It’s a year today since Bob died but instead of the grief shit stuff I shared in my previous post I thought I’d share something about him, the man he was. I started writing and then thought I’ve done this before so, here is my speech from his funeral…kinda says it all really!
Bob and I went to a funeral a few weeks ago and the relatives spoke at it. He insisted he wouldn’t want us to be put through this at his. On the other hand, he also hated funerals where someone who didn’t know the person spoke about them…so here I am, and I’m sorry but you can’t have it both ways Barnsey!!
Actually, I’m not unaccustomed to public speaking. I kind of do this for a living….not speaking at funerals that would be a weird (no offence Kim!!) Usually though I speak about Guy and our life with him and Tilly and Ollie. This one will go down as the toughest gig I’ve had and a speech I never wanted to make, but I’m going to do it anyway.
We’re doing this in a pretty unconventional way but then we always have been a bit unconventional. Bob and I lived together for 20 years and had three kids before we got married almost 10 years ago. We didn’t tell people we’d got married until they turned up at my 40th Birthday party. It was a fabulous day but we realised later that we missed out on a few things…. presents, the hen and stag do’s etc…. and we also missed a few special friends who missed it because they had other events planned but would have come to our wedding had they known.
When we were planning today Ollie and I spoke to the celebrant, Kim and she asked us to tell her about Bob…..my first response was, were do you bloody start? How do you even begin to describe him to someone who has never met him? And how do you get the right picture?
You all know him so I’m not going to do that now. I’m not going to get sentimental either because I need to keep it together!
Some common themes have emerged to describe him over the last two weeks though. The word ‘legend’ has been used more than once… “legend in his own lunchtime” is what he would have said! ‘A big character’, ‘a one off’, ‘a big heart’, incredibly funny, charming and charismatic. Someone with integrity, honesty and a loyal friend…I could go on….basically people have referred to him as ‘one of the good guys!’
In one email an old friend said “if Bob was at a party, you wanted to be there”
Some people here will know him as Barnsey, others Bob, when we moved here he also became Bobby! The local butchers call him “Banter Bob” To a couple of local children he was “the cheeky man” and in recent years I referred to him as Victor / Del Boy!!
He could be a grumpy old bastard! And I’d put that down to getting older and becoming a grumpy old man like many men of a certain age… but when the girls were looking through some old photos last week I found a diary of mine from 1984. It was the time Bob asked me to move in with him and our friend Dave, to save me paying out for a bedsit. The entry read… “Bob wants me to move in with him…I don’t know, he’s so moody and unreliable”.
He was Victor /Delboy because although he complained about the little stuff he was ever the optimist, always sure that something good, that big break was round the corner and I loved seeing that twinkle in his eye appear again recently as he started managing bands again.
Whatever you called him and however you knew him you all knew the same man. Bob had no falseness about him. If he liked you, he liked you and he didn’t care who you were, what you did…. but just so you know…. the ruder he was to you the more he probably liked you, especially if you were female!! If he said something nice to me I waited for the insult or rude comment afterwards if he’d stopped doing that I would have been very suspicious.
Obviously for me and the kids we had a different relationship. He drove me up the wall at times but if I’m being honest I invariably laughed all the way down the other side. And every day I’d say those little words to him….”For God’s sake Bob!!”
He never left the house without returning at least once because he’d forgotten something. He lost his car keys, his phone and glasses on a daily basis. He had a special array of glasses, none of which had come from an optician and most of which had been found, discarded or pinched from various places.
When he returned home it was invariably with a story or rant about some jobs worth who had pissed him off.
While all of us will miss him dearly there will no doubt be a few people who will glad to see the back of him….a few shop assistants in Thame, the Bin men and the blokes at the local dump to name but a few.
Bob wanted to be cremated in a black bin bag at the end of the garden…obviously we couldn’t do that…but we did think that putting his body in the wrong bin at the recycling plant would be a fitting thing to do…just to piss off them off one last time….we think he’d approve!!
Some of you will know the story of the Bins and the row with the council but I’m going to tell it anyway.
