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Posts tagged ‘Death’

Coup de Cœur – Part Nine: And don’t be afraid of the dark

An occasional series chronicling the tale of the restoration of a former medieval watch-tower in southern France …..

It is Monday and the observant among you will note that I have missed two Monday’s in my quest to populate each start of the week day with posts about Marcolès.  The gloaters will be congratulating themselves that I had entirely misjudged the calendar.  In my world there are no excuses but I do allow reasons.  Simply put, the first of the missed Mondays was Christmas Day and, to be entirely frank, I rather thought that you might be otherwise occupied in your own  frenzy of something or other.  It happens I was engaged with my own Christmas thing and if you behave reasonably decorously, I might even share the detail.  I fully intended, however, to start the year with a zip bang boom and publish Part Nine on New Year’s Day.  Things, however, reasons indeed can occur with quite breathtaking force and this year, last year as it is now, that is exactly what happened.

My friend John let me know.   Our mutual friend, who some of you will have known as ‘Pan’ was  found dead on 30th December where she had been lying for two full days with her faithful dog Stewie next to her in a motel room in Maine.  I broke down in selfish, desperate, angry tears.  I cannot do better than John’s tribute to her, nor the words later written by my friend Embeecee so I am not going to write a tribute to one of the smartest, sweetest, kindest, most genuine, faithful, loyal friends I will ever have. I was humbled by her lifestyle.  She drove a huge truck  wherein her company had modified the tractor so that she had a tiny weeny kitchen in which she created real food and she lived, when not in the cab of her lorry off-grid in the farthest reaches of Maine and was building what she dubbed her ‘She Shed’ with her own bare hands.  She was nothing short of inspirational and should have been a mascot for the millennial trendies who, rightly tout all sorts of ways that we can improve the impact we have on this increasingly throttled and tattered planet of ours.  The fact that her footprint or at least her tyre-tracks were mighty was a result of delivering all the stuff that those same entitled, possibly deluded but at least affecting responsible folks needed, wanted, in all weathers, in all conditions and mostly not  kind, spoke volumes to me of whom she was.  We can and should have feminist icons but the real heroines are just quietly getting on with what is needed and topping it off with a smile.  That was Linda.   So I will not write a tribute, no.  Instead I dedicate not just this episode but every single one in the series past and future to the memory of a woman gone wholly too soon, who had no idea just how rare a mind she was, who was generous to beyond a  fault, who was modest and self-depracating who was wise and who gently councelled me as the big sister I never had.  Ridiculously and genuinely modest, she was far more concerned with the welfare of those she cared for than for herself.  We met over a blackberry cream scone that she had invented.  Blackberry will always be my go-to taste of all that is good in humankind hereafter.   She had set herself to help with another project I have upcoming.  Her reason for offering was so that my husband and I would have more time together.  Selfless?  She defined it.  We fully intended to surpise her with a visit to Marcolès when it is finished.  Her life finished too soon … sometimes I get pretty damned fed up and find it ridiculously difficult if not impossible to find the purpose in the way things are.

One of the last comments she left on this series (Part Seven actually) contained the words ‘you know your photos are art, right?’  They actually aren’t – I come from the little lauded myopic point and shoot school of photography.  But.  She had an idea that I could produce a book of my pictures and words which the  tourist industry of Cantal could use to promote the area.  There she was again – always thinking of the other person, people, never considering herself.  So I think that a walk round the village and it’s surrounds is the best homage I could pay to her memory.

Here is Linda’s  Marcolèsian walk crafted with great love and an aching heart.  There are no pictures of our house and there is no commentary – you can make it up yourself as she would have, rather let’s just stroll the place that she would have seen when she graced Marcolès with her extraordinarily unassuming presence.

