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Saturday 29 March 2014

Source of much talk

Technically we were mourners but a pox on that for a lugubrious word. So much animation with Joe invisibly providing the conversational springboard. Breathless, I  fancied that these eloquent, beautiful people were conspiring to re-create a Blogger's Retreat lunch as a group affair. Joe, you should have been alive for that

Filing into the chapel we were conscious of a dreadful sequence: Heidi gone in late December, Joe a bare ten weeks later. Two unforgettable individuals. But to have remained silent or to have whispered would have been a poverty-stricken reaction. As the pair of them had talked so did we. Forced to leave Heidi's funeral early, this time I sought her two daughters and was drawn into a discussion about how acts of creation may occur unplanned and unexpected on a canvas. H and J, both painters, listened I am sure.

Tunbridge Wells, that samovar of middle-class spirit, was applauded and condemned with equal vigour. A gorgeous young woman spoke of a travelling circus and seemed impossibly moved to discover that she and RR/VR had lived on the same street in central London. A neighbour who had chauffeured Joe to and from the supermarket spoke about his cargo with affection.

It seems invidious to name individuals but I must mention Joe's offspring. Both were admirably cast as poetry readers: Toby handling Roy Campbell's translation of Baudelaire's The Voyage (discovered for the occasion by Joe's brother, Ken), Pippa a sonnet by Joe (And yet, you must keep saying "and yet"...). Over dinner they reminisced about their tumultuous childhoods, causing us to laugh and to sorrow.

Nor can I ignore Lucy (needs no introduction) who left Brittany at a shockingly early hour, circulated in style among the Tunbridge Wells chat and was only brought low when I incautiously suggested she joined VR and me for a nightcap before turning in. Kay-legged with fatigue she may - or may not - have been briefly a little moist about the eyes as she talked yearningly about bed.

I spoke from the lectern about Joe. People were kind, even if I was dissastified. Trying to be modest (The leopard, always remember the leopard.) I listed myself as A Friend then realised this is a role that is awarded, it cannot be assumed. I worried too about literary contrivances, tricks that may have done duty as sincerity. I saw that "being a writer" is a subjective state and briefly wished I could have claimed to be a juggler to provide undeniably honest entertainment.

Fortunately as I resumed my seat a hand accommodated mine. But that won't save me from getting some stick about that juggling remark, revealed here for the first time.


  1. Thank you, from one of the invisible ones along the outer edge.

  2. You are touchingly but disingenuously gallant; the rapidly dissolving, not so much moist but saturated wreck that you beheld on turning and offering the aforesaid nightcap can only in very small part be blamed on fatigue and an early start; chiefly it was the accumulated result of the accumulated grace, warmth, humour, courage, generosity, affection, eloquence, and while we're doing abstract nouns, beauty, truth and love, of which I had been the beholder and recipient during the course of that day, no small measure of it coming from your dear selves. There's only so much whelming one can take before it is over!

    However, the Hotel Mercure bath and bed were capacious and very comfortable.

    Thanks is not really an adequate word.

  3. Been thinking of you all today. It is very good you were there together.

  4. Crow/RW (zS): Were you not there? I was convinced you were. The event involved unmistakable clues of your presence but then perhaps you were there because I was there - that you are both two of the items I pack for these occasions and release like exotic herbs into a casserole. What am I talking about? Both of you were there, on the far side of Joe's jammed living room, cheek by jowl with Heidi's paintings, talking to the guy who lived on the opposite side of the road and who lent Joe part of his garden for use as a vegetable allotment. I'll get to you both shortly, I told myself, then I saw Lucy had got there first and for the fifth time I was refusing a glass of red because of car-driving obligations. I hope you both took advantage of the occasion (am sure you did) - there was some great conversation out there. I hope you threw yourselves head-first into it and later reflected that what you had seen and heard was - ultimately - all down to Joe.

    Lucy: An elderly man called George shook my hand and said I was hard on sub-editors. Not hard enough, I said; the problem is sub-editors like what they do. He moved on, alarmed to find that the messianic character normally found outside "stopping one in three", had somehow wormed his way into the event. Never mind, he was proof that someone had listened. That helped with my dissatisfaction.

    Another unexpected benefit was bathing in your reflected celestial light. You had made this enormous effort to be there and were deservedly appreciated for that (as well as many other things, of course). I had tossed in an opportunistic gesture by conveying you the final one-hundred-and-fiftieth part of your Odyssey and profited from an intense glare that made me look all of one week younger.

    You are right, though, to stress "accumulated". Handsome people, with decent instincts and marvellous tales to tell seemed to roll past me endlessly, leaving me inexplicably warmed and happy to be a member of the human race. When you finally took off your glasses, scrubbed your eye sockets with your fists, and the three of us hung together like dishrags you were our exemplar, a proxy to express our emotions. We were both so glad you were there because it seemed right for a dozen different reasons - but notably for your links with Joe and for the ease with which we all slipped into a script that seemed to have written itself.

    The word "kay-legged" (inevitably supplied by my mother) demanded you be tired even if it didn't tell the whole story. Anyway it brought forth disingenuously, a word I never dare speak or write since it seems to contain a pair of negatives and leaves me without a compass.. Let's communally allow Tom another Mars bar for his role in all this too.

  5. And so it was. Thank you for packing Crow and me, dear Robbie! And Lucy, thank you for finding us!

    I did not know such a word as "lugubrious" exists. The conversation henceforth will include Joe whenever we gather. And we are all richer for his presence.

  6. So many wonderful people have said so many wonderful things, and looked after a certain lady of my acquaintance. I cannot match your words but would just like to say thank you all.

  7. Thank you for sharing the day for me, who would so much have liked to have been there to say goodbye to Joe as well as meet some bloggers face to face. It sounds like there was much joy as well as sadness shared that day.

  8. So glad you were there together to say goodbye with both sorrow and joy.

  9. So greatful to you and Lucy for these posts about Joe and his memorial service.
    Was drawn to Joe through his wonderfully written blog anecdotes, observations and evocative photos.
    And delighted to have shared several thoughtful and entertaining "comments" exchanges in recent years.
    As an artist and writer myself, Joe was clearly a kindred spirit. My deep regret, is never to have met him in person.
    But that won't keep me from remembering him fondly.
    Sending hearfelt condolances. Carolyn Croll

  10. Tom: A bit of a shaky moment outside the hotel: her in tears, me adjacent, interested parties watching. Told everyone she was my daughter and she'd had one Babycham too many. I know, it's positively libellous, she's a Vosne Romanée daughter if anyone is, but the Tunbridge Wells demi-monde isn't exactly sophisticated these days.

    CC: I'm glad you found a blog to link up with. As I said, I've known Joe since 1963

  11. Blimey! I've finally contacted me father-in-law. Hi Dad. :)

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