I’ve met so many incredible in Jaywick this past year or so. I’ve even been made an honorary member of the Jaywick Happy Club. Nobody has had as big an impact on me as Carol.
Carol used to live in London’s East End and was once a pub landlady. She ran the bar at Reggie Kray’s funeral wake. In retirement, she moved to the Suffolk coast with her husband and only son, Scott, a talented artist.
First her marriage failed and then Scott, whose girlfriend had died in accident, took his own life. Shattered by events and feeling unable to remain in her Suffolk home, Carol moved to Jaywick three years ago. It was an economic decision. It was only in Jaywick that she could find a place she could afford.
I’d done a portrait of Carol outside Ozzie’s, a cafe in the heart of the village which she loves.
But while filming with her for a collection of stories I was making for BBC Look East, Carol generously let me know more about her late son Scott. She asked me whether I would like to see him. She keeps his ashes in a box on the chest of drawers by her bed. She has not yet felt able to relinquish his ashes.
I admitted to curiosity, explaining I had never seen human ashes before. So she showed me. They were far pinkier than I imagined (probably because the grey ashes you see in television are not actually those of people).
I found myself suggesting, given Scott had been an artist, whether she might have some of his ashes worked into pigment and that she might paint something for him.
“Funny you should say that,” replied Carol, lifting the sleeve of her tee shirt, “because the only ashes I have let go of were ground and added to pigments to make this.”
On her arm is a tattoo, the design for which is based on the braids Scott used to have in his hair.
I asked if I might photograph her with the tattoo and she said yes.