A year or so ago Bob was having a row with the bin men for leaving the dustbin in the middle of the pavement, stopping people getting past or in the middle of the driveway, stopping him getting out in the car.
He complained directly to the bin men with the result that the following week everyone’s bins were emptied except ours. This made him even more annoyed so the next time he took a photo of the offending bin and emailed the council. Being technically challenged he failed to attach the first photo so I showed him how to download and attach. The emailed stated.
“Please find photo taken after collection this morning, not as bad as my original complaint but still an inconvenience to those trying to go down the path”…
Unfortunately he attached the wrong picture and sent one of me instead!
I have hundreds of stories like this…
The time he climbed over the wall of Kew Gardens only to be arrested by the gardens police…. because somebody dared him. The time he streaked across the local recreation ground, at a friend’s wedding reception… keeping his socks on of course in case he stood on some dogs mess …because somebody dared him. The time he mooned on the local bus shelter on NYE because somebody dared him…Basically any chance to get his kit off he was there. Then there was the river boat parties on the Thames where someone dared him to see if he could get onto the passing boat, full of women on a hen night. I heard someone say “some blokes tried to get on the other boat” and without hesitation I said to my sister… “yep, that’ll be Bob”. The man was a bloody nightmare but he was ever the big kid and never really did grow up!
When I first met him I was 18, working as a nanny on Kew green and we met in the Greyhound pub. I’ve been looking at some old pictures of him, during and before my time with him…he was a good looking fella wasn’t he?…who knew?
I never actually fancied him to begin with personally. It was his sense of humour I first fell in love with. I’d see him in the pub always laughing and joking and he had some really beautiful girlfriends I couldn’t help thinking what do they see in him and it intrigued me! Of course it didn’t take long for me to find out.
He was a major flirt and after I started seeing him I was convinced he’d go off with someone younger…asking girls at parties “who the hell cut your hair” was a common occurrence, they’d think he was a hairdresser and it got them talking… and even in recent years I always knew when he was speaking to a woman on the phone.
The first time he took me out for dinner was in Kew. We went to a Greek restaurant on the green. He ordered sambucas and proceeded to show me how to drink them (I was only 19 and hadn’t had the drink before) he blew out the flame and rubbed an ice cube round the rim then knocked it back….only he hadn’t cooled it down properly so burnt his lip, singed his beard, spilled his drink, knocked mine over and set fire to the tablecloth….I just laughed so much and thought, he’s good fun, I think I’ll go out with him again.
He was not settling down type at that time and I’m sure, given the age gap, there were plenty of people who didn’t think we’d last. But 5 years later we had Tilly, Bob panicked of course when I told him I was pregnant telling me he was too young to be a Dad, he was 38 and I was 24.
He didn’t want to be at the birth because he said he didn’t want to see me in pain and not be able to do anything about, but he stayed with me anyway. He joked with the midwives, tried to get some pethadine for himself to get through it and he asked for the cricket to be put on the monitor.
He also said the two things he was frightened of was children and people with learning disabilities. Two years later we had Guy so he always joked he got both. He was great on all counts, he couldn’t have been a better Dad and has been my rock through many difficult times. Two years later again we had Ollie, our mini Bob…. and our family was complete.
Being a seasoned dad by this time he always jokes about the fact he caught her in the slips, a cricketing term some of you will probably understand.
Kim also asked me what would have been the thing he was most proud of in his life and without doubt it’s his kids and the wonderful young people they have all become. I know he’s proud of me too because he told me often. He was always encouraging, always behind me saying “go for it mate” whatever I was doing
I’m going to stop now. All I can say is…How bloody lucky was I. I’ve shared all of my adult life with my best friend, Bob Barnes… I have millions of memories of our life together and I wonder how many people can honestly say that life was never dull, never boring!
The girls reminded me of a saying he always used. When we left anywhere, a party, the pub, a friend’s house for dinner and he’d enjoyed it, had a great time, he’d say “thanks it’s been average” if he’d had a crap time, he’d be polite and just say thanks.
So thanks mate…It’s been average!