A tribute to my dad: James Marriott, February 14 1917- February 14 2012

This is the address I gave at my dad’s funeral at Burnley Crematorium on Friday February 24 2012.
Dad had said he was worried about being forgotten, that people in later years might not know he had been around.
I’m publishing this so that people do know; and every time someone reads it, dad will live on.





Today shouldn’t be remembered as one of the saddest of days.

Yes, we’re grieving.

We’re saying goodbye to a dad, grand-dad, great-grand-dad, uncle, and great uncle, cousin, friend, neighbour.

Also a husband, brother and son. And Burnley fan.

But we’re also here to celebrate a life, and what a long one it was. 95 years. Amazing.

I hope he had everything he wished for. Other than maybe Burnley winning the FA Cup in his lifetime.

On Friday February 3, 11 days before dad died, I wrote myself a note. It said “I am very proud of my dad.” I also wrote: “When God gave out balls he gave dad an extra pair.”

Dad had gone into hospital. Now that was one of my saddest days. It was heartbreaking to see him in pain. We were told it was likely dad had hours to live.

But dad had other ideas. He had a 95th birthday to get to. He hung on to mine and my sister Sue’s hand with such an iron grip; as if he wanted us both to pull him up and out of bed. We gently chuckled and told him to save his strength.

But dad said: “This is no laughing matter.” If he could have defiantly pointed his finger he would have.

He wasn’t giving up, not just then. He was fighting, as he had done all his life, from the day he was born.

Dad – Jim- was born at Burnley Victoria Hospital in 1917 and was two months premature. He was delivered by Dr Macgregor Sinclair and  he was given the middle name MacGregor in tribute to the doctor. His mother, my grandma, managed to keep him alive by feeding him through a fountain pen tube and keeping him warm in a drawer by the fire.

This was dad’s start in life. You can see why he wasn’t going to give in easily after that defiant beginning.

Dad went to Coal Clough Lane infant school but when he was nine he became ill and was off school for over a year.

He was taught at home and encouraged to read a lot, which was the start of his thirst for knowledge. He moved to Sheffield in 1927 where he was allowed to take his 11 plus at 12 because he had missed so much schooling. He enjoyed french, mathematics and   English grammar. Many a newspaper reporter – usually from  the Daily Mirror – has been phoned up over the years and criticised for their poor grammar!!

Seventy odd years later that thirst for knowledge was still being quenched. After retiring he passed exams in German at Burnley college. At the age of 84 he learnt computing and up to a year ago was still to be found tapping away on his laptop.

Dad had a stock of stories he’d save up for new blood, usually at weddings, family meals, or funerals.

The time when in the RAF he’d saved an entire bomber squadron from flying into barrage balloons over Sheffield.

The day when he was in a park in Sheffield and a Polish pilot spotted dad’s RAF uniform and landed his plane in the park to ask directions.

His pubs. He loved HIS pubs, the ones he’d managed in his very long career working in breweries.

Cars. Driving. He was an advanced motorist even though he made mum have kittens every time they drove anywhere.

Driving the Monte Carlo rally with his great friend Maurice: And the holiday to Germany he shared with mum, Maurice and Joy.

Raq, his beloved labrador. He loved my little dog Millie. “Now then, now then,” he’d say as she licked his face all over. He gave her half his chips even though I asked him not to.

The day he became pool champion in my old local, the Lion of Vienna in Bolton.

Pythagoras theorem. Everyone at Catherine’s wedding knew Pythagoras theorem by midnight. I’ll be testing you all later.


Dad and Millie … both football fans

And of course, football. The first time he went to watch Burnley he was about four and thought he was going to the circus. At half-time he asked when the clowns were coming on. A chap in front heard him and said: Son. They’ve already been on.

He travelled everywhere to watch Burnley. While working and living in the North East he scouted for football talent for his friend and burnley football club hero Harry Potts. He bought me a season ticket when I was 13. I don’t know why he decided to do that, but it defined our relationship ever afterwards.

In dad’s later years it was tragic that he lost both his wife and his leg in the space of 18 months. But dad carried on regardless.

That was his way. Always matter of fact. Doing what needed to be done.

Dad’s Saturday afternoon routine was to watch snooker; tune in to Radio Lancashire for the match; tap on his laptop and update his Excel document on Burnley’s fixtures and goal difference. “Because Burnley Football Club know I’m doing it and will want it you see.”

