Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Happy 40th Birthday, Chris

Hello, Darlin' 

Happy 40th Birthday! Can't believe you're so bloody old (I know I'm a year old than you, but I still can't believe my ickle bro is 40!)

We had a party for you on Sunday, which, I agree, was a bit of a mad thing to do without you there. But we felt it was the right time. Loads of family and friends came from far and wide to Bodle Street Green. 

Below are some pic from the day: your first 40 years in pictures... 

It rained in the morning, so we feared the worst. I have to admit we were dreading the day, but the weather cleared up; the food was great, as was the vibe. We felt so much support and love from everyone there, for us, and most importantly for you.

This is us before the party got going... I don't think we look any different after 12 years - do we? (Cameron, Freya and Evie aren't in shot.)

The soundtrack to the day - your favourites, as chosen by me, from your cassette collection: http://open.spotify.com/user/1180454785/playlist/0lmKtPWzkEs2I3shmtgIF5

At lunch, I sat with the Howards and Al Smith and family - Bertie was entertainer for the day! 

Those at the party (in no particular order and many with their families): Ben, Daimer and Jo, Sam and Minette, Vix, Lydia, Sophie, Wooddy, Emma, Andre, Jo, Catty, Nick B, Matthew, Gerry, Alistair, Ramsay, Hester, James, Nick O, Hans & Tricia, Bettina & Jonathan, Laura, Bridget, Liz, Dana, Lesley & Tony, Chris, Mikki & Georgie..... so many also wanted to be there, but couldn't be. 

A snapshot of the day - other friends are outside enjoying the sunshine. This was just before my speech... the children were lined up waiting for Bertie's magic show to start. 

Actually, the kids had to endure my speech/toast before they got Bertie! Here's what I said:

"The last time we were as a family in a marquee in the garden was at my wedding, to Grant, nearly five years ago to the day. Unlike a wedding, there’s no conventions to follow for the ‘sister of the brother missing his birthday party’ speech. So I will do what feels right. 

I’d like to say a few ‘thank you’s before toasting Christian. 

Firstly, to Mum and Dad for agreeing to holding this party. When I first mentioned it they were reluctant, to say the least, but I was able to persuade them that if we didn’t do it now, on Chris’ 40th birthday, we more than likely never would. 

Secondly, to Bertie. Without him this party would never have happened. Mum would only agree to do this if Bertie could come, “otherwise it would be just too depressing,” she said. Thankfully, his diary was free, and here we are. 

Thirdly, a very personal thank you. I’d like to thank from [cue tears and deep breaths] the bottom of my heart all of Chris’ friends for helping Mum and Dad in the early months of Chris’ disappearance. I was stuck down in Cornwall, pretty unaware of the emotional turmoil which was playing out.  I’d also like to thank Mum and Dad’s friends for supporting them - without everyone here my family could well have been torn apart by what’s happened 

[Uncle Chris appears out of the audience to come and stand next to me and offer his support - he tells me to, kindly, get on with it.

It’s only then that I registered the children in front of me. They were still seated on the chairs set out for Bertie’s magic show. They were transfixed, I guess, by the sight of me in tears. Their ages ranged from 2 to 8 (Harley Smith, bless her, the youngest at only 8 months old, was seated on the table watching attentively). I could see my darling boy and girl looking worried. All I could do was smile at them and continue…] 

So [pulling myself together], I’d like to tell you a story about things lost and found. 

This picture tells a story [pointing to Jimmy Hendrix, hanging to the side of me]. Chris painted the picture as a wall decoration for a joint party we had when we were about 16. After the party it was hung over his bed in his bedroom and that’s where it stayed until he left for Africa. 
When we were talking about decorations for the party I said to M&D, “Where’s that Jimmy Hendrix painting?”
“Oh, when the potential buyer came to look round Mottynsden [the last house Chris lived in], his son particularly loved it, so I said if his father bought the house, I’d leave the painting behind for him.” 
“What? So it’s still at Mottynsden?”
“Well, maybe - if they’ve kept it for 12 years.” Mum looked doubtful and Dad even more so. 
“They won’t have it,” he said. “They’d have chucked it out years ago.” 
But I determined to write a letter to the new owner [we knew it was still his second home] to see if 1) they still had it, and 2) could we have it back. 
The next day I sent the letter, hardly expecting a reply, let alone a positive one. But three weeks later, we got the reply we could hardly believe… and here it is, repaired by Dad and looking great. I can’t wait to hang it on my wall at home!

The other object I want to tell you about is a book [I’d left the book on the table at the other end of the marquee so had to retrieve it]. I’m currently writing a book about Christian, which Mum wanted me to do. Because Grant and I ghostwrite and produce memoirs for people, I’d always wanted to get Chris’ life story down. Finally, after four years of non-stop projects, we’ve got a lull so I’m taking the opportunity now - my agent is currently touting the proposal and sample chapters round the London publishers. Anyway, during my research, I looked through Chris’ things (which are still kept in the room above the garage) and couldn’t find this book about Mungo Park which I’d remembered him showing me before he’d left for Africa. He’d said, “You should read this - you’ll understand what I’m so excited about.” I could remember he’d annotated the book with some thoughts and underlined certain passages. Like the painting, it felt crucial to have it back in my hands. 

I looked through my bookcases, looking for the tell-tale blue book spine I had remembered. Blank. I got M&D to turn their bookcases upside-down, too. Blank. I said to Grant, “It must be here then; there’s no where else it could be.” I searched very carefully this time; reading every book spine. And bingo! Scots’ Lives: Mungo Park (Mark Duffill) with a maroon book spine - not a blue on. 

So, one thing we found after 12 years: something we didn’t think possible. 
Another thing found which had eluded us all, even though we’d searched high and low.
Of course, you can guess what I/we hope will be the third lost thing we find… 

Before I go any further, I’d like to explain what I’d like everyone to do after we’ve toasted Christian. 

When I was making the playlist for the party I went through all of his cassettes to find his favourite artists and songs. While listening in the car to the mix I’d made, on a long journey to the National Funeral Exhibition (a long story), I’d had a vision of us all here, holding hands in a circle, while Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Let Love Rule’ was playing. I remember Chris playing it over and over again while he tried to get the notes and rhythm on his base guitar; it seems the only music to play. So it feels right to ask you in a minute to join together and send positive thoughts to Chris and will him to come home. For whatever reason, we still think he’s out there on his way home, just not with any urgency - he probably doesn’t even realise the grief he’s been causing! 

So, please let’s toast my brother Christian, or Chris, or Chrissy, or Relts…. We miss you so much, please come home soon."

Everyone joined in a circle, even the children - it was complete AND perfect. I hope you felt the vibes. Actually, there was one person missing from the circle - Uncle Tony, who got locked in the toilet, but that's another story (remind me to tell you about the balloon dog called Biscuit, too).

Please, please come home - we all miss you and love you from the bottom of our hearts. Life just isn't the same without you and even though we're bloody angry you've been away for more than 12 years, WE WANT YOU HOME. xxxxxx

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - enjoy the day, wherever you are ...... 

Your big sis, Han xxxxxx