Chris’ last speech day, Oct 2002

He’s actually left but goes back for his GCSE certificates. They’ve been a good year and its obvious every one likes them. Their targets have been met to over 90% academically and their range of awards in sports and music etc is awesome.

The event is fairly boring, but uplifting as well. As with many of these things it encourages reflection of how its all turned out since you were there.

I was DHB and had to do the lower school speech day. Mum comes to watch from the balcony at The Town Hall. I sit out front on the stage and all she can say is thank god I bought you some grey socks for tonight. First year in college, I went back for my certificates and sat with Jim Shoesmith.

Little did I know that within the month of Chris’ last speech day I would be attending Jim’s funeral.

You do relive some of your earlier life through your children. Louise kept me going full time recalling 13-16, trying to understand through my own experiences, what she was trying to say. Chris was less challenging or we were more relaxed. Anyway his development was more how we liked it to be.

I have few bad memories of sixth form.

Jim was an intermittent friend who died recently, and the funeral/cremation was  in Crewe. Six hours in the car on the busiest road in Europe is not to be recommended. A small gathering, the chapel was too small to take many more. Jim’s vicar was on leave, so a locum stepped in –  a stooping, condescending man who was trying to convince himself that ‘death was not the end’. There were no words that helped me to recognise Jim. I didn’t know him well, another quiet one, but he was the first of our schoolboy group to go (apart from Stephen Cole who died on on his 21st birthday and nearly killed his mother).  Our Chris is entering the same stage, hanging out with his pals, drinking, trying to sort the world out. So the funeral left me with unfinished business, not anxiety, but there had been a gap of so many years since the 1960’s – what had happened to all us brave soldiers. Four of us turned up – Edward, Jim’s brother, Graham Cartwright, John Browning and myself. Graham wanted to talk, to have the discussion that might have made up for the vicar. John might have done. Ed never says anything. I was confused the whole thing too immediate. Had I stayed longer and had a few beers, it might have been different. I’ve gone over my life too many times to go over it again. I’m pretty sure who and what I am and funerals only give me a dim regret I didn’t turn out to be somebody else.

But it could’ve been another missed opportunity.

The Shoesmith’s were a mystery. They still are. They appeared from Barnsley in the fourth form, Edward with the awesome IQ who should have gone straight into the rapid stream, and Jim. Jim was competent, like the rest of us. Were they close?  Enough for them. But you only found out what was going on by asking somebody else.

Jim was a middle-aged casualty – divorce, depression, estrangement from his daughter, but soon to be connected with his granddaughter, Lois.  How do you deal with all that, buggered if I know. Not discussed at the funeral, yet central.