He had a constant, constant conviction that he could drive if someone let him; that he would still be able to give any Burnley centre half a good run for their money even in his wheelchair.

He could also be quite grumpy.

Then about a year ago dad started getting more and more tired. He was never sentimental, but he started asking for a hug when people left. “Leave the door open,” he’d say. “I’ll come and wave you off . You never know, it might be the last time.”

So there we were a couple of weeks ago at the hospital. Dad came though his crisis, but the prognosis wasn’t good. The last time I saw him we chatted constantly. A lovely, proper chat, about football, school, his family. He said people had visited him, he’d known they’d been there but hadn’t always had the strength to say anything.

He told me he’d been a good runner like his son but “not now, because of this” he said as he tapped his missing leg. He was convinced it was the leg that stopped him running, not the fact that he was nearly 95.

Then dad said, give me a kiss, off you go now, and leave the door open on your way out.


Dad. Jim Marriott. God bless.

So I did and when I looked round, there he was, pulling himself up, with the biggest smile, waving me off.

I am very proud of my determined dad. God bless.



A link to the tribute which appeared in the Burnley Express and Nelson Leader


My cousin Peter also gave an address at the funeral and we felt it was fitting that it should appear here too, as special memories of a special uncle.
Jim was uncle to myself and brothers Paul and Tony. He was also great uncle to my children Steph and Ben and Tony’s son James.He was the only uncle we have ever had (as we never knew his brother Bob) and he was very special.Uncle Jim and our dad Wilf were very close brothers and Jim was similarly a very close brother-in-law to our mum Marna, who’s with us today.
I always felt that he became an adopted grandad when my
children came along. They never knew their real Grandad Marriott; and I think because of his closeness to our dad,  Uncle Jim considered himself more than just a great uncle. 

Little James Marriott at the age of two with his big brother Wilfred

I remember when growing up that Jim and his immediate family were avid Burnley fans, yet my Dad and us three lads were massive Sheffield Wednesday fans.We all supported our own teams and were keen to see them win but we have always looked for Burnley’s result in the hope they had done well and Uncle Jim similarly followed Wednesday’s fortunes. We often discussed the ups and downs of both clubs at length.A game I recall attending was at White Hart Lane one evening
in 1983 with Uncle Jim, David and Jane amongst others. Burnley
beat Spurs 4-1 in an historic   victory. I was certainly an
adopted claret & blue that night.Jane reminded me this week that after the match we went to a
pub near where Dave lived in Hertfordshire and Jim as ever was
keen to discuss the finer points of the game with as many people
as possible, but it seemed that almost everyone he spoke to in the pub were Spurs fans so he had a great time talking to them and enjoying Burnley’s night of success.
Though I don’t think Uncle Jim was ever one to gloat, he was just totally enthusiastic about football and its analysis.My brother Tony recalls Uncle Jim watching him play football in the 70s. After the match he would be told what improvements he could make to his game. Always constructive advice and Tony acknowledged Jim’s understanding of the game from his own playing days.Uncle Jim would often talk to me about his time playing for the RAF, he had obviously been an excellent player.Many of us will remember playing snooker and sometimes billiards with Uncle Jim. He was a good player and again eager to teach you a few finer skills of the games.Tony recalls occasions when Uncle Jim would visit us in Sheffield.
We lived on a steep hill. Most routes from our house back to the
main road entailed an easy uphill drive. A less easy exit route was down a winding country lane. Guess which one Uncle Jim would often choose. It was an unmissable challenge for Jim the ex rally driver.His target seemed to be to see how many blind bends he
could negotiate at excessive speed. He always managed to get
down unscathed, though as passengers we were probably a little apprehensive about the outcome. 

