It’s all a little like tempting fate, but as I sit here with a grey light filling the sky I think that the darker days may have passed.
Our garden tree, the one by the wall, the one whose red leaves shade us from the quizzical looks of others, the one that is now stripped of foliage, has survived the storm with its threatening winds. I half expected it to fall, but it is there this morning reaching towards heaven still (thank you for that, Robert Frost). Yes, but it did survive.
Yesterday was filled with the blank sadness of a funeral. The man who died had been a neighbour, a fellow five-a-sider (mini football), a regular face in the street to stop and chat with, a regular face in many lives, a central tug for all that desired unconventional normality; a touchstone in times of madness.
The crematorium was full to the rafters. A host of faces from the past mixed with other faces from different pasts in order to show some respect for a man who had gone. He was a non-believer in the institutional belief, but he was a believer in something that was closer to people than that convenient pretence ever was.
The funeral guests were not there to wish him well in the great beyond. They were there to say goodbye. He would never be found chatting in the streets again, never be seen drinking in the pub, and never ‘moshing’ in the pit of all that was music.
I remember him as an Argentinian shirt-wearing five-a-sider. Like poor Ming physicians, we could never read his runs. I do believe that they may have been as unpredictable to himself as they were to others. He was as close to Maradona as Madonna. Yet he was a central cog in a mechanism that is now without him.
I watched a young woman struggling, and losing her fight against tears. I watched her tissue dab at eyes and nose, embarrassed that she could not hide her love of this lovely little man. I heard choked voices struggling through eulogies, reaching the point where the dam would burst, breathing and then resuming their brave battle to hold back the waters.
There were no hymns. There were no prayers. Yet, I did expect applause. I was willing to raise my hands together to thank this man for being the best of humanity in a very normal garb. And tears did rise to my eyes. They came from a well, well beneath and they threatened, promised to brim over into the stillness of the afternoon. It was only my breathing, my avoiding of talk and eye-contact, that kept me dry.
And why was I so ready to cry? I think that it was because he had never harmed anyone. He had always been just himself . He was the essence of man, stripped of ambition, or greed, or aggression. He was what Everyman and Everywoman ought to be. He lived his life. Enjoyed his life. Walked and talked his life.
And then his time was done.
To a man to be proud of.
Graham Knight (Nobby).