian custom another supra, I sat out most of this feast, my stomach is not Georgian.


Supra by the roadside sheltered from the rain.

We finally got on the road home at 9pm, arriving in Tbilisi around 1 am.


A trip to Racha: Day 1

Tbilisi is stiflingly hot in July, it seemed like a good time to head to the cooler mountainous regions of Georgia. This trip was taken over two days with “აბოდიალებულები” (which roughly translates as “the wanderers”) in a Mercedes Sprinter driven by Nika. We met at Marjanshvili for an early 7.10pm start (true to form this was later than the scheduled 6.30pm).


Welcome to Racha!

Racha is a highland area in Western Georgia. Our first stop was by the scenic Shaori Reservoir. It would be even more scenic if previous visitors hadn’t left their litter.


Ana and Khato by the Shaori Reservoir.

After a short pause by the water, it was back in the minibus to visit Nikortsminda Cathedral, originally built in the reign of Bagrat III in the 11th Century,  the inner walls are painted with frescoes dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.



Continuing the religious theme we went on to visit the ruins of the monastery complex at  Chelishi, which involved a short walk along a very muddy path.

After the monastery we ventured to the source of the Sharaula River. This path involved negotiating some piping; Khato had no problems with this, I managed okay (although I was fearful my legs might start shaking, like on my third failed driving test)  but some of our party needed a helping hand.

The source of the river proved a photo opportunity for some of the group to pose with the “Adrenalin Hiking Club” banner. You can check out their Facebook page here : Adrenalin Hiking Club Facebook Page

After the source of the Sharaula, it was time to find an ice cave, which was cool in both sense of the word.


Ice Cave

We finished the day with a dip in the reservoir for the brave.

Khato takes a dip in the reservoir

Khato in the Shaori Reservoir (photo by Ana Xurcidze)

Then made our way to a guest house in Ambrolauri for the obligatory Georgian supra (feast).


I left the supra at 11pm, but many of the Georgians more conditioned to such feasting, continued toasting each other, eating and drinking until 3am.

Continued: A trip to Racha: Day 2