Les Maden

The tribe of dogs and Julia and I, motored across Metfield Airfield, to Harleston, to visit Les in his new home. Ten years ago he returned from San Sipria in France, separated from his 3rd wife, and settled in Harleston, in a dolls house of a home, off the London Road. Every surface, wall and table, was filled with objects – all stylishly, a la William Morris ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful‘: the walls with paintings, mostly by his friend Doug … and strikingly erotic, books stacked even up the stairs, pencils ordered by colour in their hundreds, and a collection of bouchon, french cork screws. Lounging on the floor were framed newspapers from political moments, like Brexit, and hanging up on the back of the front door, his European hat. After the shock of Brexit, Les invited us all to a memorable Brexagedon party to commiserate. He has great style, and welcoms mirth.

A labour stalwart all his life, Les took me to Burston, to a place I had not known for the 20 years of living here in Suffolk. It was the year Jeremy Corbyn attended, just before he was elected leader of the Labour Party, popular grounded, a fresh and hopeful social vision.

He came to a Socratic Dialogue in the woods. He is a friend whose company I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to, as I did this day.

I’d met Les at the Cut a few years back. Unusally even for then he didn’t do email, but sent me a card with his address written in ink and in his slanting italic script, inviting me round for dinner. He was a brilliant cook, confident, elegant and tasty. He became my advisory architect for the wood cabin, and the bungalow. We fell out over the bungalow, I cannot remember what over, but undeterred, remained friends.

His new home is just up the road from his old one, but so much lighter and spacious. Not a painting on the wall. Of his 500 books, he selected 50 to bring – I wondered which ones. Of his hundreds of paintings he has done an early gifting to Emma and I of the ones he left us in his Will (we are his Executors). Beryl Bambridge by Doug… is a beautiful gift, along with a carry bag of books for the wood. A photograph of Les, sitting in the wood where the cabin will be built, is the most poignant, with pen ink drawings of the cabin.

It was the anniversary of his 78th year on this earth. ‘And I feel every year of it’ he laughed as he cuddled the new life of 14 weeks of Brow.