Monday, 22 October 2018


Over the last ten days two of my best and closest friends have died. It’s a sign of our imminent mortality.  When the wonderful Roger Lewis died on October 9th it was sad and horrible but not wholly unexpected because Roger was very ill. I spent the last week or so remembering how delightful he’d been and how I wished I’d spent more time with him. Like a half drunk bottle of Chateau Petrus it seemed such a waste.

But on Tuesday 16th  the gloom deepened. The glorious James Arnold-Baker died pretty much out of the blue. He’d tripped gathering fuel for a wood burner, fell,  hurt his back,  grinned ruefully at his stupidity and was dead 48 hours later.

I listed my best friends, friends for whom I’d  lay down my own  life. Yet at a stroke two of the key players from my novel “The Immortals of the ‘60s”.  have been written out. There’s a real sense of
my band being broken up.

Who’s next?

I sneezed this morning. Is this serious? Ironic that this very week my wife and I re-wrote our wills. Coincidence or premonition? Yet I’m unable even in facing the Valley of Death to be doom laden and drenched in misery. Most of all I recall the lives of two tremendously talented, kind and deeply nice people whom I loved more than I’d realised.

I also examined some of the odder expressions for dying:-

- Sticking your spoon in the wall (German and Afrikaans)
- Handing in your dinner pail (Woodhouse)
- Wearing wooden pyjamas (Portuguese)
- Swallowing one’s birth certificate (French)
- Joining the choir invisible (George Eliot)
- Riding the pale horse (Revelations 6.8)
- Climbing the six foot ladder (1950 H&S warning)

Unsurprisingly I didn’t find myself laughing that much as none capture the sense of bleak  loss, lack of completing a  mission and its utter finality. Just the End. We need to have a whole new set of expressions – to get God’s Red Card; to finish the book before the last chapter; to suffer a fatal coding error; to miss the last train.

But I don’t feel in despair. We all know we’re going to die (sooner rather than later actuarially). We know the idea of living forever would be much worse than dying before our time. The cause for joy is that those of us who made the most of our lives have achieved something worthwhile and amazing.

So to those left standing take half an hour out today and write down the things you want to do and relish before you too die. Make them simple achievable and worth remembering as you breathe your last. Here are mine:-

i)   Lunch at the Colombe D’Or, near Nice
ii)  A glass of prosecco on the Zattere in Venice at sunset
iii)Watching county cricket at Lords

Cheer up. Yes, it will happen to you but probably not quite yet. You still have time to enjoy some memories.

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