Marzie Stardust


Marzie. That was what my godmother’s family used to call her when she was little. Short for Marzipan which itself was affectionate for Marion. My dad still called her it sometimes back then, when I was growing up. They were first cousins that had lived on the same street their whole childhood. Sometimes they would tell me about the adventures they used to have together but Mum never seemed to like this. She would always raise her eyebrows and sigh. Then give the impression that she was angry about something even though she would always insist that she was not.

But I found their adventures bewitching. Living in London I suppose it was partly down to location. The sea. The sea was the scene of holidays and adventure books. Most of my childhood adventures were solitary ones that took place in our back garden. Marzie and my dad’s childhood could have been lifted straight out of a book.

One story Marzie liked to tell was about the time they cycled out too far and got caught in a storm. A fisherman had invited them to shelter in his cottage and as the storm appeared to be getting worse they had felt it necessary to accept. Inside it had been strong, of course, with the aroma of dead fish. The fisherman had seemed pensive as though the storm made him nervous. He kept looking out of the window the whole time and sharpening his knife distractedly, way past the point of its being sharp, like it was some sort of a nervous tic that he had. That squeaky ear-piercing noise a knife on stone makes, like when somebody repeatedly drags their fingers down a blackboard. He didn’t speak except to ask Marzie if she wouldn’t mind filling the kettle. She had yelped when she had seen that the sink was brimming with bloodied water and that there was the torn-out photograph of a topless woman tacked to the wall above it.

‘And the storm lashing against the windows,’ Marzie said. ‘Ha! I couldn’t stop shaking!’

And then my dad would say something like: ‘Oh for God’s sake, he was a fisherman. Of course he was sharpening his knife! Of course there was fish-blood in the sink!’ He was adamant that he hadn’t been frightened. Even so, he didn’t seem to enjoy this story the way that he enjoyed the others.

‘He says all this now,’ Marzie would wink at me. ‘But it was different at the time I can tell you.’

She said she supposed she remembered that day so clearly for the same reason that everyone else did. It was not until they had eventually made it home that they heard the news. Kennedy had been shot.




Marzie was on television almost every day of the week in those years. She was a reporter on South East News, covering everything from school nativities to violent crimes. It bewildered me how different her voice sounded on television, the way her Irish lilt was swathed in the Queen’s English. I suppose the BBC must have wanted it to seem like she was actually from the South East. But it made me slightly suspicious of her in a way that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time. I suppose it was because she had made me aware that there could be a difference between appearance and reality.

Of course her celebrity meant that there was always a huge fuss whenever she came to us for dinner. There was an unspoken but concerted effort to impress. Out would come the Waterford Crystal and the hallmarked silver cutlery – wedding presents both. Candles and soft linen. Royal Doulton porcelain. Magical. But again, that dim recognition of the division between appearance and reality. We never ate like that otherwise. Not when my parent’s friends came around and certainly not on our own.

But that was Marzie all over, really. She had a TV-glow about her that simply called for glitz and glamour. Marzie Stardust my mum called her, not entirely enthusiastically. She wanted to be remembered for being something more than a girl from a small town in Ireland.

‘Sure that’s why I had to get out,’ I overheard her saying to my mum one time. ‘Half the girls in my class were in the family way by the time they were sixteen.’

She took us out of ourselves for the night. Her talk revolved around celebrities and politicians who were seldom off the TV. Celebrities and politicians who seemed a good deal less impressive after a low-down from Marzie.

I would even be allowed a little wine on those sporadic visits of hers. This unlikely, continental attitude to underage drinking was certainly for Marzie’s benefit, and it was on the occasion of her last visit that I got drunk for the first time.

I was older by then, of course. Almost fifteen. The BBC had decided to move Marzie up to Birmingham – which was hardly the promotion she had been anticipating – and the night turned into a long drunken farewell, with my parents consuming at least three times as much alcohol as I had ever seen them drink before. I must have had almost a bottle of red myself.

It took me a long time to admit it. How for some people it is, and how for some people it isnt. For me it undoubtedly was. Love at first sight. A love you can’t let go of without your heart being split in two first.

I can still remember the exact moment. We were out in the garden so that Marzie could have a cigarette when it happened. The way that I look at it is that it’s like the difference between looking at the sea and being immersed in the sea. Suddenly I was immersed in the evening. Everything felt slowed down and emphasised. From the gentle breeze manipulating the fruit trees and wafting the scent of recently cut grass from a neighbouring garden, to the opiated airplane making its dazed way across the pink sky. I felt less than completely myself and partly everything else.

