Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Farewell Skiddy, old boy
Death, death, all around me, news of death, like a vast, empty wetness. The news keeps coming—Neville, Sam, Dave, Elle, Teddy. Bugger them all. One minute they are telling me about their latest book or travel plans, the next they are standing me up, and then some relative I never met is calling me to explain why, and invite me to their blasted cremations.
So now even Skiddy has pulled that evil trick. Hooting it up in his weekly blog Skidmore’s Island, writing with rollicking charm, wit and insight, making me want to lie on the floor and kick at the ceiling because he is just so funny and marvellous, and then—the e-mail comes from his darling wife Celia.
“Ian died at 6.45 am yesterday (October 3). He was extraordinarily brave and, just as you would expect, was laughing and joking almost to the end, which was at home—where he wanted so much to be.” He was 84.
The cancer had come back, as people say, which always conjures up images for me a shadowy figure who left late one night to get a loaf of bread reappearing at the doorway years later, with a crooked smile and still no dinner.
Ian Skidmore, who left school at 12 (because he was afraid the teachers would interfere with his education, as the joke goes) could make oatmeal engaging and hilarious. Everything he wrote, even about his own looming death, sounded as if he’d composed it in a pub during last call.
He wrote a book a year and my favourite is Forgive Us Our Press Passes, his autobiography. Once called Wales’ funniest columnist, he belonged to an elite group called the Octopals. I named them because they are octogenarian literary loons, most of whom I have never met.
International editor Neville Stack, who brought his own innovative style of newspapering to the Guardian and the Express and loved T&T, introduced me, electronically, to them. They showered me with their splendid columns, blogs, books and old photographs, because any friend of Neville deserved entry to their inner sanctum of reckless scribblers, who believe books are life jackets and can rescue anyone from anything, even a prison cell or a university education.
Neville crossed over to the Other Side recently and Skiddy, his boyhood friend, wrote the obituary. Now Skiddy himself is being eulogised in the English trades.
No one brave enough to be my friend is allowed to get as much as a cold for the next decade, you hear me? Keep your bat straight. Watch your stumps. I am not taking any more of this jumped-up disloyalty. You are needed here. Heaven has enough angels and harp music is infuriatingly peaceful.
Skiddy was a rascally eccentric, of unique talent. From the very first sentence, he had me. And he will continue, as long as the written word exists, to get us all, over and over again.
Here are some of his immortal bests:
August 8, 2013
They Didn’t Believe Me
When I said Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch English listeners found my command of language impressive. Welsh-speaking listeners shuddered. That was my problem. I lived in a place I could not pronounce.
August 15, 2013
When I went for my blood test this week a battalion of nurses asked me how I was. I said: “That’s why I am here, so you can tell me how I am.” I seem to have spent a lifetime in Dracula’s pantry. Yesterday they had difficulty finding an arm that still had blood in it. I suggested they tried the throat.
September 26, 2013
All Bobbies aren’t dazzlers
My father was a policeman who came a little short in the wonderful line. Trench warfare had freed him of any moral sense. When he was on night duty he would come home with hauls of antiques he swore he had found in dustbins.
If he was late for work he would steal a car from his local pub and report it stolen when he arrived at the police station. We used a carving knife at home, not knowing he had taken it from a house where a luckless man had used it to cut his throat.
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