PS – because there is always a PS and Linda would be disappinted if I omitted it …. the title is from a song.  A song that was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for their œuvre ‘Carousel’.  But the relevance is that Gerry and The Pacemakers recorded ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in the early sixties.  Gerry and his P’s were from Liverpool, the song became the anthem of Liverpool through thick and thin – it is sung jubilantly at football matches and desperately in times of strife.  HB² (my husband) is Scouse (from Liverpool) and Linda, a woman who researched and upturned every fact that she could about just about anything, was delighted that he came from the land of the Merseybeat.  She got to know what he does for a living through our friendship and her own independent research and was questioning of articles she found in the press as a result.  That was the way she was.  Intelligent and inquiring, she instinctively researched and in fact held  many theories that my husband adheres to.  She would tell you she was not particularly bright.  I would argue she was among the most brilliant stars that have graced my galaxy.  And that of my fêted husband. And, here’s the thing, he agrees.  This song, written to illustrate the moment of moving on from this earth to another place seems highly appropriate.  Walk on, Linda, walk on, with hope in  your heart – I know I will never walk alone because you were, and are my friend, my true true friend.

The featured image for this post, was her favourite of all I ever posted about this place that would have adored her and I wish she was here to make it so.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Oscar Hammerstein/Richard Rodgers

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun

It is with an aching heart that I write these few lines. Terry of Spearfruit, who many of you knew and admired, died yesterday afternoon at home with Gary, his husband, at his side.

I am so grateful to Kerry for letting me know by email and for Jodi for posting the sorrowful news in the comment section of Terry’s very last post.

I need not write any more except to acknowledge the numbing pain that Gary must be feeling and to send a heart-full of love to him and to all those close to Terry.

Sleep well, dear friend, at peace and released from your suffering. I’ll be eating cupcakes and ice-cream with you this afternoon even though the sky is suddenly gushing wet, fat, appropriate tears, as I type.


I would like to dedicate these words to Gary:

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W H Auden

And this one is for you, Terry:

And for everyone who loved Terry:

PS: Because there is always a PS. The picture was taken in Concorde MA a year to the day before Terry took his quiet and sombre leave of us. A year ago we were planning to meet in Massachusetts where Gary was raised. One. Short. Year ago. We none of us know what is ahead, behind the railings, round the corner, through the gate, in the next field. So in honour of this most dignified of men, I ask everyone to celebrate what they have, and to cherish every moment of this little life we are granted. Terry was the same age as me.

One shaft of light that shows the way

There are few inalterable facts in life but the one constant that we all have to adhere to is that one day we will die.  What comes after that is up for debate and despite an abiding interest in philosophy which promotes an interest in religious teachings from all belief systems,  I don’t profess to have any finite or valuable answers.  Therefore I think that it is hugely important to LIVE a life.  In this one single life that I will assume I have until some bearded or loinclothed but surely extremely sage bloke sends me back for another go it has to be what I adhere to.  By living a life I don’t mean indulging in excesses, I simply mean not wasting valuable time looking back because another inalterable fact is that we can’t change the past.  This week two things have put that notion of mine into sharp focus.

The first is the death of a beautiful lady not ever a close friend nor even actually a relative though we would have considered ourselves family for complicated reasons that are not mine to bore you with here.  She died on Monday, she was the same age as me and I can think of no sound reason why she should have been taken relatively young.  That’s the nature of life and death …. they have no real sense when you distil then to their meanest dregs.  All I know is that it is harsh on her husband and her children and her family and her friends and I grieve for them whilst selfishly collecting myself and giving myself a sharp reminder that life is fragile and I have little and probably no control over its end point.

The second is the fact that next Thursday (24th November) marks the 25th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death.  I remember what I was doing when I got the news.  I remember my body entirely giving way in discreetly Streatley (-on-Thames) as I caved in, sobbing the great overwhelming, body racking sobs of a person who felt a hole had been punched in the world.  His was a death that effected me.  Let me shed a little light on that.  Apart from being, with a huge proportion of the world, a fan of his music, his voice and showmanship, I had the privilige of working for Queen in the early 1980s.  In those days not so far away, and this shocks my daughters, we were not allowed to acknowledge that he was Gay.  We had a public story and we stuck to it.  Things really have changed in those three decades and it is a huge mistake to say we have not progressed.  We have.  And Fred did much to influence that change.  By the time he died less than a decade later, the world was openly comfortable with his sexuality and it had not remotely been detrimental to record sales in the way that those that managed his career had been fearful it would be those few short years earlier.

