International Women’s Day

‘Inspire Inclusion’ is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. A worthy cause during a time of such divisive politics and religious intolerance.
I wanted to use the occasion to post something about a remarkable woman with whom I was fortunate to share my life. Sadly for too short a time.

Veronica’s Story

portrait of woman with gold earrings
That Creeping Shadow

Veronica was my partner and my muse. She suffered serious ill health from her youth, with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis. When I first met her, she had received a liver transplant, and was constantly living under the spectre of the return of her disease.
Despite that, she had an incredible joy for life. She greeted every day with a smile and a plan for what she wanted to do. There was always a plan.

painting of mother and her daughter
Mother and Child

It is a remarkable thing observing how fiercely a woman will fight for her child. For most of my years spent with Veronica, she was fighting in the courts to win custody of her daughter. First in Barbados, where her violent, abusive former partner had taken her daughter. And then again in the UK, where he returned with her child once he faced defeat in court.
The courts let Veronica down terribly. In Barbados we were assured that it was a simple case that would take just two weeks. Two years and thousands of pounds later, Veronica finally won in court only for the father to abscond to Britain with her child, and claim he was the victim of a racist judiciary.
Again in Britain, the courts seemed entranced by the manipulative liar. Maybe money trumps a woman’s inalienable right to care for her child, or maybe there was an element of racism involved, with old white male judges believing the lies of an old white wealthy businessman. I was shocked to see how proceedings unfolded. I always had faith in the British legal system. Not anymore.

winner of the frank todman award for portraiture
Portrait of Veronica won the Frank Todman Award for portraiture

Fortunately a very senior judge took over the final round of legal proceedings.  Maybe it’s because this judge was a woman, but for the first time in many years this judge was able to see through all the outrageous lies of the child’s father. At a stroke Veronica was reunited with her daughter. Over seven years after first going to court in Barbados.

painting a naked man and woman sitting on bed
man and woman

I would like to say that was the end of this story, and we all lived happily ever after. But we continued to suffer years of harassment, despite the protection of court orders. In the meantime Veronica’s health was now in decline. The liver transplant had given her a new lease of life, but her years of good health had been spent on a gruelling battle to be reunited with her daughter.
I look back with sadness. One evil vindictive man has robbed me of the best years of my relationship with Veronica. When we should have been planning holidays, or even starting a family, our every waking moment was consumed with this endless court battle. Even worse, Veronica’s daughter has been robbed of her childhood.
So approaching International Women’s Day 2024 I want to tell people about this remarkable woman who fought so bravely for her daughter.
She taught me so much. Most importantly, she taught me how I should not let my anger consume me. I think that’s a lesson for all of us today.