Sugar paper in the beaks of birds of paradise

from ‘Last Words’ by Michael Symmons Roberts   (www.https://symmonsroberts.com)

(i)
You have a new message:
Kiss the kids goodbye from me
Keep well, keep strong, you know
I’m sure, but here’s to say I love you.
I lay these voice-prints
like a set of tracks, to stop
you getting lost among the tall trees
beneath the break-less canopy,
on the long slow walk you take
from here without me.

(ii)
You have a new message:
I do not want to leave you this
magnetic print, this digit trace,
my coded and decoded voice.
I do not want to leave you.
If I had a choice, my last words
would be carried to your window
on three slips of sugar paper in
the beaks of birds of paradise.
The words would say,
I’m sure you know,
I love you.

 

Remembering R.B.H d. September 11th, 2001.

Remembering H.W.H d. September 19th, 2001

 

 

 

 

‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye’

Our granddaughter has recently learnt to say ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’, sounds that are accompanied by an outstretched arm and a small wave. As any parent remembers and any grandparent knows, it is a captivating and charming development in the life of an infant.

Thea is generous and inclusive with her salutations. She greets the lady sweeping leaves, the grandfather feeding ducks, the delivery man runnning with his parcels. Sometimes the person smiles and waves back.  A brief respite. A moment of connection.

In Salinger’s novel, ‘A Catcher in the Rye’, Holden Caulfield feels responsible for all the little children playing in a field of rye. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. He imagines having to catch the children before they all go over a cliff. His sister, Phoebe explains that he’s misremembered the words from the Robert Burns poem. She tells him that it’s  ‘meet’ not ‘catch’.

Thea has taught me something important. She has taught me how to greet those I meet in a field of rye. She has taught me to smile at strangers, not all strangers but the kind I am prone to overly-analyse  – the man with the growling wolf tattoo on his upper arm, the woman with the too-short skirt. Before my brain clicks into its well-worn groove, I try and catch myself. I smile. And when I do, I think of Thea.

Holden’s right. Those who are ‘big’ have a responsibility to guard and protect those who are ‘little’. But those of us who are big have also been provided with opportunities to witness the innocence, the single-pointed attention and the wonder of those who are still little.  Thea has taught me the value of smiling at strangers.

     Gin a body meet a body, comin thro’ the rye, Gin a body kiss a body, need a body cry;                                                       from ‘Comin thro’ the Rye’ Robert Burns, 1782

 

 

 

La Tavernetta: Portrait of a Landmark

In the early 1960s, Felice Puricelli and his friend Romano came to Folkestone from the shores of Lake Como. They found work at the Metropole Hotel, one as a chef, the other as a waiter. In order to improve their English, they took afternoon classes at the School of English Studies and, in 1965, the two friends opened La Tavernetta.

In 1996, my ageing father moved into the Clifton Hotel, just a few doors down from his favourite restaurant. Several times a week, he would visit his old friend, Felice for a plate of Dover sole and a glass of Pinot Grigio. Peter was already suffering with dementia and a few months later, Felice, somewhat awkwardly, explained to me that Mr. O’Connell was still ‘signing’ for, rather than ‘paying’ for his meals. The School of English Studies had an account at La Tavernetta for thirty years and Peter had never physically paid for a meal there in his life. He would have been mortified had he realised he was unknowingly cheating his old friend. I was grateful to Felice for continuing to feed my father, even though he had no idea when, or indeed if, he would ever be reimbursed.

After Romano died in 1996, Felice and his wife, Barbara took over the restaurant. Barbara was front of house and managed the legendary sweet trolley, which still travels around the room like a three-dimensional Thiebaud painting. The scrumptious display would arrive with perfect timing, just when your Pollo Sorpresa had settled, just when a little room had been made for a trifle, a pistachio cheesecake or those delicious orange slices, soaked in Grand Marnier. Once the evening rush was over, Felice, in his chef’s hat, would appear through the swing doors and sweep the restaurant, graciously acknowledging each table as he went.

Felice passed away last year on October 9th. He was 81. I used to visit him in his care home and although he was frail, his memory was strong and we never tired of sharing old stories.

Tommaso and Kirstine Borrello took over from the Puricellis in 2005. Tommaso began his career at La Tavernetta in 1979 when, at the age of 17, Felice gave him a job as a kitchen porter. He soon progressed from washing dishes to preparing starters. Everything I learnt about cooking, I learnt from Felice, he told me. He left for a while – to spread his wings –  before returning in 1992.

