Interred February 3rd, at 11:30am, at Père Lachaise cemetary, Paris
Should we tell those that are reading this what HCH stands for or should we keep it to ourselves? I’ll think about it and make a decision at the end of this letter.
It’s been forever since we had a proper correspondence, you and I, whether by handwritten snail mail, as they call it now, with you using those wonderful purple pens and 'squared' not lined pads, (so quintessentially French), your style of language, occasional misuse of metaphors and storytelling which were as colourful as the ink you used and the clothes you wore. We graduated to telex talk when I discovered one at Dowty and used it quite liberally whenever they put me on switchboard duties – I’ve kept those ghastly pieces of newsprint all in capitals (shouting of course these days in internet parlance) – I’ve also kept most of your handwritten letters – it would have been too great a sacrilege to shred them or put them into recycling because they, too are part of our history and occasional fantasy. After telex came e-mails, once we’d got the hang of them. We even used texts (sms as you preferred to call them) whenever you went away, as a means of confirming departures, arrivals and anything else in between. We also used them when we couldn’t get to chat on a phone. Like with most things you gave me a regime about when I should use the sms facility and what you wanted to know – we even had the same model to start with – a fabulous Motorola! But you graduated to more complex models and left me behind …….
But throughout all that evolution we still had the landline telephone and we yattered away for hours at a time. I remember when I got our first hands-free I actually prepared a whole Christmas lunch in the kitchen with you on speaker – you never knew, although you sometimes reproached me when I switched on the tap or moved away from the speaker, and then you carried on chatting regardless, as usual without pausing for breath. Then there was the death of Princess Diana – I was watching the US Open Tennis on American time and switching over to the news during the commercial breaks – because it was late and I was tired I didn’t register at first that I was watching live news and events in Paris. The television was on very low so as not to wake Andrew but gradually I realised what was happening, I abandoned the tennis and of course I rang you because I needed to; I knew it was 3am in Paris but you said you usually woke around then to go to the loo or had not yet gone to bed – of course this time I was wrong on both counts – you had gone to bed earlier than normal and were in a deep sleep when I woke you! You switched on your television but there was no local coverage and eventually you picked up a station and started seeing the same pictures as I had in front of me and we talked until, choked with emotion, we couldn’t talk any more.
Your last days were spent in the same hospital in which Diana had been interred - Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France – and your earthly remains are in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris that also houses our fellow countryman Fryderyk Szopen (Chopin as he is universally known).
And so we get to 11th September 2016 – already a significant date in most of the civilised world’s calendars and this year particularly poignant as it is the 15th anniversary of 9/11 – but, it is also the day on which the Sunday evening episode of ‘The Archers’ is to be extended to an hour’s long duration as ‘the verdict’ is imminent. I’m sure if you were looking down on us, me bravely* trying not to fall asleep, you would have been laughing out loud (LOL) or even rolling on the floor laughing (ROFL) that I was listening to the very radio programme I had always derided! The fact that I was a devotee of Peyton Place, Dallas and Falcon Crest should have meant that I would understand the pull that certain soaps have on others, but no, I was laughing at the fact that you both liked something (genteel) out of the 1950s which is a decade I don’t have much time for in terms of fashion, architecture, music and the rest although some of the British Films are worth looking at and the book Peyton Place is a product of that era – but honestly, Peyton Place versus The Archers – I’m still ROFL at the thought! (*Bravely only in the sense that I should never have forgiven myself if I had fallen asleep at a time that was sacred to your memory whatever the circumstances).
Last night’s episode had some theatrical greats ‘guesting’ and both Eileen Atkins and Catherine Tate, playing characters at opposite ends of the spectrum were truly awesome, Nigel Havers was a bit of a let-down but kudos to his having agreed to participate. Oh how you would have enjoyed this, you would have listened to it a hundred times over, we would have been on the phone to each other talking about and over the action, it would have been like old times ….. it would have been, it really would because whatever had transpired between us over the years, this would have been a healing process, this open letter is meant to be reconciliatory because neither Marysia nor I can fathom what happened in those last months which is when we should all have been closer than ever. God knows, if I’d been able to I’d have dragged myself over to Paris just to see you for one last ‘hurrah’ – but it didn’t happen.
What did happen though, was that I was able to make contact with Bridge again and she really was a godsend letting us know where you were and what was happening to you. A new friend, Claire, was also superb in initially tracking down information – I’m fairly certain you would have liked her even though she is considerably younger than both of us. I even tracked down your friend Marilyn in the States – so hopefully we all have closure now. Not sure I like this new terminology much because I’m not closing down the file on you – that’s why you’ve got an obit page all to yourself and this letter is for you but I don’t mind if anyone else reads it, you deserve to be remembered.
So farewell for the time being – I’m leaving you the link for the programme as covered by the papers in the hope that your belief in osmosis will lead you to it – no, I hadn’t forgotten that either.
I’m not going to end with hugs and kisses – because we never did, except for that one occasion when you were so horrendously delayed by fog and arrived at EMA on a bus, hours late, because the plane had been diverted to Luton – but I do salute you, miss you and am wiping away the tears that have finally arrived.
In remembrance of our friend Anna Aniela Naganowicz, my sister Marysia and I commissioned a floral tribute and mass to be said for Anna's soul on her 'imieniny' (Saints Day) in July 2015 at St Hugh's in Nottingham. The colours chosen are also a reminder of her favourite colours which encompassed bright shades of pink and purple.
Page updated :17th November 2015 following the Friday, 13th atrocities in Paris when Anna was constantly in my thoughts.
Open Letter : 11th September 2016 - a day I would have shared with her ...... if I could.