Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Visiting Barbara's grave with Rob Radboud

Barbara's grave on Friday, 23 June 2017, cleaned and spruced

Last year in July 2016, when I first visited Barbara's grave, I wondered if I would come back there soon, if not at all. This year, I've been very lucky though, for I could come back there again. Double luck, because my visit to Cambridge coincided with the visit of none other than Rob Radboud, Barbara's former Dutch boyfriend (Thank you, Universe!).

Hannah introduced Rob and me through Facebook. Hannah was originally going to go to the UK as well. It would have been a wonderful thing to meet her for the first time in the UK, in Cambridge of all places. But, it was not meant to be, for Hannah had a personal thing to do with her family in the US. So it was that one cool Thursday summer (22 June) that my bus arrived in Cambridge and I met Rob for the first time. After some pleasantries, he directly took me to the CCAT (Cambridge College Art and Technology), now Anglia Ruskin University, and then to his old apartment where he spent a wonderful year with Barbara. The next day, we met again at Barbara's grave. This post is about the visit to Barbara's grave. I will write another post about other Barbara-related places I visited with Rob in Cambridge. (edit: click here to read that post)

The rain poured down when I visited Barbara's resting place for the first time in 2016. This time though (Friday 23 June 2017), it was a dry sunny morning, although the wind later picked up. The grave wasn't as unkempt as when I first came in 2016. Some dried chrysanthemums were the evidence of a visit as early as a fortnight prior, but no plastic wraps to be seen around. Good. The grave looked dry, but that was the general weather of England and Europe anyway these days. There was a change though: two new graves behind Barbara's grave, which weren't there last year.

The grave as we arrived

Rob and I immediately set to work. We cut the grasses with the scissors that I borrowed from my AirBnB landlord. We threw away the dried flowers. We washed the white grave stone; Rob rearranged the gifts and mementos after the stone block was washed. I watered the dry soil with a white round vas I found on her grave (the taller vas I saw last year was nowhere to be found). Then I arranged the red roses and white freesias (I bought them from a Tesco shop the previous night) in the two vases available. For technicalities, the two vases are the white round vas and the 'sunken' vas with holes on the lid.

After we cleaned the grave, I lit three small aromatic candles for Barbara. Her old candle holder was still there, but it now had a hole. I had to position the candle holder such that the hole was hidden from the wind to prevent the candle from dying out. There were two new candle holders, though, one with a panda (Rob said the panda liked the candle heat ^_^). I feel that the grave was better with three candles lit, for more candles gave more energy to the grave.

Then we sat at the front of the grave and talked about Barbara. Rob and I had been talking about her since I met Rob, but there were so much to learn about her that we always had something new to talk about. Afterwards, we went to Histon, a village 20 min from the city center, where Barbara and her mother used to live, and where they had a fish'n chip shop. We found the house where Barbara's family used to live until 2002 ish. We had lunch in the shop which is now operated by a kind George from Hong Kong. Then Rob had a meeting with Andrew, Barbara’s godson, while I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

On my return, I passed by the city market where I bought the flowers for Barbara last year. There was something about Barbara’s grave this year that didn’t sit well with me, and I didn’t realise it until I left the grave. The grave was dry. The newly dug graves behind her grave were not yet covered with flowers and greeneries, hence it added to the dryness of the grave in general. In 2016, some peonies grew on Barbara’s grave, their leaves added enough green to the grave to make it lush. And it also rained when I visited the place last year, so I felt like really surrounded by a lush, peaceful environment. Of course Barbara’s grave was still peaceful when I went there last week Friday 23 June. But the lack of green leaves left the grave wanting for freshness. So, I bought some begonias for the grave ground and yellow roses for the vas.

More roses and begonias for Barbara (afternoon of 23 June 2017)

I went back to the grave immediately. It was drizzling, so it felt like back in 2016. I dug some shallow holes for the begonias and arranged the yellow roses in the two vases. I also watered the ground again, and played some mid 1980s Hong Kong wuxia songs, including Chor Lau Heung 1984, LOCH 1983 and (of course) Fearless Duo. The three small candles were all burned out, but since I still had one candle with me, I lit the last candle in the white candle holder. I spent some time chanting and playing the Heart Sutra and some mantras as well before returning to the city for a dinner with Rob.

I also inspected the chibi white and blue Chinese talisman that IMO looked like Michael's troupe uniform in FD. It was very cute indeed, hooked safely on a chain. I also moved the dog (well, the stone dog) to the front of the black candle holder; the poor dog was previously hidden behind the candle holder. I thought Barbara would like to have the dog clearly visible. Oh, and Barbara has a unicorn now, one with purple mane!

See the two new candle holders?
The white one and the black one - with the panda

Rob and I met again the next day (Saturday 24 June) at Barbara’s grave. I was going to head back to London while Rob had a reunion with his Cambridge friends. I decided to go back to Barbara’s grave mainly because Rob informed me that Andrew and his family had decided to replace Barbara’s tombstone with a new one to contain both Barbara’s and her mother’s name. I thought, I had to see the white tombstone again before it is dismantled later this year with a new black one (with gold writing). I suggested that the white 32 years old tombstone be transported to Hong Kong so that Barbara’s fans can have the old tombstone adorning her memorial tablet there. Rob liked the idea, so he conveyed it to Andrew. About an hour ago, I received message that Andrew agreed to the idea, so we need to contact Hong Kong fans, raise some money, and arrange for the tombstone to be transported back to Hong Kong.

Rob also sent me a message that someone had been to the grave before Monday (26 June), for he went back to the grave to say goodbye to Barbara yesterday (Monday). The fan had cleared up the dried flowers and arranged some new red roses there. I see that the begonias are still there on the grave, so that’s good. The fan(s) also left a card for Barbara… thank you, unidentified fan…Also thank you for cleaning the dried flowers and not leaving plastic flower wraps at her grave…

The grave last Monday (26 June), courtesy of Rob Radboud

Rob and I have agreed to collaborate in the mission to transport Barbara’s tombstone to HK. He will liaise with Barbara’s family (Andrew and Sheila, mostly) while I will liaise with the HK fan club. Rob has the contact with HK, he’ll connect me with them. Once it happens, I will let you all know what you do to help. Mostly, we will need $$$ to transport the tombstone and also some publicity so that $$$ needed is raised.

I need to board the plane back to Amsterdam soon. But what I’d like to say is that… the second time I visited Barbara, I still felt the peace that I felt during the first visit. I feel much less sad about her passing though, I guess I am closer to my closure. Meeting Rob and learning about Barbara’s year in the UK certainly helped understanding her better.

I hope to continue this post with another post about my trip to Barbara- and Rob-related places in Cambridge. I hope I can do that by this weekend.

Until then, stay blissful and happy.

Update 2 July 2017:

Click this to read my Barbara-tour report with Rob Radboud in Cambridge. 

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