Today is the first anniversary of our friend’s passing. He had many admirable qualities, not least of which was his stoic fortitude in the face of adversity. It took me a couple of years to realise it, but the reason he’d be up so late at night in a chatroom with me wasn’t because he was another night hawk, but that he was in pain. He took it neat, having broken a big dependency on pain management medication. It clouded his mind too much, and that he could not abide.
He never complained but if you needed help, he’d always be the first one to offer. Despite carrying a few wounds, he was always still in the fight, had an impish sense of humour and the most absolutely gawd awful taste in music. He, like me, was a biker and there’s still a comradeship thing about being in that particular fraternity. We never got to ride together but perhaps that’ll happen one day when we ride under an unclouded sky. There are many of his “odes” scattered as comments over this blog. They are all original and they are well worth a look.
Blackswan wanted to celebrate his life with a piece on da Boy, as we used to call him as a friendly tease, and it’s a pleasure to share a fond but accurate portrait of the man. I still miss him.
In mid 2009 the Blackswan took flight into the blogosphere, a very wobbly venture by a techno-phobic cyber novice who was simply incensed at the inane posturing of the Copenhagen IPCC gab-fest, interested to find information from like-minded Realists. They were to be found aplenty on James Delingpole’s London Telegraph blog.
It wasn’t long before a lot of Realist ‘tags’ became familiar and over the months that followed the Swan began exchanging comments with bloggers from around the world. An amazing new dimension in communication unfolded.
Invited to hook up with a few like-minded others in a separate chat-room (whatever one of those might be), the Swan stumbled and bumbled its way through a confusing labyrinth to finally sort it out sufficiently well to converse with people. One of those bloggers was NoIdea and he was kind enough to take pity on the obviously bumbling Swan.
I’d never known about chat-rooms – didn’t know it was possible to have real-time text conversations with strangers on the other side of the world – and gingerly dipped my webbed toes into this new paddling pool. NoIdea and a bloke called the Pointman seemed to be a really tight unit, and along with others, their conversation was scattered with weird hieroglyphics such as lol, afk, brb, rofl and lmfao as well as peculiar links to something called Youtube. I’ve never pretended to know something I didn’t, so I asked NI what these things meant.
With infinite patience he explained it all, never making me feel I was the idiot he must have thought me to be. He was never patronising or dismissive of my questions. When I clicked on his prolific Youtube links I was appalled at the ghastly head-banging chaos he described as ‘music’ and try as I might, I could never understand the screeching ‘lyrics’ some maniac was bellowing at me. It was the same aggressive heavy metal nonsense that I’d banned my teenagers from playing in the house.
“G’day Swan, how are you doing?” became part of almost every day for four years and NoIdea became a really good cyber-buddy and friend. Along with the Pointman, there was Rastech and Scud and Edward Longshanks and a very gritty character called Locusts and Wild Honey, among many others, and we got to know each other in varying degrees.
When the Pointman launched his own blog, NoIdea and I became regular contributors, being great fans of Pointy’s talent at writing fiction pieces, as well as his hard-hitting essays that put the Climate Hucksters and Fraudsters right in the cross-hairs.
It remains a mystery as to how such friendships work. How can a person possibly be ‘friends’ with someone you’ve never set eyes on? I had pen pals when I was at school but it took so long to get a reply I soon got bored and lost interest. Not so with Internet chat-rooms and I was astonished at real-time text conversations. There are no visual cues, no tone of voice, no facial expressions, no body language; it really does come down to a ‘meeting of the minds’. In the final analysis we’re conversing in ‘alphabet soup’, a concoction of letters on a computer screen that sometimes makes sense. How can you be friends with that?
From his interests and manner of ‘speaking’ I thought NoIdea was in his 20s (when he was actually in his 40s), and he just figured I was some poor old geriatric dude that he initially felt sorry for. His chat was peppered with Yikes!, Whoot! cool, awesome, and limitless links to heavy metal rock bands. I skipped the rock and offered my Tex/Mex country stuff of which NI said he’d need a “barf bucket” if he ever bothered to listen to it, which he didn’t.
