Tuesday, 21 December 2021

The man upstairs

I found out yesterday that you died over the weekend. I started writing this in December, your funeral was today so thought it was time to publish it.

Of course, since publishing it I've made more edits as I've remembered other stuff.

Here were my immediate comments on your facebook page (from December 2021), and other memories from when we met in 2001...

Facebook post: Fuck! (you always hated it when i swore). But fuck. I'm just catching up on these messages in your timeline and I'm in shock. So sad. I'll always know you as the man upstairs because you lived in the flat above me in Rowan Court when I moved in over 20yrs ago. I remember you introduced me to Only Connect and i still play today. You introduced me to cherry tobacco rollies and I've never smoked that shit since. We shared some funny conversations (drunk and sober) and you always made me the most inappropriate Christmas cards - fucking hilarious, sometimes signed off as "Hair by Dave," wrote me poetry, made up the daftest jokes and i always enjoyed it when the clocks changed, "clocks go back tonight, TV goes back on Tuesday". You are a funny man, man upstairs. My world feels a little emptier knowing that you and your beautiful creative soul is no longer with us.

Rest in peace man upstairs. You were truly unique in every way.

1965-2021 (56yrs old).

" don't know what you've got Till it's gone..."

Since then I've read through our facebook message exchanges and facebook comments - we just connected, struck up conversation about nonsensical stuff, knew when we were playing straight and when we needed a pick-me-up with a silly accent, daft question or elaborate story.

We could go for weeks or months without contact and then when we did it was like we only spoke last week. You could sense when something was wrong, you listened and never judged. You were a good un.

You messaged me when you were going through a rough time, and accurately sensed when i was too. You sent your virtual hugs and I sent you mine.

You reminded me of something I said to you, that you held as a mantra "You're made of strong stuff, Mr Kelly" - and it's absolutely true.
You totally are, filled with passion, ideas, words, lyrics, brush strokes, shades, scribbles, shadows, love, and generosity. You always created with love, and for love. You were never half-arsed (sorry I swore again).

You told me the story about when you rang my old mobile number (i did send my new one, but you rang the old one), when it was picked up the conversation went like this..
You "hello"
Them "hello"
You "it's me"
Them "who?"
You "the man upstairs"
Them "who?"
You "it's the man upstairs, Phil"
Them "i'll just get my mum" - they go off....
You, now having realised that you've probably dialled the wrong number and it sounds a bit odd, had to try and explain to this girls mum that you were trying to contact me and that you'd dialled the wrong number, I think they threatened to call the police if you called back. We hadn't realised that my number would be so recycled so quickly.
When you told me, i thought it was hilarious, and we both had a chuckle about it.

I met you back in 2001, my landlord knew you and had told you to "keep an eye on me" you popped down to introduce yourself and i answered the door in a towel/dressing gown, you were really kind and friendly, and told me if i needed anything to ask. This was the start of a great friendship.

You showed me your paintings, there was one of a woman (in the foreground) looking up to a house at the top of a hill - it was beautiful, and another with a woman in the foreground, I kept telling you that the woman needed to be sat on a space hopper (because of her pose). You thought it was funny. You never did paint in the space hopper.

You introduced me to Keith, aka Uncle Ted aka Mr Egg and Chips.

And I met your friend John (Woody) who would join us to play University Challenge and Only Connect on Monday evenings. We would sing the theme tune to University Challenge in Scat.

You did impressions of David Mitchell and Michael Cane.

Your flat was a treasure trove of records, art, music, books, films, music systems, baseball caps. I remember the drawing of Michelle Pfeiffer on your wall. Everything had meaning and purpose.

You played Jazz, and Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Tony Bennett, The Beatles, Frank Zappa...

These songs remind me of you:
The Beatles, Blackbird

And Joan Armatrading, Love and Affection

You used to have your 3rd degree burns night party every year in January without fail, always made me feel welcome and part of the group.

We sometimes had conversations with each other in different accents, you did quite a good Scouse accent.

You bought me a bag from Macy's on one of your NY trips, and a grey scarf which I wore to your funeral. You loved NY and had stories of visiting Jazz clubs and meeting famous people.

I told you that your I heart NY stood for North Yorkshire.

I moved, got married, had kids. We still kept in touch and occasionally met up for drinks, The Trent, The Bodega, The Hotspur, The Forth, and way way back, in Dylans (the little bar under The Tyne Theatre).

You despised (with a passion) the British Royal family and all Tories and didn't care who knew.

You went to a reading from Douglas Coupland, and got me a book, got him to sign it, and gave it to me. You were thoughtful like that.
You gave me poetry and gave me your poetry.

You called me bonny lass and I called you Man Upstairs, or Mr Bydave (you would sign off card as "Hair By Dave"). Some of your friends called you Jack.

I went to Bridport and took a picture of a hairdresser called "Hair By Dave" and sent it to you.
I went to Barcelona and found a picture/postcard of Pablo Picasso and sent it to you.

You liked Kurt Vonnegut. I've never read his books. I might have to, to see what all the fuss was about.

