Back in 2004, I started a sailing race on Team Save the Children (hello reprobates). Among the crew was Tom (he of the famous "its not a bird, its a flying pig" albatross quote). Tom was loud and eccentric and complex - all in a good way. Other people often underestimated Tom - possibly even patronised him but he was a very good sailor, whether on deck or in the galley. I always knew he was there for me, and he was as loyal a friend as you could wish for. I did a lot of helming on deck, and he was my mainsheet man. As the off watch would tell you, Tom would wear layers of gear covering his ears - he hated cold ears. This rendered him virtually deaf. So if I needed the mainsheet easing I would have to shout "Hey Tom" (even though he was all of 3 feet away). Tom would shout "YEAH J?" and I would shout back what I needed. We loved those exchanges.
Tom and I would also sit together on the odd quiet moment planning what we would eat and drink when we arrived in port. This always involved a gin and tonic first. A fresh tomato salad and steak came a close second. (This is a ritual on race boats.... the crew fantasising about food after weeks of freeze dried).
Anyway, a while after the race ended, Tom's fortunes turned and he found himself able to buy a boat. How marvellous! He called her "Box of Frogs", as in "mad as..." So I made him a quilt - in red white and blue (for my American friend), it had frogs and boats on the reverse (for his boat) and it had his boat's name spelled out in nautical flags around the edge. It could also be buttoned back to form the perfect shape for his boat's forepeak cabin. My god, it was a labour of love! I told him he could use it in his nursing home when he eventually got there, because he always said he had sailed around the world so he would have stories to tell in his nursing home..
Anyway, Tom never made it to the nursing home because he died suddenly last year. We are all bereft - none more so than his lovely sister Lisa and family. I have been trying to come to terms with the fact that I won't see my friend Tom again. We didn't got to sail in his boat or eat lobsters in his home town. Life just got in the way and its too late now.
Then Lisa, Tom's sister, got in touch to say how much I had meant to Tom. I didn't really know how much and on Saturday, on the first day of my Open House event, a box arrived. In the box was a quilt that Lisa has had made out of Tom's sailing shirts. So now I have a part of my old friend Tom and when I go sailing, a part of him can come too. Now each of Lisa and I have a piece of quilt love to help us remember our brother and friend Tom. Thank you Lisa.