The restaurant has weathered three recessions and a pandemic and I asked Tommaso about the secret to its enduring success: Family is important here. Sometimes we see four generations at the same table. People like to return, to remember, to enjoy the dishes they associate with parents and grandparents. We often host wakes here too – for the same reason. Borrello acknowledged the importance of his own family and admitted that without Kirstine and Barbara, he and Felice could never have grown the business as successfully as they did. Behind the bar hangs a framed photograph of Mrs. Borrello Sr. at home in Calabria, stirring a cauldron of pasta over an open fire. The walls are punctuated with black and white photographs of uncles, brothers and cousins in Malvito, where Tommaso was born.

Diego Sanna has been on the staff for 27 years and Ferdinando Lambrusciano has been associated with La Tavernetta since 1976. They are a large part of what makes the restaurant a success, Borrello told me: They know which customers like their steaks well-done, which take sweetener with their coffee and who likes the corner tables. Silver Service is now only found in top hotels, French restaurants and on cruise liners. To those who say it’s old-fashioned, I say – If it works, why fix it? Carpet tiles cover the original parquet flooring but Tommaso is in no hurry to remove them because of the effect it would have on acoustics and increased noise-levels.

You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere that compares to La Tavernetta – not just in Kent but across the UK. I discovered a look-alike restaurant once, near the British Museum but when I tried to go back, it was gone.

I love La Tavernetta for many reasons. I love that everyone was so kind to my father. I love that Diego and Ferdinando will never greet us with the words Hey Guys.. what can I get you? I love the starched linen and the gentle background music that allows you to be in relaxed conversation with your dinner companion. I love that the staff wear black because it reminds me to dress up when I make a dinner reservation. I love that I can order Dover sole on the bone, safe in the knowledge that it will be perfectly-filleted. I love that if I have a sudden craving for Zabaglione, my mother’s favourite dessert, Tommaso will whip one up for me, right there in the restaurant, in spite of the fact that it’s no longer on the menu.

Going to La Tavernetta is like going home and I suspect I am not the only person in Folkestone who feels that way.

 

 

Manege Frei… Step Right Up …

The Knie, Switzerland’s national circus, is back on the road.  Every year, during the third week in September, the Knie sets up on the Gurzelen Platz in Biel. Until I was six years old, Onkel Bobi always got us tickets to a matinee.

Since 1926 the Knie has travelled across the country by train. Everything – equipment, offices, accommodation, animals – makes the journey between cities in forty-five railway carriages. It is a masterpiece in logistics. It was also a highlight in many a child’s life to have watched the animals disembark at the freight depot. The lions and monkeys were in cages but the elephants walked themselves to the Gurzelen. My grandmother once discovered a sleeping lion under the magnolia tree in her garden. One of the Knie brothers came round and took it back to the circus.

The Knies were actually born in Austria in 1807 and did not cross the border into  Switzerland until 1828. They were rope dancers and acrobats and performed for Napoleon’s widow. The family applied for Swiss citizenship in 1866 but their request was not granted until 1900.

During WWII, the Zirkus Knie was blacklisted by the Nazis and banned from performing in all countries of the Third Reich. Frédy, at twenty-two and his younger brother, Rolf negotiated with the German Ambassador in Bern and  were granted permission to hire artists from occupied countries. In exchange they agreed to perform during the 1942-3 season at the Berlin Wintergarten. Frédy became known for his equestrian skills in the ring and Rolf was widely recognised as one of the greatest elephant trainers of his generation.

In 2001, Stephanie of Monaco fell in love with a 7th generation Knie brother. She ran away from her life as a princess and joined the circus. Franco Knie left his wife and Stephanie  moved to Switzerland with her three children. The relationship lasted eighteen months.

In 2015, after almost one hundred years, the Knie family announced that it would no longer be using elephants in its shows. It would focus instead on an elephant breeding programme at its Rapperswil headquarters on the Lake of Zurich. A statement declared that this decision was part of a long-term plan and was unrelated to any criticism from animal rights groups. The Animal Protection League welcomed the decision whilst acknowledging that the Knies had always treated their animals well. Frankly, I was surprised to discover that Fredy Jr. and Franco had managed to resist the criticism, and the audience’s changing sensitivity to the roles of large animals in travelling circuses, for as long as they did.

