Fiona Mary McHardy.
Born on the 2nd July 1962 Nursing Home, at Queens Cross which as her mum Sylvia said just the other day was her spiritual home – in more ways than one of course as it became the original Dizzys. A great bar and favourite of Fiona from an early age.
An expression I have heard many people use to describe Fi is that she was a force of nature, the life and soul of the party, a girl with real get up go.
So at what stage did these traits begin to appear?
When talking to John and Sylvia it seems – from day 1.
With one lovely daughter Susan, it was a joy when a second, Fiona arrived.
And it didn’t take long for Susan to realise her wee sister might just be a bit of a handful.
When Fi was 4 years of age, John took Susan and herself to the Gordon College swimming pool. Sylvia wasn’t allowed in of course it was men only – so John was in charge of getting the girls changed and taking them for a swim. It was apparent from the moment they got there. Fiona was just dying to get in and Susan was dying to get out.
Neither of them could swim which was why John was quite a surprised when he took his eye of Fi for just a moment only to find she had wheeched up the steps and jumped off the top diving board – as I said she couldn’t swim but she jumped in anyway. A metaphor for the way Fi lived her life.
Of course John her dad bungee jumped off a gorge in New Zealand for his mid 60’s so it’s clear who Fi took after!
Other sporting pursuits the girls enjoyed included.
Horse riding …the first time they went riding they had a break half way through and Susan refused to get back on the horse again so came home in a jeep and of course they couldn’t get Fiona off the horse at the end of the day.
Interestingly skiing which was a shared passion for both sisters but something Fiona didn’t take to immediately. Although this could have something to do with the fact it was freezing and blowing horizontal rain when they were introduced to the sport in Aviemore,. As Sylvia told me ‘once Fiona got into the Little Tarmigan Restaurant she flatly refused to come out.’
I am sure we can all identify with times over the years where we have been in restaurant or bars with Fi when she has refused to get out..
It was clear from this early age though the McHardy sisters were inseparable. So alike in some ways – yet polar opposites in the other.
Susan being the older sister kept an eye on her wee sister as much as she could with Fi and from day one they shared a unique bond.
The one time when they were separated was by year groups at school.
Fi was at Hazelhead Primary and then onto Cults Academy where we first met and despite that being 40 years ago I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that we only ever fell out once. And I’m not proud to say it was over a man. If you can call Donny Osmond a man.?
And was my fault.
I had promised Fi the life size Donny Osmond poster that was being sent from the Osmond fanclub and when it arrived I thought it was so gorgeous I refused to hand it over. She did forgive me, but as you can imagine it took time.
It was at school Fi began to make friendships that would last a lifetime. And as ever with Fiona it was all about the social life, so to be honest the school days are a bit of a blur but the weekends certainly aren’t.
Even as a youngster she loved a party.
Her first regular party date was in this very Church. Queens Cross Hall on a Saturday evening at Rons Disco. Yes in this very Church Hall Fi and the girls would all gather in flared jeans, cheesecloth shirts, afghan coats and smelling of patouli oil to dance the night away. Then when 10cc I’m not in love came on there was a thundering of hooves as all the girls ran for the loos as all the boys came lurching over to ask for a slow dance.
Getting ready to go out on a Saturday night with Kate Bush blasting out in her bedroom we got up to all sorts.
We either stayed at her house here in Carden Place or my folks place in Cults. We had a good degree of freedom with a few rules – one of which was no hitchhiking.
So there we were standing at the side of the road in Cults hitchhiking when this car pulled up. Just as we were about to jump into it, another car pulled up behind . It was my Dad…’you two get into this car’ he said..’what on earth do you think you’re doing?’
‘Its OK’ said Fi pointing into my handbag which I hurriedly opened ‘Alisons got a knife’ which was my cue to pull out the massive kitchen knife we had stashed into my bag in case of emergency.
‘Get in the car’ said my dad as he drove Fi home and we both got a rocket.
Sundays in winter were spent skiing at Glenshee. Getting up at 7am to get the ski club bus. Fi had usually eaten her packed lunch by 7.15am. But days spent hurtling down a hill were just about as good as it got for the young Fiona.
Fi was always independent minded so next on her list was the driving license.
One of the few cross words between Fiona and her lovely Dad John allegedly took place when he bravely took Fi out for a few early driving lessons. In fact she was left miles from home as a clenched John told her if she wasn’t going to do as he told her she could get out – so she did.
Of course she passed her test soon enough.
Then she was off to live in her own flat. Well not her own exactly as she had the dubious pleasure of sharing it with me. It was in Huntly St just down the road and we laughed recently recalling our mums came round to see it and neither of them would take their coats off.
We had no phone, there was ice on the inside of the windows and we had no idea how to cook. We regularly poisoned ourselves so just gave up cooking and lived off tequila and frozen birds eye mini pizzas instead.
Though both working budgeting was not a strong point so we decided to rent out the lounge to a biker called Joe – who’s here today.
