Although he claimed that "a macaque with a cleft palate is more eloquent that I am", he had a nice way of phrasing things, as well as great research skills and an omniverous frame of reference. He also had an incredible generosity of spirit, which you can see in the reactions in the comment thread of his final post, A young dancer.
Bloggers are a peculiar bunch. A popular image is of recluses tapping away in poorly-lit rooms, speaking their brains on life, the universe and stuff. The political ones tend to be more focused, with a few of them leading lives of blameless bourgeois professionalism and domesticity. But by and large bloggers communicate with each other online rather than in real spacetime.
I have in recent years developed proper eye contact relationships with a number of bloggers from various walks of life: academics, fellow journalists, bus drivers, handypersons, bureaucrats, the retired, unemployed and more. It takes all sorts to make a world, and some of them can write.
In London some of us get together occasionally for a drink or three. Annually at least, with the next“droggy blink” of left-libertarians and other political misfits tentatively scheduled for next month at some or other hostelry in the heart of the Great Wen.
Among the band of bloggers of varying degrees of grumpiness who have taken part in these Londonish get-togethers is my friend Shaun Downey, a retired civil servant of off-message sensibility and some seniority who later took seriously to photography and writing.
The subjects of Shaun’s creative expression have been many and various. Cats, for example. Not silly snaps of kittens falling off sofas and the like, but proper portraiture, with wide open eyes and apertures, souls laid bare and immortalised.
Shaun and his not-wife Shirley have over the years been cared for by a number of furry beasts, and I suspect that each and every one of them has in their relatively short lives been photographed more than me in my half century of existence.
I regret to say that Shaun will not make it to the London pissup, for he died suddenly on Friday, aged 50 and a bit. I knew Shaun from our blogger summits, and had a lot of time for him. So too did many others. We shall miss Shaun, and the first toast in April will be to an absent friend.
Condolences to Shirley and the family, both human and feline.
RIP Shaun P Downey, Esq., Gentleman and Blogger of the Parish of Romford.
Speaking King's English in quotation / As railhead towns feel the steel mills rust water froze / In the generation / Clear as winter ice / This is your paradiseThe lovely Jams O'Donnell mixes more photography than either pop or politics into the mix these days. And his musical taste has large areas of non-overlap with mine, but it was him (I think) that introduced me to the extraordinary Sephardic music of Mor Karbasi. So, here's her, then our mutually favourite Clash song, then some beautiful Iranian rebel music.
Mor Karbasi: El Pastor
The Clash: Straight to Hell
I realise that (although I'm not as old as Jams), it's about a quarter of a century since I first heard this song, and it has been intriguing me ever since. What is it about? I thought it's about imperialism, and the Vietnam war, and Graham Greene, and migration, and racism. So, inspired by writing this, I found that crowd-sourcing, via wikipedia and yahoo answered my queries perfectly, and the mystery is over. (Incidentally, if you don't know the song but there's something familiar, it is brilliantly sampled by MIA in "Paper Planes", which is also about migration, and which is in turn used to great effect in Slumdog Millionaire, mixed by the awesome AR Rahman.)
Marzieh: Sange Khara
To tell the truth Marzieh is new to me. My dear friend Elahe Heidari was in Paris in September for another stay at the Cite Internationale des Arts We decided to go to Avers sir Oise to visit places relating to Vincent van Gogh, including his grave. Marzieh is buried in the same graveyard. Before that I was not familiar with her life or music.
A very brave and remarkable woman. I love this quote of hers: “I sang for the birds, for the river, the trees and the flowers but not the mullahs.”
If you are interested,
An Bйal Bocht (The Poor Mouth, 1941) was the only book which Brian O'Nolan, alias Flann O'Brien, alias Myles na gCopaleen, wrote in his native language. Why only one, and this in particular? The answer may lie in the identity of the persona to whom the narrative was entrusted, Myles na gCopaleen... On his first day at school, Bonaparte O'Coonassa is asked to repeat his name for the roll-call. The litany which follows is a long-winded tribute to ten generations of noble aspiration, which have resulted in a total erosion of Gaelic identity:Bonus track: Fairport Convention: Jams O'Donnell's Jig
Bonapairt Michaelangelo Pheadair Eoghain Shorcha Thomбis Mhбire Sheбn Shйamais Dhiarmada.. (Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen, son of Thomas's Sarah, grand-daughter of John's Mary, grand-daughter of James, son of Dermot...). At this point, the hopeful litany is cruelly interrupted by a blow from the English-speaking master and the terse announcement in a foreign language that "Yer name is Jams O'Donnell", a sentence which is uttered to every single child in Corcha Dorcha on arrival at school.
Mari Boine: Elle
As Francis says, we will raise a toast to Shaun in a couple of weeks. I will also, in coming weeks, post some of my favourite Poor Mouth posts.