This blog has evolved over time into a rather eclectic collection of my thoughts, experiences, poetry, photographs, music I enjoy and moments of appreciation. It began, however, from emails I sent out to family and friends in the weeks after the death of my amazing mother, Tessa Cousins, on the 31st May 2011, following a rockfall whilst climbing on the Cioch Direct ascent in the Isle of Skye’s Cuillin hills.
Tessa and her partner of 15 years, Dirk Versfeld, had travelled from South Africa for a holiday exploration of Scotland with my family and I, but we had separated the morning before the accident – we were to travel to Angus to research the roots of my husband Clive’s family, and Tessa and Dirk to Skye to indulge their passion for climbing, if the weather improved, and enjoy some time alone. We were due to meet up again in Edinburgh on Wednesday, to travel together by train back to London on Thursday 2nd June.
A phone call on Tuesday night from my sister Elin in South Africa informed us of the most basic outline of what had happened – a large part of the rock face on which they were climbing had been dislodged and fallen onto Tessa and other climbers below; Tessa was dead, and Dirk was in Broadford hospital, near Skye, with a broken leg. As he was due to be transferred to Inverness during the night, we decided to head up to Raigmore hospital in Inverness early in the morning to meet him as he arrived by ambulance.
I began sending out email updates to keep all those anxiously awaiting news in South Africa informed, and with time these slowly began to include more of my reflections on death, life, and living with and without my mother. I was amazed at the hugely warm response I received from those who had read the emails, some of whom were family, friends and colleagues of Tessa and Dirk that I had never met. I began to receive an increasing number of messages from people saying that not only having the news, but hearing about my own grieving process, was immensely helpful for them within their own journey of coming to terms with the loss of Tessa – either because they were struggling to connect to their own sense of loss, or because hearing that I was experiencing the same things as they had normalised the experience and made them more able to accept their own emotions.
It was then suggested that I put my emails into a blog. One of my mother’s best friends wrote to me recently saying, “I know you’ve thought about this and I’ve said I think it’s a brilliant idea but really, do think about blogging all this writing. It’s such an amazing discussion of living, dying, mourning, and reflections on being a mother and daughter. It would be good to share it more widely, I think.”
And so the blog was born!
A note on the photographs: the initial photographs I used in the top banner of my blog page were taken on a Canon 450D – my birthday gift that year from my mother and other family members – while we were in Scotland, either during the holiday, or just after my mother’s death. With time I have gradually started to incorporate photographs I have taken subsequently as well; you will find most of them hidden within my blog posts, which will explain their origins.