Monday, 14 June 2021

The Tear Vessel: sculptor turns her hand to fiction

HENLEY sculptor and art psychotherapist Trisha Crocker has published her first of two novels on Kindle. The Tear Vessel is

HENLEY sculptor and art psychotherapist Trisha Crocker has published her first of two novels on Kindle. The Tear Vessel is based on the incidents surrounding the murder of her husband, Henley shoe repairer Mike Crocker, on their yacht in Trinidad in 1982. Here, she explains her need to write.

I NEEDED to tell the story but it was still too raw and painful, even 25 years later.

I completed an MA in art psychotherapy quite a few years ago. The three-year course brought up a lot of buried emotion about my loss.

I began attending writing classes at Oxford and had wonderful tutors who encouraged me to publish.

The relief of telling the tale and turning what happened, without reason, into a thriller was a joy. I was able to write about the places I knew and loved, especially Henley.

They say you should never write fiction for cathartic reasons but writing the story helped me to look at what happened and fictionalise a motive to a senseless act.

I was able to write about all the things and places I knew and had experienced and research others.

Six years later, with the story embellished and changed but based very much on fact, it is now on Kindle.

It has had excellent reviews so far and everyone asks which part is truth and which is fiction. Those who knew Mike and me in the Seventies and Eighties and went through much of the grief with me will know.

I met Mike in my early twenties, when I came to live in England. His dream of building a yacht and sailing around the world soon became mine while the town was drawn into the excitement of watching the yacht NYN (short for Not Yet Named) being built by us on the river.

I attained my yacht master’s certificate a year or so before we embarked on our journey.

Just before leaving, a “goodbye fitness class” was held in a friend’s garden in Hambleden.

There were more than 200 of us doing jumping jacks (star jumps) and cavorting up and down the lovely lawns. It was a beautiful summer’s evening.

I remember that hundreds of wriggly worms all came to the surface as we bounced on the grass. At the end of the evening two folding bikes were rolled out to us.

It was an amazing surprise and an ending to a wonderful time in our lives. After six years, NYN was launched in Henley and our many friends came to wave goodbye in July 1981. The Henley Standard followed our journey to Spain, Portugal and the Canaries with regular letters from Mike.

We arrived in Barbados in December and shared Christmas with sailing friends we met along the way.

Friends from Henley flew out to stay on board for two weeks and then Mike and I took them to Tobago and on to Trinidad.

It was in Trinidad, very late on the night that we arrived, that an intruder attacked our group on board the yacht and Mike lost his life.

It was to Henley that I returned to stay with Mike’s parents while waiting for the yacht to be brought back to this country.

The naval carrier Fearless had been in Trinidad during the incident and the captain wrote me a very personal and heartfelt letter expressing his wish to bring NYN back to Henley for me.

Tony Hobbs, of Hobbs boatyard, offered me a mooring across from his boatyard. I wanted to live on the yacht to hold on to the memories but it became very difficult to keep my privacy and I eventually moved back into our house.

I opened a dance and fitness studio in Friday Street and tried to focus on the future, something Mike’s dad kept reminding me that Mike would want me to do.

Friends organised a 22-mile sponsored walk on the Ridgeway to raise funds for a tall ships charity set up in Mike’s name. I had support from the town in so many ways.

Born in Hollywood, I had been dancing all my life. When I came to live in Henley I began teaching fitness classes and they grew to 250 to 300 people a week.

There was always coffee on and a time to chat after. The classes had a constant waiting list and were as popular for the atmosphere as the strenuous workouts.

This was just before Jane Fonda became so popular. I wore colourful dance leotards that were very different to the black health and beauty uniforms of the time that ended below the thigh. Everything was different and new and we had a lot of fun. Many of the women who met in the Seventies became best of friends for life. It was an exciting time. I had a little three-inch square book called Keep Fit In Confined Spaces published just before we left.

It sold at W H Smith for a whopping 15 or 25 pence! I received my first royalty cheque when we arrived in Barbados and I was thrilled.

I now work with at-risk and vulnerable children as a behavioural specialist for a borough council.

When beginning the MA, I wanted to focus on teenage boys who had been detained. I ended up working in a locked unit for teens and with every teenage problem imaginable. It was an eye-opener and gave me a great basis for my work.

Besides also working from home with incredibly interesting children and women, I embarked on a PhD two years ago.

I had been working with clay and making female sculptures for more than a decade. The dance, clay making and art therapy brought up many questions and led me to the research on women’s perceptions of their body image using clay-making as a tool.

Some women from my fitness classes in the early Eighties were invited to take part in last year’s pilot studies.

I love doing what I’m doing and I am very lucky to be able to enjoy all these pursuits.

My bronze sculpture Gloria will be on display at Hidcote Manor Garden, a National Trust property near Chipping Camden, in September.

My long-term plan is to complete the editing of my second book, The Widow’s Club, which is a happy adventure, after I complete the PhD, of which I am two years into a six- year journey.

To be honest, I could write all day (when I am not working with the amazing children) and I much prefer writing fiction to academic research.

I do not see myself as a scholar but my supervisors believe in me and I have a passion for my subject, so I will see it through.

The Tear Vessel is a quick read and, I have been told, a “page turner”.

If you don’t own a Kindle you can download one for free on your Smart Phone, iPad, or computer.

I don’t own a Kindle myself as I am an avid reader of paperbacks but I was astounded to find how many people do own one.

I would be thrilled if those of you who knew Mike and me, and our dream, and gave me so much love and support when I returned would read the story and wonder along with the rest how much you know to be true.

* The Tear Vessel is available to buy on Kindle now.

MICHAEL CROCKER, the popular Henley man who was murdered by a Trinidad pirate on board his boat in the early hours of Friday morning, may have been alone when he died.

Mike, who until recently ran Crocker’s shoe repair business in Friday Street, was strangled in the cabin of his 33ft sloop Nyn in which he and his wife Trisha were planning to see the world over the next 10 years.

His friend David Drake, who was holidaying with his wife Christine on the yacht, was knifed in the attack. The boat was moored about a quarter of a mile offshore just outside Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad.

Police inquiries are focused on the discovery of a white dinghy similar to one seen at the time of the murder.

Reports of the murder earlier this week suggested that Trisha witnessed her husband’s death but his family heard on Wednesday that she was already off the boat, desperately trying to get help, when he died.

Since the murder, Trisha and Chris have been under close police guard at a secret location.

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