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gone a year

Today you’ve been gone a whole year. I think of you often. I wonder if you knew that I would?

You were a dear friend and wise. Eighty eight in body, but not in spirit or sense of humour. I miss you. And I miss knowing you are next door.

You and this house at 89 High Street, were my sheltered port from stormy seas.

I can’t think of a better way of describing how I feel about you, and here, over the last 5 years. I could go out into my hectic choppy life… knowing there was this steady place  – quiet and solid and old – which I could always come back to.. and feel like I was home.

I will be sad to leave, even as I begin a chapter in my life. And much of that will be because it means saying a final goodbye to here, a place that has felt more like home than any other since I was a child.

I heard somewhere once, that you are only truly dead, when no-one remembers you any more. There’s something in that I think. And it’s strangely comforting.

There are so many times you surface in my mind:

-Taking the back-road way.

-Duke Ellington music.


I ate one from that had fallen from under your tree last week. It felt like a gift. It opened easily and the nut inside was delicious. As I slowly chewed it, I remembered the tree’s 100th  birthday. You didn’t want to celebrate your own, so neighbours came from far and wide, and we celebrated that special tree. It even had a birthday cake. My friends (who weren’t even there) loved it. There was something in that afternoon, that summed you up, so perfectly.

-1940s dance halls.

And the story of when you first met your red haired lady and first love.

-Noisy aeroplanes overhead.

You visibly shuddering as your eyes moistened: “They still get me every time” as you’re taken back to the war sounds of your childhood.

-Antique fairs.

And National Trust Gardens later on with Anne. But mainly antiques fairs, far and wide and full of treasures. (That charming chiming grandfather clock to the right of your front door).

-My pictures.

You helped me hang them carefully in my house. You chuckled when I asked if I could put some up: ‘Have you seen my house Dawn?’ you said, and came around with all the different nails, pencils and rulers we needed, to do the job properly. I will be sad to take them down when I leave; it seems like part of you is still here, because you helped me put them up.

-Victoria sponge cake.

Whenever I make it for Birthdays, I will cut a slice in my mind for you.


Without exception, every time I drink Prosecco you are there, somewhere. I would come over for a quick chat and you would be drinking a glass and invite me to join you (which I did every time!). We would sit in the kitchen by the patio window (looking into the garden), or in the lounge (admiring the tapestry Jen made after your Canada trip) or staring into the big fire place (with its ornaments and hidden owls). And we talked about anything and everything. You always had something interesting to tell me about. Somehow, we never ran out of topics, between us.

Your daughter Kate, gifted me some cut glass from your special wine glass collection. I toast you each time I fill them with bubbles and take a first sip.

-“I thought I’d hung up my hat”

Such a John-expression. You wrote it in that wonderful note you left me after you met my darling mum.

-Handwritten notes.

Through my letter box when I got back from work. They were something special (even if it was just a note to say the gas service needed to be done). In fountain pen (always in fountain pen). I loved getting them and I hope you enjoyed mine with the silly pictures. It’s really something to recognise someone’s hand writing.

-Bentleys and Jaguars.

Older cars, built to last.

-Endearing superstitions.

“Go out the way you came in, or you won’t come back”; the twinkle in your eye as you announced that your ‘familiar’ was an owl. (I knew about familiars from studying 17th century witches for my GCSEs, so when you announced this whilst pointing out all the owls in your house, I was immediately struck by how wonderfully unconventional and… surprising, you were!)

-(On that note) whenever someone older surprises me.

-Kimonos with socks.

I caught you a few times in this dapper, comfortable, worldly choice of nightwear. It was always when I knocked on your door a little too late, having been for a run. You’d have had your bath and dinner and would look at me, bemused and patient, as I told you whatever it was (“Slow down..!”) before then bidding me goodnight with a quick fatherly hug.

-Your opinion on appropriate men.

“You need a man who can chat about culture not football”. (How right you were!!).

-“What are your prospects?”.

Not something anyone else has ever asked me. And our chats about the wisdom of investing money in property. Your genuine concern for my financial future. Handing me details of The Country Gentlemen’s Association, and a phone number to call, to get some informed advice.

-British flags flying outside houses. I may not have always agreed with your opinions when it came to politics, but when it came to proudly standing up for what you believe in, we were on the same page. You were never one bit scared about that.

-The back of your head.

When I came home from work, seeing the back of your head above the sofa, watching the favourite TV programmes you’d recorded.

-9am to rise.

Regular as clock work your wake up time was 9am. The way it should be when you have the choice!

-Birthday meals.

You would take me out for my birthday each year. We graced The Buntingford Kitchen, The Black Horse in Ireland & The Fox in Willian  and The Fox & Duck in Therfield. You were great company and we would eat well, drink good wine and chat the entire time. Our conversations flowed so easily.

-Having a door opened for me.

Specifically when a gentleman opens a door for me. Especially a car door. Even if it means him walking around the other side from the drivers door to do so.

-Salad for tea.

Your standard. My once in a while. Those once in a whiles though, remind me of our meals and conversations together. There were so many. And I loved hearing your stories from before.

-“Slow down.. you’re like cousin Sue “ and “Don’t be a busy fool!” and “Where are you off to now?” and “You’re one of those people who lights up the room”.

That final one, the best of compliments, especially coming from a man who… I don’t know, just knew.


This is how your face comes back to me. All these times there is a quick, grounding flash of your face: twinkling eyes and a quick conspiratorial wink, from under one of your whiskery eye brows.

Not long after we got to know each other properly, you said to me:

“I am in loco parentis” putting yourself forward, in place of far away parents. You can never have known how much that meant to me. Thank you. It was a privilege to know you and call you my friend. 

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