It’s been a long time since I last posted here …. Too long …..

Several unfinished posts sit in the draft folder that may (or may not) make the light of day.

This returning post has been prompted by the slightly surreal events of yesterday, August 20th 2008, the day that allowed a great many people to say goodbye to a good friend ….

Keith was a couple of years younger than me, he was only 31, but he suffered from Cystic Fibrosis which resulted in him needing more and more drugs and physio as the years progressed, finally culminating not so long ago in a double lung transplant … in fact initially the doctors didn’t think he’d live past the age of 21 …. but that didn’t stop Keith ….

He was a remarkable individual, with a permanently cheery outlook, the most infectious laugh and the cheekiest sense of humour you’d ever have met.
If you were having a “down day” he’d somehow manage to cheer you up … even if he was fully tubed up and not having the best day himself.
And that was part of his charm … here was this guy who was in a worse place than many of us could ever imagine, having to take a daily cocktail of drugs that looked more like a pick and mix bag from a sweet shop, with a length of plastic tubing inserted into his person and yet he never stopped smiling, he never stopped laughing, and he never stopped caring about those around him.
A lesser person would have descended into self pity but not Keith …. never Keith.

He didn’t aspire to greatness, he had no grand plans, he just wanted to be able to lead a normal life and enjoy the things that he loved …. good friends, good beer and not quite so “good” women ……

Due to the way he lived his life, his friends were varied and numerous, and that was evident yesterday by the mix of people who attended the funeral, he’d have got a kick out of that …

Given the way that Keith was we had a feeling it wasn’t going to be quite your average ceremony .. and we were right.
The first indication of this was the message that in honour of his character it would be brightly coloured clothing in place of the usual black.
We all knew that this wasn’t a time to mourn a loss but a chance to celebrate a life, and that certainly came through during the proceedings.

He’d have appreciated the flashback feel that the large portion of us who went to school with him felt when our old R.E. teacher started talking, as he was, for want of a better word, conducting the proceedings. We listened to tales of Keith’s life, tales that made us laugh out loud, tales that some of us shared in and were new to others, but all were typically Keith.
Through the whole thing  I had one particular incident logged in my brain ….

Many years ago Keith was working as a doorman at one of our local bars (this he did even when he had his tube in !!) which led to me getting to know the staff quite well. On a fairly regular basis we’d have lock-ins and as I was working shifts back then, and single, we’d end up heading out mid-week for a “quiet drink” that would always turn into a full on session … and it’s one of these nights that just popped into my head.
We were drinking in the local Chicago Rock Cafe along with Rob, one of his fellow doormen (who I’d like to point out had a false right leg from the knee down) and having a merry old time when the fire alarm went off. So out we all trotted through the fire exit, drinks in hand as we’d just got a round in, to the side road behind the bar. Rob and I sat down on a wall and surveyed the scene of people milling around, wondering what was going on and if it was a false alarm or not. Keith was chatting to someone else and then came over to join us. He’d been telling some girls about Rob’s false leg, and they didn’t believe him. So he got Rob to roll up his trouser leg and show them, which Rob duely did. Keith then pounced like the proverbial ninja, and in a flash, had pinched Rob’s leg and headed off down the road waving it in the air …. with Rob hopping after him, swearing at him loudly. No harm was done, no malice was intended, this was Keith being Keith. The rest of us standing around were in tears of laughter at the sight before us and Rob saw the funny side of it as well.
It’s memories like these that he’d want us to keep. Not the ones of him lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines and tubes.

Once the service was over we all retired to his local pub. There was a large contingent of us who went to school with him, but as we sat there raising a glass in his name, we realised that whilst we were at school we were in “different groups” that would never have been seen talking to each other, let alone be sat at the same table, yet here we were, all sat together with the same thing in common … the friendship of an extraordinary chap …..
There we no tears here …. there was just chatting and laughter ….

And as people drifted off, some of us who had the privilege to call him friend carried on as we knew he’d have wanted us too, we headed on to another pub for a few more pints and a few games of pool.

He’d have loved the fact that people who hadn’t seen each other for years were swapping stories like they’d never lost contact and arranging to meet up again.

Part of me kept expecting him to walk through the door with his trademark huge grin shouting “Surprise” and revealing it all to be a huge practical joke, and I can tell you that none of us would have been angry at him.

So I bid you farewell my friend … You may be gone but you’ll never be forgotten, and you certainly will never be replaced ….  I know that you’re having a bloody good time out there, just make sure there’s some beer left for me ….

Adiós Amigo …….