I had mistaken drunkenness for a poetic epiphany. It was a misconception that I have never quite got over.




I didn’t get my first choice of university, nor my second either. I got into Nottingham by the skin of my teeth. Through my dad Marzie kept inviting me to get the train over and stay for a night or two. She was lonely, he said, why can’t you?

Do you have any idea how busy I am? That was the sort of thing I would say by way of reply.

Busy enjoying myself. I had met the woman who would become my first wife by then. Kim. In those days she enjoyed drinking almost as much as I did. Not that it was particularly obvious I had a problem on that pissed up campus. They were the best times, I suppose. Romantic times. Most days we would stay in bed until late in the afternoon, drinking wine or gin or absinthe – or anything that seemed even remotely decadent – and making love. Even reading poetry to one another sometimes. Sometimes even writing it.

Clearly I was letting my studies slide but because I was writing what I considered to be promising poetry it didn’t seem to matter. The same was true of Kim and her painting. To be honest, we thought we were quite a lot more talented than we actually were. And we were in love with our lifestyle, I think, as much as we were with each other. In love with our little bohemian ways.

So I didn’t go and see Marzie. Not until I had almost finished university and had a few spare days to kill before my final exam. Kim had finished some days before and gone home to help with the wedding arrangements. We were to be married within two months.

Marzie couldn’t come to the wedding because of work. My dad told me that she was scared of losing her job because of her age.

‘It’s a cutthroat business she got herself into,’ he said.

‘What isn’t?’ I replied. No doubt thinking this was a terribly worldly thing to say.

In the end I agreed to go for lunch, remaining insistent that I wouldn’t be able to stay the night. I had always pictured Marzie living in some kind of designer apartment in the city centre, so it was a surprise to learn that she lived outside Birmingham, in the small commuter town of Tamworth.

It would have been June but the day, as I remember it, was overcast. Drizzle blurring the windows of the train and drawing out the fragrance from the fields we passed through, before lone buildings, then small towns, began to reappear. Until the view consisted solely of buildings and roads. Then the dirt-brown-brick-outhouses that pave the final miles to New Street. The air changing and tasting like stale water.

I took the opportunity of a delay at New Street to have a pint and pick up a couple of bottles of wine in case Marzie wasn’t planning on serving any with lunch. She asked me if I wouldn’t mind getting a taxi to her house from the train station when I rang to tell her that I would be an hour late. She sounded anxious on the phone, as though she didn’t really think that I was going to come.

Tamworth wasn’t what I was expecting from her at all. A small, not very well-off suburban town, it reminded me more of the area that I had grown up in than the chic neighbourhood that I had imagined for Marzie. The taxi turned down a winding cul-de-sac populated by large but identikit houses. Hers was one of the last. And there she was, waiting outside the front door in a baggy jumper and leg-ins, clutching her purse. She was extremely skinny. She had always been slim but this, surely, was something more. She waved at me with a frailty which only increased my alarm, before breaking into one of those endearingly enthusiastic smiles of hers that always revealed something of her teeth.

‘Oh!’ she said. ‘It’s so good to see you!’

She paid the taxi driver and gave me a hug. I put my hand where I thought her back should be but only brushed against thin air. I had to move my hand inwards, through air that ought really to have been full with flesh and bone, in order to touch her.

‘All grown up!’ she said looking me up and down. A shadow crossed her expression as though she had guessed that I was thinking about her weight, and she turned away, into the house, saying ‘Come in then! Everything’s going cold!’

‘Sorry,’ I called after her. ‘Trains!’

The house was cosy but again hardly what I had been expecting. The only thing that differentiated it from a stereotypically suburban home was the photographs. Mostly taken during her eighties’ heyday on South East News, they featured Marzie with the, by now largely forgotten, celebrities of that era. The smattering of political snapshots made more of an impression on me. I remember there was a great one of her sharing a bag of chips with Neil Kinnock in front of Brighton Pier.

The only family picture on display was a sun-bleached Polaroid of Marzie and my dad that I hadn’t seen before. The only photos I had ever seen of them were black and white and taken when they were very young but they must have been about fifteen or sixteen in this. They were standing shoulder to shoulder in the sea and laughing their heads off.