The Knie has always been known for the quality of its shows which have set the standard against which other classical circuses are measured. The Knies are also a forward-thinking bunch: in 1956 the family purchased land and Rapperswil became their HQ and winter residence. In 1962, they opened a successful Children’s Zoo. Today they offer environmental protection courses, nutritional programmes, the opportunity to shadow a zoo keeper (the daily rate of 450Sfr is donated to an elephant protection programme in Thailand) as well as banquets, breakfasts and birthday parties in the Thai-styled lodge.

The 2021 Knie tour began in Bern and will take in 7 cities between early August and New Year’s Eve. Biel is not on the programme this year. I was curious to know how they had plugged the gap following the phasing out of elephants and big cats. The answer is: Bastian Baker (born Kaltenbacher), a Swiss singer-song-writer and professional ice hockey player. The new format is Cirque du Soleil meets rock musical, interspersed with old Knie favourites – sleek black horses and colourful Macaws. It’s quite right of course that wild animals (if not animals born in the wild) are no longer part of the programme but, watching a team of horses and a pandemonium of parrots getting off the train at the Gueterbahnhof won’t provide future generations of small children with quite that same magic.

 

 

 

 

The Unremembered is not Forgotten

On July 22nd I heard the news that Chris Vickery had died. I hadn’t seen him since 1978, the year we left Folkestone to go to University. He went to Leeds to study Medicine. I went to Reading to read French. We all unfolded our wings and flew away. We became invested in other things and in other people because, well, that’s what happens when you leave home – you can’t hold every hand in the river.

I can remember everything about Chris at 18 – his face, his voice, his Cheshire-cat smile and his whip-smart mind. My dad really liked him because he was so passionate. And he was a Communist. Long before he qualified as a doctor, Chris declared his intention never to work in private practice. That Chris Vickery is going to change the world, my father used to say.

Last week, we gathered in the Chapel of Jesus College, Oxford for Chris’ funeral. Never meet your heroes said Tony Davies, his oldest and closest friend in his eulogy. Chris was his hero  and he was never disappointed by him. Vickery inherited an abiding sense of honesty and integrity from his parents. He was mischievous, scatological, charming, funny and incredibly bright. He was the ‘bonkers’ uncle to Tony’s children and he brought them unusual gifts from his travels.

In 1988, Chris worked on a TB control programme in Nepal. In 1994, in the aftermath of the genocide, he went to Rwanda. Dr. Vickery’s level of dedication to his patients was legendary. In 2000 he was posted to West Bengal where he team-led a project to implement a health care system for 90 million people. Chris’ respect and inclusivity resulted in unprecedented levels of support from the Minister of Health. He was a Master Class in how to work with people and deliver a successful outcome, recalled his friend and colleague, Satjit Singh.

Chris really did change the world. He improved and saved the lives of thousands, hundreds of thousands and quite possibly millions of people.

In spite of the fact that Chris and I hadn’t been in touch for more than 40 years, I felt oddly compelled to attend his funeral. Tony was instantly recognisable as his 18 year-old self but he was also a 62 year-old stranger. Everything about the day felt familiar and at the same time remote. A decade ago, my daughter, Lucy was approached at a party by a woman who called her by my name. Lucy explained, a little frostily, that Suseli was her mother, to which the woman replied:  Of course she is, it’s just that you are the mirror image of your mother the last time I saw her. I didn’t want to be that stranger at Chris Vickery’s funeral, the woman who told his eldest son that he was a doppelganger for his father.

When I introduced myself to Chris’ widow, I was struck by a sudden feeling of imposter syndrome. You won’t know me, I offered weakly. I knew Chris in Folkestone many years ago. 

‘Suseli?  she replied. I know you. Chris mentioned you in his stories. One involved Andre gifting you a pipe rack for Christmas. I had no memory of any pipe rack. I didn’t start smoking a pipe until 1983. Andre’s mind was equally blank, although eccentric presents, he told me, were a tradition in the group. One year Ric bought Jonny some welding goggles, or maybe it was the other way round.

Our minds may be a little cloudy but we remember what it felt like to be 18, standing on the brink of a beginning, on the right side of a long life. Those bonds of early friendship remain. The unremembered is not forgotten.

 

 

Under Wembley’s Lights

I am in Chicago, where few people, it seems, are aware that there is a major football tournament happening in Europe. It’s rather refreshing.

