After the long drive, small dog walk, we stretched our legs down Langer moat. I hadn’t seen the notice before, but noticed now: it could have been Toby’s concept. ‘Nature is dangerous, if anyone falls, or drowns, F..K off. At your own peril.’
Louise, my fellow walker in grief, dressed in a Monsoon Indian dress, broke her conversation into a wonderful smile of welcome. Champagne all round, Dan and Michael making sure I was ok, my glass was full, my handbag found when lost.
I did not know Toby, but feel instinctively the kinship with Bob – the two did not dance well together, too similar. Out of the box, bi-polar labelled. His relationship with Louise and mine with Bob, and our struggle to like and love a man who did not want to change, and so we watched and fought with their downward spiral.
We all collected for some words, begun naturally by Imo. The story of how he transformed a precarious nascent hotel, into the thriving business it is today, how he prevented the staff from fleecing Imo, labelled all the wine for identity. How for 30 years he’d been part and parcel of Langer. Their – Imo and Langer – relationship was a mutually beneficial one. Surely Toby could not have survived in the outside world, while here he was protected, free to flourish, have his mad moments, and return. For Imo, she found someone she could trust, was creative and stimulating, never a dull moment. Shan gave a pithy and pertinent rendition of first meeting Toby: That he came from Pakistan, gave rise to Toby’s thesis on Pakistan’s in Nottingham, Pakistan and Partition, which easily segwayed into tyrannical minorities and bin Laden. etc. Ending with: Watch out for the fucking Koreans!
Leela spoke, part from paper, part from her heart, of how it was Toby coming into their young lives as the relationship with Louise flourished. Surprising at first, and not always easy, but getting to know him, she’d come to love him.
A dapper man read a letter from Hanna.
A woman who later told me was a hairdresser, spoke from the floor: ‘I remember him always sweeping his hair back, like this, (with both hands she swept her dyed blond hair back). And flip flops.’
We watched the end of Bob’s movie on Langer, the staff giggling to see how young they looked back in 2004. Where was I? During a Bob absence time, back in India with Bryan, or Norway with Sugata, I feel Bob alive behind the camera, as Toby is alive in the kitchen tasting the dishes with his finger, drinking black coffee. Imo’s tender care for Toby transparent. Louise’s awkwardness in front of the camera jarring – I would be exactly the same. Young Leela, answering the phone, offering a potential future.
In the Toby tent – were the air was rich with the sweet perfume of marijuana – a music man, black and West Indian, said how Toby had called him, and said, ‘If I was a terrorist, I’d blow up the Twin Towers’. Two weeks later it happened.
‘Toby was like that, he had a sixth sense. I’m definitely going to watch out for those fucking Koreans, now!’
Imo had arranged it so we took over the entire Langer Hall. Buffet food, free bar, (cocktails liberally mixed for Mr and Mrs Hairdresser).
At a very reasonable hour, I walked Louise back home. For the first time I stepped over their threshold. We sat in the Toby room, and talked. Easily. The gift of our similar grief is that our thoughts are mirrors, and so it was I found what it was that I wanted. I was on the way to finding it when I made the stumpery. That remembering their lives, or reading their past words, or wanting to keep something that was theirs, not to loose them, can be channelled into hearing their words in our daily lives, words we did not always hear at the time, but do now. For me the word is FOCUS. An early word Bob found for me, as I with my middle class banter would easily get distracted, and follow down rabbit holes rather than reach for the essence. For Louise, it centres around the poly tunnel. Toby had just bought and paid for it himself (in his bank account was just over £1,000 – so to spend £2,000 on a tunnel was a big deal). He wanted her to become independent, to flourish amongst the growing things, and gain some independence from the hugeness and hedonism of Langer.