My first Valentine’s cards came from my mother. In retrospect this seems slightly odd – I don’t remember her ever sending one to my dad. Susan wasn’t the hearts and flowers type, but obviously made an exception.
I don’t think of her every day any more. But always on Valentine’s Day, when she died. I experimented with secular rituals to perform on the anniversary of her death but none of them stuck. She wouldn’t have cared whether we let off fireworks or released balloons with messages tied to the string. I used to visit her bookshelves in my recently deceased’s family home as they charted her evolution from shy activist to shy PhD student and beyond. People often mistook her shyness for haughtiness – I didn’t.
I have nothing tangible to remember her by – no gee jaws or heir loom jewelry. But the 30th anniversary of the year long miners’ strike in a month or so has precipitated a trip down memory lane. She was happiest in 1984 because we had all convinced ourselves that a revolution was imminent. No pictures exist of the nights we spent in the Park View listening to striking miners’ tales of derring do, but I will never forget them.
She wrote a lot of letters calling attention to miscarriages of justice, large and small. She was always fighting my corner, even when I didn’t need her to! Aged about twelve, I brought the 12 inch single version of Duran Duran’s Is There Something I Should Know? home, fearing Susan would remind me of that risible line, “you’re about as easy as a nuclear war”. In fact she was indignant when we realised that the four so called ‘remixes’ didn’t contain all the lyrics or a recognisable melody. They were riffs on the single, apparently, but how would young fans know?
I wish I had an archive of her correspondence; there were letters about dog shit on the pavement and the racist bakery on the high street. She got a reply from Duran Duran’s record company apologising for any confusion that the word ‘remix’ may have caused in the minds of the band’s young fans.
She was often right. The Guildford Four were framed by the police… When Paul Hill got out of prison he sent Susan a letter thanking her for the money and time she’d given to the campaign.
But sometimes she got it wrong. Joy Division weren’t fascists! If she was still here I’d still be trying to convince her of this fact.
In the years before her death, Susan was disillusioned and disappointed. Capitalism hadn’t crumbled and cool Britannia was a very inhospitable place for someone who hated bombast. She distrusted Tony Blair before it was fashionable – there was no honeymoon period.
She had always believed that receiving her doctorate would boost her self esteem – but it didn’t! Dr Raven didn’t want to teach or write academic books or any more letters of complaint, so for the first time in her life she had nothing to do but worry about me. She spent substantial chunks of her last years on earth playing Tomb Raider.
Susan died on Valentine’s Day 2001. I’m so sorry she didn’t live to see all the things that would have revivified her and restored her faith in humanity: her grandchildren, Occupy, New Labour discredited, and commentariat split between those who think Tony Blair had succumbed to Icarus syndrome while in power and those who think he had a pre-existing personality disorder.
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