Good weather and Brian’s cremation

Mon 16 – Sun 22 April 2018

Being an old gay man

Dying lion

Amidst the sunshine, last week marked the final resting of my old friend Brian and me moving on from this. We come from dust and we return to dust. I’m sorry if I have bored my readers with it over the last few weeks but it has been quite a big thing for me.

He wasn’t family but a friend I had known for well over 15 years. An old and, at times, vulnerable man. A gay guy brought up in another era who never had the relationship he dearly wanted.

The gay scene can be very cruel. You can be generous, intelligent and funny but because you are old, so you are worth shit in a culture that worships before the altar of youth and beauty. Don’t believe the crap myth of the ‘sexy older man’. Yep there’s a whole ‘daddy’ culture on the scene (liking of older men) but it’s more based on the concept of a sugar daddy who is there to pay for everything and sort out your life for you.

Dave’s dodgy Mr Whippy & crap trains

Friday morning me and Dave were up at 6 to get the 7.30 am train to Brighton. Dave was not in a good way, he had a stomach upset after eating a dodgy Mr Whippy ice-cream the day before. Poetic justice in that he shouldn’t have eaten it as he is supposed to be cutting down. A 12 carriage train was converted to a 4 carriage one to remind me of the stupidity of the train companies. The hottest day of the year and the train to Brighton stopping at Gatwick, it was absolutely packed.

Doggy things

To Brian’s flat to meet Emma the dog-walker and hand over all the dog stuff that would otherwise be going in the bin. Then across to the solicitor to handover the flat keys and the last of the post. It sits with them now to sort out the estate and pay whatever remains to The Dogs Trust as Brian wanted. Not sure they will get that much in the end but that is not my worry. Me and Brian’s cousin just hope there is enough in the estate to first pay the solicitor and funeral director.

A pleasant and simple cremation service

The funeral itself was at 3.30. A small and simple affair of about 15 people including about half a dozen ladies from his sheltered housing. I gave a tribute that reflected his imperfections such as his cantankerousness alongside his kindness, generosity, and willingness to take chances. I was particularly taken by the fact that his life actually started after he retired with masses of travel and an interest in trying out different places to live – York, Brighton, Dorset, Spain. Real shame some key people in his life weren’t able to make the cremation.

The service was conducted well by the minister from Dorset Gardens Methodist Church and we went back there for a lovely little tea. Then up to the station and back to London on another 4 carriage train – seriously some people never seem able to get their act together. My thanks to everybody who attended the cremation and those who have given donations to Dogs Trust which we did in lieu of flowers. Particular thanks to Brian’s cousin for stepping up to help out.


Below are the two readings Brian liked and that were read out at the cremation service:

Drawing of Christina Rossetti

‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Anniversary – 25 years ago…

Dave is much better at keeping details of key dates than I am. And last week apparently included the 25th anniversary of us first meeting. So one night in 1993 we met in The Bell at Kings Cross. I asked if he wanted a drink – he definitely said yes and might have also asked for a bag of crisps. We went out for 6 months then split and I ended up in Brighton for 12 years before moving back to London and bumping into Dave again about 11 years ago. Our joke is we were the last 2 left in the room. 🙂

Sticky Fingers

Rolling stones logoSo a celebration dinner on Wed night after work. Various ideas were considered but we decided to go to the Rolling Stones’ restaurant ‘Sticky Fingers’ in Kensington. We have been meaning to go there for ages and finally we did it. The reaction to my choice by some of my colleagues at work was hilarious – they felt I should have gone more upmarket.

It’s OK – a burger place but not too expensive. The decor is very much a homage to the Stones and many of the other people there seemed to be baby-boomers trying to relive their teenage years (taking time off from their current trajectory of screwing up the world for everybody else who came after them).

Innovation & Creativity

CHOGM & discrimination

Work 2 days last week – Mon & Wed. Fri was taken off as compassionate leave, I think the first time I’ve ever taken this from my current employer. Last week was the week the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government) summit took place in London. So lots of travel disruption and colleagues were attending lots of events there.

We had planned a work event with some people from Nigeria but they were declined visas to enter the UK despite being listed on the CHOGM agenda. If you work with organisations in Africa you realise this is a common and frustrating problem. We and other organisations have had problems in the past with people invited to come to the UK by very credible and high level sponsors but still having their entry to the country questioned or denied. Don’t believe it when people say the UK establishment’s treatment of the Windrush generation is out of character.

Internal catch-ups + Sam Applebee & Nissa

blue computerised pattern

Lots of these including planning better use of social media. And on Wed morning it was great to catch-up with Sam Applebee of Super Global who looks very dashing with his moustache. He’s still exploring ways to support not-for-profits to use digital better and is going to base himself in Lisbon. I really want to visit there so highly useful to have someone who knows the city so well.

