A wonderful coincidence.


A few weeks, not long back from my big trip around America shooting my new project about my mum and my journey through her life and our life together, I walked passed our old house in Kentish Town. It’s always held this magical feeling for me, it’s one of the only places I have true happy family memories. I have so many memories of it, all slightly dreamlike, dark, blurred, warm, abstract, but indelible in my head none the less. I’ve always thought what it might be like to return, especially for this project I’m doing. It was the one bit that was missing. As I walked passed it, unplanned, I was thinking how would I ever be able to get back in, could I perhaps just knock on the door and explain to the new family who I was and what I wanted to do. That didn’t seem like a normal thing to do. Still thinking heavily about this the next day I opened my emails to see an email forwarded on from my dad, from a man who now lives at the house! It was the most wonderful of coincidences. He had been removing a door from the sitting room, when a small wrapped up thing fell out from the wall, it was a kind of time capsule my dad had made, it consisted of some old 60/70’s stuff and his name. He had found my dad on the internet and invited him to come round to pick it up. I couldn’t quite believe the timing of all this, right in the middle of publishing my Tulip book about my mum and right in the middle of doing the new project. I jumped at the chance and am going this Sunday.


I explained to Harold (which was also my grandad’s name), the new owner, about my photography project and is very keen on me coming round and do some in the house. I lived in the house from birth till 6 years old, and haven’t been there for 30 years now. He wants me to meet his family, especially his 6 year old daughter, the age I was when I left there. Amazingly enough it still has the kitchen my uncle built and my mums old Aga cooker. That kitchen is so central in all my memories in that house. I spent a few hours this morning going through all our old family albums, and it’s where nearly all the photos were taken in that house.


So this Sunday I am returning. It’s so weird and so great at the same time. Though I worry that by seeing it now it will wipe out some of the old treasured memories, I really hope not. I really hope it hasn’t been done up and feels impersonal, as thats not what it was like when I grew up there. I like the way I remember it.


It will be so amazing to be standing in my mothers old kitchen, looking at her old cooker. I’m looking forward to what feelings come up when I get there, that’s what all my work is about now, I’m looking forward to it greatly. The only sad bit is in the back of my head I keep thinking I will see my mum there. Maybe this is another stage in the letting go…

So that’s that then.


I spent much of last week finishing off my Tulip book, on Friday afternoon as I sent off the whole book to the publisher for the final checks it felt very weird. This book has been with me for many years, it’s my last contact with my mum, and now I’m letting it go, and with it perhaps a part of her. It’s a very strange feeling, and I hadn’t really acknowledged this might happen. It’s strange as a few people asked me how I was feeling when I was running my Kickstarter, and really I felt ok. The whole campaign was actually quite detached from the project, it was a job with a financial goal and all very business like, stressful and hard work, there was no chance to really thinking about letting it go in someway.

As I looked through the book checking every image for a final time, I stopped on a page, something really hit me, it wasn’t even one of my favourite images and not particularly an image that shows a poignant moment. It was a close up portrait of my mum’s face, all you really see is her eye lashes. In what was probably only a few seconds of time that I was starring at it, it felt like a hundred tv screens were playing in my head, each flashing up a different memory. What I really remembered was the feel of her eyelashes, she used to do Butterfly Kisses on my cheek when I was a young child, and I could feel them on my face right then and still can. She had tiny, short lashes, so it was this really light soft touch, I can remember it so well.

It was a lovely memory, and I’m really glad of this moment to remember it, but the whole process of sending off the book really hit me then, and only really then. It’s a form of grief, and I suppose it’s a reminder that grief never goes. Five years on and it still hits you at times, but I don’t mind that I feel like this, but it does put a cloud over other things. I was supposed to be going to celebrate that night with close friends about another friend arriving back in London after a long trip, but I just couldn’t get into it, I tried drinking to hide the feelings but they weren’t going anywhere. Everyone and everything got on my nerves, so I left. I felt bad, but just needed to be on my own. And then I just couldn’t face the pub for another event this weekend. It reminded me of being in the deep dark bit of grief where human interaction was really difficult, when all I wanted to do was stay in bed and watch films on my own. It wasn’t that bad at all this weekend, but it just reminded me that as much as you think your ‘better’ and you’ve learnt to have some control over your emotions, anything can trigger a memory and knock you. But like I say in my book, as long as I feel grief I’ll always feel her presence, so I just get used to it.

