Today is the funeral of our very dear friend and neighbour, Bernard Hales. Because of Covid restrictions, I was unable to attend, so I wanted to take a moment to celebrate his life here, instead.
Bernard lived next door to my parents for the past forty years, and I’ve known him since I was just a little girl. My first memory of him, was when I bought the Dexys Midnight Runners single, Come on Eileen. I played it on repeat in my parents’ living room and eventually Bernard called my mum over to the fence and asked what the song was. Mum was mortified that he’d heard my silly pop song, and apologised for the noise, but instead, Bernard told her he loved it and was heading up to Woolworths to buy it immediately!
Bernard, his wife Joan and son Aiden, have been a part of my life for four decades. I remember one Saturday afternoon as a teenager, I locked myself out of the house and my parents had gone out. Bernard and Joan not only took me in, but let me play the UB40 album I had just bought from town. That’s what kind of people they are – warm, generous and welcoming.
Bernard was a photographer for our local newspaper, and he also ran his own print company. When I started my Marilyn Monroe fan club, he insisted on helping with the graphics and photographs. He was amazing, and taught me so much about how to produce my newsletters. When Richard and I were married, he took our wedding photos, and then later took photographs of our daughter, Daisy. When she was little, she’d think it great fun to shout over the fence to Bernard, and then when we bought Betty the Bichon, she took inspiration from Daisy, and always enjoyed a good bark whenever she saw him. Whenever my dad went missing from the house, we’d always know where to find him – he’d be chatting over the fence with Bernard; both of them putting the world to rights…
It is no secret that Bernard was our official family photographer. He took photos at every opportunity – Halloween, anniversaries, and everything in-between… And then I became a full-time writer, and he took all of my author photographs. If you have any of my books, chances are the author photo was taken by Bernard. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders, and before I ‘made it’, he always said to me that all it would take was one tiny break, to make my dreams come true. He told me to keep going – shouting encouragement over the fence, and passing me phone numbers of radio presenters and journalists. In 2016, I headed to Los Angeles for a week, and Bernard arranged for a local radio presenter to interview me when I got back. He was always thinking of ways to further my career, and I’ll always be grateful for it.
Several years ago, I was asked to write The Little Book of Marilyn, and my editor wanted me to do photo shoots of make-up and hair tutorials. I knew exactly who to ask! Bernard and Joan opened their home to Suzie Kennedy and I, and for one morning in April 2018, we had the best fun; not only working on the tutorials, but also taking some impromptu head shots of Suzie. Bernard was so happy with the shoot that at one point he grabbed my arm and we both laughed. Many of the photos that were taken that day, appeared in The Little Book of Marilyn, and Suzie was thrilled with the results. I have a large print of one shot on my wall, and look at it every day.
And now here we are. It’s time to say good bye, and none of us are ready. Bernard was a fantastic photographer, a brilliant man and a funny, generous friend. I will miss talking to him over my parents’ fence; sharing news of my writing career, and handing him new books to read. But I will always be grateful to him and to Joan, for being so supportive and such great neighbours.
Bernard, I thank God that you, Joan and Aiden moved into the house next door, all those years ago. I wish you could have stayed longer, but rest assured, I’ll never forget you.
Thank you for everything, dear friend. Good night and I know I’ll speak to you over a fence again, some day.
Lots of love,