The story of a relationship.
On a White Horse charts the story of the relationship between two people, Cathy a struggling artist and Dan a burgeoning entrepreneur/ publisher. How they met by chance in a pub off Carnaby Street in the early nineties and how their relationship was to flourish for nearly a quarter of a century until Dan’s untimely death from bowel cancer at the age of fifty eight.
‘My primary motivation in writing this book has been all along to counter the terrible void that exists in our society around the understanding of death and the bereaved and by so doing to provide some comfort.’
The creation of a memorial
The main narrative records a period of seven weeks during which Cathy constructs a life size sculpture of a horse in memory of her husband. The creative process is explored from its tentative beginnings through failure and near abandonment to its triumphant completion. This story line is underpinned by three other related narratives, each of which emerge and accrete in the form of flash backs.
Coping with Cancer
Given an initial prognosis of only four to six weeks, the story of the twelve months of Daniel’s illness is told replete with intimacy, false hope, joy and ultimately irrevocable sadness. The casual cruelty of consultants is contrasted with the vibrant humanity of hospital life, whilst the remnants of normalcy at home succumb to the demands of palliative care, despite Daniels insistence on conjuring up opportunities to have more fun.
Suddenly and painfully Cathy realises she has joined a secret club which she never knew existed. She describes the uniquely destabilising yet sometimes tragicomic status of widowhood and her difficulties in occupying this position as a non-believer in an increasingly secular world.
Cathy emerges from the experience of creating the horse as a different person. Sadder, wiser, braver and more aware of the fragility and beauty of life. And yes in a painfully circuitous way, happier. She describes the imperative to befriend her grief and the possibility of growing through this, one of life’s most painful experiences.
After Daniel: a Film by Peter Bach
Cathy Phelan-Watkins studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College. Her work has been exhibited at Tate St Ives amongst other galleries through out the UK. As a trustee of Tate Members, she served on the Tate St Ives advisory board and chaired the Tate St Ives members Committee from 2004 to 2010 working particularly to further public engagement and understanding of contemporary art. She is a director of Civil Society Media, the leading publisher within the charity sector.