Yesterday was a significant day. The world will not forget September 11th for obvious reasons but along with the tragedy of the events that happened in the year of 2001 something else happened on that particular date which makes it all the more sad to me. My Uncle Clifton passed away from pancreatic cancer quietly and peacefully at home. There were no headlines ( although an obituary in The Stage) or no news report just his beautiful family around him and the stillness of night.
He was one of those rare exceptional people. Talented, a great actor, amazing singer, humorous , loving , supportive, loyal, patient, fun, generous and loyal. Apart from my own immediate family he was the person I felt closest to even though I didn’t see him as much as I would have liked. He was technically my second cousin but I always called him Uncle. He was also my Godfather. My first memory of him must have been around 1974 when he was visiting us in Edinburgh from London with his wife my Aunty Loraine. It was always so exciting when they visited. The house was full of laughter and fun. Even more so when their daughters, Georgina and Tiffany came along. I loved the theatrical tales and gossip about “famous” folk but most of all I loved the warmth of being with people that made you feel really happy. In 1992 I opened up to him about my desire to try acting as a profession. He gave me the talk as did my Aunty about how tough it can be and the hardships I could face and after a rather solemn half an hour he said, ‘having said all that Laverne…’ they both burst into a rendition of ‘There’s No Business Like Showbusiness’ with perfect comic timing. When I moved down to London in 1995 to go to drama school he was always there for me coming along to all my shows although I now wish I had visited more often but drama school tends to suck the time out of you and becomes all consuming. In 2001 he was diagnosed. Months later he was gone. Time is too soon. Time is cruel. Time is a killer. We all have a shelf life but why do some have go so soon? All those people in New York, my Uncle and countless others we know nothing of but were special to someone- or at least I hope they were. I saw him two weeks before he passed away. I’ll never forget it. Some things stay with you forever. Through the pain of seeing him I am always thankful that I got to see him one last time. A few days afterwards I moved back to Edinburgh. My time in London had ended. Six years almost to the day. I remember sitting on Portobello beach a few days before the 11th and receiving a text from him saying he hoped I’d be happy back in Edinburgh and that he was pleased to have seen me. I remember texting back trying to be upbeat telling him I’d see him again soon. I did but time didn’t allow for the kind of visit I had intimated. A strange thing was at that time I had a tiny stupid and very irritating mobile phone made by a now defunct company called Trium. The old black and grey screen saver was of the Twin Towers. Little did I know on that day at the beach how significant and poignant that cursed phone would be. Clifton was half Scottish, born in the bedroom I shared with my Nana who was his mums sister. His dad was an English musician. Although he spent some of his very some early years in Edinburgh he lived in London all his life but always supported Scotland in the football. I read a poem at his funeral called , ‘Arthur’s Seat’ and that is where he finally rested beside his mum, his elder sister years later and part of my Nana. Yes a part! – Nana was scattered Voldemort style in three places.
Time is fleeting and if we could see what’s ahead of us what would we do? End it for fear of knowing what’s to come or live each day like it could be your last. I for one don’t want to know my future for that knowledge would stop me living the now. My Uncle was one of the healthiest men I knew and it didn’t stop him getting sick so if he had known what was ahead what possible thing could he have done to change the inevitable? I believe some things are fated . We are where we are for a reason. We can’t go back in time to change “what ifs” or go into the future to preempt possible negative situations. All we have is the now and now is very precious.
So my sweet Uncle Clifton I raise my glass of Adams wine to you and feel joy at having had such a person in my life. Love you xxx
Nighty night x
Ps 164 days