I couldn’t find a photo of Tara from 2006 – or from 1996, for that matter, so here is one of her and Simon from 1998, out in our back garden. It’s the photo that the Lord of Longitude and I have on our mantelpiece.
I think this might be the last post to commemorate her death. Not that August 11th won’t always be a stone, weighting down the calendar – but maybe remembering her on her birthday might be better …
… I’m struggling, here …
… I want remembering Tara to be more than about her death. I want it to be about her intelligence, her friendship, her kindness, her wit, her sense of fun, about saying, look, I knew this REMARKABLE woman, she had such an effect on me in ways obvious and not and I will never forget her.
So, look, I knew this remarkable woman and was lucky enough to be her friend, and I still miss her, it is cruel beyond belief that she died and I still don’t believe it, these three years later, but there it is, and meanwhile all of us who loved her try to get on with our lives and somehow here she is, still, the things she said, the jokes she made, the way she listened, her laugh, what she cared about, all of the stuff that made her Tara, still here, not forgotten, never forgotten.
Tara Louise Few
22.03.68 – 11.08.13
When you ask me, Where do you come from?
how do I answer? How does anyone?
All of us sound different on my street.
In each of us, so many of these crossings
– and in this city, so many crossings meet.
Say ach y fi. Say bore da. Say croeso.
(from ‘The Unicorn’, The Bridle, 2011, Salt)
25 years ago London said croeso to me. I’ve been a ‘Welsh-sounding Auckland pakeha’ , a ‘Kiwi-sounding East Anglian’, a ‘rural-sounding Cambridge undergraduate’, a ‘posh-sounding Forest of Deaner’. I’ve been ‘Welsh’, I’ve been ‘English’, I’ve been ‘Wenglish’. I’ve been a ‘tomboy’, I’ve been’butch’, I’ve been ‘femme’, I’ve been ‘straight’, I’ve been ‘bi’, I’ve been ‘queer’. However I’ve chosen to identify – however hazily, with whatever imperfect knowledge, (and no matter that these days I find these identity labels for myself less and less helpful and don’t bother with them*) – London has made room for me.
We’re all descended from migrants if you go back far enough. Why wouldn’t we welcome more of our own?
(* but that’s my privilege speaking, of course, that I can evade them.)
Something unusual happened the other day: my neighbour and I had a chat. She lives a few doors up from us, and was out in the sun, tidying the front, as I rounded the corner. I’d just come back from a wonderful writing retreat* and was beaming at everyone.
We said hi, and something prompted me to stop. She is wry, very funny, friendly and is soppy-silly over the babies and littlies in her family, but we don’t seem to chat beyond the occasional sarcastic remark about boy racers or loud music in the street. Usually it’s just a friendly wave or a ‘hi’, maybe a ‘nice weather’…
So we chatted about the weather.
‘Let’s hope it stays this way.’
‘Yeah, though it makes fasting hard.’ Ramadan starts in early June and the long days mean long, deprived hours. ‘Still, Allah will give us patience.’
I wished then I knew the words for ‘Have a good Ramadan’.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this is what electing Sadiq Khan does for us? Reminded us of who we are, got us talking to each other. Or maybe this is what Islamaphobia has finally done for us. With an ‘extremist’ poised to run for US President, with both blatantly and covertly racist political campaigns in this country, maybe London has decided it’s time to make a stand.
Congratulations, Sadiq. And to those of you that will be starting your fast in early June, I wish you Ramadan Mubarak.**
*It was the SCBWI British Isles Spring Retreat. It changed my life!
**My thanks to the writers of this site for educating me.
Look! It’s real! I’ve got a PhD!
The certificate came in the post a few days ago. The Lord of Longitude & I celebrated with a glass of prosecco or three.
I’m proud to have stuck it out and weathered all the doubt and anxiety, but it’s weird. I don’t feel any different. I’m not sure what I expected – to suddenly be able to quote Heidegger with perfect understanding, maybe, or to summarize my thesis in 50 words or less first time? That definitely hasn’t happened. Still the same old tangle of questions, still the same old self-consciousness at using words like ‘interiority’ (what my thesis was about, ffs!).
The LoL rolls his eyes when I say this. ‘All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.’ Welcome to the club.
When I was having trouble summing up my research, my supervisor said to me, ‘Imagine what you would say if someone held a loaded gun to your head, and you had to finish the sentence “My thesis is…” or they’d shoot you.’
It didn’t work. All I could think was – as I wailed to the LoL afterwards, ‘My thesis is… oh just shoot me now!’
But my beloved is wise, and he said ‘Imagine you have a plate of scones in front of you: fresh strawberries, clotted cream, the works. And you can have them all if you just finish the sentence.’
And off I went. ‘My thesis is-‘ And I finished the sentence.
If you are also labouring up the PhDface, I wish you fortitude. It’s a tough climb, but it can be done. You’ll make it – good luck!
Tara and Rachel, drinking tea by the Bosphorus. It was sweet, with apple blossom petals in it. We’d just finished our first year at Uni, and had Inter-railed to Istanbul.
I miss her.
1968 – 2013
It jostled against the lenses of my glasses: colour, a pink flatness which I couldn’t feel, even though it seemed to have solidity. I couldn’t feel it on my skin; there was no resistance as I inchingly stepped forward into this expanse which both was density and wasn’t.
