Seamus (that's the one on the left). For most of the years that I've known Steve, he's had a dog in tow. It has to be said that neither Jack ( the b*****d) as he was "fondly" known in Banbury from around the 1980s nor more recently Seamus had the ability to make you love them at first acquaintance. Or third or fourth to be honest. It is testament to Steve's negotiating powers that I would occasionally find myself dog-minding; sharing my life with some fairly unsavoury and whiffy behaviours. Luckily, Steve was always happy, even keen, to have them back. And he was welcome. You can take the dog out of Ireland, but taking the Ireland out of the dog seemed problematic. Seamus, once he had overcome his desire to threaten me in every way he could muster, one day for some reason became my sweetheart, my closest friend. When he wasn't attaching himself to my legs, he would busy himself finding the most unsuitable and indigestible items to swallow, he wasn't too fussy. Sticks, stones, bones, whatever.. Providing it had lived in water, Steve shared the same proclivities. Sea, fishmonger, river or Tesco fish counter, that was good enough. Steve was on a seafood diet. If he could seasea food, he would eat it. He loved the ocean, the waves, the seaside, the fun and simple pleasures provided by a beach. Burning a mackerel or sardine on a sandy barbecue was one of his notions of nirvana. However, a beach with waves lapping at the door of an Indian Takeaway would have ticked every box.
Emerging from the water, Whitsand Bay. 1990
Caught any crabs today? Nah, just the way I'm walking
I shared some good times with Steve in different places. His curiosity about a place, his enviable ability to communicate with the most unlikely correspondents and to extract from them some gem, which within moments became the holiday's catchphrase, would become a recurrent and long-standing source of amusement. We found it easy to extract frivolity and irreverence about most things. Anything was fair play. Much of the world was open to our occasional disdain, but the most popular targets for our ridicule were ourselves and the elements which had influenced or moulded our personalities and attitudes.
Parents, families, schooldays, clothes, girlfriends, music, various substances, films, books, artists, holidays, food, university, travel, cooking, alcohol, responsibilities, the state of Forest. Nottingham not Sherwood. Haircuts, don't laugh. And loads of stuff I can't or won't recall at this moment. Fortuitously, as a child I had an Uncle Dennis in Beeston who was never without a Woodbine in his mouth, tunelessly whistling whilst sanding, smoothing or polishing anything that could not escape his attentions. You try to whistle with something between your lips and you'll get the picture. Steve was fascinated, intrigued by this odd person. My descriptions and re-enactments of the Dennis saga provided hours of inexplicable laughter and derision. You had to have had a few drinks first. I think the absurdity of it tapped a common and shared sense of ridicule and silliness. It was always good to have something to laugh about, especially after our sad-hair-day exchanges.
These lighter moments provided some respite from the weightier concerns that would occasionally dominate our agenda. Were the Glory Days at Nottingham Forest a result of divine intervention or was some other immanence like god involved? Did the 1980s work of Steely Dan transcend the limitations of contemporary music and enter the pantheon of art in its most pretentious sense? Did we fully appreciate the latest incarnation of the Rawlplug? And was it a giant step forward from the twiggy things our dads had struggled with? The rawlplug was just one of the many deep mysteries of life which caught our attentions. Where was the best place for speakers? Is this expensive cable really going to make a scrap of difference? Who had the best album covers? The actual CD in its jewel case with the artwork, or a download? Which gave the most satisfaction? Vinyl or CD? Sometimes the scratches and pops contributed to the listening experience, though we agreed that sometimes they didn didn didn didn didn didn. Butter or margarine? Brown or white? Tinned or frozen? Boiled or fried? Leather or suede? So many questions yet so few answers.
Some of his older friends may have been privy to the secret machinations of The Phantom. Once initiated into the phantom's fraternity and empowered with the secret codes, one could perform impressive card tricks OVER THE PHONE. The system faltered on occasion due the phantom being unable to take your call right now, or commonly too tired to be bothered. Delving into the world of the phantom happened after the pubs had shut, hence the far from perfect reliability. When it did work it was impressive. Well, at least on one occasion it was, 1982 I think.
Steve often spoke of his desire to be a grandmaster of the world of home-improvement and particularly the creation of storage surfaces. When it came to the world of DIY, Steve would readily admit to some gaps in his skills-base. He could be quite shelf-deprecating, but was always proud of his results, keen to draw attention to the newest constructions he'd managed, always ready to share his discovery of a new range of ready-mixed filler or a device which would indicate if things were level or not. DIY was a world full of surprises to Steve.
On the foot ferry from Cawsand to Plymouth. 1988
Oh, and he did a bit of drumming as well. Lovely thing about Steve, he didn't seem to mind playing with total incompetents, like me for instance. Tempo, beat and drumming were the pulse of Steve's life, though he confessed to confusion when it came to the rhythm method. But I suppose it all balanced out, I can put up shelves. And he was the only man I've ever allowed to kiss me, though only on the cheek. And thanks Steve for setting up my Love Story Exhibition at the gallery at Upton House in 2001.
Steve with the girls he loved so much. St. Nicholas Park, Warwick. 2007
Love to you Steve, and to Kathy, May and Bella.
From Mick and Jill xxxx