The longest year

Posted: April 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Dear Jessica,

It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. And yet sometimes it seems like no time at all. It was Thursday, March 31 last year when I last saw you, your face lighting up with that beautiful smile as we met you off the Dallas flight in Miami on our way home to Bermuda.

You looked and sounded so relaxed and happy as you told us about your trip to visit your beloved Grannie and Pop-Pop for Grannie’s birthday. You were thirsty so I bought you a Coke Zero and gave you a chocolate Easter bunny I’d bought you in Telluride. Your brother Toby was there too, on his way back from a school trip, and as usual gave you one of his special big hugs.

After we landed in Bermuda we shared a cab from the airport. We dropped you off at your apartment with a kiss and more hugs and you said you’d to let me know if you would be coming round on Sunday for dinner. I sent you a text on the Saturday to remind you but you didn’t reply. I figured you were busy at work and made a mental note to call you the next day. Except by then, of course, the unimaginable had happened and you had already left us without a goodbye or an explanation.

A year has now passed and I am no wiser about why you took your life. I don’t believe you meant to hurt anyone; I just wish you had known how much you were – and still are – loved by so many. You could not have known that in ending your life you would take so much from ours.

For the last 12 months we have faced and got through all the first milestones – what would have been your 26th birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, all our birthdays – and we will, in our ways, get through April 3 as well but this feels the hardest. I find myself replaying those last few weeks, days and hours as though I can somehow stop the movie and save you.  

But as devastating as it is to no longer have you with us, I want you to know that the family and your friends have come a long way from the raw emotions of a year ago when it seemed impossible that our broken hearts could keep beating. Some days we’re more “okay” than others, but the edges of the hole that will always be in our hearts are gradually softening.

Yes, we have been changed forever by the experience and it has brought many of us  intense physical and mental pain, but none of us have shied away from facing it. In Bermuda, America and England, family members have been open about sharing their feelings and experience, not because we’re “brave” or “strong” but because we hope that we can, in some small way,  help break down the stigma that still surrounds suicide and mental health. 

We have talked, written articles, walked to raise money for suicide prevention and awareness, had tattoos done, got involved with bereavement work and programmes that help children cope with problems in their lives.

We have come to understand that people take their lives for complex and often unknown reasons. We will never know what made you take yours but you have made us sharply aware that right now someone, somewhere is thinking about doing the same thing and, like us, their loved ones will be left to wonder what happened and how to pick up the pieces.  As a family, as a community, and as a society, we need to keep talking, listening and learning. No one should be afraid or ashamed of asking for help.

Jess, if you were here today, I would take you in my arms, hold you tight and reassure you that however deep and dark the depths of your despair may seem, there is always hope, there is always help. And, above all, love. There will always be love.

Miss you, beautiful.


It’s the questions that haunt you.

Long after the initial shock has subsided, and the funeral flowers have faded, the unanswered and unanswerable questions that a suicide leaves in its wake echo over and over again in your head no matter how hard you try to shut them out.

Why didn’t she call us?
Why didn’t she ask for help?
How did we not know?
What was she thinking?
How could she do this to the people she loved?
How could she do this to us?
Why? Why? Why?

If, as someone described it, suicide is “grief with the volume turned up” then the suicide of a child cranks it up to 11 and beyond. The sudden death of any loved one hits you with a sledgehammer to the stomach that makes you weak at the knees and sucks the air from your lungs; the intense shock of a suicide shakes you to the core, paralysing you with fear and anxiety as you feel your whole world give way beneath your feet. Disbelief quickly dissolves into anguished, primal howls of despair and floods of tears that you think will never end.

And almost immediately, you start asking the questions, seeking answers to the unexplainable, desperately looking for something or someone to blame. Something to be the focus of all your anger, frustration and raw anguish. Anything but having to accept the unacceptable: that your child alone did this to herself. There is no cancer or other hideous terminal disease to blame. No drunk driver, no gunman, no freak airplane crash. At some point you have to accept the cold, harsh reality that your child deliberately took her own life.

You start to question whether you really knew your child at all and even whether love – the deep unconditional love that only a parent knows – can ever be enough when it couldn’t protect them when they needed it most. You search in vain back and forth through your lives in search of anything – family history, a bad childhood experience, an unintended slight, substance abuse – that will somehow explain how this could possibly have happened.

