The day after I wrote my last entry on this site my beloved husband, Phil, died in Turkey.
It was sudden and shocking. It happened at the end of a lovely day where we had pottered around the house and garden and enjoyed the sunshine. Just a normal day in Kirazli.
He was only 50. He was full of life and fun and if I hadn’t stood there and seen it happen I would not believe it. Sometimes I still don’t believe it anyway.
I was the last thing he saw, mine was the last voice he heard. I am as priviledged by that as I was priviledged to share his life.
Phil’s funeral was held in Rugby in Warwickshire on 9th May 2008. Eight years before he had left Rugby to come with me as we began our adventures around the world. This is the tribute I read at his funeral.
My name is Karen and I am Phil’s wife, I’m that weird woman he ran off round the world with. These are our daughters Sian and Naomi. Phil and I were very, very proud them, they will be all they can be. And we three are very proud of Phil.
You see Phil was the kind of man to be incredibly proud of. In the last few years we had travelled the world, having adventures, building unique homes in strange places and all his qualities came together to make him incredibly good at that.
It takes a certain type of vision at look at a patch of jungle or a weed infested ruin and see what you could build there and then actually make it happen. Phil had that vision. You need courage and faith in yourself to take the risk, to go into a totally foreign environment and work there to create things out of the ordinary. You need a willingness to learn and adapt and you need the energy to see it through and the patience to overcome the daily trials, Phil had all those qualities. It also helps, if like Phil, you are a bloody good engineer who can turn his hand to anything!
We built homes in earthquake zones and hurricane zones. We built a house in Mexico that after it was finished endured 48 hours beneath the biggest hurricane that ever stormed across the Atlantic and emerged unscathed. That was how Phil built things, you build it strong, you build it to last, you get it right and it stands forever.
I think of those homes now, all of them are well engineered, strong and easy to live in, but they are all also intensely romantic. Inside the engineer was also a poet. On an island in the Caribbean is Casa De Mariposas, House of Butterflies, sitting on the skyline, rising out of the jungle like a little castle, looking east to the sun rising out of a dark sea. A place to escape to with someone you love. A place to sit and watch the fire flies play in the garden after a Caribbean day of white powder sand and pina coladas.
In a tiny village in Turkey, with narrow winding streets, beneath the pine forests of Gul Dar is Kirazli, and here we built the Muses House and the Artists House with their sun washed courtyards and honey stone walls and splashing waterfalls and terracotta roofs. I can hear the wind in the pine trees and the cake seller calling out as he walks through the streets, I see the cherry orchards in bloom and the poppies growing between the olive trees. Here Phil built retreats, quiet places to inspire the artists and the writers and to sooth the stressed.
So many places, so many memories. If I am not careful I drown in them. We had so many adventures, we travelled so far. I see him laughing in the sun, filthy dirty with the men after a day of pouring concrete, I see him golden brown and smiling, making people laugh all through those gorgeous Aegean nights. I see him examining the black scorpion that lived in the garden in Mexico, I see his eyes the first time a barracuda crossed his path, I see him pointing to the eagles that circle above our valley. I see him living. Really living and experiencing it all and learning from it.
And because of that, despite all of this I know I am lucky, we were lucky, we had something most people spend their whole lives looking for and never finding. I feel such wonder for that. Between Phil and I there is nothing left unsaid, no regrets, no words we should have said, every day he knew he was loved and was told how beautiful he was. I worshipped the ground he walked on and he was cool with that!
It ended how he would have wanted it, fast, clean, one flash of light and he got the answers to the questions we all ask ourselves in the middle of the night.
Now we remember, we remember the things he loved and the example he set. He loved thunderstorms and the sound of rainfall, sunny mornings and long nights, he loved fast cars and women wearing high heels and bluebells in spring and high speed internet access. He believed in hard work and learning new things and experiencing all of life and that you don’t just have to have one dream, you can have hundreds.
And finally I think about the music, because the music is so much part of Phil. I think of the soundtracks he played to other people’s lives on a hundred Saturday nights, and the music that wove its way into our lives as we made our own soundtrack. And it’s a tough call to decide what to play to send him on his way. Should it be Rod Stewart singing “You’re in my heart” because that lyric will always make me cry – he really was the warmest thing I ever found. Should it be the Santa Esmeralda track “Please Don’t let me be Misunderstood” but that’s probably more appropriate for me! Should it be “Somewhere down the Crazy River” by Robbie Robertson or should it be Blue Oyster Cult “Don’t Fear the Reaper” as he several times suggested it should be! But at the end of the day, and this is the end of the day, for Phil it was about the music not the lyrics and about great guitarists and great riffs and what it must feel like to stand on stage in the centre of a whirlpool of sound and love. So here is Lindsey Buckingham playing Big Love, and this is Phil, playing air guitar all the way, part of the music.
* * * * * * * * * *
I miss him dreadfully.
The woods are lonley, dark and deep,
and I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.