Monday 18 May 2015

Roses for Lisa

From Lisa's friend Antonia.

I recently started working my way through every episode of The Sopranos ever made. Having never watched it before, I couldn’t believe how fast the character of Tony Soprano took up residence in my head. Even my thoughts started talking in a New Jersey accent as the voice of Tony narrated everything. It said “fancul” a lot. And my favorite: “I wipe my ass with your feelings”.

Only a third of the way into 86 episodes, I had a lot of questions.

“Why doesn’t Tony kill Richie?” I asked Tillie on the phone. “Why is Janice a bonkers psychopath?”

But even as Tillie cheerfully explained the symbolism of all the raw meat and the significance of the ducks in Tony’s pool, I was thinking about Lisa. I was remembering her driving me around the one-way system in Camden the summer before she died.

“Mother******r!” she shouted at a Fiat Punto. “Sorry”, she glanced at me. “Pete’s taken away my Sopranos box-set because I can’t stop talking like Tony Soprano.”

“Oh. OK.” I said, shutting my eyes as we swung a right onto Hawley Road.

Watching The Sopranos now, I couldn’t believe I’d waited too long. How could I not have shared this experience with Lisa? Suddenly I understood the Tony-Lisa connection too: Tony’s wry smiles in the face of terrible emotional pain; his sardonic wit when life turns on him, his crisis and then the way he pushes on in the sure knowledge he’s being hunted by killers.

Over the years Lisa’s Massive Love Of Television™ meant she’d save up episodes of Geordie Shore for us to watch together when I was home from the US. She’d Skype and WhatsApp me with blow-by-blow accounts of Made in Chelsea. We’d discuss the genius of The West Wing and she’d plead with me to hurry up and watch The Sopranos. Although she was horribly clever, she was never a snob, so everything was included, from utter bollocks to brilliantly-scripted drama. Lisa just absolutely loved telly. So really, it couldn’t be more appropriate that she ended up with her own film on the BBC.

Watching the adaptation of The C Word, I lay on my sofa in Los Angeles and chanted to myself ‘it’s not really her, it’s not really her’ just to get through it. But the truth is, Lisa was there. She was in the brilliantly-crafted script by Nicole Taylor, and in Sheridan Smith’s beautiful acting. True, I wasn’t prepared to see Sheridan wearing Lisa’s jewelry – the silver nameplate, the cocktail ring Pete gave her after the first round of chemo – but those things were important. It had to be done right. There was the mug from their actual kitchen cupboard, that postcard from the fridge. I thought of all the exhaustive work that had gone into getting this right, down to a random teacup, to the perfect denim jacket and the floral dresses from Dorothy Perkins (or ‘Dotty P’ as Lisa called it). All of these efforts had been made to honor Lisa and I was grateful for them. But mostly, I heard the words Lisa had said and then written. I remembered her typing away sitting on the windowsill at my friend Hannah’s place in LA. Lisa had come out for a holiday but still, she worked and worked, despite a lymphodema- swollen arm. Telling the story was everything.

“I wish I’d written more. I had more things to say,” Lisa said, one night towards the end. Sitting beside her, I searched desperately for something to say to make it right, rejecting the idea that nothing could. So I told her something true: her book had helped many thousands of people through their darkest times.

That number has risen somewhat lately. 5 million people have watched the film so far, her book just went to number one in the Amazon chart and to number three on The Sunday Times bestseller list. So I reckon she might have been alright with that. But she’d have kept on working anyway.

I think you’re supposed to eventually stop wondering where a person is and how they are at a certain point after they’ve gone. But I haven’t. I didn’t realize I simply wouldn’t accept her absence or that I wouldn’t see her again. Nor does anyone tell you how terribly lonely grief is. I had some idea it would bind us together, those of us united in grief, that like sailors lost at sea we would link arms. Instead, I found I couldn’t bear to see any sign of sadness in our close group of friends, couldn’t talk about Lisa being gone without feeling panicked and short of breath. I stopped calling them as often as I used to. When well-meaning people asked about Lisa I was angry and abrupt. As I live overseas, I’d pretend she was still at home in London. More than once I pulled out my phone to text her before realizing there wasn’t a number for where she was.

This year, on Lisa’s anniversary, I was shopping for her flowers – the roses she loved so much. I’d picked out some pretty stems at a florist’s but then the woman behind the counter argued I should pay more than the listed price, that there had been a mistake. I didn't care about the money, I was just enraged that she’d said anything at all.

“They’re for a funeral!” I said, bursting into tears and walking out without them.

That’s the thing, there aren’t ways to explain to people that it’s been more than two years but buying the flowers is still just as vital. You can’t say to everybody, “I had this friend I loved so much and she died”, just as you can’t expect them to know that the phrase ‘time heals all wounds’ turns out to be bullshit.

