mark_zoe_me

Goodbye dear friend

The first time I met Mark was in his flat in Bromley. It was his birthday party, and he had invited me along with other bloggers and friends to celebrate it with him. He cooked a huge spread: there was this excellent beetroot, roasted in balsamic and rosemary. I remember thinking at the time that it was one of the best things I’d ever tasted. In the years that followed, I was always pestering him to make it for me again (he managed to just once, though he often poked fun at my general obsession with food and eating). That evening we were packed into his tiny flat in Bromley, with an odd mixture of music journalists, ex-Warwick Alumni, and bloggers, many of whom I only knew by their blog names.

I was struck by Mark, whose stature was so much smaller than the power of his writing implied. He had a nervous energy about him, and his eyes would dart from side to side when he was animated, which was often. We talked at the party and arranged to meet again afterwards. It was the start of one of my most enduring friendships.

Mark has been a touchstone throughout my adult life, as a writer but mostly as a friend. Much has been written about his influence as a writer since he passed on 13th January. I’m not going to add to that, since it has been done so eloquently already, but you can read Simon Reynolds both on his personal blog and on The Guardian and David Stubbs in The Quietus.

In the years that followed our initial friendship in London, career-wise we went our separate ways, but our friendship did not. I spent many weeks and weekends in Suffolk, both in Woodbridge and then later in Felixstowe. His house always felt like my own: we would sit around on camping chairs, drinking coke and watching daytime tv or horror movies or reality shows, walk in the flat Suffolk countryside or beside the decaying boats in Woodbridge, and cook food from the nearby Budgens (a shop I will always associate with him).

Boat decaying on the river in Woodbridge

Boat decaying on the river in Woodbridge

It was while he was living in Woodbridge that he started seeing Zoe. The start of their relationship was a turning point in his life. Despite the huge readership on his blog and his growing profile as a writer and theorist, he always lacked confidence and he always felt like a fraud. He was amazed that someone as beautiful and intelligent as Zoe had fallen for him; he told me “it can hardly be believed.” I think he had long ago written off the possibility of long-term relationship. But here she was and she transformed him. Her love gave him the strength to be more completely himself. His confidence grew and he became more comfortable in his own skin.

Zoe was the reservoir of strength and love that enabled him to endure the bleak periods of depression that came with tidal regularity; with her he went on to do some of his best writing. She provided him with stability, warmth, and laughter, never letting him taking himself too seriously but always letting him know how important he was. They have faced unimaginable challenges but they have always faced them together. It is tragic that Zoe now has to continue on without him, that she has been left without his companionship and support.

I recall the day Mark and Zoe got married. It was in Aldeburgh, the setting for A Warning for the Curious, a ghost story by M.R. James who Mark very much admired. I was honored to be asked to read at their wedding, a poem by Margaret Attwood. Halfway through reading the poem I glanced at Mark and saw his unabashed tears of joy; it made my own voice break and I struggled to finish the reading. It was a day so full of happiness, surrounded by people who cared about him and his future. I recall thinking that he had arrived where he wanted to be and I didn’t need to worry about him anymore.

Mark with George at Haven Holidays

Mark with George at Haven Holidays

The next turning point was the birth of his son George. Myself and Darren went to visit them in their flat in Felixstowe shortly after George’s birth. Zoe and Mark had the faces of frazzled new parents: tired, worn out, but in love with the new little creature who had disrupted their life. During our visit Mark, despite being an excellent chef, cooked one of the worst meals of my life: a risotto to which he forgot to add stock or wine…. truly unforgettable. D and I ate what we could, not having the heart to tell him how awful it was.

It was then we got to know Mark the father. Having a child can expand you in ways you didn’t know was possible; for Mark, George brought out a softness and tenderness that I had never seen in him before. He was totally dedicated to his little boy, singing him silly songs and giving him pet names, taking him to swimming lessons and reading to him every night. When we went out George always sat on his knee, sharing his ice cream or the foam from the top of his cappuccino.

barrymore2

waxwork barrymore

I have so many good memories of Mark: hysterical laughter at the Michael Barrymore waxwork in Louis Tussauds, watching x-factor finals, list shows on New Years eve, going to see Spider Man at the cinema and being amazed at how far he jumped out of his seat at even the slightest scare, browsing in second-hand bookshops, an intense and far-too-long game of late night monopoly, seeing the world-class Roxe perform Wind Beneath My Wings at Haven Holidays, dancing at his 40th birthday party, getting lost in a Suffolk field in the rain, walks on the beach in Aldeburgh, and many, many days hanging out with Mark and Zoe, at their home, just talking and being together.

I still don’t have the words for how I felt when I found out that Mark had taken his own life. There is a huge absence where he once was. The last time I saw him was Friday 8th May, 2015. We were in The Alex in Felixstowe. None of us had much sleep, though Mark had been up all night. We had come over to watch the general election results. The beginning of the night was characterised by Mark’s usual sense of hope, then disbelief as the exit polls predicted a Tory victory, then incredulity, face-in-hands, as we realised the exit polls were right and we had a Tory majority government. The next morning we shared a subdued breakfast together, facing a bleak and impossible future. A sleep-deprived Mark could barely string together a sentence, but, in typical Mark fashion, he went home, took that feeling, and did something productive, producing a mix he called “all the straws we have clutched burst into flames,” a perfect summation of that evening.

Since then, we have emailed bath and forth, but a few months after the election I gave birth to my own son and became wrapped up in the domesticity and tedium of having a small child. I am sorry that I didn’t make more of an effort to see them in the past year. It felt like Mark would always be there, that things between us would never change and remain as easy as they always had.

I am trying to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer in my life. I have been obsessing about it, thinking about the things we did, what we could have done, and what we will never do. I am thankful, however, to have known him: he was someone I could always rely upon for hope in the face of hopelessness, who brought lightness to serious things and seriousness to things that were light, who could find humour almost anywhere, and who was generous with his time and his friendship.

I feel privileged to have known Mark Fisher, k-punk, the writer and theorist, author of Capitalist Realism, he has undoubtedly influenced my writing and thinking, and it saddens me that he won’t read my own book; but what I regret losing the most is Mark the husband, father, and friend, the Mark of “Mark and Zoe”, the precious person who loved greatly and was greatly loved. He is irreplaceable. I miss him desperately.

There is a memorial fund for Mark, to support Zoe and George through this time. Please give what you can.

mark

One Comment

  1. Dear Siobhan, I have just read this beautiful and personal account. Many thanks for writing it, Barb (Zoe’s Mum)

    Reply

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