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Under the sign of Leo, at ‘Lion’s Gate’, a lion demands to be bought at Heston Service Station. He feels like an ally, with his open smile and tousled mane. ‘Syrius Blumenthal’ becomes his name. ‘Ginger Girl’ – less easily pleased – makes friends with him. Her eyes also glitter, dark holes at the centre. Two creatures sit side-by-side, ginger fur asking to be stroked, inviting love.

I found a mouse left dead on the pavement. I instinctively swept it deftly into a doggy poo bag. If it has been poisoned it could cause serious harm to other animals if eaten, so I take it home. On close inspection it has been squashed – a blunt force trauma to the torso, but no obvious signs of blood. It’s tiny paws and teeth – so annoying when busy scratching under our stairs – now fill me with awe. I am sad to see its limp lifeless body, admire the way its whiskers glisten in the sunlight.

Tree and Roots’ 2019 Oil on panel 62.5x75cm.
With exquisite attention to detail Julian Perry’s paintings document loss, the effects of rising sea levels and “weather weirding”. His work reflects the passage of recent time, a disappearing landscape through images of specific chunks of fallen coast. Beyond beautiful painted images; his work offers a contemplative commentary on our changing environment. See more of his work at www.julianperry.info.

It’s a sign. Holes bored in a skull by eons of sea washing in, washing out. Socket for eyes, smaller for nose, a comet shaped mouth. Cranium worn rounded but the bone of my imagination is replaced by the waxy feel of unpolished chalk. “The Isle of Thanet in ancient times”, our Air B and B host says, “was known as The Isle of the Dead”. We walk along its shore now full of vigour, picnic and holiday enjoyment, but it was once a liminal place, a resting site for our ancestors.

I am walking on the Kent coast in search of omens and answers. This stone calls me, crude shape of love. A heart of stone, in search of softening perhaps? I hold this stone heavy in my pocket. I feel its comforting elbows as I grasp it. Sand granules gather in my pocket, abrading my palm as they rub off. I am with those I love, I am loved. I carry the stone home, bumping my leg, coat tied round my waist, a signifier of this here now.

An envelope on the parquet floor in the hallway. A real handwritten envelope with a stamp, and inside a card and a gift. It contains skull and heart beads and a card to colour in. I love the glinting silver, the incongruous procession of pink skulls. I love the randomness of the arrival of this present, and yet its perfect timing to celebrate Love and Loss. Most of all I love the sender, who thinks with colour and craft and spent the thought processing time and legwork to put it in the post box.

I’m wearing a large pink wide-brimmed sun hat. It’s a beautiful warm day. The scent of lavender reaches me before my feet pass. I inhale, sucking up the memories of bottom drawers, lying in a relaxing bath, rubbing my tense temples. It smells warm, purple, summer and my breath deepens. I am surrounded by the buzz of frantic searching, fast moving wings. Among the perfume soaked flowers are dozens of African bees. Slender, argumentative, resilient bees. One slow lone bumble bee pootles to stem after stem of lavender. I sense my childhood summers disappear, an uncertain future looms ahead. This single bumble bee feels like a portent of future diminishing returns.

This is an epic tale which ranges across oceans and decades. A stunning panorama sets the scene for tropical Jamaica and then monochrome post-war Britain. Brilliantly staged, ‘Small Island’ is at the National Theatre. It chronicles the rises and falls of two families, explores exclusion and neighbouring themes – love, loss, kinship, belonging, racism and small mindedness. I am left feeling ambivalently British. Not long after the arrival of the Windrush, one after the other my parents sailed toward new lives in the Caribbean. They were heading towards meeting each other on another small island.

On the page before love in the Collins Paperback English dictionary is loss. Love is not always guaranteed, loss is. If it hasn’t found you already, it’s coming. It arrives in infinite forms – ‘everything you love you will lose’ (Francis Weller), and everything else too. ‘Everything changes’ is a universal truth. The dictionary describes loss in the form of a transaction, without the weight that it may carry. While bringing suffering and sorrow, the flipside of loss can be relief and liberation. Will you be ready to open the door when loss comes, and invite it in?