You don’t have to have a double-barrelled name, 7000 acres of grouse moor, and a listed mansion in the shires. You just need to be a decent bloke.

A friend of mine died this week. Friend? Maybe not, but a reasonably close acquaintance, a bit like Mr Whippy/Sam. He was by some standards a very ordinary man, but that’s partly why I liked him. Born a cockney, fetched up in Hertfordshire, then ended up in Dunmow about eight years ago or so.

He was a grafter, ran his own cleaning company, worked long hours to make sure his family was provided for. Wife, two children, a very ordinary nuclear family. I like his wife in a quiet way, his daughter is lovely, and his son, who has some problems, is fond of me as I am of him.

Brian, for it is he, retired a little while ago, but didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy it, since he was only 70 when he died.

He was a very straightforward man, no frills, no nonsense, swore like a sailor, a ‘get on with it’ sort. But he really got me and my variable mental health. He just knew when I was having a bad day, but instead of telling me to snap out of it he’d just leave me to deal with things on my own terms and in my own time.

He liked a beer, and he liked a ciggie. Here’s my last memory of him. About two days before he died, I was walking down the street where I live. It was raining. There’s a block of flats I have to pass, and as I walked I became aware of a figure in an archway, out of the rain. It was Brian, smoking a fag.

‘Morning, Brian.’

He took a drag on his cigarette.

‘Allo. I’m just waiting for my doctor’s appointment.’

That episode just about sums him up. I’m going to miss him.

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