When I left it was in the fine style of an arrogant little madam.  I had categorically made my fine mind up that the dinosaurs that dubbed themselves Queen had had their day and anyway, they were quite clearly underpaying me.  They called a meeting.  Fred was sent downstairs to speak to me.  I stood as he descended the stairway – one just did, it wasn’t demanded but his presence was so dynamic and it was somehow compellingly correct to rise even for a modish and edgy avante garde force such as me. ‘I hear you want to leave us’ he said having stepped backwards up two steps of the same staircase to speak to me eye to eye (I’m brushing 6′ and wore stilettoes with my drainpipe jeans or rara skirts and  he, like so many extraordinarily large personas was actually not at all a tall man) ‘won’t you stay’.  ‘I don’t WANT to leave’, I countered ‘it’s simply a question of money’ … it was a slight of hand that any member of The Magic Circle would be justifiably proud …. I barely realised his hand had extended and grasped mine as he shook it firmly and equally firmly said ‘it’s been such a pleasure to have you as part of our team’.  Lesson learned … never try to use money as a bargaining device even if you know the collective wealth of your employers is stellar and, as I was to learn just two years later, never EVER underestimate a authentic star.  I was in the VIP enclosure at Wembley as he walked on stage on 13th July 1985 to lead Queen’s set for Live  Aid.  I looked at his face and I said to my neighbour (who I didn’t know from Adam or Eve) ‘he’s going to OWN this baby’ …. I don’t think anyone will ever argue that little nugget with me.

It happens that this 24th November which quite incomprehensibly marks a quarter of a whole century since this remarkable, vibrant and nonsensically talented human left the earth is also Thanksgiving Day in the USA and given that I will actually, for the first time, be here in the US for this momentous day and given that whatever petty nonsense may affect my life either day to day or policitally, I am ALIVE I will personally be giving thanks for the life I have, for the life I share and for the sheer joy that alive should bring.  I will not be presumptuous enough to forget that for many it is hard to be thankful but I will hope that all can at least find cheer in the rising and setting of the sun and the fact that there is air to breathe.  Death comes to us all and when it does there is no moment to regret the moments that you forgot to be thankful.  So I implore you to put politics aside, squish ill-will, banish anxiety about things you can’t fix and just be the best version of you that you can be.  Not just on Thursday but throughout your days, however many they may be.

This is my entry to the gallery entiled ‘Magic’ as hosted by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – here are the enchanting others for you to delight in.


PS:  The title is from a Queen song ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’ which was actually written by their drummer, Roger Taylor for the soundtrack of the film Highlander – we both attended the Premier but I’ve taken up far to much of your time already so that story will have to wait for another day ….

The picture was taken on Cape Cod the day before the Supermoon shone as dazzling as sunlight … it amused me that it was sitting silent-sweetly in the sky behind us as we focussed all our efforts on the setting of the sun, seemingly waiting for the perfect moment to pinch the glory from its effervescent brother. 

And here, because you knew I would, is your bonus:

You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming

Spring!  The very sound has excitement embossed on it … it has sprung, it springs – it evokes newness, freshness, joy.   This is my first Spring here and it has leapt out of the shadows and entirely taken my breath away.  Driving North-East towards Lyon a couple of weeks ago I was overcome with the most curious sentation.  It took a little while to understand what it was that  was confusing my eyes.  It was colour!  Vivid new colour – green of course, yellows,mauves, pinks all baudily vying with one another for centre-stage.  At that point in Cantal, high up as we are,very exposed in places, nothing much was happening.


