Wednesday, 13 May 2015

7.5.15


I've been really, really umming and ahhing about writing this post. But this little space on the internet, It's Brogues, was created with the wholehearted intent of having an outlet from which I can project my most authentic, honest self and look back on it all in years to come; in my own words, with my own personal (somewhat pernickety) design aesthetic. So I'm going to own it, and journal and process this life defining event in the way that I know best. It's not what's right for everyone, but it's what feels right for me.


Losing anyone of significance to you is shit. Losing your Dad, as I learned on Friday morning, is possibly the single shittest piece of news one could receive. All the more so when it's through a phone call, out of the blue, and nearly 300 miles away from the two people you wanna squeeze more than anyone else: Mama and siblet. Ah, and with a final uni exam just a couple of hours away! There isn't really a sufficient adjective I can attribute to that kinda situation, minus the ones that require a hell of a lot of asterisks. Dad's f*cking favourite words, as it happens. In fact, Leila proudly told Mum to "futt off" at the ripe old age of two - no prizes for guessing where (or rather, who) she got that from.


As a dear friend said to me, there is no handbook on how to come to terms with losing a parent. How you deal with it is how you - you, as an idiosyncratic individual - deal with it. The way I see it, what has happened (however surreal, incomprehensible, miserable, and indeed F*CKING SHIT it may be) is an objective, out-of-my-control fact. It just is, it has happened. Of course I am not ok with it. But the way I respond to it, this objective fact, is wholly, completely and utterly subjective. And I am choosing to continue being the person that he was heart achingly proud of me being, and saw me becoming; I now just happen to have more fire than ever to be that person. 

So on the morning of 8.5.15, I got myself in the zone, went to my German oral exam and performed as well as - if not better than - I would have in far more desirable circumstances. As he had said to me the day before an exam earlier that week, "I would wish you Good Luck, but with you it's not really luck is it, it's just working your bloody arse off!". And with that in mind, I went and worked my bloody arse off. 


Papa was full of seemingly insignificant quotes, which Leila and I have always acknowledged as being far more significant than he ever realised. A few months ago during a phone conversation, he told me: "the thing is with life, you've just got to let the shit fly over"; a phrase which is now accompanied by a very silly image in my head (and probably yours now, too). And while I am not strictly letting this shit fly right over, I am very much adopting the underlying spirit of positivity and self-determination that he was advocatin' to me that day.


One thing I am so, so grateful for is the bloody brilliant relationship I'd had with him in recent years; my enduring memories of him are just the best. He was one of the only people I know/knew that, in defiance of the omnipresent digital world, still couldn't send a text, and got genuinely freaked out by iPads/laptops/all technological devices. He was a strictly analogue man, not just when it came to his incredible photography, but in all facets of his life. In spite of all that, though, he would call me once he'd read all my latest blog posts - having had computer assistance, of course - to proudly let me know how clever he was for doing so (the email notification snippet above being a case in point). 

video

video

The last time I saw him in person - while I obviously wish it could have been more recently - was in January 2015, when he, Leila and I had the single loveliest day together in our local South East London parks. Sat in Dulwich Park café, he forgot to get a spoon for his cappuccino, shrugged, and merrily used his little finger to mix up the froth. And to my delight, I had recorded this exact moment on video (see above). This might seem like the tiniest, most trivial thing, but a) it is my stand-out final living memory of him and b) it epitomises his funny little free-spirited, "f*ck it" ways; qualities I like to think Leila and I inherited too. Moreover, I recently realised that the Wednesday before he died (the last time I spoke to him), the final words he said to me were: "love you loads darlin'", to which I giggled and replied "love ya!". When it comes to the death of loved ones, you cannot and must not live in ifs and buts and regrets, but in this case none of that even comes into the equation. There are no regrets to be had.


