We never met. We had planned to a few times, but nothing worked out. She was terribly busy and I had commitments that kept me on the go. We had one main thing in common. Music. We shared stories about our musical adventures and the kinds of music we loved most. Blues and Soul were our common denominator. She was a woman born too late in time. And time finally ran out.
We met on Facebook, as so many do, 3 years ago. A friend of mine had taken some singing lessons with her and we connected through him. She graciously accepted my friend invitation and off we went. I enjoyed her wit and humour. Her posts were audacious and full of satirical commentary on today’s world. Hannah would love to have lived in an earlier era from the 1930s to the 1960s. She loved the clothing of those days. Vintage clothing shops were her niche.
As was her passion for coffee. Many of her posts were either of her drinking coffee or talking about it. We both love Costa Coffee. Even as a fitness buff, going for walks or a run, she would have a cup of coffee in her hand, videoing the journey and chatting to us about this and that. She loved certain areas of London. Her walks and runs through the park around Crystal Palace were memorable for her love of the place. It was like going on the jaunt with her.
We shared a love of music, the old stuff mostly. The Blues, Motown and Jazz and some of the older, wartime songs. She was over 20 years younger than I am at the moment but she talked as if she was even older than I am. Very youthful and in tremendous shape. She had a way of showing her elegant and sexy self without flaunting it or going over a line. Hannah seemed to me to be as conservative as she was sassy. Such a vivacious personality.
I taught guitar lessons from my garden studio in Kent. She taught vocal lessons. We both had problems with students who refused to pay our fees, hers being considerably more than what I charged. But the principal is the same. Fair price for good services rendered. We bitched about our no-shows and people who took advantage of our good natures, our sense of fair play and all that. Often she mentioned a piece of music that I had either recently played or taught. That would spark another lengthy discussion on Messenger.
Apparently, our Ms. Northedge was a bit of a celebrity. She acted in a film with Elijah Wood and John Hurt, ‘The Oxford Murders’. She sang before the Queen and Tony Blair. She was a trained Classical singer who started up a Blues choir, recruiting local singers to join and enjoy singing classic Blues and Motown tunes. I knew about the choir. She asked me once to come along and try out. But lazy old me never bothered. The rest of her celebrity status, including being a judge on a TV show called ‘Live and Unsigned’, had to do with the gigs she played with her trio at many venues around the country. I knew nothing of this about her. She was, at least to me, never low-key, but down-to-earth as the expression goes and always accessible. It was almost as if she both craved attention and detested it at the same time.
Somewhere along the line, she began talking about an illness that caused her pain and required a complete change in diet. Some may have been privileged to know what it was. She never identified it by name. I imagined it was some form of Crohn’s Disease. She asked advice online from all her followers for things she could eat, recipes for certain foods and later sought advice on how to manage the pain she experienced.
The last year was the worst. She began fretting about her condition and the pain she was in. She said doctors told her she was imagining the illness, but Hannah insisted to us all that it was not in her imagination. She said she needed to have it resolved soon or she would die. Her last posts were a cry for help. She was convinced she was going to die and would anyone please write her story and share it with the world. In one of our chats, she had remembered that I had written 2 books. She said she also enjoyed my Blogs about the boating life. Would I please write her story.
I wasn’t sure at this point if Hannah was losing it or was genuinely ill and undiagnosed. She had a madness to her approach to certain things, like claiming that men followed her, shouting lude and suggestive things to her in public. It all became quite worrying. I was never sure about the mental state of Hannah at times. But I promised her I would tell her story. She gave me the name of her dearest friend, begging me to get hold of the friend if anything happened to her. Then there was silence.
Hannah could do that sometimes. She would come off Facebook and there would be no posts for a time. Then she’d roar back as if it were her fans who had been away. After one of these times, I thought I’d check. I went on her Facebook site and saw that the last Post was the one in which she had more or less said goodbye to all of us. I was reading the many comments added to her post, including mine. People were saying how sorry they were about her being gone. Gone where? Did she leave the country to seek medical help elsewhere?
As I read more comments, things took a sinister turn. I decided to Google her, and there it was. All the newspapers were saying that the female body found at the bottom of the cliffs at Beachy Head was that of Hannah Northedge. I was stunned to say the least. Couldn’t believe it. The articles all said that she had been staying at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne on the south coast of England. Beachy Head has always been a spot where people go to end their lives. The cliffs are high and there is no barrier at the edge to stop would-be jumpers. The hotel is a couple of miles from the cliffs.
Hannah must have been that desperate to have done such a thing. But, if nothing else, it was as dramatic an exit as her life had been lived. Was it mental illness? Was it a disease the medical profession could not detect? A bit of both? I have no idea. I can only hope her family received some answers to those questions after the fact.
I sent a message to Hannah’s best friend, stating that she had asked me to contact her for information for the book I had promised to write. I have not, to this point, heard back. I have the feeling I never will. As far as I’m concerned, this chapter in my own life is concluded. I wish we had met. We had so much in common. Hannah was a force of nature to be sure. Those who spent time with her knew what an amazing person she was. A great sense of humour and a good heart. She shall be missed.