The trees were still sleeping and the palette of hues was all taupe and grey with only the bravest flowers and those in the most sheltered spots showing their faces.  Even though the temperature was warm (heading up to and above 70 degrees in the village which is only 500 m up and sheltered all around by the high hills), the plants were showing due caution.  Roll on two and a half weeks and everything has burst forth … vibrant green, abundant flowers, heaps of blossom.  The beeches are tardy, of course but then they always like to save the best til last!  Of course in village gardens there were flowers, blossom on trees, the mad fools that are magnolia showing off.  Mad fools because invariably they expose themselves only to be frosted out resulting in sad oily brown remnants of flowers on the ground.   but what takes my breath away is the sudden explosion in fields and woods.  The wild stuff roaring in.

With the colour come the baby animals.  They have been there, of course, for a while.  The calves in the more sheltered areas out in the fields but many still contained in their byres.  The lambs likewise protected from the likelihood of frost and more snow.  The horses – the local Auvergne breed sometimes deep bay but more often flaxen-maned and fake tanned to rival any high maintenance Footballers wife, and the Percherons whose babies are born black of white parents – the horses are foaling and the bambi-legged young are finding their feet in the uneven pastures.

Cows in fieldDSCF5811

Driving back from Aurillac with my friend Isa, having triumphantly obtained the Carte Grise for my car now formally French, he begged for a Gaelic name to celebrate – he – because my cars are always boys – is a bright yellow Ibiza Sport … and is now resplendent in the monicker ‘Franck’,  we watched a truck with the co-driver taking in the snow poles.  ‘Fin de la neige’ she declared and then laughed when I asked if that really does mean the end of it … it can snow in May here but it seems less and less likely as we stride purposefully towards summer.


And amongst all the newness, all that new life, all those skipping jumping Spring-ing babies one has walked out of our lives.  When I moved here it was with a single dog.  But the founding member of the dog-pack that the girls and I shared our lives with for years, the gracious, wise and unyeildingly gentle Tally who had stayed behind, the fear being that she wouldn’t make the journey, nor thrive at her great age (14 human which is 98 dog) to look after my elderly mother, decided that a new Spring was a Spring too far.  She went with dignity and quietude.  But I am certain that when she crossed into the  next place she found Achilles and Hector, the whippet and the don’t-know-what that we aquired from the Dogs Home when she was three and welcomed burglars into our house while we slept upstairs – even showing them where the fridge was so that they could have a snack before they denuded us of anything instantly fencible up the M40 in Tottenham.  She never barked.  Barking was not something she cared to master (unusual for a labrador) though twice she startled herself when a deep bellow emanated from her at the sight and sound of a clearly threatening hot air balloon overhead.  She will also have found Joshy, my parent’s last dog – a feisty tri-colour collie who once rescued through the Dog Trust lived seemingly for ever earning him the knick-name ‘the indestructable Josh-machine’  And with them she will have found my father – the girls papa who will at this moment be stoically attempting to order the dogs on a chaotic walk.  Tally will help him.  The boys will be running in every direction as he shouts vainly at them – gentle man, they knew he would never, could never hurt them.


Being a labrador, she of course had Prader Willi Syndrome and never ever knew that she was full of food. A bowl-full of food would be hoovered up in seconds flat and moments later she would look at you accusingly, silently saying ‘I do believe it might be supper time’.  She put up with The Bean who would often spend hours lying on her back, she allowed countless children to roll around and pull her ears, she counselled troubled teens, both her own and the endless streams of visitors those chaotic years were marked by.  She was our sense in a senseless world, our rock steady tiller, our lumbering graceless friend and we miss her. So today, as I spend a solitary Easter Day with no chocolate eggs, no Easter Bunny and just The Bean for company, I will smile when the Bells ring out because somewhere out there, watching over us all, is the old girl who moved over to give the new babies a turn.

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PS:  The title is courtesy of Pablo Neruda