But one thing did improve over time. Walking out of that flower shop, I made a phonecall.

“Yeah Me too.” Tillie said when I explained what had happened. Of course she’d also been buying Lisa’s flowers that day. “I’ve just been snippy with a florist in Kentish Town,” she said.

After I hung up, I sent a message to Polly, who wrote back saying how much she was missing Lisa.

It wasn’t long after this that I started watching The Sopranos, and as the weeks went by, I called Tillie again and again to discuss plot developments.

“Silv whacked Adrianna and Tony killed Chrissie!” I’d shout before she’d even said hello. Invariably our analysis of Tony’s motives would segue into talk of Lisa – memories that mostly made us cry with laughter. Finally I could talk about her at length with the friends who loved her like I did. Soon I was calling Tillie every day, and as we talked and talked, something happened. Lisa’s presence blossomed between us, like she’d been there holding us together all along.

Thursday 14 May 2015

The P-Word


I mean, seriously, wow.

The last couple of weeks have been, well let's say emotional. Reaction to "The C-Word" has been bigger and better than any of us could have imagined. I won't spoil the stats just yet, but I can tell you that the traffic here on the 'tit has been massive, and there's no way to thank you lot for the wonderful comments you've left about our girl.

As for the critical reaction, well I'm inclined to paraphrase Emily Burton at Cambridge News, who suggested that the phrase "Sheridan Smith gave a wonderful performance as Lisa" is now probably set up as an auto-key sentence on journalist's keyboards.

It's been truly overwhelming (even though you'd think we'd be used to Lisa's epic overachieving by now), but for this post I'm going to hand over to Lisa's brother, who's summarised the last couple of weeks way better than I could.

Over to you Arseface.


The P-Word

Ever since "The C-Word" aired on 3rd May, I’ve just had the urge to write something on here; maybe it’s my inner Lisa Lynch trying to get out, who knows, so here it is. So in the words of Jay-Z, “Allow me to reintroduce myself”. By now, you may be more likely to know me as Arseface. That would, of course, make me Lisa Lynch’s brother (AKA James or Jamie). So, yeah, I’m Lisa Lynch’s brother, and a bloody proud one of that!

It just feels right that I should write something in the wake of "The C-Word" hitting our screens. It was such a remarkable evening, 3rd May, and even typing this now, it just doesn’t feel real. 4.2 MILLION people tuned in to see Sheridan Smith absolutely nail her portrayal of my phenomenal Sister. With iPlayer added in there the figure is now 5 MILLION! Let me say that again, 5 MILLION. As in F-I-V-E MILLION! That’s quite a lot I reckon. Sitting in mine and Leanne’s lounge with my Mum, Dad and our beautiful new daughter, Lyla (Corey was zonked in his bed before you think we left him out), we simply didn’t know what to expect from “the outside world”. We just couldn’t get our heads round the fact that it wasn’t just us watching it in our lounge! What we then didn’t expect was the overwhelming public response both to Lisa and the rest of our family.

We obviously thought it was special, and that everyone involved did an AMAZING job. But we never really knew if that was just us being biased because it was about our Lisa. So I guess the first sense we got that it could be a genuinely big deal was when we went along to the Private screening, held for the cast, crew, family and close friends. The atmosphere that night was amazing, and to see so many people beaming with pride over what had been achieved by Lisa firstly, but also the rest of "The C-Word" team, was a phenomenal feeling. I lost count of the number of shoulders I cried on in the immediate aftermath of the viewing that night, although I reckon the wonderful Executive Producer, Sue Hogg, was the first to get some shoulder snuffles as she greeted me at the aisle of the private theatre at The Soho Hotel after the film had finished. The reality was though; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The following evening was the press screening, after which we started to get a sense of how well "The C-Word" was going to be received by the press. Absolutely everything we saw was positive. Yet again, we were bloody proud!

Straight after "The C-Word" aired, I received so many messages of admiration and support from people telling me how amazing and inspirational Lisa was/is. I already knew that of course, but I was so proud to see so many other people finally realising the same thing. My Twitter feed went completely ape-shit, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Proud doesn’t do it justice to be honest, I just can’t describe the feeling of seeing literally thousands of messages telling me how amazing my Sister is and how good "The C-Word" was.

That was a proper “holy-shit” moment, a realisation that Lisa’s story was having such a positive impact. I even read one report saying it was the most important piece of television this year… that’s insane! Then people started talking about how it’s getting them thinking more, again, another realisation that "The C-Word" was having the desired impact. This is all on top of the fact that Lisa’s book went to Number 1 in the Amazon Sales Ranking, and Number 3 in The Sunday Times Bestseller list. No big deal I guess! Yeah right! My Sister, Number 1! Guess what, I was a little bit proud of that too!