It’s funny but when I used to listen to the stories of their childhood I never thought of them as being any older than I was myself. It didn’t cross my mind that some of those adventures might have taken place when they were practically adults.

Marzie came through with lunch.

‘I see you found that picture of your father and me?’ she said.

‘When was it taken?’

‘Oh God, it was the summer before I came over to England,’ she laughed. ‘Don’t I look ridiculous in that bathing suit?’

She patently didn’t. In fact she looked extremely beautiful, much more so than I would have expected. I shook my head and told her how pretty she looked, knowing that she was always one for a compliment. I held up the bag from the off-licence. ‘I brought some wine Aunty Marzie.’

‘God, it’s been a while since anyone called me that!’ she laughed. ‘Wine? Well, aren’t you the big lad now?’

I smiled at this lapse into Irish phraseology even if it did sound odd coming out in a home-counties accent. Her Irish accent appeared to have died out for good.

‘Well I thought we might as well make it a bit of a special occasion seen’s you won’t be able to make the wedding,’ I said, knowing that she wouldn’t really be able to object to that.

For a moment I thought that she might have been about to cry but all of a sudden she was clapping her hands and laughing, saying ‘Well, now, sure! What a lovely gesture!’




Lunch was a delicious roast leg of lamb, served with homemade mint sauce and fresh vegetables that Marzie had grown herself. It was just one of the many things that surprised me about her that day. I began to feel as though a lot of the preconceptions I had about her were wide of the mark. Observations made from a child’s limited palette, I suppose.

She wanted to know all about Kim, of course, and what university had been like. She said that she was envious never having had the chance to go herself. She kept saying how upset she was that she wouldn’t be coming to the wedding and her obvious sincerity made me regret it myself.

She said that she rarely drank these days but she was clearly enjoying the wine and our conversation had become easier, even a little reckless, by the time I opened the second bottle.

That was how we got onto the story of Marzie’s brother, I suppose, who had died when he was only nine days old. I had heard of it from Dad but it was a subject that Marzie was known for never speaking about.

‘He was the loveliest thing you ever saw,’ she said. ‘Just perfect. I couldn’t get enough of holding him. He seemed so full with life. I can never understand these girls that have abortions.’

She looked over at me as if in expectation of my affirmation and laughed with surprising bitterness when I only smiled noncommittally. ‘Well, how would you know?’

She looked down at her plate. ‘I wanted to hold him one last time but they wouldn’t let me. My God, of course they wouldn’t let me! A nine day old child? I probably would have been traumatised for life! But, of course, I kept on yelling Let me hold him! I want to hold him! While poor Daddy was going out the door with the doctor, holding the baby to his chest. And Mam just sat staring, not hearing. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t hear me so I shouted louder and louder. ’

‘I‘m sorry,’ I said uselessly.

‘But you see it wasn’t the first time my Daddy had had to walk to the door like that, with a tiny dead little thing pressed into his chest.’ Marzie pushed her plate away. She had eaten maybe three mouthfuls and those seemingly without pleasure.

‘Even your father doesn’t know this,’ she continued. ‘My parents lost a child before they were married. Daddy had to take it away in the middle of the night so that nobody would find out. He cycled all the way out to Frame with her in his lap so that he could bury her in the consecrated ground.’ She paused. ‘I was called after her.’

I had been to the cemetery at Frame and walked among the family graves. I imagined Marzie’s father cycling out there in the dark with the still warm parcel in his lap and a spade over his shoulder. His mouth dry and coppery with the taste of death. It made sense, I thought, how he had died of a heart attack in his forties. He must have died a little himself that night.

I leant over and took her hand and then something intangible seemed to pass between us. A kind of genealogical grief, I suppose you could say. We were both crying anyway.




Kim and I got married that summer and lasted less than two years.

That day I saw Marzie she had not been long diagnosed with cancer. My dad told me when I phoned him late in the evening on the train back to Nottingham, the growing darkness making a secret out of the landscape that I had travelled through earlier that day. That was why Dad had been especially insistent that I visited her. She had been distraught for weeks because she had been given a chemotherapy appointment on the day of our wedding and couldn’t afford to move it. She’s always been very fond of you, you know, he had said. She couldn’t ever have children of her own, you know.

I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t told me that she had cancer. Perhaps that was why she had told me another secret instead.

