Had mesothelioma not cut short your life in 2016, today we would have been celebrating your 75th birthday. As it is, today we're marking six years since you died and tomorrow, the anniversary of your funeral when family, friends and neighbours came together to celebrate your life.
I haven't been able to meet up with family and friends much these last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic which effectively closed down the world for a lot of the time. Barriers came up between countries and "stay at home" and "self-isolate" instructions were issued within countries.
Two years on and Coronavirus is still with us. However, it feels like life is adapting to a new normal and that is largely due to the roll out of vaccines, one of which was developed here in Oxford on the same medical campus where you took part in so many clinical trials for mesothelioma. How wonderful is that?
Double jabbed and boosted (but taking sensible precautions like mask wearing where appropriate and washing/sanitising hands as and when necessary) I started venturing out into the big wide world last autumn. Initially visiting places around the UK to get my photography mojo working again and enjoy a change of scenery, and more recently to Spain when the opportunity came up to stay in a place I have long wanted to visit - the Muralla Roja (Red Wall) in Calpe where we visited together many years ago.
I think you would have loved Muralla Roja as much as I did. The place lends itself to the sort of graphic images you created! Inspired by you, I'm hoping to produce a set of prints myself, based on the architectural abstract images I took while I was there...
While in the area, I wandered round Calpe old town exploring the narrow streets and historic buildings. Emerging from a narrow passage and turning a corner, I found myself in a small square, bounded by the whitewashed walls of a church, with a couple of tall cypress trees reaching up into the blue sky and a bench lit up by a shaft of sunlight. And I was transported back in time. We had sat on that bench many years ago to rest our feet and drink water. I can remember you taking some photos of the cypress trees against the whitewashed walls and blue sky. You made one of those photos into a greetings card; I still have one.
I must admit, I had one of those moments...sitting on the bench alone where I had sat with you many years ago. The tears welled up and I was glad to be wearing sunglasses! But it was lovely to experience such a happy memory, so vividly.
All being well, I'll be traveling again soon to Paris, Athens and Andalusia in the spring, and a photography road trip along Scotland's North Coast 500 in the autumn. And I hope very much, in between these trips abroad, to visit family and friends in the UK that I haven't seen in person since lockdown started in 2020. Lots of catching up to do, covid and wars permitting...
In other news, our son Jack is still living here with me for the time being - what we thought would be a short temporary arrangement in the first lockdown has gone on much longer than anticipated...but he'll be moving on soon, back to London to live with his fiancé, Laura. Yep! You read that right - he's engaged! It's been a delight to welcome Laura into the family. I know you would have got on well. So sad you will never meet each other, but so happy for both of them!
Our daughter Katie and husband Davie have moved back to Oxford and now live within walking distance, close enough to meet up easily/be around if needed, but far away enough to be independent. Perfect! You would be proud of all the work they have put into doing up their new house - it looks great. Katie has certainly inherited your design skills.
As for me...after "retiring" twice already, I'm going to do it again at the end of this year - finally leaving the planning profession as I step down from the Guernsey Planning Panel in December. Time for some new blood for the Panel I think, and a new challenge for me, maybe...
...After 15 months or so of letting my camera gather dust, I picked it up again in earnest as I started traveling last autumn. My photographs have been well received where I've shared them, been published and awarded on 1x.com, received a special mention in the Travel Photographer of the Year Competition and been featured in this month's edition of X-posure Photography magazine which is devoted to female photographers..
As I write, it's just under a week until the launch of Shot By Women, an image library which promotes the female gaze in the world of editorial and commercial photography. I've signed up as a contributor and was thrilled to be one of their featured photographers recently, promoting the launch of the platform.
How it all pans out, we'll just have to wait and see...but it's exciting to be in at the start of something different and a bit special!
Last but not least, our memorial to you...We thought you should be remembered with an artwork of some description and ended up choosing to contribute to a "human sundial" to be installed at Osney Lock Hydro, a green energy scheme on the Thames near where we live, that we both supported. The sundial is a set of mosaic numbers and pictures of local wildlife set into the ground in front of the Hydro building. The "hand" of the sundial is made by someone standing on a central mosaic platform so that their shadow points to one of the numbers to tell the time.
It's a beautiful original artwork that will eventually be accessible to the public. I was invited to get involved with the central platform where the human stands to cast a shadow. I helped the mosaic artist with the design which centred on a depiction of the sun and also cut, laid and stuck the first piece of tile in the centre of the sun. I'm not sure whether I was a help or a hindrance (it's not something I'd done before!) but I was invited to return for a few more sessions working on the central platform, so hopefully I improved as I went along.
All the mosaic panels are now completed and installed, and we're waiting for a date for the grand opening which had been postponed due to the pandemic. Maybe next year I can share a photo to show the sundial in action! For now, here's a couple of iPhone shots of the work in progress and in situ. I do hope you think it a fitting way to remember you.
Until next year, all being well xx