This is a painting which I made of my dear old friend Katie from a photo some time after she had died ten years ago. I came across this piece of writing which I must have written at the time and never published. I feel like doing so now, in her memory.
“Eunice and I drove down to Cornwall: two old ladies on a mission; Eunice to promote her husband, Tom Early’s, paintings; mine to scatter Kate’s ashes.
Eunice is a fearless driver, if a bit reckless at times. She didn’t mind cutting corners, and my blue badges helped with the parking. We arrived, after a leisurely drive, stopping for coffee, lunch and tea, in the early evening.
It was raining. Nevertheless as the familiar views of Newlyn, the coast line and Mousehole came into sight, I felt the memories tugging at my heart strings. Soon we were turning up the long drive to our bed and breakfast in Lamorna. Dusk was falling and everything was dripping wet, the bent and gnarled old trees creating mysterious shapes. The huge ferns and the sound of the stream rushing down the hillside made me think of elves and faeries. As always, Cornwall was exerting its own peculiar magic over me. This was what had brought so many artists down to the area in the past, and this was what Katie had loved about it.
The next day Eunice and I split up. Eunice went to visit her galleries and I went to meet Diana at the Cornish Range in Mousehole, which was holding a coffee morning to support the local fireworks display. After this we went to see Eia, who lives in the very heart of Mousehole in a dusky pink cottage.
She peered down at us from her upstairs window. She recognized me and padded downstairs. Eia is Swiss German and slightly fey. She is a tiny, birdlike woman; she always makes me think of a little thrush with soft brown eyes. She was wearing a long, woollen dress and slippers. Her hair was drawn back from her face in a soft bun, in a rather Victorian style. Now 87, she had met Kate sixty years ago and adored her.
I showed her the poem I had written after Kate’s death. She seemed to have good eyesight as she read it without glasses.
“A life enhancer.” “Yes, she was that. She lit up a room wherever she was. and she always raised one’s spirits.”
She said she would like to come with us to scatter the ashes the following day, and we left her.
Diana said she would pick me up next day and that her husband might come too.
It was a wild and windy day, and as I walked back up the drive I could hear all the trees creaking. I stopped to hug a tree. It was covered in moss, and was moist and soft to my touch. The water from the stream was tumbling down in a brown, muddy waterfall, and there was a constant roar as it poured over the rocks.
Thursday was grey but it was not raining. Keith arrived with Diana. I thought it was nice of him to come. We went and picked up Eia. We had decided to scatter the ashes from the end of Mousehole harbour. Keith drove very carefully and deposited us at the very edge of the water. The gods were with us, as it was high tide and the wind was behind our backs. There was no-one about.
The ashes were surprisingly heavy. They were tightly packed in plastic in what might have been a large coffee container. Keith produced a knife and was able to undo it. We had a moment’s silence.
“Dear Lord, we thank you for Kate, we thank you for the way she touched our lives. Bless these ashes as we throw them back into the sea, where she wanted to be. We thank you for her beautiful soul.”
Eia said: “She was a wonderful woman, full of life and warmth. She inspired us all and made our lives richer.”
I took hold of the container and let the ashes spill out over the water. They flew away in the wind, like coarse sand. They seemed to go on and on. I thought of Kate, of her long and turbulent life, and now she had come to her final resting place, in Cornwall, where she had been so happy.
Diana recited the Gaelic prayer:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
We watched till all the ashes had gone.
Eia said she felt Kate’s presence and that she was happy. I felt happy that I had carried out her wishes.
“Great Kate” as Eia called her. Farewell Kate.
“How did it go?” Eunice asked, when I met her back in Lamorna.
“Well,” I said.”