Denise: my sister, my friend.

My sister, Denise, passed away this time last year after a long battle with illness.  The following post is a transcript of the words I spoke at her funeral, which I choose to share today by way of tribute.

I have so many memories of D that it is hard to know where to begin.  I guess it makes sense to start when we were kids, growing up together in Poole.  Fighting over the best seat for watching Saturday morning telly or who got to use the arm-rest in the back of one of the many cars we had growing up.

Denise was always very active.  She would play games like ‘block’ and cricket outside on the green in front of our house, not to mention inventing a dance routine with a couple of the neighbours.  She did like to dance, as I remember.  Something which I am sure she did plenty of during the various holidays to sunny places that she loved to go on with friends.  She attended a dance school for a while, too.

Denise was also very fond of animals, having a great deal of affection for the pets that passed through our lives.  I remember her once defending our dog, Lucky, from a classmate of mine who was teasing her.  Denise couldn’t stand to see people being unkind to defenceless creatures, and there were times when I fell into that category too.  Her geeky younger sister occasionally needed protection from bullies.  Don’t get me wrong, we would scrap as sisters do, but she was very loyal if anyone else tried picking on me.

I certainly must have been the typical frustrating younger sister, but there is no doubt that her more ‘savvy’ presence in my life helped me to better navigate the pitfalls of growing up, especially as a teenager.  I can’t say I appreciated the make-overs she would give me – especially the way she would use my nose as a lever to move my head around – but at least I know how to apply make-up as a result.

D was very good at that kind of thing, being a beautiful person with an innate sense of style.  She even persuaded me that I could actually wear skirts and dresses, rather than always living in my jeans.  She would be the first to tell me when my hair needed a cut, though.  She would be right, too!

Den’s creativity and style also came out in other ways.  There are any number of artistic items in my parents’ house courtesy of her.  The ones that spring immediately to mind are the immense cross-stitch of a tiger in their living room, which must have taken her a great deal of time and patience to create, as well as a beautiful screen-print she produced at school.  She could turn out some tasty cakes and excellent meals too.

D would also ensure that the gifts she gave people were exquisitely wrapped, and the gifts themselves would be very carefully chosen, as would cards for birthdays and other special occasions.  She had a lovely way of remembering the events which were important to people; even texting me ‘good luck’ on the day I started my new job recently, despite being so very unwell in hospital.  I really appreciated that about her.

By far and away my best memory of D is when Mum and Dad were unable to attend my wedding to Jeff due to illness.  She stepped in at the very last minute to give me away. Now, as many of you know, D was never at her most comfortable in front of crowds, so this took her a great deal of courage.  She did it, though, and she did it very well – for which I will always be grateful and always remember.

I have been looking in the mirror recently, and lamenting the fact that I am now middle-aged.  I’m not going to do this any more.  From now on, I intend to live my life to the full, enjoying the privilege of getting older – a privilege Den has been tragically denied.  I will take everything I ever learned from having her as a loyal, loving and feisty sister and put it to good use.  In this way, she will live on in me, as she will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone who loved her.  This is, I think, a fitting tribute to a short yet vibrant life – and one I believe would bring a big smile to D’s beautiful face.

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Hats off to 2013

my exhibition 1

The more observant of my readers will notice that this photo shows me pointing to the poem from the previous post. (Pedants will notice that my hat is actually on, but that’s what comes from being a pedant.) Anyway, metaphorical and literal hats aside, in this first blog post of 2014 I will be looking back at my adventures in writing over the past year.

My first success of 2013 was achieving pulication in PAN, the creative writing magazine of University of Wales, Newport. If you are interested in reading the poem ‘My Welsh Roots’, it can be found here.  I also have a few copies of PAN.  As my vanity realistically needs no more than one, I would be happy to give a copy to each of  the first three people to leave a comment on this blog post, or who contact me via Facebook or Twitter.

Later in the year, I was pleased to win a place in a competition co-hosted by IdeasTap and Mardibooks.  This resulted in my ballad ‘The Inauspicious Beginnings of M. Parapluie’ being published in this anthology.

November then saw the exhibition of my visual poem ‘The Pursuit’, as demonstrated by the woman with the big grin and multiple chins in the above photograph.

