I remember him through a slightly milky lens: Valentino cheeks, ready smile, ever-so-slightly manic rattling laugh. He urged me to climb out of my torpor and put pen to paper. It was hard going to the drinker with him, number 1: he didn't drink, interfered with medication and quasi-Buddhist notions and auld Catholic purges. Women always hovered, seeing the Keatsian tragedy in those green orbs, all the while I was providing bumbling mildly cynical support as best I could. counselling training and family tradition dying hard. When I heard of his passing the pint tumbler slipped from right to left hand in an automatic holding pattern. Number 2: the distance between him and I was sometimes a gulf in asphyxiated moments of doubt; hard to read or reach. Number 3: light relief was Wittgenstein, whereas I was rabbiting on about Arthur Askey in the jungle or some other surface bullshit humour, now I'm there in the paralysing analysis of self. Rationalising oneself out of existence. It was tragedy. The Razzler and O'Toole were other players on this human chessboard, O'Toole graciously handing out solid advice about maybe digging too deeply, warning me off the unwanted Dutch uncle role I may have fallen into. The Razzler, close to the kernel of it, saying the same.
In the final scenes, we all did what we could. I felt helpless as I didn't see, or hear about the circumstances of the ejection of Valentino into the next existence, carbon blowing free in the ether, or, hopefully some other life in another part of the possible multiverse. He gave a lot. And now the silent void to fill. I still hear the laughter in my tired and tight brain. I still see the ear to ear almost Gilliam cartooned grin. I know it was far from rictus. Even local boys made good dedicated a song to him, but I am far too old fashioned and embarrassed to mention the full detail. I'll leave that to the mawkish obituriarists and pop anoraks to tease out. The Razzler spurred me on to fire out these lines, I can hear his youthful tones somewhere on the winter breeze, descending from Highland peaks to assail me with memories of a horseshoe road trip of Britain circa 2002. So much happened in that truncated, condensed inward and outward journey. O'Toole was in his cups and in top form, The Razzler and I content to hammer out why our parent's probably never indulged in prostate stimulation and the cypher that is Chris Eubank. I hover between the safe extremes as Valentino I sometimes feel, but am too devout a coward to take that last, ultimate step. The rest, pards, is his story. I'm skimming the surface here, grabbing a breath here and there and plunging below the icy winter skies behind my blinds and my duvet. Too much of a social casualty to take part in the pantomime of work/pub/work/football/TV anaesthesia, too cowardly to face my crumbling future presenting itself. Ach...self-loathing would be a fine thing if I could afford the energy. Dr Grice was right I had the Astronaut Syndrome, I had walked on the metaphorical moon and couldn't face the grounding I was experiencing in my current demesne. A superannuated pub crawler relegated to the lower reaches of the recluse. Lost in the multiplying identical futures of the hyper-kinetic unwanted worlds I see doomed to walk within. Self loathing again? Nah, that's a bloody luxury!
It was the start of a quartet of disappearances that made me doubt the very nature of existence of any real sort. Where does all that matter actually go? It seems akin to the fetish for recycling that the council is foisting onto us unwitting consumer slaves; we have to sweep up and scoop out yoghurt cartons, soup tins and compost old grubbage in the vainglorious bid to overturn that which protocols in Kyoto failed to do. The quid stopping with us. Landfills full to the gunwales and achieving nothing but stasis. Valentino once delivered a great, gentle slightly mocking soliloquy reminding, in fact informing me of all the atoms between us; nitrogen, CO2, carbon monoxide, oxygen, the everything-ness of it all, as I was rattling off some trite soundbite about nothingness. It brought me up short, as your man always did. Caught me with the incidentals.