My posts on Mark went silent on public media after May 11th 2018 and we struggled on until his death in St Peter’s and St James Hospice outside Lewes. During the year of his dying I’ve moved house 5 times. Twice in Seaford, then a ghastly, dark rental in Lewes, on to Wimbledon and back to our tiny Lewes house. Without him I am a nomad. My companion of 52 years has gone and I am left with energetic photos of his highly active life.
Mark decided to pursue privately funded cancer treatment in London after his Sussex oncologist said she could do no more and we struggled on for an incredible six months. He suffered many blood transfusions, plenty of chemotherapy, one bout of toxic shock and took oodles of morphine. Although not enough to destroy the pain. His courage in enduring this disease was as outstanding as his enthusiasm for life.
Even when his body was like a skeleton, he achieved amazing things –
- celebrating his 72nd birthday at the Snowdrop pub in Lewes
- running training sessions for bar tenders to say goodbye
- travelling to Amsterdam to deliver his library of drink’s books to a training room named after him
- giving a whisky tasting for Lewes October Feast
- celebrating my 70th birthday at the Coach and Horses
- watching his favourite Southover Bonfire parade at Lewes Bonfire on November 5th
We agreed a family cremation with just myself, Annabel, Simon and Tamsin in attendance. It was Christmas time and the rest of the world was in joyous spirits.
On January 6th, we had a small funeral for family and friends in St Michael’s Church in Lewes. Mark would have been proud of us all and the glory of a service on The Feast of Epiphany. Here is a piece I wrote for a competition.
At my husband’s funeral I wore a red and gold ikat coat that shimmered in the church candlelight, reflecting the ceremony date, the Feast of the Epiphany. Maybe one of the three kings would have worn such royal colours at the crib of baby Jesus? More importantly, long ago, A A Gill remarked ‘Nice coat’ when I sat next to him at Dean Street Townhouse. I was ready to order his favourite dish, shepherd’s pie, and quipped ‘It’s from Kazakstan.’
‘No, Uzbeckistan’ he replied.’
Weeks after Adrian’s death, when I wore the coat at the Royal Academy, a woman in the coffee queue admired its colours.
‘A A Gill told me it was from Uzbeckistan’ I boasted.
‘And he was always right’’ said the lady in front of us. ‘I should know – I’m his mother.’
How I longed to smuggle her away and force out stories of their fabulous meals together, but in the politeness of the dark, Academy’s Member’s room we parted, so much from his Pour Me book bursting for answers.
On December 10th 2018, exactly two years after AA Gill, my husband Mark, died from the same ‘full English’ and I miss them both for their fierce passion for eating and their courage in challenging life to the limit.
Mark’s ashes are stored in a gold leafed casket and I scoop out small servings to take on my mission to sprinkle him in the waters of the world. So far he’s scattered in the Thames, the Channel and Derwentwater and now he’s on a journey to Famagusta, to float into no-man’s land to an out-of-bounds landscape forbidden to the living.’