This blog has never been about my personal life, and I don’t intend to change that focus. Always, the thoughts here have been in some way related to Sinning Across Spain – walking, journeying, poetry, Spain…

But today is different.

As you will know if you have read the book, Sinning Across Spain was dedicated to Peter, my true north.

Image 2

Just over two weeks ago, I lost him.

He died of a cerebral hemmorhage. Too soon. Sudden. Without warning.

I want to thank everyone who has contacted me here and on Facebook and by email. Every message means a lot, but please understand that I simply can’t respond individually. Please don’t feel overlooked, or that I don’t appreciate the thoughts and prayers and wishes. I do. So much. I am grateful we are both being held in people’s hearts. Please continue to send him your blessings and wishes, if it feels right.

We were married for 27 years. He was good, truly good. He was kindness personified. And he was funny. A clown, a punster, a wit. He described himself as a flaneur. Peter could always find exactly the right word.

I am managing the days, one tentative step at a time. If I’m absent from here for a time, I am sure you will understand.

This is the poem I associate with Peter. There are a thousand others, of course. We both loved words and poetry. He had his favourites. But this was who he was for me…




There is a kind of love called maintenance

Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget

The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way

The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,

And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate

Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,

Which knows what time and weather are doing

To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;

Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers

My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps

My suspect edifice upright in air,

As Atlas did the sky.



U A Fanthorpe



29 thoughts on “True North

  1. Dear Ailsa.
    Reg and I were, and are, quite shocked when we heard the news and I have been frantically trying to find your other address, but seem to have lost it in the upgrading of our systems. Anyway we feel for you and your huge loss as, Peter made a great impression on us when we met him and can only imagine how you feel. That’s enough for now as I am sure you are overwhelmed with other people’s thoughts. Macca was wonderful on the Sunday and played pieces from the stories Peter had read. I had always loved Spies like us but had no idea that it was Peter’s voice. Now it is doubly loved.

  2. Ailsa,
    I had never met Peter face to face, but your chosen photo revealed how I’d imagined him. If the eyes are the window of the soul he indeed has a beautiful soul now embraced within the Creator God; his generosity of spirit reflected in his ability to allow his beautiful and younger wife to spead her wings.
    You poem I relate to on many levels.
    So sad for you right now,
    Trish Taylor

  3. He has – in a very Japanese Shint? sense – become one of the gods! Of course! And always, too, there both for and with you! Condolences!

  4. Dear Ailsa,
    I am deeply sorry for your loss. Your love will live forever, and he will be right beside you, wherever the road takes you.
    My deepest condolences,
    Anna Brasier

  5. Ailsa you have a strong spirit and grounded spirituality. Peter’s death is a deep loss which comes amidst your recovery from glandular fever. Your book has been a source of soul-comfort to me in my recent cancer experiences. I hope that you will be similarly supported, nourished and strengthened by the prayers and good wishes of all those who have been similarly blessed by your words.

  6. We met you at the book fair at UWA and think your words reach out to people. Our heart goes out to you and we hope you will feel strengthened at some future time by knowing we care.

  7. It is with deep sorrow in my heart that I send you my best wishes, from Melide, where I have just read your sad, sad news.

    May your grief be as short as the journey along the Way is long,
    May your memories be your sustenance for as long as needed,
    May your musings be your strength for eternity,
    Until you meet your True North again.

  8. My favourite memory of Peter was the humour he bought into the rehearsal room, particularly if things were not progressing well. Very dry & always accurate but never mean-spirited. Just made you look at a problem differently. How lucky was I that he was in my first MTC show.

  9. I have been thinking of some of what you said in your book which hints at what a great loss you must be experiencing. I wish you peace and strength and nurture.

  10. Dear Ailsa, what a shock it must have been for you ,heartfelt sympathy sending you lots of Love Chris xxx

  11. So sorry that Peter has gone. Hope your friends nearby cares about you. Your german friend in Spain is mourning with you. Strength and love! Un beso y abrazo enorme, Volker

  12. Hi Ailsa
    I was very sorry to hear the news about Peter. In the brief time I got to know you and him, I always found him to be great company. A dry wit which I appreciated. I got to know him a bit more when we worked together at Playbox. To be honest, I remember more about the dressing room shenanigans more than the play. A fond memory. Thinking of you Ailsa.
    Gerry Lepkowski

  13. Dear Ailsa, Just hoping you are putting one foot in front of another and the days are getting easier. Take your time before you resume your amazing activities in life. I hope you feel Peter still with you in spirit. Helen

  14. Dear Ailsa
    You lead us gently on our Harrietville weekend (Sandhurst Diocese 2012) – may God lead you gently onwards now. love and Grace, Glen Avard

  15. Dear Ailsa, I have been meaning to write ever since I got back from Spain. You may not remember our brief correspondence months ago. But I just read your blog about the terrible loss of your true North and wanted to be in touch, though I cannot begin to imagine your loss. We have never met and I remain keen to meet you sometime – because I admire how you walk and write. With all good wishes. Krishna

    1. Dear Krishna,
      Of course I remember. I was so disappointed we couldn’t meet. Thank you for your kindness in writing. I hope the walk was all and more than you’d imagined, and that we can eventually get to sit together and talk. I am hoping to get over to the west later in the year, so maybe in the spring. Meantime, love and gratitude. Ailsa

  16. when you are ready please send me a current email address. I tries emailing you a few weeks ago – both addresses I had bounced. i am glad they did – would have been just the wrong time if they had got through – was just chatter about Spain and walking plans and so on.
    hope chicken soup of one kind or another is continuing to keep you warm through this winter 🙂 Krishna

  17. This is tragic news Ailsa.
    I haven’t popped in here for a while,but I didn’t expect to find such a heartbreaking post as this one.I know that there are no words that can carve through the numbness you must be feeling at present,so I’m at a loss on which words to offer you here accept I’m sure that your true north will still be guiding you in some way for the rest of your life.
    I saw Missy Higgins give a talk at the BBWF this year and bought her album
    “On a Clear Night” and on it is a beautiful track called “Going North”.
    It seems to be about following your true north also,so I thought I would share Missy’s lyrics here in a tribute to your true north.

    I wanna dance the tango with chance
    I wanna ride on the wire
    Cos nothing gets done with dust in your gun
    And nobody respects a liar
    So goodbye for a while I’m off to explore
    Every boundary and every door
    Yeah I’m going north

    I wanna know where children would go
    If they never learnt to be cool
    Cos nothing’s achieved when pushed up a sleeve
    Till nobody thinks you’re a fool
    So goodbye for a while I’m out to learn more
    About who I really was before
    Yeah I’m going north

    Up where the hunted hide with ease
    Under the arms of eye-less trees
    Up where the answers fall like leaves
    Oh and your love is all I need
    Yeah I’m going north

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