If 2016 hadn't been bad enough up until then (losing Bowie AND Prince), on my birthday in May I sadly and awfully discovered that a friend of mine had passed away.
The great English gentleman, Stuart Eccles esquire. In my low humour at that time post Bowie, I had eschewed all social media etc. I detached myself from most contact as I retreated into my head (for context there's more about my Bowie history elsewhere on this site). But Stu, the so'n'so hadn't pinged me on my birthday like he usually did.
I sent a mail, that wasn't responded to, to wind him up that he hadn't sent a card, and found out, horribly realising on my selfish day of celebration, by slowly taking in some of the Facebook posts, that Stu was gone. Had been for many weeks, and I simply hadn't known.
I felt so embarrassed that I hadn't been in touch with him. The last time we'd been in contact was a few days after Bowies passing, commiserating etc. He knew how hard that hit me. I told him I was gonna just bury my head but I'd catch up with him again soon. Then Prince happened (again, more on this site). Then other serious family stuff was going on and I didn't get back in touch in the time before his passing. Male friendships are like that. The next time we'd connect it would always be like it had been five minutes ago. But it wasn't to be. I never got to Rowardennan, although the invites were many.
He never stopped with the (affectionally given and received) Paddy Irishman jokes. "But Stu..." I'd tell him "..I'm from Warrington..". Ah sure, that didn't make any difference :).
Stu and I had become friends through the old "Luckytown' online Springsteen forum in the late '90s and the early days of the internet. His generosity was endless. Every now and then packages of CD's would just arrive in the post - Bruce out-takes, concerts etc. When I was reading the tributes from his many many friends, this was not an isolated occurrence. Stu was generous with everyone. He loved the New Jersey rocker Joe D'Urso and had become friends with Joe over the years. Joe posted a lovely tribute to Stu on his Facebook page. Indeed, there were, and still are, many wonderful words about Stu from his online family.
His Dad Derek had passed several years ago, and Stu ever the dutiful son, took Dereks ashes up to Scotland to spread them there Loch side. Typical of Stu he dressed up for the occasion with a set of bagpipes, an approximation of a Tam O'Shanter and the pic is on his Facebook page. It still makes me smile. I helped Stu round up some commerative Irish stamps for Derek one time, I was only too glad to do something in return.
He always called me "Cashan" (my surname, Carry) and was wonderfully funny. We exchanged mails and birthday/Christmas cards for over 17 years.
Stu had always kept all of his friends amused with his detailing of the trials and tribulations around his engagement with the NHS in the UK. He'd always complained of headaches and pains as he described his journey through the medical system, in a "crikey, you'll never believe what they told me today old chum" set of online updates while doctors tried to figure out what, if anything, was wrong with him.
But Stu did have something wrong and he passed away at home on Feb 10th 2016, from a brain aneurysm or haemorrhage. It deeply saddens me still that he was on his own that day. He deserved to go out surrounded by the warmth, love and karma that his friends would surely have given. But then I think, maybe Derek was getting impatient, and Stu just couldn't wait.
So! Sir, thinking of you today. I shall raise a glass of some description to ya somewhere along the way. You are missed.
@home Feb 10th 2017