“I vow that to my last breath I’m going to fight and be positive — not because it will cure me but because it will make sure that really, in the end, I won.” Ismena Clout
A very special evening ahead and with perfect timing there was just enough time to meet up with my friend Kelly for a spot of bubbles at my bench in Berkeley Square.
and, of course, the obligatory ‘selfie’
Such a lovely visit with my friend Susie today and as I drove back home through London I realised that it as high time I stopped off for a few minutes peace and quiet at my bench in Berkeley Square.
Ooh I love this place. And so very kind of the City of Westminster to put a new glass sculpture in the Square.
For quite some time we’ve had a date blocked in our diaries and a table booked for a dinner at The Square in Mayfair. A foodie evening with wonderful company. Each and every dish was utterly incredible. The food delectable and delicious. Lots of satisfied sounds coming from our table whilst we ate each and every morsel from our plates.
BUT before we headed to the restaurant we met at my bench in Berkeley Square. I so love meeting friends and family at my bench and sharing my favourite place with them. I also love bubbles… hehe and for this group we needed a super large bottle!
You’ve heard me talk before about my lovely friend, Tish. Today I heard the news that she passed away yesterday morning. My world just got a little bit darker.
Tish came into my life a few years ago when we both attended a charity ball in Brighton raising funds to build a new Macmillan Support Centre (Splash of Green). The ball was (and has been annually since) organised by a mutual friend, Della. Della had put Tish and I on the same table along with Lindsay and Kerry. We had a blast. We laughed and giggled the evening away and became great friends.
I wrote about our little trip to Brighton. We had a hoot. What I didn’t tell you. I didn’t know how. Was that Kerry passed away last November. We didn’t get the chance to celebrate her 40th birthday with her. I’m sure Kerry loved the planning and plotting on our trip to Brighton though. Tish and I visited my bench in Berkeley Square and raised a glass to Kerry to wish her a happy birthday.
My bench in Berkeley Square has featured a great deal with Tish and I over the past year or so. We’ve visited it together and separately. I’ve loved that I get a text from Tish saying she’s there. She needed space and somewhere to think and has headed to my bench. I’ve loved that she found sanctity on my bench too. I’ve loved that she’s celebrated there with me also.
I can’t believe that a year and a few days after Kerry’s passing, I’m here writing this now about Tish’s passing.
Tish has celebrated the great things with me and also the not so great things. We’ve met up before or after medical appointments. Texted, called or sent a card to say that we’re thinking of each other at a time of scanxiety or treatment. I think we ‘got’ each other. Despite being in each other’s lives for such a relatively short time, she was truly a great friend.
In recent months when she’s not been so well, I’ve spent time with her in hospital receiving chemo or visited her when she’s been staying ‘overnight’. We’ve met up in town when she’s having appointments. We’ve put the world to right face to face. Lately because of fluid on her lungs, we’ve ‘talked’ more by text. Long lengthy texts that I’m sure our mobile providers love the cost of. We’ve exchanged cards and postcards. We’ve encouraged, supported, motivated and loved.
Tish showed me many things in our short friendship. Her generosity of spirit. Her incredibly positive attitude. Her endless love. Her ability to plan for a future. To take life and give it a jolly good shakeup.
For example, last year when she was told her ovarian cancer had recurred. She did what any crazy fun loving, life living person would do… booked a trip to Australia! One of Tish’s sisters lives in Australia and had got married in Mexico. Tish had been to the wedding and had met a man there, Dave. He lived in Perth. Tish said it was crazy timing and crazy to think that anyone should come into her life now. Her month in Australia was made all the better by a truly caring and thoughtful man. He visited a few months ago and was planning to come over here for Christmas. I’m so terribly grateful that Tish had this love in her life again. Despite his living so far away, he was always in touch with her and obviously cared deeply for her.
Tish has always believed that she can help her health by maintaining a positive energy, meditating, eating well and with nutrition to help fight cancer and keep her cancer-free. Dave supported her in this and she attended many meditation classes and events in Perth. She came back from Australia really stunning the medics and proving once again that she can beat this dreadful disease.
Life sort of took over recently with trying to sort out finances and thinking about selling her flat. We talked about some of the stresses in her life that were now pushing ‘Tish’ time out and the importance of putting it all back together again. Tish booked into the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre a few months ago. I talked about my going at the same time but decided that we both needed to talk about things separately. She took her great friend Maxine. Tish came back refreshed and ready to renew her positive spirit once more. Tish urged me to book myself into Penny Brohn. I’m now supremely grateful that she did and off there very soon.
I can’t imagine the pain and loss that is being experienced by her daughter, her parents, her siblings and Dave. No parent should lose a child, at any age. No young girl should have to deal with the loss of her parent.
Just one final word.
Tish I’m incredibly grateful and thankful for you to have been a part of my life. You’ve taught me much more than you could every know. I shall miss you dreadfully and right now don’t know who’s going to put my world right. Who will I text with tidbits of crazy news? Thank you for your support, love, laughter and encouragement.
Whilst away at the European Sarcoma Conference I knew something wasn’t right. I think I knew that Tish would be protecting me whilst I was overseas. She fully supported my being involved in conferences, boards, cancer networks etc so wouldn’t want to burden me whilst I was abroad. But I’ve had this dreadful feeling all day. Below is a (long) text message I sent to a friend:
“I need to run something by you. I don’t know that you’ll understand nor that I’ll be able to tell you all I need to say but I need to know I’ve tried and need to know you’ve listened.