Going back to the time when the news that "The C-Word" was going to be filmed, and aired, I definitely got a sense from many people that they didn’t know how to approach the subject with us, or me at least. I can’t blame them though; it’s not your most normal of circumstances I guess. I imagine people may have been thinking about the fact that we, as a family, were effectively opening up our lives, and heartbreak for all to see, and the obvious increased interest and exposure that it would bring to the family. That increased interest and exposure was just a by-product of the situation, one that we knew we would just have to manage no matter how uncomfortable it may get (thanks to the work of Sarah Aspinall at the BBC, all was ok on that front), but this has always been for the greater good, for Lisa. And let’s be honest, we’ve had a lot worse things to deal with over the last 7 years!

The reality is though; the notion of following through with "The C-Word" was very simple. Firstly, this had been in the pipeline for 5 years. Secondly, Lisa hated things half finished, and thirdly, by getting her story across, other people may not end up in her situation, but if they did, Lisa’s words might just help them through it.

For me, there was never any doubt that this was the right thing to do. After all, I just wanted the world to see how brilliant my Sister was. But everybody involved put us at ease and were so supportive and sensitive to the situation. Because here we are, a completely ordinary family (I like to think) about to be opened up to the nation by sharing our most devastating of situations. At no point did I feel worried about how this may end up; such was the absolute professionalism of everybody involved. We can’t thank the whole team enough, we really can’t. Pete and I met with Sue Hogg (Executive Producer), Simon Lewis (Producer), Tim Kirkby (Director) and some pretty special bird called Sheridan Smith (no introduction needed) in London about a year ago. It was just an informal chat really, but a lovely one of that. I even said the most twatish thing as the conversation got going, when Sheridan said that she was so pleased to finally meet us. Then there’s me, being all twatish, coming out the completely twatish line uttered to many a famous person… “I’ve never met anyone famous before”. What a nob I am!

Luckily that was as doofus-like as I got as I eased up after that, such was the quality of the company in the room. Here we were, in a room full of genuine big deals, and it was just like sitting down chatting with mates. Then it got even less formal as Sheridan, Pete and me popped out for some lunch and a few drinks. It was at this point that I realised just how perfect Sheridan was for the role of Lisa. As you all know, she didn’t disappoint, far from it. She bloody nailed it! I know Lisa would have loved looking down on us that day, seeing us have such a special afternoon together. Obviously the only way it could have been better would have been to have Lisa with us too.

Following that day, the rest of the cast were auditioning and selected, at which point I had a call from a delightful chap called Nate Fallows. Nate is such a lovely guy, and the similarities between us don’t just end with us both being very slim and really, really good looking! Who am I kidding! But in all seriousness, we share so many similar interests… we both love Golf, American Football, US TV series Friday Night Lights, both got kids born within a month of each other. It was almost as if Lisa was Casting Director for that one too! We’re in touch regularly still and hoping to meet up for a family day soon. I’m also in regular contact with Nicole Taylor, the wonderful, wonderful writer. I can’t wait to get down to that London and have a right good catch up with her too, she’s an absolute diamond. I was so pleased to see she incorporated some of the music from the playlists that Lisa and I used to make for each other. It was yet another personal touch by the team that just added to the accuracy of the portrayal.

Going to see some of the filming process was so surreal too. Thankfully, the sound crew managed to edit out our Corey from the background noise. He was as good as gold until they shouted “Action”, at which point he was saying “Mummy, I want some strawberries”. Lisa would have loved that! We were a bit nervous about going as we didn’t want to get in the way, but I can’t tell you how welcoming everybody was. Yet again it put us even more at ease with the situation. But the most amazing this about going to some of the filming was seeing just how much effort was being put into the production of "The C-Word". We couldn’t get over the amount of people there were involved in making this film. It looked like a proper logistical nightmare, full of lights, trucks, props, extras, cameras, sound equipment, people, lots and lots of people. Every last detail was thought of. Obviously, we had no idea what expect as we knew bugger all about how the whole industry and filming process worked until this day. But it was amazing. To think that all of this was being done just for Lisa, was pretty phenomenal. This was clearly being taken so seriously, but the atmosphere was so positive, it seemed like one big family, an extension of our family if you will, doing all this, just for Lisa! Proud, proud, proud!

So back to more recent times then. The last few weeks have been a massive whirlwind for us, and not just because of "The C-Word" As I mentioned earlier, we have recently had a beautiful baby girl called Lyla Rose Lisa. Of course Lisa’s name had to find its way in there! What you may not know is that Lyla was due to miss "The C-Word" as she wasn’t due until 7th May, but due to some potential complications Leanne was induced two weeks early. Luckily, everything turned out absolutely fine, and Lyla was able to be with us when we watched "The C-Word" Just as with Corey (arriving 12 days early and the day before Lisa was told the Cancer had spread to her brain), Lyla clearly knew that something was happening that she needed to be around for. My joy at Lyla’s arrival was soon rivalled with the obvious kick in the balls feeling that she’ll never get to meet her Auntie. But them’s the breaks I guess. Luckily for us, Lisa has left a pretty special legacy for us to share with the kids when they’re older, and what a MASSIVE comfort that is. They’re gonna be so proud of Auntie Lisa, just like the rest of us are.

