A poetic(ish) tribute
Last night I went out with my good friend Pop Larkin (right), who was staying in Liverpool overnight to deliver some disability equality training this morning. This had been arranged some time ago at a point when, obviously, I couldn't have known that Fishbone would decide she'd had enough just the day before.
I warned Pop that I was unlikely to be sparkling company, and that there was every chance I would spend the evening sobbing inconsolably on his shoulder. Being a decent soul (and having first met me, in any case, under similarly damp circumstances), he professed to be not at all put off by the prospect of having to mop me up.
So, after a visit to the osteopath, I caught the train back into town and met Pop in the bar of his hotel, where he immediately furnished me with a (purely medicinal, you understand) gin and tonic.
Going out for the evening with a charming gentleman might seem to some like a rather heartless and disrespectful thing to do so soon after Fishbone's death, but it really was exactly what I needed.
At my suggestion, we decamped from the city centre to Keith's Wine Bar on Lark Lane for something to eat, and to watch the world go by. (It's a long time since I've been fit enough to patronise Keith's regularly, but it's still as bohemian and idiosyncratic - and the food is still just as good - as it was when I moved here twelve years ago.) It's always a joy to watch Londoners' faces when they realise they've just bought an enormous meal for less than £5.
Once we'd eaten, we walked over the road to the Albert for more medicinal alcohol. (I feel like death this morning: diabetes and alcohol really don't mix at all well. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes doubles.)
I did feel I'd be rather letting the side down if I failed to poke fun at Pop for
a) having a coat with him at all; and
b) putting it on to cross the road.
He's convinced that, Oop North, it could start to snow at any moment. Yes, even in September. Bless.
Anyway, just as we were about to leave, we were stopped in our tracks by a rather odd young man who was spending his evening offering to write people a poem about anything they wanted, and explaining that we would only have to give him something for his services if we liked the results. Well, he was wearing a lapel pin with "Poet" written on it, so he was clearly kosher. And, really, how can you turn down an offer like that?
In the cold light of day, the poem he composed lacks a certain something. I suspect that a lot of its impact was in his delivery. Or the fact that we were very drunk when he delivered it. Or possibly both. But I'm going to reproduce it here in any case because I was moved by it at the time, and because it was such an unusual - and unexpected - way to say goodbye to an old, old friend.
Now has flown
Having had 17 of cats' 9 lives
Your fine feline arrives
Upon all fours
Paws and claws
Still one adores
Once you knew
A bond of love grew
Like her whiskers and fur
For kindness and mercy ensured
Didn't become unstuck
So, er, that's that.
A thousand thanks to Pop for his unerring ability to combine just the right amount of sympathy and hand-holding with a talent for making me laugh. And for plying me with alcohol until I could barely stand up. In retrospect, I reckon that constitutes a wake. And a remarkably fine one, at that. In which case, I refuse to feel guilty for having enjoyed myself.