Martha's little cousin from Scotland came to stay with us for 10 days in 2013 along with his mum. We were lucky with the weather in early July of 2013 - long summer days spent mooching around Oxford. We went to the Oxford Castle prison Museum and jokingly put Zak in the stocks - shuddering as we thought about the Victorian child prisoners who were kept there.
When I think back to those days, they're like a dream - strawberry picking at Medley Farm, ice-creams from G&Ds, languorous evenings spent eating out on the terrace - one evening a hot air balloon popped up from nowhere, very close to us as we were eating dinner. We also gathered on a Sunday in my kitchen to watch Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.
Little Zak literally worshipped the ground Martha walked on, but he was 6 and Martha was 15. She loved him dearly, but he'd follow her everywhere and she found this irritating after a while. She escaped early one evening to have a shower and he studiously sat outside the door on the hallway floor waiting for her to come out. When she did, she almost tripped over him and ran past him up the stairs wrapped in a towel and Zak said 'Martha - you're a skinny wee freak' in his cute Scottish accent - Martha grunted from upstairs at this.
He didn't mean to upset her, he just said whatever came into his head in order to get Martha's attention. The more he tried, the more Martha got annoyed. I'd speak to her and explain that he's just a little boy that wants her to pay him some attention. She understood - but was at a stage in her own life whereby she was struggling with self-image and was trying to work out her place in this world.
When she came back downstairs she was wearing the outfit you can see in this photograph and Zak said to her 'you look like Super Mario' - we all burst out laughing, apart from Martha who rolled her eyes and grunted past him again.
Despite this, the trip is one I think back to with fondness as it was abundant with incredible moments spent with precious family. Two weeks later Martha died.
There are few sights in life as heartbreaking as a child mourner. The gloomy figure of a small boy, his beautiful face looking perplexed as he watched his cousin being buried. Here's a photo of him scattering silver stars into Martha's grave with me at her funeral. When he came back to visit the grave a few weeks later - he looked confused and asked 'where's the hole'?
So many people are affected by the absence of one person. Zak was so shocked and unsettled for months afterwards. He kept asking his mum to play a song in the car that Martha loved: Bridge Burn by Little Comets, he'd then sing his little heart out.
He still talks about Martha and it's obvious he still misses her. He's 10 now and is such a beautiful boy. I love spending time with him - he's unintentionally funny and so innocent and sweet-natured.
Sometimes all you can do is sing along with life and appreciate what you still have left.