Tom has died

November 16th 2011

(For update and more about Tom see below)

Tom’s Funeral was on 1st December 2011

A memorial day was held in Bristol on March 30th 2012

We have made a website to celebrate Tom’s life and work

November 19th 2011

To all my friends who knew Tom this is what happened.

We in the family learnt of his death on Thursday November 17th. He had been in Amsterdam, staying in a hotel on his way to give a lecture in Mainz, which he was much looking forward to. On the Tuesday evening he sent cheerful texts to his partner Carol, describing his evening misty walk along the canals, and pleasant time in a coffee shop.

He did not turn up in Mainz and the people there contacted Bristol University to find out what had happened. To cut a long story short, with police blunders and other difficulties, it took until Thursday afternoon for us to learn the truth.

On the Wednesday morning the hotel maid had found Tom apparently asleep in bed. She notified the manager who realised he was dead and called the police and forensic doctor. I spoke at some length to the police woman who was there. She said he was curled up as though asleep with his hands under his head and “had no frown on his face”. This was a great comfort. They found the medication for his heart condition and high blood pressure next to the bed and concluded that he died of natural causes, almost certainly a heart attack in his sleep.

Once we had all spoken to each other, the family all decided to come here, to our home in Devon. Jolyon drove from Cambridge to Birmingham to collect his partner, Emma; Emily and her partner, David, drove to Bristol to collect Carol and some of Tom’s papers. They all arrived here on Thursday evening. Carol’s two children, Lily and Frida, drove over from Germany arriving on Friday evening.

As I write on Saturday morning we are trying to plan the next steps. For now I can say that we will be having a funeral for family and close friends, here in Devon, as soon as we can arrange it. Then we will have a much bigger event for all the hundreds of people who knew and loved Tom, to celebrate his life and work, probably in Bristol, in the New Year.

If you are on Facebook there are lots of wonderful pictures and comments on his page there. I am not, hence writing my own personal piece here. I am sorry I have not been able to ring everyone. I will add some pictures soon.

Tom was the lively and eccentric heart of our unusual extended family and will be horribly missed. Although he and I split up more than twenty years ago, all of you who knew him will know how much he meant to all of us. Since we moved to Thornham three years ago, he has been here many times, often staying with Carol in “Tubolard”, his great cow-spotted camper van, in the field.

He always cooked Christmas dinner for a large family gathering, whether here or in Bristol. When Adam and I got married here last year, he gave me away and gave a brilliant speech about my Dad. Then he inspired the construction of his wedding present for us – the eco hot tub. He was already planning what to cook for a big family new year celebration here.

We are all shattered but all together and looking after each other.


For more photos please see Emily’s website

Or view photos of us all at Adam and my wedding

Update – Friday November 25th 

Tom’s body has at last been returned home and the autopsy carried out. As we expected, his death was caused by heart-related problems, in particular coronary artery atherosclerosis and cardiomyopathy.

I know both from this and from a long and very helpful conversation with the Dutch policewoman who attended the hotel where he died that he must have died peacefully in his sleep. When asked how he looked, she said he was curled up on his side as though asleep and “with not any frown on his face”.

We are now able to arrange the funeral for Thursday December 1st, and there will be a memorial event in Bristol in the new year.

More about Tom

Tom and I met on the ski slopes of Aviemore on 6th April 1977 when both of us were PhD students. I was captain of the Surrey University ski team and he was captain of City University. We two were in direct competition – to see which team would come last. I forget which did.

It was love at first sight. Just the other night I reread my diaries from that time, when I was full of bewilderment that I was in love with a man I hardly knew. I discovered that his name was Troscianko! He had been born in Germany, a stateless person, but was actually Polish. English was his third language! So he was both foreign and a Catholic and yet I was in love with him. I had no doubts, and I guess he didn’t either, and he soon moved into my house in Guildford.

On July 3rd we went for an LSD trip, wandering through the lovely Surrey woodlands near Guildford on a bright, sunny day. There we sat facing each other, our legs straddled across a log, seeing mysterious faces come and go, each other transforming into monsters, angels, and other strange creatures (as one does!), and there we made our vows to each other. “I shall love you until I die and even afterwards.”