Writing this all down helps makes sense of it. I started this blog when my mum first got ill, it became one of the main ways of me to work it all out, and it still helps now. I’m happy now, I really am, and the writing has really contributed to this. It helps to see it on a page, make something coherent out of all the stuff in my head, it’s a bit like speaking to a counsellor or an old friend, it makes me feel better and takes a lot of the stuff out of my head, which leaves room for more fun times…and I can feel there any lots to come.

Back to grief.


After a month working on the crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds to publish my Tulip project, it feels like many things have been on hold, especially my feelings & emotions, I’ve been so busy I didn’t really even have the time to check how I was feeling about actually doing this. It’s nice to have a chance to get back to this now, and continue writing about them as I have been for so long now. These past few weeks I’ve felt incredibly stressed, tired, and pretty much on auto-pilot. I’ve forgotten to eat, slept so little & drank way way too much coffee. It’s funny because the last time I felt like this was when my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and watched her slowly die. The campaign has in a strange way resembled my mother’s death. Even the way people have responded to it has resembled that time, some of the people I really though I could rely on for support, and I don’t mean financial support, just moral support, vanished. And others who I really didn’t expect to care or even notice it came out the woodwork and were amazing. It’s strange how familiar it is.

Tulip being such a personal story, the idea of having to relive all that time again, but make it so very public should have been daunting, but it wasn’t at all, as I couldn’t feel anything. The campaign became a job that I needed to do, there was no time to think about how it made me feel. It resembled having to organise my mums funeral and register her death, my brother and I trying on our own to do it all, without a minute to think about what we were actually doing.

Many very caring people messaged me to ask how I was finding it through the campaign, if it had opened up old wounds. For it to open up old wounds the wounds would need to have healed. You never heal from your mum dying at an early time in your life, I don’t think. It changes you, everything, everything about you, this might not be visible to people around me, I’m very good at trying to hide my vulnerable side (even though I’m probably not very good at that!), but it alters all and you have to get used to this new new as there is no returning. But through this campaign I never really got the chance to think about that, about how it made me feel, what the images meant to me now. I was interviewed by over ten different newspapers, magazines & websites, all asking me why I did it, how it made me feel, why I wanted to make it in to such a public book. I found these hard to answer on paper as I found it hard to answer in my head. Not because I wasn’t sure I should make this project into a book, I knew that was always what I wanted to do. But why does there have to be a reason to publish private work? Of course this project is private, and painful, and intimate, and heart-breaking, but so are most people’s lives, and mine was and still is in ways. Why can’t we just share things for the sake of sharing? People are scared of death, and grief and talking about anything painful, why? Do they think it’s contagious? If I talk to you about how anxious or depressed I feel you’ll take some with you? I wish you could.

Death, grief and painful emotions are the most inspirational things to me in my work, all my work since my mums illness have been about these one way or another, some very obviously and others just with nuances, but they are there. This is obvious in my new project, where I’m retracing my mums life and trying to record my journey through grief. I’m sure many people think why is she still doing this, can’t she just ‘get over it’? Well no. Pretending something never happened is not getting over it. I feel I need to explore her life, but also my life since. The grieving process fascinates me, you are thrust into it blind, knowing nothing about what is coming and how long it will last, no ones warms you, helps you along the way. I found it amazing when I talked to people who have been through a similar thing and I realised it wasn’t just me, so many others have felt the same.

What I liked about the very public crowdfunding campaign is it made people look at my project, and perhaps I want people to look at my grief now, why must it be so very private. This new project is about my mums life,my journey through it, her food history, cooking her recipes & our joint love of food, but also my journey through the grief. Some how these will all make up a book…somehow. I’m looking forward to getting back to the grief and trying to find the story I’m looking for.


HURRAH! We did it! Thank you to all the project supporters!

What an amazing result! Thank you all SO SO much! We hit the Kickstarter target and even went over, we had backers coming in right to the last minute, raising an amazing £9446! 159 of you lovely people backed Tulip, it means so much.  It’s been such an amazing and emotional few weeks. Scary, happy, sad & nerve-racking all in one! Everyday looking at that big bad total worrying if we would do it, then being so touched by peoples generosity and warm and supportive words about my project.  I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement, sharing the campaign on your many different sites and of course making such generous donations and buying the rewards. It’s because of all you the Tulip book will come to fruition, so thank you all.dummy-3
I’ll be working on finishing off the last small details of the book next week, I will continue to send regular updates so you will know the progress. The book is being printed in Italy, I will make sure to share some images of it coming out the press! And of course I will update you all of when you will get your own copy of the book, and the other rewards too. Along with the book launch date when I know it.

Thank you so much for your support, it means so much.

Love Celine x