It transpired that we shared a ‘need for speed’ and a passion for motorsport – anything with big engine noises, lots of exhaust fumes and the adrenalin pumping action of a race track.
On the weekends of Formula One meets or MotoGP bike races we’d both tune into the BBC coverage and the chat-room and watch the races online together, discussing drivers and riders, our favourites and their chances, and whooped with excitement at tricky manoeuvres. We were both watching when the young Italian rider Marco Simoncelli fell from his bike and was hit by other racers. He died on the track. As we consoled each other at the shocking loss of a popular young GP star, NoIdea said he thought it was better to go out in a blaze of glory than to simply fade away. I thought of one of my favourite quotes – “One crowded hour of glorious life, is worth an age without a name.”
While I was an enthusiastic would-be-if-I-could-be spectator, NoIdea (aka Horace in his world) was a biker through and through – a real Son of Anarchy – a big long-haired bearded dude (no ‘ink’ he proudly assured me), who had me in fits of laughter with stories of his biking escapades; of his years as a bouncer in London nightclubs and his times as a ‘roadie’ for rock bands, or as sound-man for a heavy metal rock group. He described the fun of a sweaty pumping mosh pit and over the years I came to think of him as my wild ‘kid brother’.
Behind the laughter was much pain for NoIdea. Several years earlier he’d been disabled in an industrial accident, injuring his spine which caused him constant chronic pain. He’d suffered severe nerve damage but he rejected the cocktail of painkillers that he said made a zombie out of him, so he attended a pain management clinic instead.
He was a prolific writer of ‘odes’, disdaining to call them ‘poetry’. This is one he wrote about pain, his constant companion …..
THE TRUTH HURTS
The power of pain
Driving yet sublime
A tether to insanity
An anchor unto life
Defining its denial
Grasping out for fate
A simple little cycle
Scratching at the hate
Screaming at the abyss
Staring into the void
A voice is all that’s needed
So that we may just be heard
No physical existence
Ghostly and ethereal
It is the pain of the past and now
Feeds the fearful feeling
That we are really real
And finally, fatally flawed
A pain just best ignored.
My regard for him grew, as did my respect; always such a cheery joker, who never wasted a minute wondering “Why me?” though he had suffered some fearsome biking injuries in the past. Above all he was a kind and forgiving man, generous to his own detriment, who dearly loved his Staffi bull terriers (the Girls, as he called them) and his beloved cats who wandered all over his keyboard and made his atrocious spelling even worse.
Above all else, he loved his beautiful daughter, and was hugely proud of the young woman she was growing to be.
In early May 2014 NoIdea popped into the chat-room one morning to tell me he’d had a dreadful night – he had some sort of “lurgy”, chills and fever and had spent a sleepless night drenched in sweat and feeling pretty rotten. In my usual hectoring way I urged him to go to the doctor, make sure he had plenty of fluids (coffee and beer didn’t count) and to take some electrolyte additives in water as he’d need it if he was dehydrated. After twenty minutes he said he had to go and I never heard from him again.
Pointman and I shared our concerns for his health, and when I opened my Facebook page to find a message from NoIdea’s daughter telling me that he’d been admitted to hospital, I was really touched. He knew the Swan would wonder what had happened to him and had asked his daughter to let me know where he was. I thought he’d probably ignored me about the coffee and beer, become dehydrated and was sitting up in hospital, on a saline drip, and getting aggro because he’d be deprived of his beloved baccy and beer.
His daughter was extraordinarily generous in keeping me, a complete stranger to her, updated on NI’s condition in the midst of the stress she and her family were dealing with. Her father’s pride in her kind heart was well-founded.
Next day he took a turn for the worse; it was pneumonia and he struggled for almost two weeks in an induced coma before he eventually lost that final battle against his ailing body. He was just fifty years old; a real Peter Pan who never lost his love of life, or his irrepressible sense of fun.
It’s now one year since NoIdea left on his final journey, and the blogosphere is the poorer for his passing. We who were his cyber-buddies won’t forget him. As the Pointman said five years ago; we were a ‘band of brothers’ who trusted each other and became improbable friends.
“One crowded hour of glorious life, is worth an age without a name.”
Indeed, my friend. The chequered flag is yours.