Mum and Dad spent Christmas with Marzie that year but myself and Kim preferred to stay on our own, it being our first Christmas as a married couple. Looking back on it, it’s a day that I still have some fond memories of, even if I can see in retrospect that the cracks were already beginning to show.

In the morning we didn’t go to church, we had champagne and sex instead (both coming from relatively strict Catholic families this seemed like a thrillingly licentiousness thing to do.) For lunch we had more champagne – lobster not turkey, green salad not sprouts – and in the evening we hosted a party for a few friends who didn’t have family engagements. It was, in short, the decadent Christmas that we had wistfully imagined when we had been apart the year before, spending the day with our respective families.

But it was a year too late. Kim was sick of our dissolute lifestyle. Not that I realised it at the time being myself, more than happy with it.

Like most people who get what they want – and I had wanted Kim very much – I was blithe and careless. I was particularly adept at throwing away what was most precious to me. I can remember thinking to myself that the poets had got it all wrong about love. Where was this suffering and pain that one had heard so much about?

It was in the post, of course. In the post was where it was. Anyone could have told me that.

By the time of mine and Kim’s second Christmas together I was drinking almost all of the time. Something that had become harder to ignore because Kim was now almost teetotal herself. There we would be of an evening, watching endless cookery and house-hunting programmes on television. She with her mug of tea and me with my gin and tonics. My bottles of wine. My never-ending supply of Sainsbury’s special offer red.

But on that second Christmas Kim had been drinking all day. We had spent a strained lunch with her family. Me trying not to accept – or look for – re-fills too eagerly, while Kim made constant thinly veiled remarks about the poverty of our life together. By the time we had got back to our flat we had both been in need of something stronger than wine and had hit the vodka.

It didn’t take long for her to say what she had wanted to say all day:

‘Why the fuck did I marry you?’

We were in the kitchen when she said it, looking for something to mix the vodka with other than orange juice. I wasn’t surprised because it wasn’t the first time that she’d said it. But this time it did what it was meant to do. It got through to me and it hurt. To this day I don’t know why I did what I did next. I turned around and smashed my fist through the window of the patio door.

‘I suppose that’s supposed to prove something, is it?’ she said, her voice rising the way that a kettle does before it whistles.

She cleaned and bandaged my hand and then went into the bedroom, locking the door behind her. When I woke up the next morning she was gone.




Despite the fact that I had felt a genuine bond form between myself and Marzie that day we had lunch together, I didn’t see her again for another twelve years. I heard from dad that her chemotherapy had been a success and that she had gone back to work, only to find herself made redundant shortly afterwards. Somewhere deep inside my alcohol-blunted consciousness I was aware of just how devastating this would have been for her. But then, that is the nature of an alcohol-blunted consciousness: if it feels any empathy at all then all it tends to do with that emotion is subsume it into its own, ever burgeoning reserve-supply of self-pity. Serving no other purpose than to compel its owner to fix yet another, even stiffer drink.

Over lunch some weeks after Kim had left, we agreed to a quick and amicable divorce. She said clichéd things like we were too young and it was all just a stupid mistake and I numbly agreed, not wanting the argument that I could see hiding behind her too-calm exterior. And then, on my parent’s advice I went to Ireland, to the small fishing port where my dad and Marzie had grown up. To stay with my cousin Saorise and her three children.

I got a part-time job in a pottery painting shop owned by a friend of Saorise’s and divided the rest of my hours between babysitting and a pub on the quay that had once been my father’s local. Marzie’s youngest brother, Paul, was a regular there and became my drinking partner. He was almost ten years younger than Marzie and the only one of her six siblings that she really kept in touch with. And it was through him, one afternoon when the worse than usual rain had led us to order double Redbreasts with our stout, that I learnt that Marzie had a son.

It seemed that the twin assaults of cancer and redundancy had made her re-assess the way that she lived her life and that rather than try and find another hi-flying job, she had decided that she wanted to find the son that she had given up for adoption when she was a teenager in London. Paul said that she had kept the child a secret from the family for years, confiding only in their mother. At their mother’s funeral seven years previously she had passed the secret onto him. I was surprised that she hadn’t chosen my dad to tell, just as I was surprised that she hadn’t told him at the time. Surely he would have been able to help her? She would have been pregnant and on her own, (the father having promptly disappeared), in a foreign city, having never previously left Ireland before in her life. Perhaps Marzie had been worried that he would have been ashamed of her? Who knew? Attitudes being what they were in Ireland in nineteen sixty-four, perhaps he would have been.

