Friday, 19 September 2014

Her favourite colour was

blue but she had no colour sense and, unless I was there to stop her, would buy acid yellow or lime green tops that did not in the least suit her almost albino colouring. Her preferred mode of dress was trousers and t-shirts and the cardigans and vests I knitted for her. The only time she wore dresses on a regular basis was when she taught in PNG. There she wore the same style of dress as the local women. I found one of those dresses in the wardrobe yesterday. It was the only dress she owned.
She was interested in food but she could not cook. I suspect, although she never said it, that she considered the process a waste of her time - however interesting the product might be. 
Oh yes, the product? She called me one Friday evening in London.
"Want to go to Oxford tomorrow?" she asked me.
"I've found this place which sells mead. I have always wanted to try mead. You can go to the Bodleian afterwards."
Oh, right. She knew what would entice me there. We went to Oxford. We got lost. The place that sold mead was closed. We went to the Bodleian instead - but for much too short a time.
We went to exhibitions she found and to an open air performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Regent's Park.
I stayed on in London when she went back Downunder. We wrote weekly letters to each other - something that continued until I returned. Then there were the weekly phone calls - and sometimes a call in between. For the last few years it has been contact every few days as she needed more help.
Academia was her natural home. She was happiest when talking ideas, imparting ideas and learning new things. Among her papers there is her doctorate in physics, a master's in philosophy, her  undergraduate degree in science and her post-graduate teaching qualification as well as her qualifications in German, Chinese and Indonesian. She spoke some French and Pidgin. When she retired from her job at university she took up Latin and had done a short course in Ancient Greek. She talked enthusiastically about doing MOOCs and perhaps teaching English to some of the young casual staff in the nursing home. It never happened.
Yes, of course it would have been good if it had happened. It didn't but, until a week before her death, my friend thought into the future. That matters.
I am grateful that something urged me to make the effort to see her the day before she died. Her death came, as death often does, in the early hours of the day. There was nobody there - but I hope she knew I had been the day before.


Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Powerful. Sorry to hear it, Cat.

Gene said...

Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. please accept my sympathy.

jeanfromcornwall said...

It's good that death interrupted the life that she was still living, in her mind if not her body. The other way about can be even sadder, and harder for everyone to deal with.
I am sorry for your loss.

catdownunder said...

thanks everyone - I've been feeling a bit "lost" but I am genuinely happy for her - sad for the rest of us