Uncle Jim with his nephew Paul

Paul similarly recalls being driven by Uncle Jim over the “Tops”
on the country roads between Sheffield and Burnley. Always
guaranteeing a white knuckle ride to match any roller coaster.Uncle Jim always had to be doing something. I remember often
visiting Uncle Jim and Auntie Sally to be confronted with one or two cars in various states of disarray in the garage and on the drive.
Uncle Jim would appear to say hello up to his elbows in grease
or masked up with a spray gun in his hand. I think it drove Auntie Sally bonkers but he was never happier and always keen to talk you through the latest restoration project.More recently Jim attended college, becoming probably their
oldest-ever student. He wanted to get up to speed with computers and learnt how to use e-mail and spreadsheets.My son Ben recalls how Uncle Jim would show off his recently
acquired skills using them to produce a database of Burnley
Football Club including every result, goal scorers, and probably
even what the weather was like. . . . .
He was amazing, he just never stopped wanting to learn.Many of us will also recall Jim’s liking for other types of technology, not least recording media. He seemed to have more video recorders and tape decks than Phillips. I reckon he was one of the  few who still used the old Betamax tapes.I could go on and on and on ….. there are so many more happy
memories I could share with you but they can wait until later today when I hope we can all share lots more memories. Whatever the memories they are treasured and will last forever.Uncle Jim was the head of our family, he was unique, a true one-off and loved by us all.I think Ben and Steph’s Mum Kay summed Uncle Jim up when on hearing of his passing she told me how sorry she was and that he was a lovely man.Uncle Jim, you certainly were a lovely man.Rest in Peace. God Bless.

James Marriott
Born 14th February 1917
Died 14th February 2012

Not too sure if I like this growing old malarky

Dad has lived on his own 10 years. On February 14 2011 he’s 94.

Which is bloody marvellous if you think about it. For those ten years he’s only had one leg. Luckily he has a wheelchair too, which helps, otherwise getting about would be a little tricky.

Every week – I’ve missed a handful – I’ve tootled over to Burnley to see him.  I used to see him and mum, but she left us 10 years ago in a fug of dementia and cancer.

That’s when dad became just dad, no longer part of the always-there 55-plus-years partnership  that was  “mum and dad”. I’d never have thought dad would still be there for so long, living in his wheelchair-converted home on his own.

dad at the age of two with his brother Wilfred

Dad, right, at the age of two with his brother Wilfred

But he has a character made of iron. A man born during the first world war and in the RAF in the second was not going to back down faced with losing a leg and a wife in the space of 18 months.

So it’s been for ten years, that I’ll go to see him on a Saturday, bearing the hugely important gifts of fish, chips and pies.  my sister goes on a Sunday. Up to a couple of months ago things were hunky dory-ish.

Dad’s Saturday afternoon routine was to endlessly watch snooker; tune in Radio Lancashire; check he had a tape; record the Burnley match; tap on his laptop (yes… at the age of 93) and update his excel document on Burnley’s fixtures and goal difference. “Because Burnley Football Club know I’m doing it and will want it you see.”

His stories we’d all heard many times before; about football, Harry Potts, working in breweries … every Saturday there was an anecdote with a finger-jabbing determination.

My biggest problem has been avoiding my big toe being run over as he went en route for more vinegar.

Don’t get me wrong.  Dad is the most frustrating man I know. We’ve had a love-hate relationship all my life.

But as Ive got older in parallel with his aging, I’ve learnt to soften when his  grumpiness has come out. His frustration at not being able to get out and about as he’d like; his constant, constant conviction that he could drive if someone let him; that he would still be able to give any Burnley centre half a good run for their money even in his wheelchair. Which may be true.

I’ve even joked with him that given a chance he might be capable of getting his leg over. Singular. We’ve chuckled.

But a couple of months ago the subtelty of the clock ticking away the years began to make its mark. It’s been a long horrid winter for all of us; punctuated with a Christmas that certainly in our family we’ll remember for a long time as the whole family got together for the first time in 25 years. For dad. As my sister said, inviting us all, he’s becoming more and more frail.

To see a little old man’s tiny tiny frame tucked up in bed, in the dark, on a Saturday afternoon,  as I’ve arrived in recent weeks bearing the best a Lancashire chippie can offer  has been, if anything, humbling.

I tried to cheer up dad by popping my hat on his head yesterday

I tried to cheer up dad by popping my hat on his head 

He spoke to me yesterday about not seeing people he knew; his friends no longer with us; staring at the same four walls for hours at a time; being confused when  he wakes up that he struggles to remember snippets of his life (and what a long life). And a little frightened to be honest.

Imagine you as you are now. Perhaps watching footie – Blackburn and WBA are on as I write. Going out with friends tonight. Deciding whether to walk to the corner shop for a paper and some tinnies. Texting a mate: You coming round? What’s for tea. Curry or a roast. Walking round the block with the dog.

Then put yourself in a room. It’s dark. You’re tired, no friends to ring, no walks round the block, not being bothered to read. Can’t even be enthused to switch on the laptop. Or the television. Things are, well, getting a bit too much effort.

It’s very sad. I’m not too sure if I like this growing old malarky.