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Image  —  Posted: June 9, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Low: Life after Bowie

Posted: January 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

For previous generations it might have been seeing Elvis or The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. For many of my generation, growing up in the early 1970s, our musical epiphany was on Thursday, July 6, 1972 – the night David Bowie sang Starman on Top Of The Pops and changed rock music forever.

It was, given the huge audience and influence that TOTP had in those pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-gender fluid days, a jaw-dropping performance. With his spiky orange hair, space-age clobber and androgynous appearance, Bowie looked and sounded like no pop star had ever done before. Shocked Middle England (TOTP was a weekly, almost religious prime-time family ritual back then) had certainly seen nothing like it. I remember my father saying he was “not sure if he was a boy or a girl” (a prescient observation that I like to think Bowie swiped a few years later for Rebel Rebel). For a 14-year-old, it all seemed thrillingly subversive.

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Je suis … ?

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

Like 9/11, 7/7 and so many other dates now seared into our collective memories, 7/1 is another that will forever be associated with the deadly vengeance of Islamic extremists.

With the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shootings in Paris followed by news of the horrifying massacres by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the public flogging of activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia it has been a depressing and disturbing week.

My emotions have run the gamut from shock and outrage to fear and defiance.  It has made me question what that freedom really means to me and what my values and beliefs are. As a former journalist, I have had conflicted feelings about freedom of speech and the role of the media. Like many others I was quick to change my Facebook profile to “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity. However after the last few days of debating, reading and watching the deluge of coverage, I’m inclined to change it to a more nuanced “avec Charlie”.

Here are ten things I’ve learned this past week:

  1. Charlie Hebdo is a marginal satirical magazine in Paris that now has a worldwide circulation of more than a million.
  2. Its writers and cartoonists were brave and did not deserve to die.
  3. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is even braver.
  4. Publishing a caricature of Mohammed on the front cover of Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue was insensitive and needlessly provocative.
  5. Poking fun at Muslims is considered freedom of speech. Satire of Israel is anti-Semitic.
  6. On October 17, 1961, Paris police killed an estimated 200 Algerians protesting against the Algerian War and dumped their bodies in the Seine.
  7. Around 40 percent of Muslims in European countries want to live under sharia law with its stoning of adulterers and execution of those who renounce the faith. The figure is reportedly higher among 16-24 year olds, many of whom want Western countries to become Islamic states.
  8. We may aspire to the oft-quoted ideal, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”[Voltaire did not say it, by the way], but we can no longer afford to tolerate intolerance.
  9. A photo op in Paris is worth more to world leaders than one in Baga, Nigeria.
  10. If there is such a thing as Satan, Boko Haram are his foot soldiers.

And finally one thing I didn’t.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many lives for a cartoon?

Rewind: Picks of the year

Posted: January 1, 2015 in music, Uncategorized

Tis the season for list-making  so here’s my annual look back at the albums I enjoyed listening to most in 2014. You can  listen to whole albums via the Spotify links provided (where available) or sample 50 of my favourite tracks on this special Spotify playlist.


1lewis. The Voyager – Jenny Lewis

“Where you come from gets the best of you,” sings Jenny Lewis on the title track of her third solo album. After a challenging period dealing with the breakup of her band, the wonderful Rilo Kiley, the death of her father and years of insomnia, Lewis channeled all that into arguably her most polished album to date. Her talent of combining acerbic, bittersweet lyrics with gloriously catchy melodies has never sounded better.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify


Robert-Plant-lullaby-and-The-Ceaseless-Roar_6382. lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar – Robert Plant

While former bandmate Jimmy Page noodles endlessly with Led Zeppelin master tapes, Robert Plant continues to widen his musical horizons, exploring the far corners of Americana, folk and world music. Backed by the Sensational Space Shifters, Lullaby was another eclectic triumph. Rainbow was one of my favourite tracks of the year.


atkins3. Slow Phaser – Nicole Atkins

I fell in love with Nicole Atkins’ extraordinary contralto voice – somewhere between Roy Orbison and Lana Del Ray – and brilliant songwriting a couple of years ago and this, her self-released third album, did not disappoint, ricocheting from country rock to faux disco via music hall with ease. She deserves to be so much bigger.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify


now-porongs4. Brill Bruisers – New Pornographers

The New Pornographers rarely fail to deliver and their latest was exuberant power pop at its best with Neko Case’s Marching Orders the standout track of a very fine set.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify 


sonic_Highways5. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

Had I not seen Dave Grohl’s accompanying HBO series, this would have probably passed me by like every other Foo Fighters album. But their journey across America, writing and recording a track in each of eight cities, absorbing the musical culture and history along the way, was fascinating. Watching the songs take shape made the album much more rewarding.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

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This time last year, part of The Royal Gazette‘s history died with its former editor, David White. Twelve months on, we are mourning the loss of another Gazette legend, the cartoonist Peter Woolcock.