2nd January 2015

Quite inadvertently, but perhaps not surprisingly, my sister and I are the total sum of our parents' talents and loves. From Mama we got our appreciation for words and film, from Papa our proclivities for music, photography and all things creative. While in his latter years he had been known on the Isle of Wight for his multi instrumental musical mastery (saxophone, guitar, piano, harmonica - you name it he could rock it), his professional career was defined by his reputation as one of the top photographers on Fleet Street; he took some of my favourite photos of all time while working for The Times. From capturing an unselfconscious, youthful Kate Moss in 1993 (the year I was born), photographing a fresh-faced 19 year-old Usher, to beautifully documenting the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he has left behind him a priceless legacy which I will be eternally inspired and motivated by. It was Dad that taught me to always be in control of the camera, and never let the camera control you (manual all the way).


I'm not saying this is going to be an easy process - not in the slightest - but surrounded by my incredible support network (at this point I must specifically big up my best friend Sophie for, as the title suggests, being the BEST), I can confidently say that his death is not gonna change me for the worst. Of course, there will be a very, very prominent Dad-shaped void for the rest of my life, starting with my upcoming graduation from Durham University. But whether I like it or not (and believe me, I don't like it), this happening is now a part of my life story, and I'm going to personally make it shape me for the better. I want to make him, the other (numerous) important people in my life, and most importantly myself proud. And I'm proud to say that I'm a f*cking strong young lady who plans on doing a lot of good in my life, with big dreams that I'm still going to make a reality. Because that is 100% what the Denzil I knew would have wanted, for both his girls.

11 comments:

  1. So beautifully written and expressed. I am so so sorry for your loss. Sending you and your family well wishes during this difficult time. Although I never had the chance to meet him, I can see his beautiful spirit captured through these photographs. Thank you for sharing a part of you that is so personal. It's definitely not an easy thing to do. xx, Elizabeth

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  2. We're all thinking of you, Leila and Sally and are so sad for your loss. Lovely post - once again, he would have been proud of you. Carol, Colin, Kristin and Ollie xxx

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  3. You've taken on a really admirable attitude with this, I just wanted to comment and say I hope you're able to stay positive on most days and you're so very lucky to have great memories and support from the people you're close to :)
    Strength. xx.

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  4. Hi Brogues, my name is Matt Durell - I don't think we've ever met, but I knew your father very well when he lived in Kent. I've only just found out the terrible news that Denzil passed away back in May - myself and a lot of my friends and acquaintances are all equally shocked. Your dad was a lovely man, absolutely one of the nicest people anyone could ever hope to meet, as well as being a brilliantly talented artist and musician. It's through music that I got to know him - we played in several bands together and collaborated (if that's the right word!) at hundreds of jam nights etc. I'm sad to say that we kind of lost touch with each other after he moved from here to the Isle Of Wight, although a couple of people I know played with him as recently as April this year.

    It was while going through a bunch of old photos looking for pictures of another old friend of mine, Pete "Poppit" Gunthorpe (who sadly died back in 2006 and was also a great friend of Denzil's), that I also came across a number of pictures of your father. I decided to try and track him down and it was then that I discovered that he'd died a few months ago. I've created a facebook photo album of the pictures I have and some which other people are adding, which I thought you might like to see (link below).

    Your father was a unique and very special person to all who had the pleasure of knowing him, and I'm so sad to hear of his death. Best wishes to you and your family.

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.179212475761897.1073741833.100010194360938&type=1&l=526fe52736

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    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for getting in touch and sharing the album link – really appreciated! Sorry to hear you've only recently found out. It was very sudden and a big shock for us all, but we're doing well thank you – I'll be sure to pass on your album.

      Best wishes to you too!

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  5. Your Dad and I had some great times busking here on the Isle of Wight and some equally great nights at The Spyglass Inn. There is some treasured footage of us both stumbling through a 'Flamenco' inspired set, just enjoying each others company :-)
    Fantastically warm and generous, both with his time and opinions!
    I think of him most days as he gifted myself and my wife a print of his picture of 'The Worlds Biggest Drum' as a wedding present, which we have hanging at the top of our stairs.
    All the best
    James G.

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    1. Ahh, thanks for sharing – I love that drum photo!

      All the best to you :)

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  6. Brogues, the sincery, gentle, serene way you tell the story of your broken heart and healing soul, i so touching and inspiring. Bless you and your family. His spirit is somewhere freer now and you are going to grow and flourish more and more evry day. Thank you for sharing your deepest self!

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    1. Oh that's so lovely of you to say, thank you ♥ ♥ ♥

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