It is 55 years ago that England won the World Cup and ‘the beautiful game’ has changed almost beyond recognition. I do not, as a rule, follow football of any stripe. However, just like the rest of the country, I am invariably swept into the frenzy that surrounds the Euros. This is especially true in 2021. Just four months ago we were forbidden from gathering in groups of more than six. On Wednesday night 66,000 people converged on Wembley Stadium to watch England beat Denmark in the semi-finals.

When England beat Germany in 1966, WWII was still very much alive in people’s memories. There was one jingoistic chant doing the rounds – World War I, World War II, One World Cup –  but on the whole, supporters were not overtly racist or unnecessarily provocative. The nastiness that is rife today is often described as ‘banter’ by those careless about the feelings of others. It is patriotism without content, aggravated by Brexit and a supposedly reclaimed ‘Great’ Britain.

My friend John Buss has followed football all his long life. He remembers Bert Trautmann, who played in goal for England in the 1950s. He was accepted as a brilliant member of the team, in spite of the fact that he had been in the German Army during WWII before becoming a P.O.W. There was fierce rivalry between clubs, but club loyalty was what was important. There were no foreign players brought in at vast transfer fees. Financial rewards were minimal and wages were not much more than those of a skilled worker. There were few celebrities, just ordinary blokes. Pecs hadn’t yet been invented, chest hair wasn’t waxed and tattoos were the domain of merchant seamen. There were no stylists, no makeovers, no endorsements. The game may have been ‘beautiful’ but the players were, as John says, just ordinary looking blokes.  Who can forget ‘Nobby’ Stiles who decided, before the game in 1966, that even if England beat Germany, he would not wear his dentures in the line-up to meet Her Majesty the Queen.

It is estimated that the Sunday night final at Wembley between England and Italy will beat the 32.3 million estimated to have watched the 1966 World Cup Final. I am grateful to have successfully navigated the Covid minefield that enabled us to fly to Chicago for a family wedding next weekend. But I also feel a little disappointed that no one here cares much about a ‘soccer’ game 5000 miles away. I shall miss being part of the fever-pitch frenzy that will sweep England on Sunday night and of sharing in what will surely go down in history as one of the country’s biggest ever sporting occasions.

 

World Cup 1966

My father wanted to create “a mini United Nations that really is united”, so he and my mother founded an English language school in Folkestone.

In July 1966, Dad invited all the students to watch the World Cup final on our relatively modest television. I was seven years old and had absolutely no interest in football, but was spellbound by all the cheering, stamping, waving and hugging. When England won, our German friends were disappointed of course, but the French, the Spanish and the Italians, the Iranians, the Turks and the Israelis, were thrilled because they loved England, they loved Folkestone and the School of English Studies. They had a strong bond of friendship with their teachers and their host families. It was as if their own country had won the World Cup. On that afternoon in 1966, we really were a mini United Nations.

Originally published in The Guardian, August 2016: Fond memories of watching the 1966 World Cup final in black and white

 

Tower House

Today, I am meeting my cousin, Mark at Tower House in Enfield, the former home of his grandparents, Leonard and Mabel Arnold. In his will, Uncle Leonard left the house to a charitable trust and in 1969 Tower House became Arnold House, a care home for physically disabled adults. In the summer of 2020, the facility closed and later this month, the house and land will be sold to a property developer.

Mark has driven up from his home in Devon to reclaim his great-grandfather’s millstone from the garden. I have driven down from Letchworth to hand over two large oil paintings of Uncle Leonard and Aunty Mabel that I was able to retrieve from the house before it was boarded up last September.

Tower House looks forlorn and neglected. The lead-paned windows on the ground floor have been covered over with metal sheets. Weeds have begun to lift the cracked tiles on the patio. The fig tree is heavy with fleshy pips, but soon, it too, will be uprooted and destroyed. George and his wife, Rejoice, who live in a cottage on the property, tell us that, every day, they have to chase away squatters and snoopers.

Mark and I sweep the leaves off a couple of plastic chairs in the summer house. We carry them to the millstone where we share a picnic and childhood memories.  At midday, we strain our ears to hear the 41 gun-salute from the Tower of London, a tribute to Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday at the age of 99.

