Nothing I've read recently has moved me more than this story of a woman who died in her bedsit in London, undiscovered for three years. The window remained open, plates sat in the sink, mail piled up at the door, Chritsmas presents unopened and the TV on - while she faded into skeletal remains on the sofa.
What is more desperately sad, that someone could die this kind of lonely death in the otherwise highly frequented shopping precint of Wood Green; that no neighbours, friends or family noticed her disappearance; or the elegiac detail of the television set that kept an unexpected vigil, staying on and warm for three years?
My heart has broken many times today over this story. I was in London when the shocking find made the news in 2006, yet I don't recall ever hearing of it. But now I'll never forget, thanks to the painstaking and loving efforts of filmmaker Carol Warner who spent several years trying to piece together the fragile details of the late Joyce Vincent's life. She writes in today's UK Observer about her efforts to memorialise the tragic Joyce, which has now resulted in a film, 'Dreams of a Life'.
"The point is, Joyce Vincent is dead, no one murdered her, and no one seems to care that much. I gather she was very beautiful, which for reasons totally spurious makes it more poignant because we always think beautiful people have everything go their way." - Lynne Featherstone, MP.
"There were a lot of exciting things happening to me and her arrival coincided with a lot of that change, so I used to call her my lucky charm. She was always immaculately attired down to the bows on her underwear. But she wasn't just physically beautiful, she had an aura about her."
Alistair explained that Joyce never really talked about her life before she met him. "Have you ever seen the movie The Man with No Name? That's how she was – she came with no past."
A portrait emerges of an upwardly mobile young woman with good jobs and good pay that moved in appropriate circles, but who may have sought to slough off the vestiges of her background. Even now, it appears friends rather than family, helped piece together what is now known. They cannot reconcile the beautiful young woman they had known with the down and out 38-year-old that died unmourned. They say she looked like Whitney Houston, had dinner with Stevie Wonder, knew Betty Wright, Issac Hayes, Jimmy Cliff and Gil Scott-Heron. She was at the Mandela Tribute Concert at Wembley in 1990 and met the Madiba. Millions may have seen her in the live telecast; and the filmmaker tracks down footage of the moment, in an almost heroic ode to transience.
Carol Morley's 'Dreams of a Life' will be shown at the BFI London Film Festival this month. It's already been shortlisted in the Best Documentary category for London Film Festival and will go on general release next year. I'm making a note to self now, that I must watch this film.
Profile in the Guardian - The Guardian‘s Hadley Freeman profiled me for the paper, ahead of the release of my new book in the UK. Here’s a taste: This feeling of separateness – of b...
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