He was like my Gabrial Oak, one I was returning to after all. My last memories are of kindness (when not being bossy) and tenderness. It could so easily have not been the case. Oh we’d had had our battles, never lasting long, and more spatty than aggressive, I wanting to change him, away from the demon drink. I hardly spoke to him for a year when he was drinking and not remembering.
Anne Dingwell, who I have never met, has the gift of reading between lines. She has been extraordinary to find, and most days we have a conversations on email. Here’s what she says on the brothers: ‘Seems that the brothers were distant from Bob’s tribe, which is no surprise to me because he hardly ever mentioned his family to me. They don’t know any of us very well, if at all, and it must have been unsettling for them when the maniacs appeared. And for them to realise that they actually didn’t really know or understand their older brother. No concept of the adult man.’
On Bob being parsimonious she said: I don’t think he was parsimonious, I think he maybe just wanted to know that we loved him for who he was, not for his money. But, having said that, I would have no idea that he had much money except that he told me the story. Like I said, I and friends have a similar story, albeit a complete financial failure, but at least we all are on the streets! Came a bit close around 1978 or so, at which point we decided that the industry had lost its integrity and we all got proper day jobs.’
News of refugees, North Korea rocket testing. Lesley’s stuff getting saw-dust on it. None of this has any resonance in my bubble of Bob. God damn it, why isn’t he here to enjoy the memory of it all, the gratitude I finally feel towards his generosity.
‘Focus’ he used to say to me. That’s what I take from him now, positively. That’s what will be his final testament to me.