Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Happy 40th Birthday, Chris

Hello, Darlin' 

Happy 40th Birthday! Can't believe you're so bloody old (I know I'm a year old than you, but I still can't believe my ickle bro is 40!)

We had a party for you on Sunday, which, I agree, was a bit of a mad thing to do without you there. But we felt it was the right time. Loads of family and friends came from far and wide to Bodle Street Green. 

Below are some pic from the day: your first 40 years in pictures... 

It rained in the morning, so we feared the worst. I have to admit we were dreading the day, but the weather cleared up; the food was great, as was the vibe. We felt so much support and love from everyone there, for us, and most importantly for you.

This is us before the party got going... I don't think we look any different after 12 years - do we? (Cameron, Freya and Evie aren't in shot.)

The soundtrack to the day - your favourites, as chosen by me, from your cassette collection: http://open.spotify.com/user/1180454785/playlist/0lmKtPWzkEs2I3shmtgIF5

At lunch, I sat with the Howards and Al Smith and family - Bertie was entertainer for the day! 

Those at the party (in no particular order and many with their families): Ben, Daimer and Jo, Sam and Minette, Vix, Lydia, Sophie, Wooddy, Emma, Andre, Jo, Catty, Nick B, Matthew, Gerry, Alistair, Ramsay, Hester, James, Nick O, Hans & Tricia, Bettina & Jonathan, Laura, Bridget, Liz, Dana, Lesley & Tony, Chris, Mikki & Georgie..... so many also wanted to be there, but couldn't be. 

A snapshot of the day - other friends are outside enjoying the sunshine. This was just before my speech... the children were lined up waiting for Bertie's magic show to start. 

Actually, the kids had to endure my speech/toast before they got Bertie! Here's what I said:

"The last time we were as a family in a marquee in the garden was at my wedding, to Grant, nearly five years ago to the day. Unlike a wedding, there’s no conventions to follow for the ‘sister of the brother missing his birthday party’ speech. So I will do what feels right. 

I’d like to say a few ‘thank you’s before toasting Christian. 

Firstly, to Mum and Dad for agreeing to holding this party. When I first mentioned it they were reluctant, to say the least, but I was able to persuade them that if we didn’t do it now, on Chris’ 40th birthday, we more than likely never would. 

Secondly, to Bertie. Without him this party would never have happened. Mum would only agree to do this if Bertie could come, “otherwise it would be just too depressing,” she said. Thankfully, his diary was free, and here we are. 

Thirdly, a very personal thank you. I’d like to thank from [cue tears and deep breaths] the bottom of my heart all of Chris’ friends for helping Mum and Dad in the early months of Chris’ disappearance. I was stuck down in Cornwall, pretty unaware of the emotional turmoil which was playing out.  I’d also like to thank Mum and Dad’s friends for supporting them - without everyone here my family could well have been torn apart by what’s happened 

[Uncle Chris appears out of the audience to come and stand next to me and offer his support - he tells me to, kindly, get on with it.

It’s only then that I registered the children in front of me. They were still seated on the chairs set out for Bertie’s magic show. They were transfixed, I guess, by the sight of me in tears. Their ages ranged from 2 to 8 (Harley Smith, bless her, the youngest at only 8 months old, was seated on the table watching attentively). I could see my darling boy and girl looking worried. All I could do was smile at them and continue…] 

So [pulling myself together], I’d like to tell you a story about things lost and found. 

This picture tells a story [pointing to Jimmy Hendrix, hanging to the side of me]. Chris painted the picture as a wall decoration for a joint party we had when we were about 16. After the party it was hung over his bed in his bedroom and that’s where it stayed until he left for Africa. 
When we were talking about decorations for the party I said to M&D, “Where’s that Jimmy Hendrix painting?”
“Oh, when the potential buyer came to look round Mottynsden [the last house Chris lived in], his son particularly loved it, so I said if his father bought the house, I’d leave the painting behind for him.” 
“What? So it’s still at Mottynsden?”
“Well, maybe - if they’ve kept it for 12 years.” Mum looked doubtful and Dad even more so. 
“They won’t have it,” he said. “They’d have chucked it out years ago.” 
But I determined to write a letter to the new owner [we knew it was still his second home] to see if 1) they still had it, and 2) could we have it back. 
The next day I sent the letter, hardly expecting a reply, let alone a positive one. But three weeks later, we got the reply we could hardly believe… and here it is, repaired by Dad and looking great. I can’t wait to hang it on my wall at home!

