Saturday 11 August 2007


Valerie Grosvenor Myer, David's long-term family friend (and mine by adoption as David's partner) died at her home in Cambridge on Thursday aged 72, after a courageous battle with Parkinson's Disease.

A novelist, poet, biographer, critic and editor, Valerie was a perceptive observer of human nature and a tireless enthusiast for life and literature.

I have the task of writing Valerie's obituary for The Independent; but, in the meantime, I'd like to share with you one of her poems that elegantly sums up her sanguine philosophy and her indomitable spirit...

Sing a Song at Sixty

It is too late alas to learn a musical instrument,

To become a downhill racer on skis or compete at Wimbledon;
I shall never be able to read Dostoevsky in the original.

I have not won any cups for achievement,

And so many things I dreamed of will never happen:
I shall never achieve my own chat show on television,
Or dissolve gracefully into artful tears, clutching my Oscar.

I must reconcile myself to clothing which is

Comfortable rather than glamorous,

And acknowledge that hair dye after sixty is usually a mistake.

I refuse to lament the loss of my beauty and my slender waist,

Instead I will be grateful that I retain my teeth,

More metal than ivory, it must be frankly admitted,

Propped, pinned, posted and padded with plastic,

But I can still eat with them.

I will be glad that that I was not born in the Dark Ages

Before the invention of spectacles. I will not agonize

Over tests I have failed, but will concentrate on remembering

The ones I have passed, and the people who have loved me.

It is futile to lie awake brooding over old animosities.

It is time to forgive one’s parents, and to contemplate the young

Not with envy but with tender concern and generosity,

Betraying no awareness of how vulnerable they are.

- Valerie Grosvenor Myer

[Image: © Brian Sibley, 2007]


Unknown said...

Sorry to hear of your loss. The poetry is wonderful.

Diva of Deception said...

Sorry to hear about the loss of a friend - but what a wonderful poem.

I do hope that the photo is one that David took - she looks so glamorous I only hope I look as good when I get there too.

Rob Cox said...

As one who is approaching his sixtieth birthday (23rd October!) I really appreciated the poem. To my shame I had not heard of Valerie Myer but she is obviously a loss to this world as well as yourselves.

Brian Sibley said...

Thank you, Diva & Rob...

Diva - Not to take anything from David's superb skills at photography, but this just happens to be one of mine! :-)

Brian Sibley said...

ROB - What was that date again? 23 October, was it? And that's your birthday, is it? Your SIXTIETH BIRTHDAY? On the ---- er - when was it? ---- Oh, yes! 23 October! ;-))

Look forward to celebrating it!

Mike Crowl said...

Great poem, Brian. The only thing missing is: should I still get a tattoo?

By the way, I can't find a feed from your site. Is there one?


Brian Sibley said...

JONATHAN MYER commented via e-mail (a few days after this blog had been posted)...

Brian Sibley,

Like all of you, we (here in Virginia) were shocked to learn of Valerie's death (the news e-mailed by my cousin Michael the next day; he's the son of Harry, our paternal grandfather's eldest; I'm the son of Saul, his third.)

We (wife Brenda and I) had met Valerie with Michael on a side trip to London in 1974, some 22 years after "my" side of the family had moved to the U.S.

In March 1983, we saw them again, this time with our five young children. They were out of the country when Brenda and I last visited London in 1992, but our middle son visited them for a day in 2002.

Last evening, I thought to Google for obits, and there, first among Valerie's booksellers' notices, was yours for The Independent -- elegant, and most touching.

Further search yielded The Guardian's and The Times Online's, with a picture of Valerie as a young woman.

Then came your blog, with its graceful picture and Valerie's wonderful poem at 60.

I don't think I'll search any further. It's almost dawn here and a new day awaits; life does not slow down at 60, or even 71 (my age), except as one takes a few "hits" along the way. Some hurt more than others. And, cruel irony, one often learns more about people one cares about after they've left than while they were around, and theoretically available.

On the other hand, such retrospective learning helps to keep them alive, doesn't it?

Thank you again for both your bio and your blog; I shall forward them to our own boys in turn -- now grown and scattered from here to California -- as reminders of the cousin we all met all too briefly.

Jonathan Myer
Alexandria, Virginia