I was going to save some of this news for my actual newsletter but I want to keep everyone in the loop as to what has been going on.
First of all Dear Tosh has been shortlisted in The Selfies Book Award in the Autobiography and Memoir category. I am so thrilled about this and look forward to hearing the results next Tuesday 5th April. Watch this space only don’t hold your breath.
Secondly the lovely Clemmie Telford featured my list on her website ‘Mother of all Lists‘ and I had the most amazing response on Instagram with many people saying how much they could relate to the things I wrote. Especially those who have suffered adult child bereavement or sibling bereavement. I was overwhelmed by their comments and the love that poured out. You can read it here if you haven’t already.
Newsletter will be out next week and it will be coming from France! (If we ever get packed!)
Last weekend was the Gorf Jam. An annual event since we lost Tosh. Some of the graffiti artists from around the Westcountry, some friends and family gather together to paint a wonderful tribute, usually a variation of his tag, GORF which is FROG backwards. This year was the tenth anniversary of Tosh’s death and they painted on a legal site.
This year was the first time I had actually attended the event. There are a couple of reasons why: for many years we were still living in Italy and it wasn’t practical to get over to the UK, usually it’s in January, as close to the anniversary of his death as possible (bit cold for me) and lastly I wasn’t sure I could really handle meeting up with his friends and contemporaries, watching them do the very thing that Tosh loved — I thought I would find it all too emotional.
Well, this year, The Man and I made it! It was emotional there’s no doubt about that. It was a lovely sunny day last Saturday so I couldn’t make the cold weather an excuse. Finally, we now live in Dorset so not far to travel.
What surprised us both, The Man and me, was the incredible talent of all the painters. We arrived around 11.30am and they had been there since 10 and incidentally didn’t finish until after 4pm! Each piece of graffiti was still in its early stages of creation when we got there. We watched them work. They had some ideas written on small pieces of paper, or on their phones, which they carefully transposed onto the wall of the tunnel — We were at St Werburgh’s tunnel in Bristol. This year there were four main painters plus Tosh’s brothers, sister and nieces and a few friends too, who all enjoyed a little paint. I declined to have a go…not sure why and now, of course, I wish I had daubed something alongside the others.
The artists prepared the wall first by painting over anything already there with enormous amounts of emulsion paint, giving them a ‘blank canvas’ if you like, from which to start. Gradually the images built up with the most amazing skill. Each layer bringing more depth and more texture. I’m no expert at explaining art but the whole process was impressive.
The Man could not get over how one guy painted straight lines with a roller and not a plumb line or any other kind of guide for him to follow. Another artist could fashion a pretty perfect circle. I’m not going to write any more about it, but will post as many pictures as I can. With thanks to all the painters, Halo, Instaminto, Tomo and Ronny Oner — and I’m so in awe of your work. ❤️
I’m sure that millions of couples are celebrating their love today and that’s all fine, but, spare a thought for those who are alone either because they’ve lost the person closest to them for any number of reasons… or there isn’t anyone special right now. The Man and I don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s day because we think it’s all commercial garbage and we reaffirm our feelings all through the year, not just on February 14th. That’s how it should be, we think. I didn’t know the origins of Valentine’s Day so I ‘googled’ and found this and this and a whole lot more but it’s all a bit confused and quite unromantic to say the least. Take a look for yourselves.
Enjoy your day and maybe knock on the neighbours door if they’re alone and need a cheery greeting…but don’t buy your red roses until tomorrow….when they’ll be at least half the price!
Let’s send our love to those on their own
And blow them a kiss and a light.
To shine like a pearl and give strength
In their hearts all through today and tonight
Let’s send good feelings to those who are lost
And give them our friendship to share
Take more than a minute today, to be sure,
That those less fortunate than you, know you care
Today, six years ago in 2011 our family dynamics changed forever. We lost Tosh at the age of 27. He was a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a cousin, and an uncle, all our lives were affected in different ways. Every day that goes by I think of him and a couple of months ago I wrote this poem, trying to capture some of the emotions I felt and still feel and I’m sharing it with you on this post.
It is not right
It should not be
That he has left, ahead of me.
He was not done
Nor finished all
Before he took that tragic fall
There’ll never be a wedding now
Or children in whose face I catch
Some semblance of the boy I’ve lost
I wish him back no matter cost
It’s better not to think this way
Of things he’ll never do or say
But just recall the good times had
Don’t dwell on minor things of bad
But then, I make him like a saint
This youth who loved to live and paint
On urban trains and midnight walls.
He didn’t heed friends’ warning calls
Or sirens from the boys in blue
He didn’t think their hearts were true
To him there was no wrong in graff
Sprawling images of this and that
Slashing authority’s senseless laws,
Fighting all the small man’s wars
Against the corporation greed
Upon whose profits politicians feed
He left behind some works of art
On streets, at home, and, in my heart
I know it was his destiny
To leave this world ahead of me.
Thomas Hartley November 30th 1983 – January 14th 2011
In Italy Easter is a pretty religious affair and why shouldn’t it be? I’m not religious but I can appreciate the faith of others. There will be processions and church services as well as eating and drinking. The people have put out some decorations in the town and Easter eggs are abundant. There isn’t the same variety here as in the UK but they do go in for big!
For us, as we tuck into our Easter Lunch this Sunday with our friends I know I will be thinking about all my family. My children are scattered all over the world, New York, Sydney, Cardiff and London. My husband’s two girls are in England. We miss them all during festive occasions.
Easter is a time of new beginnings, vivid bright colours break out through the dull misty mornings as daffodils, primroses and the fresh grass push up and burst into life. It’s a reminder of the cycle; birth, life and death. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you are in, we all start in the same place, proceed along the same path heading towards the same destination. It’s what you manage to achieve whilst you’re travelling that can make a difference.
I am lucky, I have had many diversions en route so feel that even if it all ends tomorrow I will have achieved some good stuff. But, at the same time, there are many things I still want to do. The Bucket List I think they call it! I want to write a novel (or two), see the Grand Canyon, travel around more of Italy and Sicily with my husband, spend more time with my family and well…there are tons of other things.
Easter lunch this year will be taken with fifteen friends who either live here in Italy, or who are frequent visitors. We are going to Parco Galeano, a local Agriturismo, which is a sort of farm holiday place where all the food seved is home grown or bought, I believe, within a ten kilometre radius. Parco Galeano is well known for its organic pork, the food will be delicious and very reasonably priced. There will be at least five courses! I’ll post the menu on Monday!
We’ll raise a glass to all our children and think about how lucky we are to have such a talented bunch. We’ll be thinking particularly of my son Thomas (Tosh) who left us in January 2011. We’ll be appreciating how much he achieved in his 27 years. I feel sometimes I shouldn’t mention him, as people can feel awkward. It’s a bit of a taboo subject, the loss of a child, but don’t be shy of speaking to anyone you know who’s lost their child at whatever age. Generally the bereaved parents like the opportunity to speak about their son or daughter because it keeps the memory alive and close.
Finally, and most important of all, we’ll be looking forward excitedly to the birth of the first grandchild in just over two weeks! The new addition to our family, our very own new beginning! I cannot wait…