Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I first met Jemma through a Text and Gender unit in second year uni. I don't think either of us read any of the assigned texts, but who needed Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer when we were full of our own profound and illuminating ideas on being part of 'the second sex'? We joined the university women's group and enthusiastically signed up to travel to Sydney for the Network of Women Student's National Conference. Psyched up for a week of thrilling female solidarity we were at best ignored and at worst ridiculed for being virtually the only heterosexuals in a sea of dungaree and beanie-clad lesbians. Shame on us for fraternising with MEN! So, after working through our socialist guilt about misusing the plane ticket paid for by the student guild (ah, the good old days!) we did what any self-respecting conference rejects would do - we ditched the conference and went sightseeing. We went shopping in Surry Hills, caught a ferry to Manly and ate fish and chips, watched Koyaanisquatsi at the Valhalla in Glebe, beat on saucepans and cheesegraters late at night in the quadrangle at Sydney uni and told each other pretty much everything that had ever happened to us in our lives so far. It was a little bit like falling in love, but without the kissing.

Jemma was exuberant and excitable, adventurous and irreverent. She had about 8 million admirers, which would have been annoying if she wasn't such an endearing and loyal friend. When she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that she would get better. If anyone could beat cancer, Jemma could. And she did, the first time. When the cancer came back, I was living in London. She wrote me dozens of letters while I was away, letters of pain and frustration, hope and despair. I arrived home 2 months before she died. Her beautiful family generously allowed her close friends to visit the hospital as she was dying and I had the privilege of being able to tell her what her friendship had meant to me and to say goodbye to her.

I still miss her and think of her almost every day and I'm sure I always will. This sketchbook entry, woven from strips of the letters she sent me, is not 'sorry I forgot you' but 'I'll never forget you'.

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