It seems we are in for a very cold snap. Not that it’s been exactly balmy recently, but you wouldn’t expect to be going about in shorts and sandals in London in February. Bit the coldest news came on the first of the month, when I learned that Kathy had died. She had contacted me in January to say she had terminal cancer. It could be days, weeks, maybe even years. I rang her. We spoke for around an hour. She sounded so Kathy, it was at times very hard to comprehend what she was saying. She had hoped to return to London (she lived in California) but wasn’t sure how to manage it, she definitely couldn’t cope with a transatlantic flight. We talked about her taking the QE2. ” Believe me I’m thinking about it,” she said. But as our conversation progressed, I began to understand how physically frail she had become. She talked of wheelchairs, carers. Yet her voice was so strong, her humour still so dry.
I wrote to her, as did Celia. Kathy and Donna had got to know many of the SE17 gang. Neither of us heard back, but the post, completely upturned by the pandemic, is not necessarily reliable. But when texts went unanswered, and ones sent by WhatsApp unread, I began to worry. I tried phoning again. It rang and rang, but no one picked up. Donna is not on WhatsApp, but fortunately Kathy had given me her email. I wrote, hoping for the best, fearing the worst. My fears were confirmed. I know there’s a tribute written by her sister, but so far I haven’t read it. It’s been a busy week, and I want to have time to read and think about it. I can hear her voice in my head, see her sitting here in my flat, Donna on the floor fussing MasterB.
We became friends after she came to something I was doing in London. I have a work related blog, now much neglected, but ten years ago I was posting on it quite regularly and Kathy was following it, making dry comments from time to time which would make me laugh. Suddenly my posts dried up. Kathy wondered why. Being both curious and intelligent, she followed back some of the comments from people who seemed to know me in my private life and found me here. My mother was dying, and I was by her side, logging each day her path to death. It was a very strange time. So when Kathy’s first comment appeared it was a surprise, and also felt a bit surreal. Typically she had come up with a name to use on line which was simple but clever, cagey, KG being her initials.
So the next time she and Donna crossed the pond, we met up. A friendship slowly but steadily developed. During lockdown, via Zoom, it was cemented. I read Donna’s message when I was on the bus, travelling to work, surrounded by a noisy bunch of teenagers, a school group. My eyes filled with tears. I rather expected this news, but it was still shocking, still a blow to the gut.
I am glad I met Kathy, that our paths crossed in the haphazardly wonderful way paths can; that I got to know her, to enjoy her humour and admire her wisdom and calm tenacity. When Donna makes the next trip here, and I realise I am assuming she will, it will be both wonderful to see her and achingly sad that she is alone. Donna doesn’t drink. So I’ll raise my glass to Kathy now, to person she was, to that chance meet and the power of friendship.
This week I shall read that tribute.
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I’m glad you got to talk with her, however briefly before she passed. And I’m sure you will cherish your memories of her and times you spent together.
Thanks KS. I did write something for her memories page last night, but when I tried to save it got a new page asking me to log in again and it vanished. I may try again, this time writing it somewhere else first and copying it. It is quite a cathartic thing to do I find.