Sad news arrives of the passing of my Mum's cousin Tony O'Connell in Southampton. For those of us close to my Mum and Dad (Sally and Adrian) and/or cousin Irene and Tony - the garden party in Spalding, Lincolnshire, last year will now be the documented memory of their last reunion.
Let me step back a little. My Mum was organising a party for the late summer 2017 and was inviting our close family. Mum has a few cousins on the Ralph side of her family but not many. Indeed the legendary photograph of great grandmother Annie Ralph's 80th Birthday Party taken in the 1950's has all the Ralph cousins: Les, Tony and Sally (Mum), Sylvia, Daphne and Irene.
Lots of people are larger than life it seems but what does that really mean? That they were small, that our world vision is narrow or that it's just a hackneyed phrase rolled out for appropriate consumption...
I now realise that my mate Andy Lindup is larger than death. In life he was generous, inclusive, welcoming, fresh and a delight. At your party he would be present, fabulous, vivacious and real. On the dance floor he was fast, deliberate, skilled and memorable. At the dinner party he was bright, alert, engaged and grateful. And when it went wrong in your life he was there, at the end of the phone, text message and yes if need be he would be next to you smiling, listening, non-judgemental and wise.
But the cruelty of death leapt upon him too soon and with Andy gone at the mere age of 36 we gathered today to say good bye. But his life was so special, so full of verve, so electric and so necessary that it will last and live on. So larger than life? Yes absolutely - Andrew Lindup was and is larger than life.
His life here may have moved on to another cosmic or astral plane but his impact, love, fun, charm and place in our hearts will continue to beat and swell. And when other lights go out, his star will shine forth in our memories and in our deeds.
As was said several time today - most bravely by Rod and Tony - we were all given a gift of friendship with our Andy and we have a responsibility to love him and others back for that.
And so I'm home, a little lower than yesterday, but I reckon I'm feeling low because I am daunted by the challenge - to pick up that small fragment of the Lindup mantle that he shared with me and to pass it on to others. It won't be easy and I'm not him, but I will try and I will strive to recall his laughter, generosity and his ridiculousness.
If I do that a portion of the scale of him in my life then others will notice and smile. My only regret is that those who will be new to me will not have know him, but then I will tell the stories, retell them again and share him from my heart. Yeah on that basis I will cry for now and rise to the challenge tomorrow. I'm daunted but I'll try.
Good night for now good folks, goodnight Andy, love you now, love you always and thank you.
This morning as I rushed to the railway station my favourite local charity shop had a new window display. The Batman suit stood out as did the label: "suitable for large child or small adult"... almost instinctively I went to take a picture and send it to Andy Lindup.
It's not the first time in recent weeks that I have seen moments that Lindyhop (it was an instant nickname) has been my instinctive first port of call, but cruel tragic events before Christmas make such a phone call, text, poke or tweet impossible. This time Andy's Facebook holiday will last just took too long.
(this article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice on 22nd January, 2017)
I can't deny I was excited. I went to chapel this afternoon. Nothing hugely unusual in that - but this was the first visit for me into the chapel in my new town. Peeking through the gates and railings it had all the hallmarks of charm and history that I like, so I was a tad excited.
Now this is a new town for my husband and I. Neither of us know Chesterfield, never lived there before, but are learning fast and enthusiastically. When we looked at towns to move to (criteria: not a city and not a village) husband had very kindly done a list of towns with Unitarian Chapels. On one of our early visits to scout Chesterfield the Chapel had been part of the recce and despite being locked I had managed to get into the back car park and see the old grand gravestones of the proud late 18th century and clearly flourishing Victorian congregation. It was a good start.
I’ve spent the last few weeks back in flat rural Lincolnshire. One of the main benefits is being able to see the stars up in the night sky. Whilst there I spoke to a mate of mine. “There must be loads of stars up there" he said, "given how many greats have died in 2016”. Little did I think that just two weeks later that very same mate would be up amongst the stars, another in the crop of 2016.
Andy Lindup was a one off and truly fun and high quality. When I told him I was thinking of asking Russell to marry me if we won the Same Sex Marriage vote in the Houses of parliament his response was typical of him: “Dude you have to”.
So I'm sitting here photographing and cataloging some of my coins - mainly third century Roman Imperial coins, but heavily dominated by the breakaway Gallic Empire of Postumus, Victorinus, Tetricus I and Tetricus II (260-274AD).
I have collected them for over 25 years, but even now I am learning from them as I handle them, turn them and weight them in my hand. Every Emperor is different, but each coin and indeed each strike, mint, style and type tells you something - whether what we learn is fixed and firm varies, but there is much than can be garnered and relied upon. Let me start with the Emperor Postumus.
So students of Roman History tuck into Suetonius: Lives of the Ceasars. It is gory, gruesome, almost red top in modern newspaper style. But upon analysis the facts often ring true. The characterisation and the stereotypes are over-vivid, but it is at least semi-contemporaneous gossip and rumour.
Indeed, I am always minded of my historical muse, mentor and inspiration Peter Connolly. "Why read novels, when you can read Suetonius?"
So if this Gallic Empire broke away from Rome but essentially failed and lasted a mere 14 years why is it so interesting and so compelling? Surely it's just another grubby rebellion that litters Rome's history and adds to the notion of a decline in the Third Century? In part it was grubby and unsuccessful, but in other regards absolutely not. I will argue that in fact the Gallic Emperors were the very reason The Empire that was Rome was able to survive.
The context was that Rome as an Empire was in trouble. The rise of the Sassanian Empire was relatively new (c.240AD) but crucially it was real military threat and achieved early success under Kings Ardashir and Shapur I. The Emperor Gordian III had lead a major war against the Sassanian Kings and lost, losing his own life, probably in battle and the successor Emperor Philip I had to pay a significant financial tribute to achieve peace, fix Imperial borders and to withdraw the battered army.
Well we gathered in Newcastle to say goodbye, and I'm pleased I went. Saying goodbye to my mate Lenny, Leo, Lennie, LJ, Lucky LJ, Leonard, even Len.
I didn't know anyone really when I first arrived at the Crowne Plaza ("The Crowne Plaza - of course" I can hear you quipping), and as I sit here reflecting on last night I realise the only person I got to know better was you Lenny. So this is written directly to you, as right now I'm feeling very alone.
Some periods of history stand out, others are unknown. Some achieve landmark status - take Roman Britain as an example. 55BC is known as the initial invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar, 43AD as the successful invasion of Britain by the armies of the Emperor Claudius, and 60AD as the rebellion of Queen Boudicca of the Iceni.
The end of Roman Britain is much heralded as being dated to 410AD, but this is probably misleading and misrecorded. And some other key events are well known, but the dates less so - folks know about Hadrian's Wall, they know about Roman Londinium, and that Constantine the Great was declared emperor in York. Occasionally, people are aware of another wall north of Hadrian's Wall called the Antonine Wall.
The myth of Antinous is pretty strong and vivid. It has developed over the years immediate after his death and the centuries since, and as with all good myths, the facts are tricky to pin down. But always keen on a challenge and seeing the raft of folks out there, also keen on this topic - let's try and put the pieces together.
Antinous is thought (based on an inscription) to have been born on or around 27th November - but the year is estimated as being between 110 and 112AD. His year of death was 130AD but the date uncertain and thought to fall on or around 22nd October (24th being the feast of Osiris has been often used)