The other object I want to tell you about is a book [I’d left the book on the table at the other end of the marquee so had to retrieve it]. I’m currently writing a book about Christian, which Mum wanted me to do. Because Grant and I ghostwrite and produce memoirs for people, I’d always wanted to get Chris’ life story down. Finally, after four years of non-stop projects, we’ve got a lull so I’m taking the opportunity now - my agent is currently touting the proposal and sample chapters round the London publishers. Anyway, during my research, I looked through Chris’ things (which are still kept in the room above the garage) and couldn’t find this book about Mungo Park which I’d remembered him showing me before he’d left for Africa. He’d said, “You should read this - you’ll understand what I’m so excited about.” I could remember he’d annotated the book with some thoughts and underlined certain passages. Like the painting, it felt crucial to have it back in my hands. 

I looked through my bookcases, looking for the tell-tale blue book spine I had remembered. Blank. I got M&D to turn their bookcases upside-down, too. Blank. I said to Grant, “It must be here then; there’s no where else it could be.” I searched very carefully this time; reading every book spine. And bingo! Scots’ Lives: Mungo Park (Mark Duffill) with a maroon book spine - not a blue on. 

So, one thing we found after 12 years: something we didn’t think possible. 
Another thing found which had eluded us all, even though we’d searched high and low.
Of course, you can guess what I/we hope will be the third lost thing we find… 

Before I go any further, I’d like to explain what I’d like everyone to do after we’ve toasted Christian. 

When I was making the playlist for the party I went through all of his cassettes to find his favourite artists and songs. While listening in the car to the mix I’d made, on a long journey to the National Funeral Exhibition (a long story), I’d had a vision of us all here, holding hands in a circle, while Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Let Love Rule’ was playing. I remember Chris playing it over and over again while he tried to get the notes and rhythm on his base guitar; it seems the only music to play. So it feels right to ask you in a minute to join together and send positive thoughts to Chris and will him to come home. For whatever reason, we still think he’s out there on his way home, just not with any urgency - he probably doesn’t even realise the grief he’s been causing! 

So, please let’s toast my brother Christian, or Chris, or Chrissy, or Relts…. We miss you so much, please come home soon."

Everyone joined in a circle, even the children - it was complete AND perfect. I hope you felt the vibes. Actually, there was one person missing from the circle - Uncle Tony, who got locked in the toilet, but that's another story (remind me to tell you about the balloon dog called Biscuit, too).

Please, please come home - we all miss you and love you from the bottom of our hearts. Life just isn't the same without you and even though we're bloody angry you've been away for more than 12 years, WE WANT YOU HOME. xxxxxx

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - enjoy the day, wherever you are ...... 

Your big sis, Han xxxxxx

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Boxing and Africa - Two Great Loves

From: Nick Blackford

I shared a flat with Chris in the 2nd year of Edinburgh, and have many happy memories. 

You probably know that he was quite keen on boxing. What you might not know is that I watched him go toe-to-toe with a guy who went on that year to win the British Universities Championship for his weight. The battle only stopped when Chris twisted his ankle. We all knew something special was going on as the rest of us in the boxing gym stopped what we were doing to watch, something which had never happened before or since. 

He inspired me to carry on boxing after Uni, and I went on to box on and off for 15 years... on the rare nights that I did well, buzzing with excitement, I would think of Chris and how pleased he would be. Likewise when things were not going so well in ring, I would imagine him telling me to stop running away and get stuck in. 

Back in 1996 (or 1997) I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful summer with Chris, Rick Laird and Venetia Wingfield travelling around South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. We had a wonderful time, going on amazing safaris and travelling through landscapes that seemed out of this world. I have copied some photos using my iPhone...

This first photo is of Chris and Vinnie climbing what was apparently the biggest sand dune in the world, Dune 7, Sossusvlei in the Namib desert. The sand was so hot it burnt your skin when touched, I think Chris went up either barefoot or in flip flops.

This photo is of Chris after a large meal in Chobe National park in Botswana. He and I shared a tent. One evening was very memorable: there were lions nearby having a row, it sounded like they were right outside the entrance. Apparently they won't attack a tent if the zip is done up...
There were also a lot of elephants about... 

This one was also from Chobe National Park in Botswana. It was the end of the dry season, but the rains had not yet come. Our camp site had a hose pipe, and this elephant wanted us to turn it on. We took it in turns to see who could get closest. Chris won by quite a margin. The rangers did not let us give the elephant water, they did not want to encourage them visiting the campsite. 

Both of these photos were taken in Sossusvlei, in Namibia. We had rented a tiny white Mazda in Windhoek and driven across the Namib desert to get there. The car was given the nickname Marjory-Motherfucker, a joint creative collaboration between Vinnie and Chris. 

