Tying the knot on the final chapter…


The flights have been paid for, the hotels booked. The kids are champing at the bit to get into the water-park in that first hotel and I’m apprehensively looking forward to how they handle their first ever aeroplane flight. The wedding rings have arrived from a designer in Devon who’s inspired by the coastline. And so the closer we get, the closer I am to tying the knot on my final chapter of Andalucía.

The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

For those of you who don’t know me personally, Andalucía is the book I never planned on writing. When my partner Anna was diagnosed with breast cancer I wrote every day simply because it helped, and then about our past because I was scared it was all our children would be left with. We met on a kibbutz in the Golan Heights, fell in love above the Sea of Galilee, survived a terrorist attack, were hit by lightning. We explored the Dead Sea, had Christmas in Jerusalem, New Year climbing avocado trees on the borders of Syria and Jordan below circling eagles and vultures – while binoculars were trained on us from enemy mountains.

The Golan Heights

After Israel, we ended up in the cheapest hostel in Amsterdam’s red light district, then homeless in Greece.

Andalucía alternates between current and past. It combines past adventures and falling in love with a family struggling to come to terms with cancer and possible death, young children having to deal with their mammy’s hair falling out from chemotherapy drugs, her breast being cut away. It is raw but is also a celebration of how community still exists and helps, how nature heals and about life in a village on the north east coast. Only the final chapter is left to write. And this will be done after Easter, when Anna and I will get married in Gibraltar before heading off north to the mountains of Andalucía.

When I told a colleague at work I was getting married after such a long relationship in sin, he responded with the following: “Jesus Christ. What are you doing that for? It’s like training for a marathon, running it all the way until you’re about twenty metres from the finish. Then tripping yourself up and falling on the floor”

Thankfully, Anna and I don’t share his sentiments. We’re excited about our first holiday abroad for over eight years, taking the children overseas for the first time too. And likewise, we’re excited about getting married. Gibraltar was chosen because it’s so much easier to get married there than Spain, though staying in this hotel built into the rock itself would surely swing anyone into feeling a tad romantic.


And thankfully, readers of Andalucía on the Harper Collins website Authonomy, can see how all this makes for a great read. Below are a few quotes from there…

“Absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking story, written with the deepest passion. I was bawling within the first couple of paragraphs”

“A book every woman should read so they can be diagnosed early…..a poignant story beautifully told”

“A beautiful piece of work, deeply moving. Your writing flows effortlessly and you are a wonderful storyteller”

“Superb – every reader will empathize with the words and wish they could express    their emotion so well. So well they draw tears from strangers”

(If you’re interested you can read the first pages right here)

And so there it is; the book nearly wrapped up, the marriage almost tied up, Anna doing great. There’s only one slight problem. We’re heading off to Spain and Gibraltar all by ourselves. And to get married you need two witnesses over the age of eighteen that aren’t related to you. And so the afternoon before our wedding day, perhaps even the morning of the actual day itself, we’re going to be running around Gibraltar desperately trying to find two people who will agree to help us get married.

So if you know anyone in Gibraltar, give them a shout for us. There’s a free signed book in it for them…

14 thoughts on “Tying the knot on the final chapter…

  1. Richard,

    Your writing, which I read on the web today, is wonderfully clear, almost cinematic, with energy and humanity
    flowing through.

    I wonder if you are the same Richard Hardwick who once lived in Cork and later in Spain?
    Success with the writing.

    Helen Bygrove

    • Hello Helen. I hope you are well. Replying to you once more is the only way I can bring your attention to Gursangat Singh Khalsa aka Anraí Gunthner-McCois Lua, who is looking to get in touch with you. Please see his comments beloe. I like the fact my blog may become a match-maker…

    • Upon stumbling on this website i see Helen Bygrove and think how are you these days Helen? I remember you from Galway, I was writing bad poetry and you were doing your best to show me in a good light to festival organisers. Remember? I lived opposite in the attic flat ( that had belonged to the artist that died suddenly)?

      Just stumbled on your name on this website and thought must be the same Helen! and so How are you?

      Bernadette (Matthews

      • Who knows? This has become a wonderful little mystery to me. She must be a special woman for people to be searching for her …

      • Well Helen we are asking where are you?
        Helen she was the art officer in Galway in the 80’s she was a combination of a fairy god mother and a witch! Good magic only
        I remember going to a party in her flat I was a bit early and opened a press for a glass for some wine and discovered her hoard of dirty dishes piled in there before her guests arrived I was all set to expose her as a domestic salt term but she filled my glass with wine in return for silence – of course that could never be unconditional
        Helen is a vibrant funny woman visionary and a free spirit she kept copious diaries in those days which were surely fluent with her own comic musings on her company but where art thou Helen now we are all asking!

  2. Thank you for your lovely comments Helen. I’m excited about Andalucia being published this September. I’ve never lived in Cork or Spain though. In fact I’ve never even been to Ireland – which is a shame…..

