Bit of a change of gear for our usually light-hearted blog, but... this week was the first anniversary of my father's death, and I didn't want to leave it unmarked.
Because my Dad lived abroad for so much of the past 15 years, only visiting London occasionally, I guess my daily existence at home has been largely free of... well, of reminders that He's Gone. By which I mean - I don't go past places which remind me of my father on a daily basis. (At least, I don't now that I've left my job at IFS - where my daily commute used to take me past the hotel in which he died, every day.) It's mostly been on the really big occasions (birthdays, family reunions...) - times when he would usually have been there, or at least telephoned - that his absence has come jarringly into focus. In Moscow last week, though, Dad's absence was everywhere.
He moved to Moscow in the mid-1990s, and my brother and I went out to visit him many times. Pretty much everywhere I've ever been in the city, I first went with my Dad. All the place names, the metro stops - exotic sounding words like 'Novokuznetskaya' and 'Okhotny Ryad' - are words I first heard from my father. Even now, navigating the city day-to-day with Sam, reading Metro maps on the station walls - they're words which I hear in his voice.
On one of our first nights in Moscow, Sam and I made a little pilgrimage to my Dad's old building in Paveletskaya - the last home he ever knew. It was about midnight, and I took the photo above, of the huge windows of the beautiful front room of his old flat. It was an extraordinary place - 'very Dad,' as we say in our family. Extravagant and full of life - fabulous views of the city, plenty of space for his pianos, his gadgets and his beautiful family. It was ridiculously sad to go back there, but perhaps the best sort of sadness you can hope for - it was sad because all my memories of the place are so happy.
Dad was an inveterate planner, always thinking 5 years ahead to his next extraordinary adventure. A musical on Broadway. An estate in the South of France. A career swansong in Mongolia. Part of the tragedy of his death: if ever there was someone about whom you'd say 'he wasn't done yet,' it was Dad. Not while there was music to write and buildings to reshape and so many motorcycles still to ride through the French countryside. His would have been a glorious, restless retirement - if he'd only lived to enjoy it.
So I'm not really going anywhere with this, except to say - I miss my Dad. Lots of us do. And last week, in Moscow, I missed him more than ever.
Miss you, Dad.