I’m so pleased to be on The Blog Tour for Time & Places by Keith Anthony. As some of my followers may know I lost my son Christopher at 24 weeks, he was born alive but was too poorly to survive. One of the biggest questions I have been asked since is how others can support people in the same situation. You can imagine how excited I was when Keith said he’d write a guest post for me in how to support grieving people.
Time and places was published on the 25th February 2018 and you can purchase a copy here.
I will be sharing my very special guest post in a bit, but first here is a bit more about the book.
Ten years after his daughter Justine’s death, an anxious Fergus embarks on a cruise with his wife. On board, he meets a myriad of characters and is entranced by some, irritated by others and disgusted by one. These turbulent feelings, combined with a sequence of bizarre events, only lead to his increased anxiety.
In a series of flashbacks, Justine enjoys an ultimately short romance, a woman concludes she killed her and an investigating police officer is drawn into her idyllic world. Fergus, haunted by poignant memories, withdraws in search of answers.
Back on the cruise, Fergus reaches breaking point, fearing he has done something terrible. By the time the ship returns, his world has changed forever.
Times and Places spans Atlantic islands, the Chiltern countryside, Cornish coasts and rural Slovenia, all of which provide spectacular backdrops to a humorous and moving tale of quiet spirituality.
Supporting grieving people
Within “Times and Places” a late middle aged couple – Fergus and Sylvie – reflect on the loss, ten years earlier, of their then 24 year old only child, Justine. Despite the sad topic, the book aims to be accessible and full of both humour and beautiful natural settings. But writing about losing a child – even an adult one – still felt a big responsibility: some readers might have been through such tragedies. And yet, paradoxically, if we are lucky (to live long enough) then losing someone we love is an inevitable part of life.
When someone old dies – whom we have loved for decades – we feel grief but are consoled that there is a natural order and that we all ride along life’s conveyor knowing one day we will reach its end. When someone doesn’t get to travel that full journey – dying prematurely and out of sequence – then that consolation is replaced by “what ifs” and despair at a life which went uncompleted. Fergus feels this grief as “an uninvited companion to whom you eventually grew so accustomed that you actually became scared it might go away, though it never did.”
However, if we loved them, then usually they loved us, so we can be sure they wouldn’t have wanted their legacy to be our lifelong misery. Whilst we can know this with our heads, grief is of the heart and the spirit. A key ingredient is time. For some life will resume quickly, for others it appears to do so (even perhaps to them) until something triggers the sadness further down the line. Still others become stuck in a paralysing grief for many years, in some instances a lifetime. In Fergus’ case it takes a decade, and, even then, this “uninvited companion” doesn’t go away, nor does he want it to, but he finally comes to better terms with it.
Towards the end of my story Fergus reflects:
“How many billions of personal tragedies had their ever been in the world, most of them untold, but all of them felt deeply by someone, somewhere, sometime? Where in this pantheon of disasters did Justine’s accident lie? She had lived and she had lived well: happily, beautifully, surrounded by love and doing the things she loved doing. She had lived: sometimes that was almost enough for Fergus, nobody could ever take that away – she had lived. And as for him and Sylvie? Well, their lives would go on, diminished yes and not the lives they had planned or hoped for, but precious none the less, and together.”
My father died in 1991 – far too early – I think I still remember him every day, most days certainly, and I wonder how our relationship would have developed had he lived to see me grow into who I am today. When Fergus asks Mrs Huffington, a slightly eccentric old lady, if she still misses her husband, she answers: “I carry him with me.” I think I do the same with my father, but he is a light presence not a heavy burden. He would want me to live the life he gave me to the full. I try to do that – with mixed success – and I hope he would be proud of my book.
It can feel disquieting to know we too will eventually follow those lost loved ones, though it can be a consolation as well, and Mrs Huffington certainly has some interesting ideas for what happens next. Meanwhile, emerging from a pitch black cave with waters inhabited by a sightless Salamander, Justine’s boyfriend is blinded by the daylight of a world which that creature could not have begun to imagine. He briefly wonders “whether such an unimagined world might exist for humans too, one of still greater light and colour perhaps, if only they had the senses to detect it.” Fergus’ own beliefs are more traditional, but he knows they are only beliefs and that none of us can be sure of anything, apart from that one day we will find out.
In the meantime – and with time – life goes on, diminished maybe, but still precious and in the knowledge that our loved ones lived, that nobody can take that away and that they would want us to live to the full. But perhaps you can’t actually tell anyone this, maybe everyone must find their own way there, or perhaps to other consolations of their own.
About The Author:
Keith Anthony was born and brought up in the Chilterns, to where he returned after studying French at university in Aberystwyth and a subsequent spell living in west London. He has a love of nature, both in his native Buckinghamshire countryside, but also in Cornwall and wherever there is a wild sea.
Keith has been lucky enough to spend time living in France, Spain, Belgium, Serbia and Croatia, as well as being a regular visitor to Germany, and languages were the only thing he was ever half good at in school. Since graduating he has worked in government departments, but between 2005 and 2008 he was seconded to the European Commission in Brussels and, thanks to a friend from Ljubljana he met there, has travelled regularly to Slovenia, getting to know that country well.
Keith’s other great love is music and he plays classical and finger picking blues guitar, though with persistently limited success. He has always enjoyed writing, including attempts at children’s fiction, and in 2016 he began work on his first full book with Times and Places the end result: an accessible, observational story, mixing quiet spirituality with humour, pathos and gothic horror, and setting it against a rich backdrop of the natural world.
There is a chance to win 3 copies of Times and Places internationally by clicking on the rafflecopter link below.
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.
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