  3. Dear Mr. Hartwick, Berkach in Grabfeld, Thurintgia, Germany, 17th Aug. 2011

    Excuse my somewhat off the subject querý and request.. Upon googling under the name Helen Bygrove I’ve landed on your website. I#m presently attempting to contact Helen Bygrove, a long lost lady friend, who I saw last with her mother in Galway City in the West of Ireland in 1982. She was then the arts officer for the County Arts Council, whose job it was to aid and support artists living in the county. Helen is in fact from Cork and given her occupational background could readily be the woman, who has sent you the above email as late as 30th May 2011.

    My Helen Bygrove, is a person, I’ve met, when I was a student back in the 70ties in Heidelberg and we hat a common close relationship to two Irish folkmusic groups: the Small Fortune and the Wild Geese.

    Helen has maintained contact over the course of the years with a German folksmusic group called the Elster Silberflug (Barbara Grosse-Friese; Herd-wangen/ Bodensee, 07557-713 – who sends her her best regards), who had telephone contact with Helen some 3 years back. Unfortunately, the nummer
    in Berlin, which she gave me (030 / 217 52 817) is no longer in use. In the
    circle of people (der grüne Zweig; Werner Pieper) connected with a music festival 30 years back, in which Helen participated, word has it, that Helen
    is envolved in the theatre in Berlin. As there are nearly 100 stages in Berlin, in an effort to save time and sweat, I’ve opted to address myself to you with the
    request to foward this mail to the woman, who sent you the mail on 30th. May
    2011. Besides the very personal interest to hear how she has fared, since
    last we met, I am preparing to launce a music dance theahre piece with a White
    Russian director Anton Lysakovski and have envisoned castings and venues
    in Berlin and would like to consult her on the matter

    Hoping not to have been too long winded in this my digital appeal to your humaniism, I’d alk for a note of confirmation of the fowarding of this mail to said Helen BYgrove and I do wish you all the best with the launching of your book in September.

    With each and every best wish le gach uile mian maith

    Gursangat Singh Khalsa aka Anraí Gunthner-McCois Lua

    G.S. Khalsa c/o
    Grabfelder Bildungs- u. Begegnungsstätte Berkach e.V.
    Mühlfelder Str. 6
    98631 Grabfeld (OT Berkach)

    tel. 49 (0) 3944 57 98 44
    fax 45
    mobil 49 178 974 34 73
    Email; khalsasingh08@gmx.de

  4. Dear Richard, 19th August 2011

    I don’t know exactly what these few lines will bring about, hoping
    in any case to learn more about your interesting life and works and
    and hopefully a clear indication as to wheather you have fowarded
    my lines to you on 17th August to the woman, who replied to your
    blog on 30 May, Helen Bygrove..

    wishing all the best with all your literary indeavours

    Gursangat Singh

    • Hello Gursangat.I’ve commented on Helen’s post again, letting her know of your comments on here. I haven’t got any other way of contacting her – but she should receive an e-mail to notify her of my comment on her post (I think). Best of luck – Richard

  5. Dear Richard,
    Bear with me once more. I’m sending this brief note to see, if it reaps a reponse from you, which i get informed about via an Email. If so, then your
    second response to Helen’s comment, would have entailed her being in- formed about your second repy per Email as well?? Sorry about burdened
    the blog once again. Unfortunately all my efforts to send an Email to your
    private Email address have reaped only mail delivery failure messages.

    I wish I were able to tap into your Ebooks and thus learn more about you life
    and work.

    Warmes regards to yourself and family

    Gursangat Singh

  6. This is becoming a story all of its own. And I don’t have Ebooks as yet Gursangat, though I’m guessing you’re far more interested in Helen than any of my writing. I’m guessing now you have to subscribe to a particular blog to be able to see any follow up comments….and as far as I’m aware she hasn’t subscribed

  7. Bitter is the brine that burns my sore eyes upon reading Chapters 1,2 and 3 of Andalucia under Authonomy from Harper & Collins, but I’ll pospone my sorrow and sobing til the joyous music of Spring, hopefully to be read in the
    remaining Chapters 4 to final Chapter again cheers me.

    Although most concerned about Helen’s fate and state of affairs, your pen has mobilised my utmost sentiments and convictions repecting the well being of your Anna, your son and daughter and yourself. So please tell me, Richard, how to acquire the complete work soon.

    Gursangat Singh

  8. I cannot help but smile at this moment, as I too have been trying to find Helen Bygrove. My husband and I used to be great friends with her going back to ’78 in Galway. Unfortunately we drifted out of touch and was just googling her once again and came across your blog. I am now totally intrigued. I need to read your book and am really curious if Gursangat ever got in touch with Helen.???

  9. Helen Bygrove! Wherefore art thou? Ah, the wonder of the internet. I write a piece about a book I’m finishing, about the most important times and the most important person in my life. The book is published and received plaudits, including one from a Booker Prize winner, who calls it inspiring. Another acclaimed writer states it’s the best book she’s read that year, it’s “breath-taking.” And yet all the posts are about trying to find a woman called Helen Bygrove, who left the first comment. I’ve never met her. I’ve never been to Ireland. I’d never heard of her until this happened. But now I’d really like to meet her, I guess she’s someone special and I wonder if she is reading these comments with a smile …

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