I remembered Marzie’s dead brother and sister and her comment that day about not understanding ‘those girls who have abortions.’ It must have destroyed her to have had to have given up her own baby.

Oh Marzie, I thought. Marzie Stardust. Just like in the Bowie song, with all your ‘songs of darkness and dismay.’




Marzie eventually traced her son, who had been called George, but it was too late. He had been killed in a car accident almost half a decade earlier. He had been living in Italy and had left behind an Italian wife and child who Marzie went out to visit. They took her to see his grave and she later wrote to my father, sometime in the months before he died, that she hadn’t felt quite sane ever since. It was the knowing that had done it, she wrote. The knowing that the child that she had spent all of her adult life yearning for was lying lifeless in the ground beneath her feet. Forever out of reach. Every time she thought about it her brain seemed to just shut down. She said that she kept finding herself in places that she hadn’t meant to visit, and even one day in church, buying an icon of the Sacred Heart.

It wasn’t long after that the cancer returned, and when the time came she was too weak to visit dad or to attend his funeral. They died within six months of one another in the end.

Dad had left her a few small items in his will and, remembering how much it had meant to him when I visited her before, I thought that it would have made him happy if I delivered them to her in person. And I did find myself suddenly wanting very much to see her again. I suppose I wanted to speak to her about Dad, before she too, was gone forever.

I bought a bottle of Scotch at the off license at New Street and went to the pub for a while, trying to cheer myself up. For what must have been the twentieth time that day I leafed through the photograph album Dad had left Marzie. Although most of the photos were duplicates of ones from our family albums, (photos that I looked at with a certain masochism, knowing that they would be almost certain to make me cry), there was a smattering that I had never seen before, from when Dad and Marzie had been teenagers. They clearly dated from around the same time as the photo that I had seen in Marzie’s house of the two of them standing together in the sea. It surprised me anew how grown up they were and how very beautiful Marzie was. But what surprised me most of all were the two photographs that appeared to have been taken in a cave. They were dated November the twenty-second, nineteen sixty-three. The day of the fisherman’s hut. The day that Kennedy had been shot.




Marzie answered the door, her face partially hidden behind the fringe of an auburn wig that made her look a little bit like Anna Wintour. Then she flicked it aside and I saw just how much the cancer had transformed her. It had made the bones the central narrative of her face. Her skin had become a mere appendage, stretching across her bones the way that cling film does over the remains of a roast chicken. Her inimitable, mischievous eyes left red and shell-shocked-gawping. They sparkled at me, nevertheless, the way they had used to do across the dinner table when I had been a child.

‘I’m sorry you had to get a taxi,’ she said. ‘If George had of been here he would have collected you but he had to go into work this week. He’s been taking so much time off to look after me. He was really looking forward to meeting you as well!’

I stared at her. I hadn’t been expecting this. That she had genuinely gone out of her mind.

We went into the sitting room where a bed had been made up in the corner.

‘I’m afraid I’ll have to let you make the tea,’ she said. ‘And there’s plenty of food in the fridge if you want to make yourself something to eat as well. You must be hungry after your journey. Sure, George has been fantastic,’ she added with an affectionate laugh. ‘There’s enough food in the house for a nuclear bunker!’

I gave her the travel bag containing the items that dad had left her in his will and went and put the kettle on. I opened the bottle of whiskey I had bought at the train station and knocked back a glass.

She was crying when I came back through with the tray, complete with clinking glasses and whiskey bottle. The photograph album lay open upon her lap.

‘I haven’t seen some of these in more than forty years,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know that your Dad had kept them.’

The album was open on the two photos that had surprised me so much. The photos that appeared to have been taken in a cave. At first the only thing that had particularly surprised me about them had been the date. It was odd to think of them being taken on the same day as one of the stories that Marzie had used to tell me. The Adventure of Dad and Marzie and the Fishermans Cottage! It was like watching behind-the-scenes footage on a DVD.

And it was odd to think of them as being fifteen or sixteen-years-old in that story when I had always assumed that they were more like nine or ten. I was reminded of it anew. That sense of there always being a difference between appearance and reality when it came to Marzie.

