I try to keep this website as positive as possible. It is a celebration of Poppy after all who was the most positive and wonderful person you could ever hope to meet. But as we are now in June, Poppy and my birthday month and the month that Poppy’s mother Karen also passed away in, I cannot help but reflect on the relentless painful journey we have been on for over 3 years now.
The last birthday Poppy had without a care in the world was 2009. She had a swimming pool party and I remember having to swim around the giant inflatables and assist the nine year olds back onto the floating giant pirate boat.
By the following year Karen (my ex-wife) had become increasingly ill and after diagnosis of a very rare cancer of the stomach lining from which nobody had ever recovered, was in hospital. At first she was just mean’t to be in for a few days but this turned into more and more days and I began to believe that she was so ill that she would not ever emerge. Karen told me she wanted me to hold a birthday party for Poppy. I found a workshop that did craft parties for children and booked somewhere which could host and children could paint china objects and be supervised. But Karen, determined to emerge from hospital wanted to be able to attend at my house which was just over the road from hers. So I had to change plans and spend a fortune on boxes of blank China chihuahuas and paints. Sadly, Karen was too sick to make it out of hospital for the party (but amazingly she did regain her strength and bravely carried on for another year).
Sadly we found ourselves hosting a painting workshop in my house with no Karen. This was Poppy’s last proper party, held against the backdrop of not knowing whether her mother would ever emerge from hospital. Poppy never discussed this anxiety but I know that it was a huge one for me. I’ve found this snap I took late one night with my old phone in Enfield Krispy Kremes taken at about 10:00pm because the children wanted to go out somewhere and I remember just feeling really very lost trying to keep them balanced and reassured and thinking I wanted to record that moment, the weirdness and disorientation of it.
Images of the bizarre china dog painting party.
By 2011 Poppy was being treated for her own cancer. We were booked in for chemo on Thursday 9th June and expected to emerge from hospital the evening of Poppy’s birthday June 13th. By that time Karen was at the end. Karen went in to a hospice on the morning of June 9th. I had to take Cosmo with us to stay together in the hospital, and was desperately worried that an ambulance would turn up for Karen when we were leaving as Karen’s flat was just down the road. Later that afternoon I was told that Karen has died. That saturday whilst Caroline stayed with Poppy, I took Cosmo around the West End looking for birthday presents for Poppy. We had had no opportunity in the preceding weeks/days. We went to Liberty in Regent Street, a shop Karen used to work in and loved and I told Cosmo lots of stories about what Karen used to like about that fantastic shop and the people there. I can’t remember everything we bought Poppy but we bought her this cardboard kit pug which looks a bit like her dog Ollie who is half pug.
On the morning of Poppy’s birthday we had to leave the teenage ward and go back to the childrens ward. We had a nice room in the teenage ward but knew we would be back in public view on the childrens ward. I can remember feeling really upset that we weren’t given time and it being one of the few times I became difficult with the hospital staff. I felt so affronted that Poppy couldn’t even have this little time for privacy and even worse for Cosmo who had not become used to the lack of privacy that hospital life affords.
When Poppy survived the operation so well in January 2012, I never had any doubts that she would get better and that we would be able to try to rebuild our lives after such a terrible ordeal. Karen had said that she knew Poppy would be ok and somehow Karen always managed to sound convincing. So after only 3 and a bit months of rehabilitating Poppy I was devastated by the return of the disease and the sense that there was very very little the hospital felt they could do about it. I just ran out of energy at this point and was only able to keep up strength for Poppy directly. Poppy and I had planned a big celebration barbie as a joint birthday party in June but we didn’t have the will. We did have some close friends over and managed to have fun, but it was such a desperate time. During this time my fantastic friend and boss Colin Johnson came over and built some storage for us. Poppy helped us sort out the screws and flitted around whilst I played early Stevie Wonder and Syreeta on the big stereo and introduced Colin to the new Dexy’s track ‘She’s got a wiggle’ which I burned him on disc for his lovely wife Afeni. Poppy and Cosmo have always taken great strength from my wonderful friends.