For mum. The memories remain, despite dementia tangling yours

Just about an hour before my mum died, she stretched her arm up from the bed and gently touched my face.

There was a fleeting look of recognition. She wanted to reach out and touch me. She knew who I was.

I’ll never forget that moment. It was the sun shining fleetingly through a crack in a cloud, only to be swamped by greynesss just seconds later.

Mum – Sally – had been suffering from vascular dementia for some time. When she lost her battle nine years ago this month she was fighting cancer too; but for many months she had lived in a cocoon, trapped by her own perceptions of who people were, where she was, and how she could get by each day.

Mum on her last birthday; her 78th

For me, the rest of my family and particularly my dad, we were mourning mum even though she was still around.

She thought my dad was her dad – simply because most of the people around her called him that.

I once walked up the hall of the care home she was staying and I could hear a woman crying out a name. I was taken aback when I got to mum’s room and I realised it was her. She was shouting out for her sister who had been dead many years. She didn’t even know I was in the room. Or rather, she knew someone was there, but not me.

My mum was a sensitive soul; she had once trained as a nurse; she did voluntary work for the Red Cross. In her early 40s she began a new career and when she retired she was a senior manager in the business.

But the first signs of dementia were imperceptible … I know them now, retrospectively. She couldn’t remember how to make a cup of tea. And once she said she’d make  some scrambled egg and I found her in the kitchen furiously whipping an egg to within an inch of it’s life in a cold bowl, dumbfounded as to why it wasn’t scrambling.

So we watched as the “mumness” of mum left her, slowly ebbed away. We could see it but mum was oblivious. Her reality was her own normality; ours was the living grief of seeing her disappear.

I had to train myself how to behave when I was with her. At first it was devastating to hear her say some of the things she did, which were often contradictory, disjointed and often repetitive.

But once I learnt to live within her reality when I was with her, and not impose my own, then acceptance of the situation became a little easier for me.

I have no idea where mum suddenly found that gap in her own dementia cloud, that shaft of recognition in her last moments.

All I know is I’m grateful for it.

I wrote the above piece as a personal aspect to go with a newspaper story about Hoylake Cottage, a Wirral centre which offers both residential and day care for people suffering from dementia.

It was only as I was driving back to the office that I realised it was nine years to the day that my mum had died in a care home in Burnley (November 4 2001). That’s when she had touched my face; the  day I held her hand as she breathed her final moments.

At Hoylake we’d talked about how difficult it was for people who hadn’t had dementia touch their lives, to understand what it meant. For our family, it was a mourning process for mum, visits punctuated by sighs, starting and ending with anxious, deep, deep breaths. Perhaps mum had wanted me to go to Hoylake on that particular day; to then be touched and try and help, in my own little way, to express the pain to others.


Mum in her early 20s; wearing her Land Army uniform

Dementia may not be a heartstring-tugging subject, but it sure as hell is a heartrending one when you’re involved in it.

Today I spoke to my sister and she shared her own memories of that terrible not-knowing, the all-encompassing unknown, the shifting sands of sense which had afflicted such a lovely lady, our mum.

These are my sister Sue’s memories …

There were the days when she couldn’t decide which Sue I was, but the most devastating day for me was when dad nearly died in hospital and she said you {me}would be upset because he was your dad. When I said he was mine too she  said ‘Oh I didn’t know that’.
There was some humour
The day she stood in our kitchen and turned round and round and said: I want the toilet and I know it is here somewhere.
And little incidents that made me smile
The lost mince pies that I found three years later in the top cupboard of the wardrobe
The lost knickers that I found with the dusters
The yoghurt sandwich, put away with the cups
The day we went out together and she put elastic bands round her shoes to hold them on becaue they were loose, and she said she always did that
But there was  terrible sadness like when I took her out for new clothes and she was wearing dad’s vest and underpants. A woman who always loved nice underwear.

But mum always was happy, never really aggressive, and alway loved to have a laugh even at her own mistakes (like the toilet incident and the knickers incident).

The week before she died, I went to see her and she was perfectly mum. We had a long conversation about all sorts and she told me that people thought she was losing her mind, but she wouldn’t accept it. (I’ve forgotten her exact words but she implied she was fooling everybody).

That day I told my neighbours who worked for the hospice that mum seemed alot better and said how she behaved. They took one look at each other and said: Sue, I don’t think it will be long.

She died three days later.

Oh mum. We’re missing you.

We started to miss you when you were still with us. God bless.