Mark’s grandfather, Charles Leonard Arnold, was a gunner captain in WWI. When he returned from France he used his army annuity, together with a loan from his Uncle Percy, to start MK Electric Ltd. In 1919, Leonard invented the three-pin plug, which became the foundation of the British domestic electrical system. He was a man of great integrity with a strong sense of justice. MK was one of the first companies in England to introduce paid holidays for its staff. In an interview, conducted in 1966, Leonard said Money is a very serious responsibility and should not be squandered. When he died in 1969, he was one of the wealthiest men in England. Estate duty, however, was running at 85% and so more than £4 million of his £6 million legacy went to HMRC. His son, Jim said in a press statement My father always abided by the law of the land. He did not believe in inherited wealth. Uncle Leonard donated his home to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation, together with £250K for repairs and alterations. He also left a substantial legacy to the Engineering Department at the University of Bristol.

Last summer, after all the long-term residents had been moved to other facilities, the manager agreed that, as long as I remained masked and socially-distanced, I could visit Tower House one last time. Gina, who had worked as a carer at the home for more than 30 years, took me round. Everyone I met, as we wandered along the echoing corridors and in and out of empty bedrooms, seemed sad to be leaving, describing Arnold House as ‘a family’. Co-incidentally Gina spent 10 years on the assembly line at MK in Edmonton. She spoke about the kindness of everyone at the firm and remembered the annual MK trips to the seaside.

I wonder what Uncle Leonard would have to say about the fate of Tower House? Would he share my indignation that a bunch of fat cats are set to make a killing on the back of his  generosity? Would he be angry that the developers plan to knock down his once lovely home,  parcel the land into plots and build small residences, valued at half a million pounds each?

As I listen again to the recorded interview with my Great Uncle from 1966, I think I hear an answer to my question: Sometimes I despise money. It gives you comforts, but money for money’s sake doesn’t appeal to me. Money can be a curse. Wisely handled it can be a blessing. It needs to be treated with great discretion. Honours and wealth are really very superficial and can generate restless uncertainty, rivalry and jealousy. The things that bring you contentment in life are affection and purpose, because even the longest life is transitory.

Tower House had its day as a family home. Arnold House had its day as an adult care facility and now the land is set to grow opportunities for new families and new memories.

Gruezi, Salut, Ciao, Allegra

Our son-in-law is learning to speak Swiss-German, bravely seeking to communicate in his wife’s mother tongue. The first word he learnt was ‘Pferd’. He subsequently discovered that the Swiss word for horse is in fact ‘Ross’. It was a disappointing start but Mike was not discouraged.  

My Anglo-Irish father also sought to speak his wife’s dialect. Unlike Mike, Dad was easily frustrated and often referred to ‘Schwyzerduetsch’ as a throat disease – harsh and guttural.  ‘Anyway’, he used to exclaim, managing to sound both crabby and defeated, ‘What’s the point? No one understands the language and no one speaks it beyond the German-speaking borders of Switzerland’.

One thing that undoubtedly makes learning Swiss-German challenging is the wide-ranging dialects. Which one should you go for? The gentle, melodic Baernduetsch or the snappy ‘r’ trilling Zueriduetsch? To compound the difficulty of the varying dialects is the absence of a standard orthography.

In the 5th century BC, two Germanic tribes migrated to Switzerland. The Alemanni moved to the north and east and the Burgundians moved to the west. The Alemanni language gradually morphed into Swiss-German and the Burgundians adopted Latin which later became French. Today there are four nationally recognised languages in Switzerland. In a population of 8.6m, 62% speaks Swiss-German, 22% French, 8% Italian and 0.5% Romansh.

Bern, where are ancestors are from, is one of the four fully bilingual cantons. From the age of five, our daughters spent one afternoon a week with the French-speaking Kindergarteners as a way of encouraging early mixing of the two languages. When shopping in our hometown of Biel, you are free to speak in either language. The shopkeeper or the waitress might respond in Schwyzerduetsch or she might speak to you in French. It makes no difference, either to mutual understanding, or to how you are viewed by the other person. 

There is no national newspaper, television or radio in Switzerland. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation is divided into language departments and each of the 26 cantons broadcasts in the local language. It all sounds very well-balanced and friendly and mostly, it is. There is, however, something playfully referred to as the ‘Roestigraben’. Roesti is a Swiss version of a hash brown potato and the ‘graben’ or trench, is a metaphor for the cultural boundary between German and French-speaking cantons. The Roestigraben is often cited when the two groups make different choices in national voting issues. 