You may remember me talking about the ‘champagne and shoe’ girls. A little band of cancer warriors, Kerry, Letitia and I. Kerry and Tish had ovarian cancer and I was introduced to them quite some time ago but we hit a chord and just ‘got it’, ‘got each other’. No matter how bleak a prognosis or indeed how bleak we felt, we’ve been able to spark each other, support one another, have a laugh and look beyond.
This time last year Kerry passed away. I had the call from Tish at this conference in Berlin and my heart broke just a little bit more. Kerry was always so strong. We had a giggle. We both enjoyed bubbles and we also enjoyed the same shoe collection and spent an hour or several trying on new pairs.
But Kerry was truly Tish’s support. They both had the same diagnosis and a similar prognosis. Tish and I have been close this last year and there have been many times when she’s been feeling down or I have, we’ve met up, put the world to rights and left back in our positive places. Some times we’ve not managed to meet but talk by text. Tish has been very poorly but after living her life and going to Australia embraced life once more and foiled the experts with a change in her prognosis once again.
She’s recently taken a turn for the worst and I saw her last a few weeks ago when she was a shadow of her former self but still had a smile and a hug for me.
She was admitted again to hospital a week or so ago and we’ve texted. The last texts written by her 22yo daughter last night.
I don’t know what to do. I’m being told by text that she’s weak but ok. But I fear the worst. Selfishly. Wonder how I’m going to cope without my rock to meet with at my bench or text or talk with. Somehow the world is so much better when Tish makes it better.
I’m so scared and don’t want to be the last champagne and shoe girl here. They both had a husband or daughter in their lives and I don’t. It makes no sense.
I’ve got a couple of missed calls and voicemails on my mobile but my PIN number doesn’t work so can’t pick them up… Please tell me they’re from you?
Not really sure if I’ll send this or if you’ll read it… Or what I want from writing it. I just know I want Tish to prove them all wrong and grow old being cantankerous and naughty with me.”
The bench next to mine in Berkeley Square arrived a few weeks afterward and we sat side by side on the left hand side of the pathway. I often wonder who John F Duggan was and have tried to find out. I’d love to know who else loved Berkeley Square as much as I still do.
Today however I noticed there was a poem stuck to the back of his bench.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Whatever we were to each other that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always did.
Laugh as we always laughed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before,
Better infinitely happier and forever we will all be together with God.
I would love to know who he was. Anyone?
Christmas day year was to be an individual affair. I had decided to make the most of a beautifully quiet Londontown.
This picture was taken of Wandsworth Common on Christmas Eve. Usually there are lots of children being walked or pushed around the common. People walking dogs in clusters of yummy mummys. Oh and the endless stream of people out jogging or working out with their personal trainers or even being put through their paces under the guidance of Military Fitness trainers. But today, just a few leaves blowing in the breeze and a couple of lucky seagulls seeking some food.
In the good old days, Sundays in central London were quiet and peaceful. You could walk through town without marauding crowds of shoppers. The pavements were your own and there was a silence in parts of London that is almost impossible to recreate in 2012. There was always something so wonderful about wrapping up warm and stomping through the streets of London on a blustery winter day, turning corners into little nooks of London that you’ve never taken the time to see before. Or on a rainy day, going out in wellies and spending the day jumping on and off pavements into puddles (much to the amusement of the rare passer-by). Now I suspect I’d be run over by the traffic or worse, locked up for splashing a passing car with my puddle-jumping!
So this Christmas Day I decided to attempt to recapture MY London. I wanted to spend some time at my bench in Berkeley Square and reflect on the year that’s been and the year to come. I wanted to discover yet more of London’s secrets. I wanted get lost in my own thoughts for the day whilst being surrounded by the splendour of London.
I headed into town and parked in Berkeley Square. Did I mention before how much I love this place? Truly, my perfect spot. Blissfully quieter than normal with only the odd ‘vroom’ of a taxi or Aston Martin zipping round the Square… but enough to add to the ambiance without disturbing my quiet. I was pleased to note that there were others enjoying the Square. A couple walking through, all dressed up and I suspect off to a grand Christmas luncheon somewhere. Another single gentleman of a certain age, sitting and contemplating. We nodded to one another a while later as he set off on his way.
After an hour or so I ventured in search of a Boris Bike rack. I thought it’d be a great time to attempt a Boris Bike in London. Less chance of killing myself or, indeed, taking out others on pavements, cyclepaths and roadways! It’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike, well more than a while actually.
I really hadn’t accounted for the others that had had a similar idea as I. I had to go to 3 different racks to find one with a bike for rent! You see, unlike the ‘way it was’, Christmas Day in Londontown was actually quite busy. Shops were even open. Not just coffee shops or restaurants but retail shops. I truly cannot put into words how disappointed I was to see them open. Surely there’s no need? Surely everyone has their Christmas shopping complete and tourists wouldn’t mind a quiet London and a day without shops for one day?
However once I was in the saddle (so to speak), and on my way, I could lose the tourists. It was simple, I did what I do best – discover the little streets, the side alleys, the incy little places that in a sensible moment I shouldn’t venture in the dark… however it was daytime and a delight. I spent my journey with my nose in the air looking up at newly discovered buildings, new secrets, new windows, new architecture (all new to me but which had been there for centuries before).
London really is an awesome place when you get away from the tourists and the high street shops. It’s like an always giving gift, if only we took the time to open our eyes and look.
PS My bestest Christmas present was chosen and gifted by my nephew. When I spoke to him this morning and opened the present on the phone, he said it was so he could be with me all the time. I just love that boy x
Love love that friends visiting the UK over the Christmas season are sending me messages to meet up at my bench for bubbles. I’m not sure quite what the offices workers in Berkeley Square think of this bird drinking bubbles at a Berkeley Square bench with so many people!