It’s a good job I was on paternity leave when I was though, as the lead up to and immediate aftermath of "The C-Word" was pretty manic, as if dealing with a new born baby in the house wasn’t enough! I seemed to kind of assume the role of family spokesperson for "The C-Word" too, mainly due to me having the biggest Twitter gob in the family (still miles behind Lisa on that though), but also given that I did give the only media interview any of us had done. When asked by the lovely Aleena Naylor of BBC Radio Derby if I’d be willing to do an interview, it just felt right. The reason for this was because Aleena also interviewed Lisa on that proud day that "The C-Word" book was originally released, and was a prominent Twitter chum and supporter of Lisa ever since. It kind of felt like we were closing a loop with this interview, like I said, it just felt right.

It was subsequently picked up by the wider press etc. which was weird, but nice. We did have many other requests, TV, Radio and Newspaper etc, but we had tried our best to keep a degree of anonymity during this process, mainly because this was about Lisa, not about us, and we never wanted people to think that we were doing this for any kind of weird attention. Plus, in all honesty, I was personally a little too worried about the camera adding 10lbs, so TV was way out the question. As I said to Aleena, Nate Fallows gives off a much better perception of my visual appearance! As I mentioned earlier, the response from the press after "The C-Word" was aired was quite amazing. The cast and wider team were always going to get that massive credit in the press, because they were all bloody amazing. Then seeing Lisa labelled as an inspiration in pretty much every news source out there… Jesus wept, what a proud feeling!

I’m so grateful too, to all the thousands of people that have been in contact, mainly via Twitter. We’ve been completely overwhelmed by all the messages of love and support for both Lisa and the rest of our family. It really has been quite incredible, but then again Lisa was quite incredible too.
It would be remiss of me to not say a few thank you’s before I sign off. But not wanting to miss anybody out I’m going to have to instead say thank you to absolutely everybody involved in the production and airing of "The C-Word" You should all know who you are and be very proud of yourselves. You all deserve (a shit load of awards…cough…BAFTA…cough) every last bit of credit you receive, yet no amount of credit will ever be enough in my eyes.

This was always going to be an emotional and, I guess, a high pressure project with it being a very true story with a very sad ending, but you so wonderfully captured all the key relationships so well and the complete roller-coaster of emotion that we, as a family, all felt, and still feel in real life. Our family are so grateful for the way this whole process has been handled. Your sensitivity to the situation has been so comforting, and your sheer balls, tenacity and bravery to tackle such a difficulty subject so well should never be forgotten. It certainly won’t be by us at least.

I’ve said before that in order for "The C-Word" to have the desired impact, it had to be true, honest and accurate. And thanks you wonderful lot, it was just that! And because of that, my wonderful Sister’s memory and legacy will last a very, very, very long time.

Thank you.

Ridiculously proud Arseface signing off.


Sunday 3 May 2015

Tick tock...

With just six hours to go before “The C-Word” finally hits our screens and our favourite lady becomes an international superstar, it’s manic here. I’ve been feebly trying to keep up with the firestorm of tweets and newspaper articles that have been shouting about Lisa’s (and of course Sheridan’s) awesomeness, “The C-Word” is in the top 100 on (I [ahem] assume you lot have already bought it though, right?) and my phone is buzzing like a power surge in an Ann Summers warehouse.

Lisa Lynch, today is your day.

Today’s the day that everyone gets a piece of what you’ve achieved, everybody gets a snapshot of what it meant to know you, to have you as part of our life and to try to keep up with you.

You’d be loving it right now, you great media tart.

For all the media firestorm though, it’s worth saying that the one thing I was afraid of hasn’t transpired. A while back I’d dug myself a hole of anxiety thinking that watching Sheridan on screen was going to be too tough, that it was all a bit too raw. But that fear isn’t there anymore. Of course, the fact that, yes, I’ve already seen it probably has something to do with that, but right now all I really feel is just bloody proud. I’m so bloody proud of you Mac, but I’m also proud of me, that I’ve been able to be a part of this barmy rollercoaster, that I’ve been able to help continue Alright Tit for you since you stepped out of the room to lord it up in blogger-Valhalla.

And most of all Lisa, you are going to SAVE LIVES tonight. As if you weren’t awesome enough.

Tonight isn’t a night for sadness. You and Sheridan are doing a tip-top job of keeping the PR love going, and as far as this blog goes, feels alive right now. I shall make sure it stays that way.

Love you bird.