Watching the clock of the eBay, seeing my cash roll away

I’ve just had my first eBay experience.

As a seller that is; not as a buyer. No, I pushed the boat out on that one way back in 2005 when I bought a pedometer.

I was given feedback after the exchange of a heady £4.92 as: “One of the best buyers!! Thank you! Thank You! Thank You!”.

I slept well after that, knowing that someone in the ether had used five exclamation marks with reference to me.

For the first time last week I decided to sell; tops that no longer fitted me thanks to the eat-and-drink-what-you-want-on-Friday-night-and-Saturday-and-Sunday-but-pull-out-all-the-stops-before-weigh-in-on-Tuesday-night-then-buy-a-bottle-of-wine-on-the-way-home-diet. It’s worked quite well to be honest. One stone and 8lb-ish well so far.

So a week last Saturday I burrowed into my wardrobe; unwanted clothes were flipped over my shoulder and onto the bed faster than a dog digging up a favourite bone ….. Six hours later I was taking photographs. Cor blimey, my clothes had NO personality. Trying to get them to pose in an attractive, alluring ‘you-know-you-want-me-look’ was pointless. And as for descriptions … Embellished with beads? I’ll give you bloody beads; and geometric designs; and silky-feel and snug and warm; and thanks for looking; and selling because of weight-loss. Maybe a charity shop could have been easier, less selfish and I wouldn’t have needed a thesaurus.

But it would all be worth it. I’d have a little extra cash to buy something for my birthday (50th, I know I’ve told you … this Sunday in fact.)

I clicked a button; my things were uploaded and up for sale. Then I suddenly became the most boring person in the world for seven days (ok ok, some people who know me may extend that timeframe).

I watched; I counted-down; I prayed someone would want my things. I was slighted when two days, then three then four went past and no-one had put a bet on. Nooo. Said t’other half; it’s a bid. Well whatever it was, it wasn’t happening to me. Did I have terrible taste? I felt sorry for my unwanted things, even at only 99p starting price and £2.50 postage and packing. Even a silky-feel wasn’t enough verbal embellishment to encourage a bet.

But then it happened five days in and I HAD BETS. (nooooo…. said t’other half BIDS). I was £3 up. £3!!! This was great. What would I buy. Wow four hours later I had £6.72! The betting had gone into overdrive. “BIDDING,  BIDDING’ (exasperated t’other half exits right to kitchen for can of Murphy’s).

Talk about addicted … I watched the countdown to one item and in the last few seconds the sale went up by 50p. I was ecstatic. People were stumbling over themselves to pay an extra 50p in the dying moments of betting (*****B-I-D-D-I-N-G***** grrrrr) to buy something that was bead-embellished. So at the end of that I was up £30.34. Howzabout that then boys and girls.

But then panic set in. How do I post them. I haven’t got anything to post them in. And wrap them? I haven’t got bubble wrap or brown paper or bags or postage labels.  The latter seemed easy to sort out. There was a link on eBay to click through to print postage labels and … yup, I’ll click on this Royal Mail link… what size parcel… this? OK. ooops I didn’t mean to REALLY press. Shit. I’ve just paid £4.41 for postage on something that should have been £2.75. I won’t do that again. At least I’m still about £26 up. I’ll be able to treat myself.

I’d better go to the post office and buy some of those plastic postage bags. Oh. No postage bags, I’ll get these little Jiffy bags. Yes, quite a few. Of course things will fit in them. That’s £7 please Madam …. OK. here you are … right, no prob, I’m still about £20 up and the postage will work out a little bit cheaper  than I quoted people. So I’m still on target for a little birthday treat.

Nope …the Jiffy bags are useless. I’ll have to buy some of those little plastic postage bags after all. (Next day, lunchtime: There you are madam. And bubble wrap too? That’s £10.15 madam. Thank-you).

Well, stay positive. You can get a nice bottle of wine for a tenner.

So, at last. This afternoon,  in the pouring rain,  I threw the car in the closest parking space to the post office and  posted all my items. I was happy. Tickety-boo. I’d learnt a few lessons, but I’d still made a little money, despite being bloody hopeless. I’ll go and buy that wine next. Perhaps I might stretch to some sparklie?

I ran through the deluge and back to the car, jumping in faster than a German in a hotel reception queue. What’s this? What’s this on my windscreen? I’ve only been gone 10 minutes.

Bloody hell. A parking ticket.

Yes madam. That’s £35 please.

Ah yes; just the ticket! There goes the wine ...

