I learned of Tessa’s death at the Norfolk Watercolour Circle Meeting on Saturday 1st July. It was a shock because I had not realised she had been ill. But that was Tessa all over, not one to make a fuss about one’s personal life. I like to think that her regular attendance up until a few months ago gave her some sense of normality in what must have been a very scary time for her.
I will always remember our first encounter at the Norfolk Watercolour Circle;. I had only just started going to the monthly meetings in the summer of 2015. My husband, the real artist, had joined a few months earlier and I was tired of being left at home on a Saturday afternoon so he suggested I come along. Little did he know that I would volunteer to be secretary in November after an impassioned plea from Norman, the Chair. Norman had taken on the secretary role as no one from the group would volunteer. I could see he was fed up with the amount of work he was having to do.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Tess had asked at the tea break. “It’s not an easy job, are you sure you can do it?”
I was miffed but not surprised. People have been underestimating me all my life, due to my disability. I guess they didn’t know me from Adam, so could only go on their own assumptions.
“I can’t see anyone else volunteering.” I said, “Why don’t you do it?” Tessa backed off then.
I felt I had a lot to prove over the next few months but slowly, members started talking to me and by the AGM in February, I felt part of something and it felt good. The role was not particularly difficult, it was quite low maintenance in the beginning. But like most jobs, it grew and I soon realised what Tess may have been getting at!
The more I saw of Tess, the more I grew to like and respect her, she had quite a knack for speaking her mind and I kind of liked that. I also discovered that she had a wicked sense of humour behind her forthright exterior, which was a real privilege to witness.
I will miss Tessa. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. The day I heard of Tess’s passing, we had a visiting artist at our meeting. Garry Pereira. http://www.garrypereira.co.uk/ . Garry is known for his beautiful seascapes and spoke passionately about his craft. So, whilst everyone else was drawing Norfolk Seas I was inspired to combine Garry’s unique approach and knowledge with my hopes that Tess had found peace.
Water like slate,
Cold, grey erosion
Of land to sea
Sea to land
Taking and giving
Pulling me in
Making me let go
Of life’s clutter
White foam washing
Body and soul
Until I am calm and clean.
1st July, 2017
Dedicated to Tessa Phillips, who passed away earlier this year.
I apologise to those of you reading this, who didn’t know Tessa. It may seem that my posts are becoming somewhat morbid. I promise that I do write other stuff, some of it published on the Disability Arts Online website. I guess this site is where I keep treasured memories.