July 21st 2017 : Sue Sims

On being unable to stop the clocks

When Mark died on January 19th this year I so badly wanted to stop the clocks, as in Auden’s poem. Yet the seconds ticked by and the minutes, and the hours and finally the months. Six months to be precise and I am not sure how we have all made it this far. The passage of time is relentlessly cruel after a death. Mark’s voice is still absolutely clear in my head and sometimes I hear him shout Mum, yet I know it is not real. How can it be?

I am still editing Mark’s cancer memoir, alongside working on Bearing Gifts, my poetry collection based on the twenty three months that Mark lived with melanoma.  I find his words so inspiring. There is a chapter in the book where he imagines the wedding he so wanted to have with Georgie and gives the reader his ‘groom’s speech’. In fact his older brother Matt read this out at the memorial event for Mark in February and we all held our breath as Matt reached the end of this paragraph.

The day Georgie and I stopped mid cycle next to Normanton church we fell in love with it. A wedding was going on that day and we sat and people watched as the congregation, and eventually the bride filtered past us into the church. But as you know we’ve had a much harder journey to be here today. I’ve come all the way from St. Peter’s gates.

Mark was not religious, yet that religious metaphor crept in and is such a powerful one that it haunts me. Mark and Georgie’ s wedding if they had achieved it would have been a non religious service in a church, the perfect compromise for the romantic atheist that Mark was. This would have been possible as Normanton is no longer a registered church but an ancient monument licensed for weddings, a relic from the flooded village beneath Rutland Water that had to be sacrificed to create a reservoir. It is a perfect spot for a summer wedding.

Normanton Church (2)


I think I’ll always say ‘four’,
in answer to questions.
Four sons. I have four sons.

Don’t make me say ‘three’.
Three will refuse to fall
off my tongue.

Ask me what they do
and I’ll say three live
and one lives on;

in the hearts of his brothers;
in the hearts of his friends;
in the hearts of his parents.

And in the girl he loved
and wanted to marry,
in an ancient chapel

at the edge of a lake.

Susan Jane Sims, 20th July 2017


Caterpillars July copy

7th July 7th 2017: Sue Boyle

A Metaphor for Life?

What you can’t see in this picture of the Southfield larvae is the small frog, who has climbed part way up the thick stem of the plant whose leaves they are eating.  He is there, motionless, his arms embracing the stem, waiting for the larvae who gorge themselves too much to tumble off their leaf into his mouth. I was delighted to have provided a moth nursery and asked Project 2017’s  butterfly expert Sarah Gregory if she could identify what these gorgeous creatures were.  Which indeed, she did.  They are the larvae of the Buff-tip Moth,  Phalera bucephala (Linnaeus, 1758). When they finish feeding, they will pupate and not emerge into the garden until the summer of next year. Strange to think that these little creatures will be sleeping soundly through all the months it will take me to finish the draft of my Venice Book.