Also lovely on Wed to catch up with my old-job share Nissa and hilarious that we left the cafe without paying for the coffee and cakes. 🙂 (I did go back later to pay).

Team-building

Wed afternoon, I had a meeting with the other senior managers to work on planning for our upcoming big all-staff meeting. This had been followed the evening before by us having a social event. We went on a treasure hunt though we got several bits wrong and parts were blocked by the CHOGM restrictions. But it was great to chat on various issues including attitudes to faith. We skipped to the end of the clues, found out the pub we were supposed to finish in, and went to somewhere closer instead. 🙂

Should charities merge?

Thurs evening I found myself at an event to launch a report on charities merging. This is a contentious issue in the not-for-profit sector. The report suggested there are lots of positives for charities in merging (beyond just rescuing failing organisations) and many different ways for them to adventitiously come together. But it is in the nature of charities to slog onwards on their own. I did get put on the spot as a funder to ask if we should not be doing more to encourage charities to consider mergers? There is a risk with the not-for-profit sector that it looks for guidance and structure externally (funders, The Charity Commission, government, etc) whereas it should provide this itself. Trustee boards should be asking when the time is right for mergers or even simply to close down.

Health & Efficiency

Gym and jog-run

Eddie Hall

I made my target of 4 gym visits – hooray! 🙂 The mornings of Tues, Thurs, Sat & Sun. All good workouts though didn’t go too mad at the weekend as I was doing 2 consecutive days.

The real shame is that this was the week of stunning weather – the hottest days of the year so far. And yet with the disruption of CHOGM and then the London Marathon on Sun, I was unable to do my jog-run. So many streets and rights of way were closed off that it made it impossible to follow my route of choice around St James Park and Green Park.

How to screw up a great city

View of London tube mapIt really feels to me that London is becoming a theme park these days rather than a living city; a place for tourists and events rather than a serious city to live and work in. Cities, for me, are real living entities open for everybody not just the rich and visitors.

This poor treatment of London is all linked to the decline of the UK as a sensible country in the modern world. Rather it is becoming a nostalgia fest based on wars and empire. It’s very sad to see the decline of where I was born. 🙁

Personal Development

Pretty much the usual story. Language training on Duolingo some days. Not on Wed (busy at work & anniversary) and Fri (cremation) for good reasons. Sun it just didn’t happen for no good reason. No coding practice. 🙁 And emails went a bit crazy but I did manage to get them more under control at the weekend.

pouring a latteWhat I did do well last week was that I used my days-off properly. I didn’t treat them as work at home days as I am prone. Days not being paid to work last week were Tues, Thurs and the weekend. Gym on each day with lots of walking and chilling – Thurs in particular was beautifully hot and sunny. Got my hair trimmed on Tues. Sun afternoon I had a 2 hour snooze (the Dalai Lama says sleep is the best form of meditation). 🙂

Books & Reading

‘A Closed and Common Orbit’ by Becky Chambers

I read this last week. It’s the follow-up to the excellent book ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’. I’m pretty sure I read that book when I was in Madeira – pleasant memories. ‘Orbit’ is another pleasing bit of sci-fi with a strong emphasis on an eco-system where alien lifeforms live together quite harmoniously. There is also a big exploration of how far Artificial Intelligence should be treated as a real lifeform. This is something we are just starting to explore in the real world. This is a fun book to read, really pleasant. It does have some deep statements but is also a greatly entertaining novel. This is exactly what I like to read sometimes and why I put so much time and energy into reading fiction.

Library

Sat afternoon I popped to the library near to Dave’s in Victoria. Bumped into my old friend Ben there. I love just wandering around libraries. Finding books that interest me and, one day, I might read. Though I will die before I read all the books I would like to. 🙂 And lovely with the inter-borough libraries arrangement that I can take books out from this library though I live in another borough.

The Week Ahead

It’s a horribly busy one dominated by work stuff and then off to Scunthorpe with my mum for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.

  • Paid work days Mon, Wed, Fri next week – days full of internal and external meetings. Plus attending a meeting on Tues morning and an all-day staff meeting on Thurs. 🙁 At least I will get a day’s TOIL for the latter.
  • Several evening things including a DotEveryOne event on Tues & a working dinner on Wed. I’ve turned down an event for Thurs night – it looked good (voices of young people) but I will just be too tired, I know it.
  • Hopefully an afternoon session at the gym on Tues and a jog-run on Sat morning once London is back to normal with CHOGM and the Marathon out of the way
  • I am going to keep on top of emails and Duolingo with the outside possibility of some coding practice
  • One reading book will be finished and another one started

And Finally…

Please publicise that the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award is open for nominations until 8 May. Very happy for people to nominate themselves and their own projects. 🙂

Tech4Good for Africa Award: apply by 8 May

 

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