Because when I looked at the photos again I realised that there was something else about them, something not so much surprising as disquieting. Something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something, perhaps, to do with the overall tenor of the photos. In each photo Marzie was knelt beside a campfire, with a tartan blanket wrapped around her and her hair soaked through. The campfire lent the cave a warm and cosy glow. In fact it was just the sort of cave that would have fitted perfectly into a children’s adventure story that had also included an encounter with a sinister, knife-sharpening fisherman. If only the girl in the cave hadn’t looked like she belonged to quite a different story altogether. The first photo perfectly captured Marzie breaking into one of those endearing smiles of hers that always revealed something of her teeth. In the second photo her head was bowed, her blonde hair dangling prettily, while she finger-drew something like a circle in the sand. And it was only then, while we were both looking at the photo, that I realised that the shape she had been making on the cave floor had not been a circle but a heart.

It was a love story then. The girl and the cave were all part of a love story.

I looked across at Marzie. She was studying herself in those photos the way that she might have studied herself in a mirror. The young woman frozen on the other side of the glass seemed so much more alive than the older woman who was looking in.

‘Do you remember that story you used to tell me,’ I asked quietly. ‘About the time that you and Dad got caught in a storm and had to shelter in that cottage?’

She didn’t seem to hear me.

‘I guess these photos must have taken on the same day…?’ I carried on. ‘That’s the date that JFK was assassinated on, wasn’t it? I said pointing at the date written underneath the photos in my dad’s clear, unfussy script. ‘You always said you remembered that day at the fisherman’s cottage so clearly because of what day it was.’

She stared at me and for a moment I wasn’t sure if she knew who I was.

‘Where are you?’ I prompted.

‘Well, now, fancy you remembering that.’ She looked back down at the photograph album and laughed. ‘It’s such an unbelievably long time ago now.

‘Well, yes, we fled there after we got away from the fisherman. I never told you this at the time, of course, but that fisherman was violent. He was well known in the town for beating his wife. I later found out that it was also well known that he raped her. Not that people called coerced marital sex rape in Ireland in those days. Martin Staples he was called. I remember he came over to me when I was filling up the kettle and put his hand’ – she placed her hand over her right breast – ‘here. Jesus, I couldn’t even scream or move. He took me by the waist. Your dad hit him around the head with the stoker from the fire and we fled. Christ.’

She looked visibly shaken at the recollection and I was stunned and upset myself. This story that I had loved to hear so often when I was a child was, in actual fact, something dark and foreshadowed by abuse.

And I could suddenly understand why Dad had always seemed to be so uncomfortable whenever she told me the censored version of the story. In fact I couldn’t really understand why she had told me that story at all, let alone so frequently.

‘We were soaked to our skins by the time we came to the cave,’ Marzie continued. ‘Actually I remember now that we thought we’d got lost because we knew that area like the back of our hands and yet somehow we’d never come across it before.’

‘You must have been frightened.’ It occurred to me that she didn’t look frightened at all in the photo. Just happy. ‘But you look so happy in the photos,’ I said. ‘And beautiful. You look like you haven’t a care in the world.’

I had thought that a compliment about her looks would flatter her into saying more but it seemed to have the opposite effect because she shut the album with a snap and passed it back to me.

‘It’s such a shame George couldn’t make it,’ she said fixing me with eyes that suddenly seemed every bit as piercing as they had done all those years before, when she had been on South East News, pinning some MP or councilor or celebrity to the spot. ‘He really would have loved to have met you. You’re both so similar. Both with the same kind way about you.’

And I realised it then. Realised what she was trying to tell me, what she had been maybe always trying to tell me. But how to tell a thing like that? How to tell me that George had been my father’s son too?

She noticed the bottle of whiskey on the tray.

‘I see you’re on the hard stuff,’ she said pointedly. She knew, of course, about my struggles with alcoholism.

‘Would you like some?’ I said pouring myself a large measure.

‘I suppose a splash in my tea wouldn’t do any harm. I’m cold…. Just a splash now!’ she put a hand on my arm to prevent me from putting too much in. Her hand was cold. It felt like the way the air feels just before it snows.

And that was the last that we ever said about the photos and about her and Dad. Back then, before first she and then he made the journey to England, to their new and more separate lives. I left the next day promising – and meaning – to come back. But it was too late for that and Marzie knew it. She just smiled and waved. Marzie Stardust. With all her songs of darkness and dismay.

Banner image: ‘The Brouhers’ by Ric Bower