You shared your blog with me, Fagin's Bidet (both versions) and My Strawberry Mind - but they're gone now i wish they were still there.

You were a free spirit, passionate, had morals, and were prepared to fight for them.

You weren't ready to sign off yet, your work here was not complete....You have art to finish, cigars to smoke, places to visit, songs to play, people to see, parties to host, jokes to write and share.

I'll miss your little messages, funny comments, bad jokes.

One of the last random jokes you sent me:
I woke up feeling funny today.
I replied, oh no sorry to hear that
You replied,
I went to bed in my clown costume.

Love you friend, and miss you always Man Upstairs x

Monday, 13 December 2021

Elsie Clara Cornforth (neé Coxall)

Grandma Elsie (my dad's mum) died on Thursday 9 December, she was 90. 
I didn't meet my mum's mum (she died before I was born), so Grandma Elsie was the main grand-matriarch influence in my life.

She was born on 19 January 1931.
She had 5 children.
I always thought it was unusual that she had 2 sets of twins.

Dianne was the eldest, my dad (Terry/Tosh) and Louise, and then Jane and Ian (Tammer). 

None of Grandma's children had twins, and so far, only her grandson (my cousin) Michael has twins. 
(I've recently learned that there are twins on my Grandma's sisters side of the family as well).

Grandma (as she was known to me) was part of my life growing up.

As a kid, my dad would go to Grandma and Grandad's every Sunday, and usually one of us (either me, my brother and sister) went with him. It always had a certain smell, which I can't really describe but it was always warm. When we left she would call, Toodle-do instead of goodbye.

Her house was where we caught up with our cousins, aunts and uncles, over the years, whether it was Christmas, a family visit, or just one of those Sunday visits. When she moved out in 2020, it felt like the end of an era and covid made visiting her even trickier than just popping in.

Here are some memories I have of her...

She loved hats
She had cold hands
She loved the Queen

She had custom made (big) shoes for her bunions and blamed her bad feet on ill fitting shoes when she was younger (as a warning to us).

She tried to encourage me to stop sucking my thumb when i was younger, telling me it would shrink/drop off

She painted my sister's nails with disgusting tasting stuff to stop her biting them, I don't think it stopped her.

She had false teeth, it was a thing to get them all removed to save on the cost of maintenance.

She told me off for eating a piece of raw sausage that she was preparing when i went to visit (as a kid)

She told me about the rat that came up the downstairs toilet

She told us that her kids polished the floor by attaching dusters to their feet.

When my mum was in hospital having my brother, me and my sister spent the day with Grandma and Grandad. I remember dad coming back and announcing that my brother's name was Bartholomew (he's actually called Matthew)!

She knew about everyone in the village, her front window was her TV on the street comings and goings.

She always had a story, and would ask you about people as if you were the same age as her, "you remember so and so.."

She liked the annual jumble sales in the village and reminded us to buy things for our Whitsuntide fancy dress costume

We usually went in through the back door (never the front) and only ever went in the living room or kitchen. I never went upstairs, or in the other downstairs front room, it was one of those mysteries.

That really annoying song, Grandma we love you, reminds me of Grandma.

When my grandad was alive she enjoyed going away on holidays and went with my auntie and her family.

For Christmas one year they bought me and my sister a Culture Club album, another year it was a Shakin Stevens album, and another year it was the first Now (that's what I call music) double album.

Every year (without fail) she would also take me and my sister to see the Northallerton (Amateur Dramatics) Christmas Pantomime and encouraged us to go up on the stage when they did their audience participation bit!

She came to my graduation ceremony, and I was proud to have her there, next to my mum and dad.

She bought her outfits from Barker's department store in Northallerton, and always in the sale!

When grandad died, she spent most of her Christmas days with my parents and our family, and enjoyed the chaos, noise and craziness.

One year me and Grandma swapped Christmas presents. I swapped furry hat (from my mother in law) with an umbrella Grandma got, we were both pretty chuffed with our swaps!

If dad went to visit Grandma on his own he'd often come home with some random items (usually clothing) that Grandma had found, none of them would have ever fitted her or Grandad. And newspaper clippings that she'd kept over the years about all the family members.

She went to the Baptist church (happy clappers) because they did the best meals.

She liked to keep her hands busy and would knit "little hats that they sent to Africa for the babies"

She was silly and daft, and she didn't mind people seeing her have fun, or being silly.

My cousin took her to have a fish pedicure!

She raised over £400 on her 85th birthday for charity

For about five years she called my husband Craig instead of Carl!

She didn't like babies (she told me), she liked them when they were more interactive and could talk and have a conversation.

We gave our girl Emma the middle name of Elsie.

She went into assisted living accommodation last year, and covid restrictions made visiting complicated and tricky. So the last time I saw her was at my nephew's wedding in June, but I followed her antics through my auntie Jane (her carer), sharing updates on Facebook.

She gave us some money last year and we bought apple and pear trees for the garden. We've called it Elsie's orchard.

Notes added since her funeral (after talking about her with family), keep smiling she said in the days running up to her death..

She lived by the mantra, 
Live for the present, 
Plan for the future,
And don't dwell too much on the past.