Cardiff, May 2015
Next week I’m going to Cardiff to do ‘Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth’. I’m looking forward to it. As well as the show I’ve got a few friends there who I’m looking forward to catching up with.
I know Cardiff a bit. I had a friend who lived there since we finished being students at Aberystwyth ages ago. The last thing I did when I was there last, about a year ago, was to go on a show on a bus. It was brilliant. A company called ‘Day to Go’ took everyone on ‘a poetic journey around Barry’. We sat on a Welsh public bus and wore headphones, a voice telling the story intimately in your ear, while the bus drove past actors perfectly timed to the monologue – swimmers in the park, a jilted bride on Barry Island, Butlins red coats waving at us. Fran lived in Barry, she would have loved it.
My friend Frances Medley, known to many on the arts scene in Cardiff, was diagnosed with MS in 2005. As the condition got to her she made a very thought-out decision a few years ago that she wasn’t going to live with it forever. After a lot of planning and preparation, sorting out her things, writing to friends, talking to her nearest ones, she took her own life in September 2013. It was awful.
It seems a long time ago now. I can almost barely believe it happened. At the time I was glad to be included in the inner circle of friends who she confided in and allowed to support her. Fran didn’t like leaning on other people, she preferred being the one who was there for everyone else. I was very glad she let me in when she was at her most vulnerable, even though it was difficult.
Giving support is something I’ve always done, not always for the best of reasons. My Mum taught me early on to put others’ needs before my own, her own unfortunately. So I learnt to be the Good Girl, supporting her as best I could, and since then, others, to find love. Typical, forgiveable, human stuff. Since my Mum died a few months ago I have found myself strangely unable to do this anymore. I find myself avoiding anyone I feel might need anything from me. Good Girl no more.
Looking back at that time with Fran I can see now how utterly intense it was, how much it took of me. I don’t regret it for a second but I recognise it does feel good to be a few steps away from it now. Life goes on. You can feel guilty about that but it does.
One of the things I loved doing when visiting Fran was to walk my dog around Porthkerry Country Park near where she lived. Lots of times I walked there, taking in some air in between talking to her, asking nature to help her somehow, nature knowing best. The last time I was there (was it before or after she died?) it was a dewy morning and the long grass was spun with beautiful glittering spiders’ webs. Life going on, doing its beautiful, transient thing.
Despite the losses of the last few years – Mum this year, Fran 2 years ago, Dad 6 years ago, who Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth is about – I feel very excited by life right now. I feel like I’m moving forward in significant ways. I am beginning to work on a new creative piece – after ‘Aberystwyth’, guess what – about Mum. I’ve also been working hard this last 2 years to get into teaching, something I’m really motivated about. This week I had my first interview for paid teaching work.
And I’m looking forward to going to Cardiff again. The last time I went to Chapter it was for Fran’s funeral. She was an arty type like me, a great friend to Chapter. It was the right place for her. I’m looking forward to going again, this time not to a funeral, but to do a show, Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth, my own creative baby than Fran supported me with. And to see old friends and new, people Fran brought me to. To hear Fran whispering in the wings ‘Go girl!’ to me and all of us.