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Yesterday was All Saints which is a public holiday here in Sweden. I went to the woodland memorial garden here in Enköping and lit two votive candles, as I have done for the past six years that I have lived here. One candle for John, the other in remembrance for all the other friends and loved ones who are no longer with me. I have mentioned before that I find All Saints a particularly poignant occasion and yesterday was no different. Or perhaps it was rather different, I had an unfamiliar feeling of lightness, even happiness remembering John, my grandma, James, Vikki, Francois, Peter, Marie, Kathy, and Jane. No tears this year, but a sense of peace.


The tears came a few weeks ago during Supermarket. Over dinner with an artist friend I referred to my relationship with John and suddenly and unexpectedly found myself unable to speak and with tears running down my face. A couple of days after that I was in the audience for a performance lecture by The Mourning School, part/chapter three of their presentation was them dancing to Together Again (Janet Jackson, 1997). As the two of them swayed about looking all the world like people at any disco or party I lost it and burst in to tears. They transported me back to that night at Duckie in south London when my friend and flatmate Stephen took me out for the first time after John died. I had been a regular at the wonderfully eclectic Duckie before meeting John, John preferred more ’clubby’ nightclubs though we still turned up at Duckie every so often. It had been a while since John had died and I was enjoying being out. I have always enjoyed dancing and was doing so that evening, then they played Rose Garden (Lynn Anderson , 1970) and suddenly in the middle of the heaving dance-floor I was sobbing uncontrollably.


Those two tearful moments during my time in Stockholm led me to think that although I have ’moved on’ I am still in love with John, and that grief continues to accompany me. I was therefore a little surprised that no tears came yesterday evening. Had my crying with Pavel, and in the audience of a colleague’s performance shifted things – opened up my habitually private grief?


This morning I decided to post a photograph from the memorial garden on Instagram. After making the post I scrolled through friends’ posts, and stopped at a photo of some Swedish glassware from Simon. Simon and I were friends at secondary school, we lost contact when I moved away to study at Dartington and somehow got back in touch shortly before I moved to Sweden, an interval of more than twenty years. Now I cannot remember how we found each other again, maybe it was through Instagram. We follow each other on Instagram but I can’t say that we are really friends today.


The glassware is one of a few photographs of mementos he has from his boyfriend who like John died in 2007. Another photo was a detail of dark flowers on a mottled blue surface. As soon as I saw it I was pretty certain that I knew what it was, but I wanted to be certain. Simon replied to my question almost immediately: yes it was a ceramic plaque with silver/metallic decoration (Fjällsippar flowers) made in Sweden by Gustavsberg. He had bought it was a present for Steve when he finished his radiotherapy. I read Simon’s message standing less than a meter way from the virtually identical plaque that hangs in my kitchen. The plaque that I have has Fritillary on it, and I bought it in memory of both John and my grandmother. John’s mother planted a fritillary when we buried John’s ashes, so for me the flower is always associated with John, and I bought the plaque with the money that my grandmother gave me for the Christmas just weeks before she died.

How odd that Simon and I have such specific and near identical momentos of our partners.


In his post text Simon writes about how he has a few objects that have special connections with Steve, and how although he has “moved away” – selling what had been their home and relocating to London – he has not fully “moved on.” He mentions this in the context of re-writing a play, and digging deep in painful emotions.


The year after John died I made two ’mourning works’ – Letter to John for Michael Petry’s Golden Rain project, and Brief Encounter. Now as I contemplate making large flag-like pieces in various fabrics I wonder if these are not also grief pieces – evoking funeral draperies rather than national or joyful celebrations.