His weekly cartoons in the Gazette were as much a part of the political landscape as the politicians themselves. He poked fun at the pomposity and small-town absurdity of it all, not with the cruel barbs of a Gerald Scarfe or Ralph Steadman, but a gentle mocking humour and a knowing wink that more often than not even brought a smile to those being drawn, many of whom paid him for the originals. Woolcock himself admitted (in the video interview below) that he couldn’t do what political cartoonists did in the UK or the US. “They really are sometimes pretty vicious,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any room or need for that here.”

They very much reflected his personality – gentlemanly, modest, compassionate with a deprecating sense of humour and, as Andrew Trimingham, reviewing Woolcock’s annual Woppened collection of Gazette cartoons, once put it, “an unerring instinct for silliness”.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to British parents, and a Second World War veteran, he came to Bermuda in 1981 and began drawing his political cartoons in 1983, first in the Bermuda Sun and then the Gazette.

A consummate draughtsman who worked in pen, ink and watercolour wash, he had cut his illustrative teeth in what he later called “the golden era of cartoons” in the 1950s, spending more than 30 years drawing for children’s books and comic strips, including The Adventures of Mr. Toad (his favourite), Tiger Tim, and several Disney books – 101 Dalmatians, Robin Hood, Jungle Book, Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh – although he found conforming to Disney’s strict character formats stifling compared to creating his own.

When I was editor of RG Magazine in the 1990s, Peter was a frequent visitor to our offices – either to chat and share a spot of gossip that usually started with a conspiratorial “Of course, what I heard was …” or deliver one of his splendid works.

We commissioned him to do several Vanity Fair-style illustrations for the magazine, among them two of my favourite covers – a smug Premier David Saul in 1996 and Colonel David Burch in 2000. Burch was Premier Jennifer Smith’s Chief of Staff at the time but was much mocked as being little more than the Premier’s bag carrier. The famous bag, of course, was in the picture too.

Peter Woolcock was truly a national treasure and was tragically killed yesterday after being hit by a car on his way to deliver what would be his last hand-drawn cartoon for the Gazette. Ever the old-school traditionalist (there were never scanned or digitally-produced images e-mailed to the editor, of course), at 88 he still believed in the personal touch.

That touch will be sadly missed. His passing really is the end of an era.



Listen to Peter talk about his art and career in this 2009 interview by Milton Raposo.

Crest of a wave

Posted: December 3, 2014 in Bermuda
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Bermuda has understandably gone a bit bonkers over the awarding of the 2017 America’s Cup. I don’t think there could have been much more widespread excitement if we had landed the Olympics. It’s a massive achievement for the Island and kudos to all those involved in the successful bid – an amazing job!

Not only is this a great honour to host one the world’s greatest and oldest sporting events but everyone from restaurant wait staff and retailers to construction and international business seems to understand that this offers a huge opportunity for Bermuda to reboot its economy and give the flagging tourism industry a shot in the arm.

Of course once the celebrations have died down, the real work begins. My hope is that the organisers ride the wave of goodwill and engage the whole Island in the staging of the event because let’s face it, the America’s Cup is the epitome of a rich white man’s sport. But this event is so important to the Island’s future that it is essential that as many people – black, white, sailors and non-mariners – are made to feel a part of it and given ways to contribute and be involved.

I have no doubt that Bermudians will rise to the occasion and put on a fantastic event. And while everyone hopes to cash in on the expected surge in visitors, it would be nice to think that the airlines and hotels will play their part and not use it as an excuse to gouge tourists. One of the important legacies of the America’s Cup must be that a lot of people discover Bermuda, have an incredible experience and want to come back. Ripping them off and having a ‘tude isn’t going to help.

And let’s hope politicians on both sides don’t use it to score cheap points (who am I kidding, right?). So please, no gloating from the OBA, and while the PLP is absolutely right to demand that Government is transparent about the costs and important decisions it will make over the next few years,  I hope they pick their fights carefully.

We are, so to speak, all in the same boat in making sure the 35th America’s Cup is a huge success.