We were married on September 16th (I had to look up the date!), much to my parents’ disapproval. My Mum wanted us to wait until spring when, as Tom put it, “the birds would all be tweeting”. We did not want to wait. We spent our wedding night on the Aberdeen sleeper and honeymooned in a very small tent on wild and windy Shetland. Thereafter we always celebrated July 3rd as our wedding anniversary, not September 16th .

Living with Tom was not always easy – I don’t suppose living with me was either! In 1990 we split up and had a couple of years of all round misery. Then in 1993 I moved to Bristol and soon met Adam. Tom and I worked out a way to share the care of Emily and Jolyon, both living in Bristol. We soon began having boat trips, holidays and Christmases all together, with Tom cooking amazing dinners on his boat, in his house, or in our house.

Tom and I did not get divorced and for many years. I rather enjoyed introducing people to ‘my husband Tom and my lover Adam’! But when Adam and I moved to Devon in 2008 we set up a new life for ourselves and suddenly it seemed right to accept Adam’s repeated proposals. Tom and I were divorced in 2009 and spent out last night of ‘wedded bliss’ at his house in Bristol, smoking and drinking far too much champagne, and reminiscing about our 32 years of marriage and parenthood.

In 2010 Adam and I married at our house and Tom gave me away. Although the symbolism of men giving women away is obnoxious I decided to embrace the old traditions rather than reject them. My father had died only a few years before, and Tom made a wonderful, moving speech about him. After the formal ceremony in the house, we had a less formal one for all our friends in the garden, where we have an old stone bridge over the river. There Tom dragged me across the bridge to Adam waiting on the other side, and not only handed me over but gave him his own wedding ring as well. In these, and many other ways, Tom was at the heart of our family.

After writing the above, I decided to sit by my fire and reread the diary from that day in July 1977. I was pleased to see that my recollections were true, but I was also surprised at some of what I wrote. I therefore reproduce, verbatim, a few short extracts here.

From my diary 3 July 1977

Today we tripped and were married!

We walked first to the common and found a place to sit under a tree … Then we set off to Worplesdon looking at flowers all the way …We ended up at a high place with an oak tree and … many changes took place. I wish I could recall them all. I will recall them all. But I feel I can only record ideas.
Tom said there are only 2 kinds of people, those who keep on living and those who give up. …
We sat facing each other astride a bench and married ourselves. I promised to stay with him forever and ever and to love him until I die and afterwards, and he promised the same. … I saw horror and pain in his face, and joy and laughter, but mostly I saw a young fair prince, strong and beautiful, sitting under his tree. … this day was so special. I felt very happy. Funny – a typical tripping thing, we found ourselves walking, from 10 yards away, straight towards the place where we had first sat down at 10 a.m., now at 6 p.m., in the middle of nowhere!

On reading it again, after nearly 35 years, I was specially struck by that comment Tom said there are only 2 kinds of people, those who keep on living and those who give up.”

We know which kind Tom admired, and which kind he was. He kept on living right to the end.

Tom skiing with Emily on his back, probably 1983


Tom with newborn Jolyon 1984

Update May 2012

Over the New Year the family met up and placed some of Tom’s ashes under a great pine tree in our field at home. We planted there all the plants that had decorated the hall for the funeral, as well as more white flowering plants and bulbs for the future. The wooden plaque that Adam carved is now fixed onto the tree above a little cairn.

The memorial event for Tom took place on 30th March at Bristol University and was a tremendous celebration of his life. This was quite different from the funeral which was a time of deep mourning for us all. We heard from lots of his friends, colleagues, and students and ended up with a good dinner and fun evening.

On May 4th all the family met up in Scotland, on the way to ‘Scotch Perspectives’, and took the opportunity to visit the tree near Doune where, nearly twenty years ago, Tom scattered his mother’s ashes. She had lived nearby in Dunblane and he chose this rugged hawthorn tree, with fabulous views all around, for her last resting place. We took more of his ashes and added them there to hers. The tree must now have a fine mixture of ingredients for its higgledy-piggledy growth.

Much has been written about Tom including this obituary tribute from a colleague, Iain Gilchrist.

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