A few months ago, I was reading the weekend newspapers when I came across an article about a young woman called Rachael whose mother had died suddenly a couple of years previously. Rachael had decided to remember her mother on her birthday by leaving postcards with a simple explanation and a contact email. She left 60 postcards and has since turned her story into a book.
Well, this really caught my imagination; we were only a few weeks away from Russell’s birthday and had been wondering how to spend the day, and this answered our questions – we would do our own postcard tribute.
We decided to leave 29 postcards, one for each year, as this would have been Russell’s 29th birthday; but instead of leaving them all ourselves, we asked his friends if they would like to have one, to leave anywhere they chose. The response was overwhelming and sadly there were not enough postcards for everyone. In the event we ended up with slightly more than 29 as some of you made your own.
Next, was what postcards to leave – we wanted pictures that would have meant something to Russell, so we set out to find 29 perfect pictures – easier said than done as it turned out. We chose them carefully, starting with six pictures of staffies to remember Callie, and two of cats to remember Marley, then some local views, followed by a few of food and drink. Of course we had to have a Happy Birthday one and a couple showing books he’d enjoyed when younger (Roald Dahl and the Moomins). The rest were of things that somehow summed him up – a “this way up” sign with the arrows in the wrong direction, a beach, fireworks, “I’m@6s&7s”, “Let’s be awkward together”, dripping wet paint and one saying “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way”. The final one was of London Underground signs, which reminded us of the time, he had got separated from a friend in London and had travelled on every line looking for him (needless to say, he didn’t find him).
So, postcards bought, we had to think what to write. In the event, we kept it simple, stating what we were doing and why, and asking the finder to get in touch with a story about themselves, and we included email, twitter and Facebook addresses should anyone bother to reply. The next bit was the most difficult – who should have the postcards? With only 29 to distribute between family and friends, this was a tough call, and we hope we didn’t offend those of you who didn’t get one.
The idea was to leave the cards on 2nd May, Russell’s 29th birthday; where to leave them was left entirely up to the person with the card, and Wow! Did you come up with some original and innovative ideas! John, Sarajane and I set off for Wales, to the village where Russell grew up. John left a card in the village pub where we had lunch and it was found later that day – this is another story in itself. I left one in the maternity department of the University Hospital in Cardiff where Russell was born, and SJ left one at Castell Coch, neither of which has been found. We then walked to the top of Garth Mountain to say a last farewell to Russell in Wales before the drive home.
So, where were the others left? Everyone had thought so carefully about where to leave them, here are just a few of the places you chose:
Ryan – in a consignment of tomato sauce at a supermarket
Yogi via Matt – Old Trafford
Lisa – inside a book at Norwich Library
Joel – posted to a bar in New Orleans where they stopped on the USA trip
Louise – Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
Luke and Karen – by the River Thames, on one of their favourite dog walks
Tim – Coombe Hill, where Russell used to walk Callie
Ben – a music shop in London
Geoff – the “Blue Post” pub in Soho
Chris – inside an Oasis DVD that he gave to a charity shop
Kaley – India
Brian – Florida
Solveig – didn’t have a card because the postal service in Kuwait is rubbish, she left her own tribute in the desert sand
And were they found? Yes!! In all, we had 12 replies with a couple of the cards found more than once. And, yes, some of the finders did tell us about themselves and sent photos of where they found the cards; there will be more on these stories in future blogs. Through this, we have shared stories and kept in touch with people we would not otherwise have met, and also reunited some old friendships.
How did we end the day? Well we all met up in the evening to share our stories in a pub Russell discovered not long after he moved to Wycombe. It can only be described as a bit ‘old fashioned’, possibly ‘spit-and-sawdust’ – no food, no fancy drinks (gin and tonic is the nearest you will get to a cocktail) very few seats, but bl**dy good music with live bands most evenings. Incidentally, while we were in there we met a couple of members of Splash the Cash, so were able to thank them in person for the amazing set they performed for Russell last year.
So, did Russell have a happy 29th birthday? We like to think so; what we all did turned it into a really positive and enjoyable day for us and his friends, and we will certainly do the same again next year, unless anyone has a better idea…. (Suggestions on a postcard please).