Listen to me TODAY on the community radio station SheppeyFM talking about everything from community radio, the band Small Faces, my campaign work, and my family connection with the poet/writer Thomas Hardy. sheppeyfm.org.uk/
Well, here we are at the beginning of another year. Here goes my attempt to summarise, in monthly bite size pieces, my thoughts and ramblings on the variety of activities that seem to fill up my life these days.
It was really tough getting back into writing. This was partly due to me facing a number of family and friend's bereavement anniversaries that occur in the early part of the year, especially January.
The loss of my best friend Pauline Corcoran, who died on January 14th 2016 hit me pretty hard. We had known each other for over 50 years and I’m still finding it hard to accept that she’s not here. The last ten years since we re-connected we were in touch most days, either by text or via Facebook. So it is weird not to be able to pick up the phone to her and make arrangements for our regular get-togethers over lunch down in Margate where she lived.
I’ve written about Pauline a number of times before here on my website, but for those of you who don’t know, Pauline was the fan club secretary for the 60’s band the Small Faces. From the moment we first met at the fan club offices Pauline and I became best friends.
It has been my plan for a number of years now to tell our full story in book form and not confine it to the odd words in a blog. It is certainly worthy of the full monty!
The other loss in January was that of my eldest brother John who died on January 17th 2017. Out of all my siblings, I was closest to him, simply because he was our big brother. When I was a young girl he would care for me, for example, taking me to the dentist, holding my hand because I was scared, even though he hated medical stuff, especially needles. Or he’d treat me and take me to the cinema. As an adult he moved to South Africa with his wife Ann and two young children looking for a new life. But we always kept in touch and still had a connection. He was a dedicated Christian and his faith was important to him. Whilst I didn’t share the same religious passion, it didn’t matter because he was such a caring person. He loved everyone and would tell people they were beautiful. During the last 15 years of his life he suffered a number of serious strokes that eventually left him dependent on a full time carer. But he never lost his humour and had a number of quirky quotes that friends and family were reminded of at his memorial service last year.
“My brain is scrambled.”
“I’m so wobbly.”
“Have you met my first wife”
“If I’m talking to you, I’m good.”
On January 11th this year I was honoured to attend a special wreath laying ceremony in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey to commemorate 90 years since the death of poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. It was organised by the Thomas Hardy Society who were also celebrating their foundation 50 years ago.
I have been a member of the Society for a few years now as part of a mission to establish whether a family rumour that we have links to this celebrated man is true or not. As a child Thomas Hardy’s name was mentioned numerous times by my mother, but I’ve never really known if the connection was real or not. I’d made a few feeble attempts in the past and then a second cousin I’m in contact with on Facebook sent me some useful documents she had obtained from her grandparents that allowed a decent starting point for my journey. But it was still difficult to know how to proceed any further.
So, in January 2016 I attended a local Family History class and was able to finally confirm I do have a direct link to the Hardy family via Hardy’s mother Jemima Hand. One of Jemima’s brothers, Christopher Hand, had a daughter called Caroline. She is my great grandmother.
I now have a number of official documents as final proof that I am indeed related to Thomas Hardy. Of course my journey doesn’t stop there. Now I am on a mission to find out as much as I can about the great man. My only regret is that I’ve left it so long and really wish I had known this connection when I was at school and university. I often wonder if that English essay I failed in my first year at college would’ve been graded differently had my tutor known of my literary connection! Sigh!
See you next month…