My Local Hero

Yesterday, on the 2nd July 2018, a very hot Monday afternoon, we said goodbye to the greatest man I’ve ever known - my Dad. I’ve decided to publish the tribute I wrote for him here so that friends, family and others can come here to read it when they’re feeling low. So here it is:

My very earliest memories of Dad are few but include waving goodbye at the window of Bensley Road, as he pulled away in his old green Volkswagen Golf and of him tucking us into bed at the totally unreasonable hour of 6 o’clock at night when he got home from work. Dad was very much, at this point, the patriarch and provider for the family and we knew him in an almost aloof, although loving, sense. It was only in our late childhood and teenage years, when our relationship with our mother grew more and more fraught, that we began to see a side of Dad that we hadn’t yet experienced.

There were days when mum was in such a state when she picked us up from school that we didn’t want to be alone in the house with her. I’d ring Dad at work. ‘I’ll be home in 20 minutes’, was the usual inevitable answer, as he was quite happy most of the time to drop everything for us. In an environment that often invited chaos and tension, Dad brought understanding, calm and protection. I would be lying if I said that he didn’t sometimes cross the line into overprotective, but I knew that it came from a good place.  


Overall, Michael Bridgman was an unstoppable force of good in this world and to us kids, he was an unshakeable tower of support. He was bountifully kind, generous and good-humoured. He was diplomatic to a fault. He loved to laugh and make others laugh. He was the epitome of Dad puns. Even until the very end, he would be cracking jokes with the nurses, pulling faces at the healthcare assistants and skipping around the hospice trying to entertain people. He gave so much of himself away and barely asked for anything in return. I am sad now that my dad couldn’t have asked more of me sooner, shared more with me and taken anywhere near as much as he’d given in life.

But Dad firmly believed in finding the positive in a situation and would always scold me as soon as he sensed anything that looked, smelled or sounded remotely like cynicism. I think this was because he knew in his heart that, like him, I was a bit of a dreamer. ‘Dolly day-dreamer’, they called me. I recall a birthday card he wrote to me a few years ago that said ‘Never give up and always have a dream’. He believed in justice, hope and love and I believe his career as a social worker was an end to these beliefs.


I remember a time when someone bitter said to me, ‘he loves those kids more than he loves you’. Now, I don’t believe that for a second, but in that moment I realised how grateful I was to have a Dad whose love could reach beyond his own treasured family and out into the community to children who really needed it. I had so much love in my life already, if Dad had a bit extra to go around, then it made me incredibly proud.    


I am so privileged to have had such a father. I must confess that the world feels emptier without him, but having had him in our lives has been a blessing beyond words. This sentiment brings me to a short quote from Khalil Gibran:

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

If there was anyone who could find the silver lining on even the darkest cloud, it was Dad. That is how I intend to live my life in his absence and how I would encourage those who loved him to live out his legacy. He was my protector, my tower of support, my local hero. We will miss him every day.

Thank Yous

Whilst we’re here I would like to say a few thank yous to people to have helped us over the last few months. First of all to Laura, who was first on the scene and without whose constant devotion, support and avid research we could not have gotten through. To Jenny and Tessa, who gave up their time to come down to Norwich to help me out and have been so valuable in many other big and little ways. To Mark, whose help and support was always there when needed. To Tom, Tracy and Rupert, who cooked food, brought entertainment, cleared the garden so Dad could get his chair out and various other invaluable pieces of help. To all the staff at Trinity Street Surgery and Priscilla Bacon Lodge whose kindness and devotion to our NHS fills me with hope for the future. To my hoards of beloved friends who are here today and my boyfriend Kilo - I can’t even tell you how incredibly wonderful they are and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support. And lastly, to Jeanine Burks, who was there with me until the very end and who has provided an unbelievable and invaluable amount of advice and support at all hours of the day, as well as pulling strings when we needed it. You bring new meaning to the term ‘love thy neighbour’ and I cannot thank you enough.


Going freelance: a gut-wrenching leap

After a couple of years out of university, I’ve made the terrifying, gut-wrenching decision to go freelance. 


It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, the catalyst having been a talk on freelancing by made journalist Rosie Spinks at a workshop for women trying to find jobs by the organisation Chayn (for whom I was photographing the event). She explained that the highs are really high but equally the lows are so low. It’s not stable - and so some have pointedly told me. It’s terrifying.

I recently went to see the much-lauded La La Land after plans to see a free screening of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge fell through, and I found myself experiencing that renewed lease of life that only a great film can conjure. It’s so easy to come out of university and be so desperate to get into work that you forget what it is you actually want in the first place. When your dreams are so ‘pipe’ that people seem to be constantly eye-rolling at you, it’s so easy to fall into something else and tell yourself you’ll pick it up later. 

But as cliched as it sounds, there is no later. There is only now and what you want and what you love. You gotta do this life right, now matter how scary it is. Wish me luck. 

If you have any photography or video needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me at info@catherinebridgman.co.uk.


Saying Goodbye


I’ve said goodbye to a few people over the last couple of years. Some of them were forever goodbyes, some just goodbye for a while and one was more good riddance than goodbye. But last night we said goodbye to my first dog and my first love, Archiebald ‘Archie’ McGee Bridgman. 

We got Archie when I was about twelve years old. We’d been begging and pleading to get a dog for years and we ended up getting Archie off the back of a difficult time in all of our lives, I guess as a kind of reward for getting through it. I remember the day we got him, we drove out to a farm where there were two stables full of puppies - one brown haired and one black haired. At this point, there’s not much that sets them apart from each other, except their colouring and how they react to you. Archie was the best looking pup there and was friendly and adorable from the start. The thing about puppies though, is that their new little teeth and claws are insanely sharp. I was wearing a red tank top that day that died a death from excessive puncture wounds. 

When we got back from South Africa last year he was really sick and the vets told us he had Lymphoma. It seems ironic now that the thing that brought him to us was the same thing that took him away. I didn’t cry when we found out. I don’t generally cry about certain things straight away, in the same way I don’t get excited about things until they’re actually happening. I couldn’t find it in my heart to be truly sad until he was really gone. 

Archie has lived with us for twelve years in three different homes and has been there through some of the worst times in our lives. I have to be honest when I say that I didn’t realise just quite how acutely I would feel his loss. I am empty of tears. We went to the vets as a family, all six of us. It was the end of the day but we had to wait for a while as they were running late. We all cried. The only thing worse than feeling the pain of heartbreak is watching every single member of your family go through it too. We said goodbye, all teary, and the last time I saw him was as my sister’s boyfriend, James, carried him through, his little face turned round the corner. Archie was well-loved at our vets and I noticed that, behind the counter, even the receptionist was crying. 


The hardest part when we got home was realising that he was never coming back. His water bowl sits there alone and his beds, leads and his little golden name tag all lie around and nobody knows what to do with them. When I think of the things I will miss, I think of him always rushing to greet me at the door and always being the happiest to see me; I think of the way he used to scare himself by farting and then getting up and running away; I think of him always coming to lie next to my while I was watching TV and I think of him resting his little chin on my bed when he wanted attention. 

It’s so quiet.

In the end, we had twelve really great years and as the 1989 Don Bluth cartoon taught us, all dogs go to heaven. At least now he knows who’s a good boy. 


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