LOVING the new and improved summer weather we’re having. Even if it only lasts a week, what a glorious week. Mo and I spent the whole day yesterday soaking up the sunshine (and sensible shade) on Peckham Rye, which was beautiful, lots of bees busily pursuing bee pursuits in the clover. Gorgeous day.
The lovely day was topped off by meeting two very wonderful friends of mine to see Play Without Words, which is an exquisitely beautiful dance production currently on at Sadler’s Wells. If you’re not usually a fan of dance, go anyway. This is a truly swirlingly delightful piece of theatre, mesmerising and wonderful and engrossing and thought provoking. Not perhaps in a deeply intellectual way, more in a sensual way. Go and see it. Now.
My wonderful old friend Dave (old as in length of friendship service, not in age…) originally known as Dave the Babe from university but we dropped the “the babe” part as he became embarrassed being introduced to a crowded room in this way. No idea why. Anyway I digress, my wonderful old friend Dave bought me tickets to go and see this fabulous production with him and his lovely boyfriend. It was partly simply a lovely thing to do on such a warmly lengthy long summer evening. But it was also a tribute to another great friend of ours, who died 8 years ago. Dave had been to see this play with Zoe 10 years ago when it was first on at the National, and so on seeing it appearing once more he thought I needed to see it too.
So it was an evening of new experiences, redolent of a great wonderful friend of mine who has been departed since 2004 but never quite gone from our lives. It made us both quite pensive and I was musing on my cycle home about the nature of loss, of friendship and love and how it affects you over time.
Zoe was my best friend from school, and one of my favourite and dearest people in the whole entire world ever. She was part of my formative life times, my side kick through the embarrassments and awkward traumas of late teens and early 20s, my confidante and partner in crime, a comedy duo sometimes unintentionally (once in a club we retired to the bar after a particularly enjoyable bout of dancing…to Return of The Mack, if memory serves… and a bloke came up to us and told us not to stop as we were making him laugh so much…). As I was reminded last night ruefully, there was a moment when I felt that I needed to break away from the “Zoe and Anya monster”, that we were too closely intwined and I had no identity separate from her and felt no one knew me apart from my best friend who accompanied me everywhere. And then she died, and this seems like a peculiarly decadent and silly thing to have ever thought, as now I am irrevocably without her, forever more.
Grief is a strange and almost perversely wonderfully alive sensation that sears through your being and changes you, alters your very fibres for the rest of your life. Just as having a baby changes you entirely, so does losing someone close and special to you. I am not sure how the nature of death particularly changes the reaction you have to it, but Zoe died in a sudden and strange way, in a DIY accident when she was attempting to drill holes in her house in Brixton. The bizarre nature of the accident made her death all the more pointless and ridiculous, and her loss even more tinged with the unfair.
But…it was 8 years ago, and you feel like with time the immediacy of losing someone close should maybe disappear. And of course it does, the intensity of grief of course goes away, it would have been an evolutionary mistake for who/whatever created humans to make it as raw and bitter forever – life does go on, time does absolutely heal. But, as Dave and I both experienced last night, we really, really wanted Zoe to be there with us with her joyful cackle and glistening eyes. She is still my best friend, and I am gutted that she will never get to be the self-proclaimed “bohemian mad auntie” to my children. There are still moments and situations where I feel like only Zoe is the person who would get what I was thinking and I’d just love to give her a call and chat about things, momentarily lift the departed label and bring her back just for that one moment and then I promise I’d let her go again…
So yesterday felt in its entirety like it was a sunny musical journey through my life, Mo and I met new mummy friends in the sunshine to revel in the present, then had an al fresco tumbling babies lunch with a friend from the past 6 years, then the summer night whisked me towards a great and dear old friend in a requiem to a beautiful beloved departed soul who would have been such a huge presence in Mo’s life had she still been around, and now present in her absence. I know that Mo would have loved Zoe, i can imagine her face lighting up and her smile spreading over her beautiful face as Mo reflected the joy back at her.
I soaked up the lovely evening with Dave and Gavin and cycled home with my cup of friendship brimming, reminiscing with a smile about the things that Zoe brought to my life and how she was just such a brilliant part of it for the lucky time that I had with her, the Anya and Zoe monster. I am reminded again of the Beatles song In My Life and how perfectly it expresses the intertwining of past, present and future. Play Without Words is also a beautiful depiction of how there are layers to your life, you have the present but there may be several layers like a tiramisu of emotions, memories and experiences that inform how you act and how you’re feeling in that present moment.
I allow myself to project forward fleetingly, and wish for Mo that he has the kind of amazing relationships that nurture his soul that I have been fortunate enough to concoct with my circle of friends and family.
The day that Zoe died, in the morning before it had happened I witnessed a car accident where a little boy was hit as he ran into the road (the mum in me shudders all the more now at the thought). He was ok, but everyone around was very shaken up. I sent a text to a few of my nearest and dearest that morning, saying “saw a boy hit by a car today. Take care of yourself you’re very special to me”. That was actually the last text I ever sent to Zoe. Sadly she didn’t take heed, the ninny, but it has since always made me stop and take stock of and appreciate the wonderful people in my life and make sure I tell them how great they are at regular intervals.
And on that note…another sunny day with friends and family and Mo beckons, so I will leave you to muse on the wonderful people in your life today!