In the 1970s when my parents owned an English language school in Kent, the language to master was English because English, rather than German or French, was the international language of business. My father was an outstanding teacher of English. Unfortunately he was not a gifted linguist and never managed to crack what my friend, Kate has described as the ‘fast and complicated language’ that is Schwyzerduetsch. Dad’s linguistic challenges were no doubt amplified by his continued insistence that Swiss-German was not a socially useful language. As a result, my father was unavoidably excluded from conversations that took place between me and my mother as I was growing up.   

Since the birth of his daughter, five months ago, our son-in-law’s grasp of Swiss-German has improved, particularly in certain areas. He encourages her ‘goerpslis’ (burps), notes her ‘glucksis’ (hiccups) and fuerzlis’ (farts) and listens when his wife speaks and sings to their baby girl. He told me recently that he now gets the gist of what Polly is saying to Thea. Schwyzerduetsch is, in fact, the perfect language for infants as it is richly onomatopoeic and delightfully musical. I am touched by Mike’s thoughtful interest in our mother tongue. I am aware too that our son-in-law’s engagement with Swiss German is valuable, not only from a linguistic point of view but from the perspective of emotional bonding. Thea’s father is including himself in the circle of family communication in ways that my own father was not able to do.  

Whose Life is it Anyway?

As a Swiss passport holder I am legally permitted to travel to the country of my birth and enlist the support of Dignitas or Exit in order to end my life. In England, assisted dying is illegal. In 2002 Diane Pretty, who was suffering with advanced Motor Neuron Disease, was denied the right to travel to a clinic in Switzerland. No one could have prevented Ms. Pretty from getting on a plane to Zurich but, as she was unable to make the journey alone, her husband would have been seen as an accomplice and so run the risk of arrest and prosecution upon his return to the UK. It is this concern for loved ones that is a major obstacle for foreigners wishing to die in Switzerland.

Diane Pretty’s lawyer argued that forbidding her to go to Switzerland, with all the consequences that this would entail, was a breach of human rights, rights which outlaw ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’. A lawyer for the British government pointed out that this referred to treatment imposed by others and did not include a naturally occurring illness. Ms. Pretty subsequently took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the right to life included a right to choose whether to carry on living. The court disagreed and said that the right to life was not determined by quality of life.

Switzerland is one of the few countries to accept foreign nationals at its assisted dying clinics. Dignitas reported that in 2018, more than 90% of its applicants were non-Swiss. Some believe that Switzerland has one of the most progressive policies in the world regarding assisted dying; others accuse it of promoting ‘suicide tourism’.

I have no experience of MND or other incurable conditions such as Locked-in Syndrome but, when I walk myself to the far reaches of my imagination, these are some of the questions that arise: What are my choices? How much freedom do I have to pursue those choices? What are my responsibilities as a spouse/parent/child/sibling? How do I end my life with dignity? How do I engage the issue of respect – respect for my right to choose; respect for the opinions and wishes of others? What does fear look like? How do I take ownership of ambivalence in a decision so final? What if I have a change of heart? Will I have the courage to tell my family and friends, with their brave faces and their dry eyes, that I suddenly have reservations about drinking a cup of poison in an unmarked unit on a Zurich industrial estate; that leaving this world, this life, these people that I love, might be harder than I could ever have imagined? Will they support me? Will they worry that I might change my mind back again?

I know of two people in Switzerland who have chosen the path of assisted dying. One had been paying an annual subscription fee to Dignitas for many years. Rather like an insurance policy, there are various levels of service available. In this man’s case, he had paid to die at home with a medical team present. It seems that he had no reservations or second thoughts. He was carefree and relieved. He had made the decision to end his life at a time when his mind and body were still fully functioning. His children and grandchildren, however, were sad and said they couldn’t agree to the man’s request to be with him when he died. In the end they changed their minds, perhaps because they didn’t want to live with regret; they wanted to be with this man, this father, this grandfather until the very end of his one wild and precious life*

On April 29th, 2002, the day Diane Pretty lost her case in the European Court of Human Rights, her husband, Brian, told the press that he felt disappointed for Diane because she had been denied her choice of when to die. He added: I’m pleased in one respect because it means I have my wife here for a bit longer.

Diane Pretty died twelve days later in hospice.  

*from The Summer Day by Mary Oliver