Trosnant Writers, a group of fellow scribes to which I belong, published our second anthology in March.  The launch event for this collection was such a success that it has since become a regular fixture, in the form of Writers Aloud.  I have facilitated and participated in a number of these evenings, enjoying the chance to hear the work of others as well as reading my own.  Other opportunities to perform also emerged as appearances on Flame Radio, a locally run and charitably funded station which sadly went off-air recently due to lack of resources.  Believe me, though, it was fun whilst it lasted!

Time for a conclusion.  As readers of earlier incarnations of this blog will know, it has metamorphosed since I first started.  Early attempts at providing a platform for others to tell their stories was not as successful as I had envisaged, with the addition of my own personal tale creating no real improvement either.  Furhtermore, feedback from a professional editor added to my growing conviction that I am not ready to tell my personal story, especially as making my experiences more appealing and readable would require a level of honesty and vulnerability that I am not yet willing to display.

So, what is the conclusion?

Honest reflection over the past year would suggest that my natural medium is poetry.  I enjoy writing poems; I revel in the experience created when others encounter them, whether in written, visual or audible form.  I have to admit, I particularly enjoy performing poetry.

In October, I felt able to call myself a writer.  Perhaps I will now add my particular specialism.  My name is Dith Parry, and I am Performance Poet!

For World Mental Health Day

Limitations (of the Medical Model)

Hormones and synapses, chemical reduction,
Swallow down backwash, bitter little pill.
Am I nothing more than simple deconstruction?
Blister packaged coshes keep the voices still.

Body and soul, I’m all in this – together,
More than just components, product of a brain,
And, whilst I applaud science and endeavour,
A seeking, slicing scalpel would look for me in vain.

Leave me rest, now. Let me find my feeling,
Do not drug me sober; don’t drown out my light,
Let me laugh and cry. Please. Let me find my healing,
Don’t tie my hands with tablets in this fight.

In synchrony of spirit, flesh and bone,
I’ll seek solutions, ones to call my own.

Reboot

As of now, the Telling Stories blog is going to be a place where I don’t try quite so hard. Instead, I hope to find some kind of unforced rhythm, and speak in a more authentic voice.

In light of this, here is something I prepared earlier. More specifically, by popular(!) request, my poem published in PAN (ooh, inadvertant alliteration).

My Welsh Roots

My name is Parry
And I lives in the Valleys
Where the houses huddle close
Clinging to the chill clay ground.
In these weather-beaten places
You will find such care-worn faces
Which belie their wry, dry humour;
Profane merging with profound.

My name is Parry
And I lives in this, my Valley
The place from where I journey
Yet which always calls me home.
I know hwyl deep in my heart
For the land that taught me hiraeth
And the soil in which I’m rooted
That has claimed me as its own.

For ‘though my name is Parry
And I loves it in my Valley,
This was not always the case
For I’m English through and through.
Yet, since Cymru bade me ‘Croeso’
I have never once looked back
It’s amazing what the love
of a good land – and man – will do.

My Story 2.0

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I plead guilty.

Guilty of the charge of ‘Trying too hard.’

A new blog is the chance to make a new start, a good impression, invite people to join me in a fresh and interesting way…and all that.

The trouble is, I am not sure my voice has been all that authentic as a result.

I will try again soon…but I won’t necessarily try harder.

Telling the Truth

Truth was, and always has been, very important to me. In fact, I find it almost impossible to lie; I don’t really understand how other people manage to do so. On the rare occasions that I am untruthful, I feel as though it is glaringly obvious to those around me that I am lying. I can however tell a form of the truth, though it is far from subtle. Let me illustrate with an example of typical morning from my teenage years.

Firstly, Mum would bring me a cup of tea and inform me that it was time to get up. She would invariably tell me not to let my tea go cold. Later, she would return to make sure I had not gone back to sleep. At times, extreme measures such as the deployment of a wet flannel or the flinging off of my duvet cover would be needed. I must have been a complete nightmare in the mornings, because even these methods would fail at times. Sometimes, however, all that was required was for Mum to shout upstairs a short while after having left the tea.

“J, are you up yet?”

Thump!

“Yes Mum.”

The thump which punctuated this exchange would be the sound of me getting out of my cabin bed. The bed was a few feet from the ground and I used to exit by means of sliding off the edge.

My Mum doubtless knew that this is what was happening; I don’t think I was under any illusion that I was fooling her. The important thing, for me at least, was that I was not lying. Many people would probably have shouted a cheery ‘yes’ under these circumstances and then quietly got out of bed. Me, I did not like the idea of telling an outright lie, hence this very particular form of truth.