Final photo! This one is of Chris and Rick Laird in a place called Chimanimani in Zimbabwe. We climbed up a mountain all day long to reach a giant plateau at the top of which was a game park where we spent a lovely couple of days camping. A very special place indeed. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Like a Rangatang Dancing On a Cloud

From Charles (Charlie) Adams - Chris' friend from Edinburgh University. 

Your Dear Brother Chris and I met while he was at Edinburgh University. We used to go together sometimes to nights at the Messenger (Reggae) Sound System club night played at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh.

I would have written to you before if I had known about his blog... I only found it yesterday through a FB contact, a mutual friend from Uni days.  His blog, by the way, is beautifully written and describes him so very well. I am so happy to read the memories of him and I know that his soul and spirit continues to live within those closest to him.  

It is also lovely to have seen a picture of him, exactly how I remember Chris. A handsome man, with a unique chin, charming, gentle, kind, humourous and easy-going, with a big warm heart and free-spirited soul. A man who was a great mover and groover on the Reggae dance floor. Those days were such fun and I am so happy that I experienced my Reggae dancing, clubing days with your Bro.  Fond memories that will never die. I could always rely on him to say yes when I called him to ask whether he was up for joining me to go to the Bongo club. I would have loved to have met him again and often think of him. Maybe we will meet in another world. 

When your Brother went missing strangely enough I was working in the French Alps and one day I came off the mountain and walked into one of the cafes where I came across a UK newspaper - I think it may have been The Daily Mail. As I had not seen the papers for months and was cut off from what was happening back at home (no bad thing), I picked the newspaper up off the table to have a peek at what was happening outside my 'Mountain Bubble'. The first page I opened I could not believe what I saw and read. It was the story about Chris and the news of him going missing. It came as such a shock. 

I am so sorry not to have been in touch as I lost contact with quite a few old friends from Uni days. I was very happy to have made friends with your Brother while he was studying at Edinburgh. I often think of him and when I listen to some reggae tracks that remind me of the days of the Bongo Club I smile and think of your Brother as we used to enjoy dancing to our Reggae and Dub beats. I have to say your Bro had some of the best moves on the dance floor. That makes me happy when I think about it... arms swinging in the air like a Rangatang dancing on a cloud, with his feet stomping to the beat in rhythm to his swinging arms and soul playing :) 

I can still picture him in my mind when I go back to those days.

You guys must miss him so much and by heart feels for you and your family. I know that you will keep his spirit alive and the fond memories of him will never die. One day we will meet him again, it may not be in this world but it will be in another life and I look forward to that. His memories and sparkle lives on like the bright North Star. He will always twinkle, as his eyes always did, and his unique character (one in a million) made so many smile when in his fun company.

Hannah, I would like to tribute this poem to your Dearest Brother as I think there are quite a few characteristics in there that describe him well; his beat carries on within his family and all those who were lucky enough to have met him and got to know him.

God bless.


Dis Poetry  


Dis poetry is like a riddim dat drops
De tongue fires a riddim dat shoots like shots
Dis poetry is designed fe rantin
Dance hall style, big mouth chanting,
Dis poetry nar put yu to sleep
Preaching follow me
Like yu is blind sheep,
Dis poetry is not Party Political
Not designed fe dose who are critical.
Dis poetry is wid me when I gu to me bed
It gets into me dreadlocks
It lingers around me head
Dis poetry goes wid me as I pedal me bike
I’ve tried Shakespeare, respect due dere
But did is de stuff I like.
Dis poetry is not afraid of going ina book
Still dis poetry need ears fe hear an eyes fe hav a look
Dis poetry is Verbal Riddim, no big words involved
An if I hav a problem de riddim gets it solved,
I’ve tried to be more romantic, it does nu good for me
So I tek a Reggae Riddim an build me poetry,
I could try be more personal
But you’ve heard it all before,
Pages of written words not needed
Brain has many words in store,
Yu could call dis poetry Dub Ranting
De tongue plays a beat
De body starts skanking,
Dis poetry is quick an childish
Dis poetry is fe de wise an foolish,
Anybody can do it fe free,
Dis poetry is fe yu an me,
Don’t stretch yu imagination
Dis poetry is fe de good of de Nation,
In de morning
I chant
In de night
I chant
In de darkness
An under de spotlight,
I pass thru University
I pass thru Sociology
An den I got a dread degree
In Dreadfull Ghettology.
Dis poetry stays wid me when I run or walk
An when I am talking to meself in poetry I talk,
Dis poetry is wid me,
Below me an above,
Dis poetry’s from inside me
It goes to yu