In memory of my auntie, Marina du Fontenioux
When I was nine years old, Milo’s age, someone remarkable showed me a special kind of love. My auntie Marina built me a place to write.
Most children would have loved to spend their summers in Corsica, a beautiful Mediterranean island off the coast of France, but I was a bookish, rain-loving child who pined for England’s cool summers. I remember sitting on the beach looking down at my limbs – so pale they glowed like something extra-terrestrial: I felt like a different species next to the deeply tanned French girls who lay so confidently beside me.
My auntie Marina understood. She also knew that when a child feels alienated from the world, she needs to have a place to escape, somewhere she can be herself and find her voice.
So, with her incredible style and charisma, Marina kicked off her heels, put thick garden gloves over her manicured nails, slipped her khaki shorts over her snazzy Parisian bikini, and built me La Place Du Poète.
We are all loved in different ways and by different people but occasionally there is someone in our life who gives us a special kind of love, a love that allows us to be the version of ourselves that makes us feel complete. We writers are fragile creatures, we need that kind of love more than most.
Now it is my husband, Hugh, who loves me in that special way, who nurtures me into writing and creates places for me to dream to up new stories. But I will never forget that first kindness from Marina.
Last week, my auntie Marina, my mother’s identical twin sister who I called my ‘other mother,’ died. I have just come back from her funeral in Corsica. It broke my heart to visit the place she built for me. The plank of wood has disappeared and the spot where I wrote is a little overgrown, but the rocks are still there, as is the stone I sat on as a child while I looked out to sea and wrote.
It is a great blessing to know that, just before she died, Marina read Milo in French, L’Etrange Petit Monde de Milo. I will always remember La Place Du Poète, and I will always remember Marina
Seek out those people who give you that special kind of love. By allowing you to grow into your best self, into the artist that makes your heart sing, you will give back to them and to the world a thousand-fold.