Fiona made friendships that lasted even all those years ago.
Working in those days was fun…well there were jobs…Fi worked in the oil companies, as a receptionist at the Malacaa, Aberdeen Glass and China, Aberdeen Journals and Bruce Millers Wine Bar amongst others and from every one of those places she made friends.
Even all those years ago she worked to live – never the other way round – something that stayed with her always.
It was around this time that Fi did a Cordon Bleu Cookery Course and went off to do a season in the alps as a Chalet Girl.
And of course she was hooked and spent quite a few seasons on the slopes.
During one season Susan and Sylvia went out to visit. On day 1, Fi was working in the morning so Susan took Sylvia
out on the slopes.
Sylvia hadn’t skied for quite a few years and was naturally rusty so Susie was very tentative with her, taking her onto low slopes and making sure she was fine. They met up with Fi at lunchtime and did the handover.
Sylvia was with Fi for the afternoon.
Within minutes they were on a black run…which Fiona whizzed down and then realising her mum wasn’t with her stopped and looked back up the slope where she was rigid with fear and frozen to the spot.
‘Come on mum’ shouted Fi ‘what are you frightened off/ Falling?’
At the end of the afternoon Susie came back to the chalet.
‘Where’s Mum?’ she asked Fiona.
‘’in the bath with a brandy.’
As you know Fiona’s skiing was impeccable so when we heard on one of her sojourns to the alps she had broken her leg we all assumed it had been a dramatic dare devil black run skiing accident – as opposed to the truth which was she’d been kicking her legs up in a bar enjoying the apres ski, when she slipped and broke it. It was, as she would call it a DRI (drink related incident).
And despite the leg Fiona adored her skiing and a year without skiing wasn’t an option. In fact earlier this year she was in Valdisere with her friends before swanning off to Les Gets.
As I said a year without skiing wasn’t an option.
For the last 20 years Fiona’s base has been Edinburgh. Of course there was always a lot of dancing and partying which was interrupted occasionally by that 4 letter word – work. Fi was very successful based in Edinburgh and working within the media and design industry for Sorrel Publishing, News International, Tayburn and latterly 3 Brand .In fact 3 Brand have shut their whole office today and made the journey to Aberdeen join in this celebration of Fionas life.
During these years despite the fact Fiona was in Edinburgh and Susan in the west coast the two were still inseparable. When Susan married Stuart, Fiona and Stuart hit it off so much so they have spent many holidays together – and with John and Sylvia too.
Of course Fi couldn’t have been happier than when Archie and Mia were born, her beloved nephew and niece who she talked about proudly and loved so dearly.
Fiona was all about family and friends.
And looking round here today says more than I ever could about that. She had literally hundreds of friends. Not acquaintances. Not people whose faces she knew but whose names escaped her. People who she loved and loved her right back.
From Aberdeen, Edinburgh, London, USA, Australia, Asia, every ski resort in Europe….in fact I defy you to go to any ski resort in Europe and not be able to find someone who knew and loved our Fi.
I have received messages and long letters from people all over the world touched and saddened to hear about Fionas death as I know John, Sylvia, Susann and Stuart have.
Jennifer & Simon Winfield – Mum and Dad to Fionas Godaughter Caledonia in Australia although her Gran Fayehas come up from Edinburgh to be here.
George, Naomi & Callum in Auckland, NZ
Russell & Amanda in Sydney, Oz
Andy Abram in Jakarta
They are the tip of the iceberg…but you get the idea.
Fi was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago. Devastating news but from day one she just got on with it. No deep soul searching, she accepted what the Western General in Edinburgh told her and walked on.
Over the years Drs were openly amazed at how well she continued to be.
She defied what they saw on their screens to the point that one day when she swanned in looking fabulous on of her oncologists said quite simply ‘Fiona McHardy you are an enigma’
The definition of enigma is “a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation: “
There is no other explanation other than her ever remarked upon sprit..
And spirit is inexplicable .
Some folk have it, some folk don’t and then there’s another category all together….Fiona Mary Mchardy.
Her fighting spirit. Her lust for life. Joie De vivre whatever you want to call it – Fi had it in spades.
Even before she was ill that was how she lived her life –
She loved people.
She loved family.
She loved you.
She didn’t wait for tomorrow – she did it today.
Every day with Fi was a day lived.
She got up and got on.
Never complained – and I do mean NEVER.
Fi spent her last few weeks in Helensburgh surrounded by her whole family. Susan managed the endless stream of friends who wanted to visit and kept everyone fed, watered and well looked after whilst caring for her sister.
A special bond indeed.
One that will never be broken.
So although the tragedy of losing her is still so raw we can take some solace in the knowledge that our pal gave more, did more and was loved more in her 49 years than most people who live to be 100.
Our dear Fi, will be missed beyond comprehension
but as time moves on we know
the unique place that she holds in our hearts
will remain hers forever.
Fiona Mary McHardy – a dearest daughter, sister, aunt and friend. An enigma.