I was lucky enough to visit Ann Veronica Janssen’s yellowbluepink at the Wellcome Collection recently, with only two other companions, and have been thinking about it ever since; what it does to the senses, what it makes you think about the senses… but mostly just about the experience, the downright disorientating weirdness of it.
After the sci fi billowing of clouds around our feet as we closed the first set of double doors and prepared to open the second, I kept my fingertips on the wall. It was an arm’s length away: I could feel but not see it. After a while I stepped out into it, this whatever-it-was (a ghost? Of what, though? Of an object? A room?) and – bolder – took strides forward. The colour graduated, changing to yellow, and I was in fog under sun. Forward again, and it felt colder, darker, murky, denser as blue pressed against my eyes. I hit the back wall.
I could see, yes, but I couldn’t. If I held a hand up to my face, I could make out its dark outline. The floaters in my eye’s fluid danced, shudderingly numerous and clear. It was like being suspended in the deep end of a swimming pool, except it wasn’t, because it didn’t feel like that, it only looked a bit like that. One of my companions said it reminded him of ice-climbing; he kept kicking and digging with his feet as if to get a toe-hold on the surface. But there was no surface right in front of us, only the floor underneath, the walls, the ceiling. And this mist.
Go, if you get the chance.
- My second con ever (the first was LonCon last year).
- An inclusive geektopia where everyone is welcome.
- Scene of some awesome cosplay that made me want to try it (never been tempted before).
- Provider of Quiet Rooms for people like me with very low thresholds for stimuli and with a tendency towards introversion.
- Scene of huge cringe as I mistake a Spectra costume for a Thundercat. Great kindness and grace from cosplayer who accepted my token and compliments and put me right – and absolutely no fandom-ier-than-thou gatekeeping from anyone. Lovely, lovely people go to this con.
- Scene of more huge cringe as I ask if ‘this lady’ can go to the head of the toilet queue because she’s on a panel in ten minutes. ‘This lady’ identified as a woman but THAT’S NOT THE POINT. Ever since I read Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time at the age of 16, I’ve been in favour of and tried to use gender-neutral language. In my 16 year-old’s idealism, I firmly believed that in the future there would be no Mrs and Misses, only Ms.s, no poetesses or policemen, only poets and police officers and that ‘per’ or their/them would replace he, she, his, hers and so on. Of course, the future turned out to be more complicated than that. And also a bit less beautiful. But at Nine Worlds, you can pick what pronoun you want to use, stick it on a badge and everyone will respect it. So what antideluvian part of my consciousness dredged up such an antiquated phrase? It’s a mystery. Suffice to say, I’m practising using ‘this person’ and they/their/them a lot at the moment and with renewed vigour. And eagerly awaiting Nine Worlds’ gender-neutral, gender-inclusive, non-binary heaven next year. Marge Piercy’s utopia is real (if only for one weekend a year, and in Heathrow) and more plural and beautiful than that, even, and it’s wonderful.
- Just over the road from the hotel (and through a fence, past some buildings) is a runway where planes take off in all their whooshing, noisy glory. I like planes. (Don’t know why, just do. They’re like magic.)
- Kind, kind people who – when I was exhaustedly and constantly getting lost and couldn’t even remember my room number – would give me directions and refrained from rolling eyes or going ‘It’s RIGHT THERE’.
- The Spoiler Alerters; two young fans who reminded the fabulous Eve Bennett that not everyone has seen every episode of everything Joss Whedon has made. This is a very family-friendly con and the kids really make it excellent and special. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a mini-Groot knocking around the place? Or a toddling dragon? Come ON! (I speak as someone who chose not to have children, too – I don’t say these things lightly.)
- Eve Bennett’s talk: Female Weapons in the Whedonverse’. Really intelligent, really interesting, really illuminating and made me want to watch all the Whedons all over again.
- Ditto Vanessa Thompsett’s talk on ‘Dystopian London in Fiction – The Unreal City’. And as with Eve Bennett, another super-engaging speaker with a bright future ahead. I shall be acquainting myself properly with ‘V for Vendetta’ – in fact, the first thing the Lord of Longitude said to me as we left the talk was ‘I’ve GOTTA get V for Vendetta’
- Geek Feminism. We rock.
- Lots of talks and thinking about Utopias, Dystopias and Apocalypse. I’m really interested in all three, but particularly Utopias, which border on my research interest in the pastoral, relations between country and city (Raymond Williams is a god), ecotopias, ecowriting, psychogeography, sub/urban spaces blah blah blah you get the picture.
- Naomi Alderman. Her talk on addressing our inner, personal biases (particularly when writing character) was illuminating, funny, perceptive and bang on the nose.
- Films and bean bags. There were lots of both, in a darkened room where you could stretch out with lots of other film-lovers and just shut up and watch films. Bliss. Which were impressive – I saw quite a few shorts. I fervently wished for better representation in the sci-fi shorts (3 women characters, 2 victims, 1 mother; all protagonists white cis males; no people of colour), but at least they were very well made, quite gripping. I think several are going to be made into features.
Well, ok, 16.
LORD OF LONGITUDE: So the question is, do we take advantage of Nine Worlds’ super-early rate and –
ME: YES. Book it. Book it now. Book it. We’re going.
Maybe I’ll see you next year?