18 Mar 2010
March 18, 2010

My Friend John


Came back a little while ago from a Rosary vigil.  I’m not RC and had no idea what that was until tonight, really.

I knew, too little and too late, this lovely man called John.  It’s his real name and he died last week of, pretty much, old age. He was 45.  John lived alone and, for a while, got caught up in all the stuff which so very nearly catches a lot of us.  Me certainly included. With a bronze star. He’d sorted himself out, but too late it turns out. My friends noticed his house dark at the wrong time and the cops, with professional care and an apprehension tempered by the awareness they’ve learned through experience, took the personal risk of kicking his door in. You know the rest.

I posted above from Basra, FFS, last week and my friend had just told me on the ‘phone that John was yellow. I said the Doc should be called and so he was but at some point people’s organs just give in, I guess. Then I just got back to doing what you do when you’re trying to exorcise your own demons.  Exorcise?  I’ve no idea how fit demons are but maybe if we just ran them ’round the parade square a few laps they’d just expire through their own rubbishness. It’s a thought.

But there it is. John looked peaceful and a little  more formal than he seemed to me in life.  He had a warm heart and had not a single enemy. He was a successful man in his way and yet lacked the arrogance some of us take on as protection.

And two things strike me now.

The first, and lesser, is that I’d intended to speak at the Commons this week about how prohibition-lite alcohol policies are misplaced, albeit well-intentioned, both philosophically and in terms of social outcomes. But when it came to it, John’s death shook my confidence in that. So I didn’t.

And the second lesson was straight from the woman who led the Hail Marys tonight with a tone which sounded nothing like reproachment and everything like love.  And which was reflected perfectly in the small family group around me, led by a loving brother.  It was that ritual is something we might think we wouldn’t miss but when the biggest things in our lives happen then it’s there for everyone to express, inarticulate as we are, how we feel. What we want. And maybe we should be a bit more upfront about that as we get on with our lives.

That’s all, really. My sermon for tonight.  ‘bye John, lovely bloke.