I recently attended the funeral of Tina. I knew her through a MIND group I was involved with, and she also came to some of the Quiet Garden mornings I lead at Runcton Manor.
As so often with funerals, I came to understand her much more fully than I had previously. Jon, a friend of hers from childhood days, gave an insightful and moving eulogy. As he spoke, I realised how Tina had had many of the attributes of those in the limelight or centre – but who through choice and circumstances had moved to the margins.
Jon described her as a ‘prototype it girl,’ with film star looks, a smile ‘to light up the greyest of grey Glasgow days’ and a quick-witted brain. Through her father, a high level journalist, she had access to the best tickets for the Bay City Rollers and Live Aid. She was stylish, spiritual, natural, arty and intellectual.
She never flaunted her attributes. She was completely down to earth. While others might play mainstream games and mainstream toys, Tina had none of it. ‘Mainstream was not Tina’, said Jon.
What was it that led her out of the mainstream? She was not materialistic and had no interest in money. She was more at home in the wild open spaces and skies of the Highlands than in suburbia.
She was a non-conformist with a rare individuality and an independent mind. She would not join in for the sake of it or to please people. At four, she was offered a chance at modelling but, even at that age, would not be persuaded to do it. When she didn’t like the secondary school she refused to go – and then thrived at her new school. Later, she chose to drop out of University – and once again thrived when studying a different subject at a different University.
Perhaps, also, she was shy. When offered the possibility, with her sister, of a backstage meeting with the Bay City Rollers, she refused to go – much to the disbelief of her sister.
Maybe also, she had a heightened sense of anxiety. One time she was on a walk with four others when they came to a dodgy wooden bridge that only one person could cross at a time. It was scary but everyone made it, except Tina. Despite serious encouragement from everyone else she absolutely, resolutely, refused to cross that bridge. Nothing could have made her do it. So they all came back and went back home.
And yet at other times, she was remarkably fearless. Jon recounted a time when they had been talking on the phone and everything was fine. Minutes later she called back to tell him the ceiling had just come crashing down. While others would freak out, Tina just laughed.
She was a woman ahead of her time. A vegetarian before it was fashionable and a Green before it was mainstream. Being out of the mainstream helped make her empathetic to others. She always had time for people in difficulty and would dispense good advice and – often more importantly – good questions.
I treasure my time with Tina. Quiet, unassuming, loyal and full of compassion. She fully embodied these qualities of the margins in her being. It was what made her human.