In memoriam

They say that one ought not speak ill of the dead, but with some people, it truly is an unnecessary proscription. If Simon had any faults, it was that he was too generous, too open-hearted, too damn agreeable. These are faults to which we all might aspire.

Simon was a living, breathing model of how life ought to be lived. Mortuary assistant, pig farmer, shoe cleaner, B&B proprietor, writer: his career path sounds almost mundane until you realise he established pig farms in Vietnam for a charity, ran Streetshine, a charity for the homeless and built his own tourist eco-lodge in Abene, Senegal. In between-times, he wrote two books, Squirting Milk at Chameleons and Chasing Hornbills, and numerous pieces on Africa. He wasn’t one to sit on his haunches. Apart from when sitting on one’s haunches was exactly the thing to do. It’s no surprise he ended up in Africa. Continue reading

New beginnings, old endings

Every once in a while there is a wrench. Some small thing is pulled from your world and you know, just know, that things – the things that remain – will never be quite the same again. This particular instantaneous understanding occurred yesterday when I spotted a snake on the water butt. Not what one expects when living in sunny Brighton, but then, Brighton rarely delivers what one expects. This particular snake, however, held great symbolic significance. It has remained on the same spot on a particular shelf for quite some time, harmlessly coiled at the bottom of a bottle, covered in alcohol of some sort or another. Not the most palatable of spectacles, but when Si reached a particular stage of drunkenness, out the snake wine would come. In the words of several film noir, the snake was original, only the wine had been changed to protect the innocent.
At the time of writing, the snake has departed.
When I returned from my day’s thrills yesterday, Si mentioned that the previous night things had ‘got a bit out of hand’ – this out-of-handness included the smashing of the bottle somewhere in the street, and Si’s running down the road with the snake between his teeth. Definitely the end of the snake.
To me, the snake epitomised Si’s wanderlust, it was the symbol of his travels, and the promise of yet more peripatetic years. This morning we drove through the countryside to Gatwick, the roof off, music blaring. It was 4.30am. We arrived. He got out. He’ll soon be gone.

Or watch here
Si had gone from being an acquaintance to a friend to a landlord to a lodger to a very good friend. He is one of the gentlest souls I know, and one from whom I could learn a lot. He has decided, and rightly so, I think, that his future lies not in Brighton, but in Africa. He has a soul too big for a little village by the sea. It needs the expanse of a continent to encompass it.
The destruction of the snake is the clearest indication I can think of that Si has reached closure with one part of his journey, and is now embarking on the next leg. It’ll be the most difficult journey he’s ever undertaken, but the rewards will be great.
I wish him the best of luck, and the greatest happiness that this world can afford him. He deserves it. Sadly, he leaves my life just that little bit poorer.