Ah yes; just the ticket! There goes the wine …

Hot-footing it to raise cash for Clatterbridge Cancer Research


Saturday.  It started off a cold October day in 2010, but in a few hours it will be hot, hot hot.

Or rather, I will be hot, hot hot. As of course, I always am.

But the bottom line is, today I have feet, including a particularly attractive big toe. Tomorrow, who knows.

Heel and Toes ... the stars of the show this evening.

Heel and Toes … the stars of the show this evening.

This evening (Oct 16th) at about 9pm-ish, after two hours of training and psyching up – which no doubt will mainly consist of conversations along the line of “what the hell am I doing?” – I will be walking over hot coals.

Call me mad if you like. I’d prefer to call it barking mad.

All with the aim of raising cash for Clatterbridge Cancer Research in  Wirral.

On the grand scale of things it’s not a life-changing action; I’m not setting new Olympic records; I’m not rescuing Chilean miners from the depths; I’m not flying to the moon; I’m not brokering a Middle East peace agreement. Mind you, no-one else is either.

But for me it is a little step forward in my life, a  noticeable derring-do-devilish action which 18 months ago, no six months, if even maybe four, I wouldn’t even have considered. Or rather dared to consider.

Over a year ago I wanted to challenge myself to 50 things this year; 50 mini-accomplishments to celebrate my 50th birthday (it’s nearing, oh yes it is). But that wasn’t to happen as I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome which left me wiped out.

When you have CFS it’s not like feeling “tired”. It’s feeling exhausted.  Consistently. But it wasn’t “in my mind” even though some people no doubt thought it was. Essentially my body clock was arse over tit; I couldn’t sleep; I was exhausted.

I needed much more adrenalin than “normal” people just to get me through the day; but the adrenalin itself caused the mischief. The chemicals in the adrenalin didn’t leave me. Instead they lingered. Like unwelcome guests at a party, they wouldn’t bugger off.

Imagine the ebb and flow of a tide. The tide comes in, and out it goes again, leaving behind flotsam and jetsam. Apply that to adrenalin – of which I needed loads just to even get up in the morning. When it should have withdrawn (ie after I stopped doing whatever I was doing) it didn’t. Or if it did, it left behind chemical flotsam and jetsam that I had to clamber over,  hobble around, negotiate for days on end.

For me that flotsam included leg pain, lack of concentration, a complete inability to structure thought processes, a constant ‘pins and needles’ feeling in my face  like I was having a bath in dandelion and burdock. I rarely crossed a road or drove a car for three months because I couldn’t work out how.

I couldn’t remember words  when talking to people.  Or I’d use the wrong words. Luckily my t’other half adjusted to my strange Stanley Unwin CFS-speak. (Google him …. I am nearly 50 you know.) T’other half has got so good at it he’s going to publish a CFS Dixie Mary. Oh, sorry. Dictionary.

So 50 things to celebrate my 50th birthday went the way of most of my plans for this year. I had as much chance of succeeding as Owen Coyle has of organising a Festival of Fun  in Burnley town centre.

But I’m on the up … sort of. Touch wood. Or perhaps torch bloody wood.

So. Along came firewalking for a cancer charity.

I’ll do that I thought. I’ll do that for my 50th, for charity, for fun, to put a marker down that I’ve turned a corner without bumping into anything on the way.

But I’m also doing it for everyone whose lives have been blighted by the horrid disease which is cancer. I have family and workmates who are being treated, or who have come through the treatment and are feeling positive again.

But more than anything I’m doing it as a 50th birthday present to a very dear friend who  lost his life last year because of cancer. A friend, about six weeks older than me, who I really miss. While I was struggling to string a sentence together, he was fighting for his life.

A much-missed friend

I’m still around to celebrate being 50, he isn’t; although we sometimes joked about being old fogeys and remembering the 70s and punk music. Today I’d say Gareth, do you know that 30 years ago Message in a Bottle was Number 1? And we might laugh as it feels like yesterday.

But cancer took him away and to mark his 50th, and mine, it would be great if I could help raise only a little bit of money to fund cancer research. So that someone else, if not Gareth, will have the chance to be teased on their 50th birthday about their taste in music and the punk trousers they once wore; or even be given the chance to see their soon-to-be-born first grandchild.

As a birthday present I once gave Gareth a box of scotch bonnet chillis. Tonight I’ll be giving him some hot, hot coals. I hope he appreciates the theme.