Sunday, 5 January 2014
MY MEMORIES OF SIMON LARGE
Chattering Magpie atop the Cork Stone, Stanton Moor Derbyshire.
Picture by Simon Large 2012
In the first half of 2013 I heard the sad news that a gentleman and he was a gentleman; whom I had only met twice but after corresponding via Email I had the pleasure to call a friend, had passed. His death was sudden, unexpected and I felt deeply that sense of loss associated with the tragic realisation, that I would now never get to know him better.
My original intention was to produce an informal obituary for November 2013, as it was a year almost to the day since I last met Simon. Furthermore, it is natural that with the coming of the Hallowtide, for our thoughts to focus on those that have departed. In my own mind were memories not only of friends such as Simon but also family. For this latter reason I found myself unable to write, as the anniversaries of the deaths of both my brothers lay only a few weeks either side of the Hallowtide. Since both my brothers passed under tragic and unexpected circumstance, I have until now been unable to face emotionally, the prospect of writing about this dear man, Simon Large.
My first contact with Simon, a retired archaeologist and his artist wife Isabelle Gaborit, came via a mutual friend in the Clan of Tubal Cain. From this networking and exchange of emails including Facebook private messages, developed a communication that eventually would lead to Isabelle writing an exceptionally glowing review of a book I had edited on behalf of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, for the Irish magazine Brigid’s Fire.
An important factor in our networking was the global electronic communication wonder of Facebook. Now many who know me, will know that I near despise Facebook or at least many aspects of the social phenomenon. Yet I recognise that Facebook has opened up a new area of networking and that via the social networking site that we all love to hate, I have made genuine and warm friendships.
I count amongst these my friendship with Simon and Isabelle and in the summer of 2012 as my girlfriend and I made plans for a trip over the water, it was natural for us to message our friends in Ireland. We sought advice on our arrangements and suggested that if possible, we should meet in the flesh, to finally put faces to Internet names.
So it was arranged that they would journey into Dublin to meet us soon after our arrival in Ireland. We arrived by ferry via Wales a little later than planned and made our way to the Dublin Youth Hostel, a little north of the city centre and up the hill from the well known, Black Church. Even though our arrival was later than expected, that evening Simon and Isabelle were collecting us from the hostel, their plan being to take us out for dinner.
They arrived to collect us on foot and bearing gifts. For me in particular and based on knowledge gleaned via Facebook and friends, a bottle of spiced mead, home made by Simon himself. I cradled that mead, it travelled up Eire, across Ulster and home across the sea to Derbyshire wrapped in towels deep in my suitcase. It was a very good brew and greatly appreciated as a gift.
We left the hostel that evening, the four of us and headed south down Parnell Square, Cavendish Row and O’Connell Street towards the city centre, with me taking snap shots and Simon pointing out places of particular interest for us to visit during our stay in Dublin. We passed the Garden of Remembrance and I made a mental note to return in a day or two and take better picture. We noted the General Post Office and Trinity Collage, places that we would later visit.
Finally we arrived at Cornucopia on Wicklow Street, a well known Dublin venue and a fine vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation, this being the first time we had heard each other speak and it brought up a few surprises. Isabelle being of French origin spoke her English with a soft accent but Simon was a surprise. He who was not of Irish birth, had by having lived many years in Eire, developed a quite beautiful, almost musical Irish accent. So natural was his manner of speech that one could easily assume that he was a born Irishman.
The evening was friendly, relaxed interspaced with archaeological anecdotes provided by Simon and artistic discussion overseen by Isabelle. We walked back to their car for a lift back to the hostel, parting as firm friends with a sincere wish to meet again.
A few months later we received the news that Simon and Isabelle planned to visit the UK, first to enjoy a brief stay in London to visit the British Museum and Treadwell’s Bookshop, before journeying on to Glastonbury for the ‘Day of the Dead’ weekend in early November. Although meeting the couple in Glastonbury was impractical, I began making arrangements to journey to London to meet them once again. This proved unnecessary when it was revealed that the plans included a trip north to visit our mutual friends in Derbyshire
This would necessitate a temporary stop over in Derby and I remember checking out their suggested hotels on foot, prior to them leaving Ireland. At least one of which filled me with dread when I realised it was on the edge of an area of town of dubious reputation. Ultimately we settled on their first choice, a safe venue close to the city centre. This time is was our turn to meet Simon and Isabelle and take them for dinner, walking through Derby an admittedly less glamorous city than Dublin but still historically important, with me pointing out the Green Men on the Anglican Cathedral and the nearby Catholic church designed by Pugin before arriving at Ye Olde Dolphin Inne. This public house is said to be the oldest in the city and also the most haunted.
So once again we enjoyed a pleasant evening meal, this time with a log fire, oak beams and real ale, real English ale that Simon enjoyed contentedly. Coincidently the Derby Ghost Walk was passing through that evening, hosted by the television celebrity and local historian Richard Felix. Knowing Richard through my work with the Pagan Federation I popped outside to say hello and he graciously but briefly, popped into the snug to meet Simon and Isabelle. An added bonus was when I persuaded the staff to allow us to see the haunted upper restaurant room.
That was not where the trip ended as since our visitors from Ireland were staying with our friends, we were therefore able to enjoy a group trip into the Peaks, exploring both Stanton and the Big Moor. Here once again, Simon’s historical and archaeological interest was well catered for as we explored Neolithic remains on both moors. It was on Stanton Moor that Simon took the picture that illustrates this BLOG and it was on Stanton Moor, much to my embarrassment but to everyone else’s amusement; that I succeeded due to my inept map reading skills in getting us lost in the fog. I may never live that down.
So what are my lasting memories of this dear sweet man? The answer is a complex and wide ranging mixture that includes his soft voice, his air of calm, his humour, his intelligence and thirst to learn about areas of the Craft that were new to him. His friendliness and generosity set him apart, as a man whose friendship was worth discovery. He made being happy a virtue.
All of this began with an email and I recognise that without the Internet I would never have met Simon and Isabelle. I would never have had the pleasure of being able to call either a friend and in the case of Simon that was for a regrettably short period of time. Without the modern wonder of this medium that we call the World Wide Web, I would not now be writing this BLOG or be able to share with anyone who cares to read, what a kind of man and friend Simon was.