The snow hit Kingston with force last night. I actually shot out of bed early, following five hours sleep, to see how covered everything was before it got ruined by people fatally stepping and driving through it. I first went to my living room, braved the cold radiating from the large bay window, and put my face right up to the glass. A thick layer of snow had neatly decorated every square inch of the road, paths, trees, bins, hedges, signs and the field that lay to the left of the house. Beautiful. I proceeded in getting myself ready for my favourite lecture- (Auto) Biography and Memoir writing with Vesna Goldsworthy; the lecture that I spent about ten hours preparing for yesterday.
Just to be sure, I booted up my lap top and signed into Student Space. ‘TUESDAY 2nd DECEMBER- UNIVERSITY IS CLOSED DUE TO HEAVY SNOW FALL AND MORE PREDICTED’ read the top notice. Vesna is Serbian. I have read her memoir, Chernobyl Strawberries. On page 116, she writes ‘The city was frozen in the middle of a blackout, without electricity and heating. Trams and trolleybuses stood abandoned in their tracks. The Yeti woman walking through the snow drifts was me. I wore two vests, a checked flannel shirt, a heavy woollen jumper, two pairs of stocking, green moleskin dungarees and red snow boots, and – over all of that – a mink coat of syrup coloured pelts, a birthday present from my parents, and a red fox-fur hat with earflaps drawn tightly under my chin.’ Now, I couldn’t believe that 10cm of snow in modern day Kingston would prevent Vesna from getting to uni, despite it’s apparent closure, so I prepared my bag with uni work, a copy of J.M. Coetzee’s Summertime, a bottle of water, a pad and a pen and I left the house.
I wore my black raw denim skinny jeans, vibrant blue Statue of Liberty skull t-shirt, Ben Sherman thick woolly cardigan, scarf, stone coloured leather jacket, fingerless black gloves, a grey beanie hat and my Osiris high top silver and black trainers. The cold pricked my skin like it was alive and trying to penetrate my pores. The air was crisp and awakening and filled with flying little white stars. Literally every flake of snow I studied that attached itself to my coat was in the shape of a little star. I walked carefully in the cloudlike soft icing carpet and made my way to Knights Park campus. Yes, it was closed, so I walked home disappointed. The void will not be filled today. So far I have sat here at my computer, rattled around on facebook and written this while listening to my playlist, titled ‘The best Glee songs’. There’s nothing quite like a bit of Glee to get you through the day.
Oddly, it was 13 years ago to the day that my Nan, Patricia Carter, passed away. It snowed that day too. I recall it snowing every Tuesday for around 6 weeks, which unusually happened for a few years in a row. I remember having my theory that if it was a Tuesday, it would snow. Nan died at 56 following her second battle with breast cancer. At the time I didn’t appreciate how young that was, being 13 myself. I remember not being able to cry at the funeral and feeling like there was something wrong with me as my the rest of my family sat around me were struggling to keep their sniffling to a minimum and failing. Something just didn’t sink in. I almost wanted to cry, because I was sad that she had died, but for some reason my heart wasn’t hurting- it seemed unable to grasp the reality of the situation; my Nan, my Mum’s Mother, really was dead; was no more; was gone; wasn’t coming back.
Following the funeral we stood outside and viewed the collection of flowers that had been bought in her honour. There were several displays of flowers made into words or numbers. One read a selection of numbers which referred to a Frank Sinatra song that my Granddad, Brian Carter, and Nan loved. One read ‘Nan’, and one read ‘Mum’. I looked numbly, until I reached the ‘Mum’ flowers where I stopped and stared. It hit me like a bolt of food poisoning tearing upwards through my body, like vomit, and in that instant I exploded into tears. I felt shame as my Mum hugged me as I was crying for her, which I felt was inappropriate at the time. The realisation that my Mum had lost her Mum was what took hold of my heart and squeezed it until it ached. I’m still no good at funerals, or at the news of death.
Patricia Carter, I believe her maiden name was Duffy, and her middle name was Anne, although I could be mistaken, was a woman that, in my memory at least, loved, laughed and was happy. Defiant in the face of fatal illness, she never let on the gravity of her cancer. I was so adjusted to knowing that Nan had cancer from the first time she had it, that when she told me that she had it again, I shrugged and claimed ‘That’s ok, you beat it last time, you’ll be fine.’ She never let on that she wouldn’t, and I’m grateful for that. The last time I saw her was Saturday 29th November 1997. She wore her wig and sat in her usual seat, at the far left of the three seated sofa. It was a typical Saturday evening in the Carter household; Nan, Granddad, me, my brother Patrick, who would have been 3, my sister Samantha, who would have been 16, and Mum and Dad were sat around the lounge, having finished our Chinese takeaway. Often my Auntie Julie and cousins would also be in attendance, but I know they weren’t there on this occasion as I remember Julie phoning Nan as we left to get home. I remember us all watching ‘An Audience with the Spice Girls’ at my request, and Julie rang as they sang ‘Mama’ to dedicate it to her.
A year or so before her death, I started to visit Nan when I didn’t have school. She had taken early retirement and so was home alone most days. On one occasion she picked me up from Hurst Green train station in her Citroën and got stuck in the car park. We reversed, we went forward, reversed, went forward, and so forth until she stopped the car, burst out laughing and said ‘this James, is how you do a 53 point turn.’ After several more attempts, the car was facing the right way and we headed back to her house on Pollards Oak Crescent. Once we got there I offered to play her my new Mariah Carey compilation cassette that I had made, which reminded her that she had recorded me ‘Mariah Carey Live at Madison Square Garden’, which we sat and watched together while scoffing bacon sandwiches. She was very patient and accommodating with me when I look back. I wonder what she’d make of me now. I wonder what she’d make of all of us. I wonder if my own family would have fallen apart had she have beaten cancer again and lived on. I am sure the world, or at least my world, would be a better place.