Here’s how I first met Loopy Lew.
Late at night and somewhere not quite close enough to King’s Cross it was already light in that weak, wet sort of way that doesn’t have enough people up yet to make it any brighter. And heading home from the Angel we’re taking the canal. We can sort of see the station but mostly we can see bloody great gas towers. There’s only one of those now (I heard the other day) and like the only person to enter an unlikely beauty contest they’re having to make out how wonderful it is. But then and they’re everywhere these gas towers. Great pods from Mars ready to unscrew and bring about heat rays and the red weed. Only it’s so early on a Sunday morning the invaders aren’t up, only us.
Lew was sat on the bank of the canal, fishing. At least he held a piece of string and the other end was in the water so it was either that or his dog was dead, drowned and sinking. Three of us I think and all going back to mine and Moz’s, at Borehamwood, because after the clubs going somewhere other than home meant the party hadn’t finished. Or bringing people back, four to each two-seater sofa, likewise. We’d all gone through tired and were in that pleasant, slightly distant weariness only good for tea, company or long, lazy sex. The last had no place in King’s Cross as far as my experiences went and so we plumbed for the closest of what remained and sat down too, and that was how I met Loopy Lew.
We called him Loopy. It might have been Andy, or Gary, or Moz, or Tracey, or B, or Chaz, or Osc, or who knows – someone who was there, who did, and because he had on a PWEI t-shirt, that above. See? Witty. As things went he came back with us and vanished that afternoon convinced he was in Peckham.
I last saw Loopy Lew yesterday because Loopy Lew died a week ago. His wife called me, to tell me. To tell me that ‘Graham’ had died. It took some time and most of it embarrassed for me to work out she had meant Loopy. She was working her way down his phone book, he still had a little book for that – like me – and my number was there and she was calling in case. The name is not so strange I should say. An awful lot of people back then were called other than that given. Names were often given. My favourites were two girls, Tizer and Xerox. I can’t recall their actual names. It’s probably the case that I never knew them.
With this in mind then, a funeral. It occurred to me on the way that though my number is the same in Tolly Maw as it was in the Lakes, it’s not the same as it was a handful of addresses before that. I hadn’t spoken to Loopy Lew in ten years, so Croydon. Odd, true, but there are odder things. For example and there’s this, at this funeral there were about twenty of us and every single one of us knew Loopy Lew by a different name. And not just names, but person. And each utterly different. I knew a greebo called Loopy Lew. I shared a table and pint afterwards with a former girlfriend of his from Hove, who had come to see off Benny Jacobs, whom she had dated to start with to annoy her catholic parents. She had still been surprised despite our confused conversation that the funeral was not more Jewish, as he had been, though uncircumcised.
I heard about Dirty Dan who had been a roadie that only passed through Bedford occasionally. Of aggressive ‘Prince’ Albert whose boyfriend had always known he was in denial but had not known how much. Two men there had come to bury the son they had never known had been given up for adoption by one-night stands in the early 70s. There was an uncomfortable little man that had left very early but whom the girl with a thing for bands reckoned had been from some local hard right, or left, group – she couldn’t be sure. There was a younger man that had shared a flat with Des The Les in Leicester, where they had both gone to Uni there and who knew absolutely that Des had been a woman, or still was, or at least had worn a plastic willy. More and indeed everyone then but no one person the same even to his wife who had met him in America where they had been married although it seemed now, not legally.
She looked but found only the address book and a bank account at the then Abbey, in the name of Simon Hatcher – and thought she had tracked down her man, only Simon Hatcher was there too to see off a friend he had not seen for years as well. The building society account moved by address, over time, and kept topped up had somehow escaped everyone’s notice. The wife had the rent, the bills and the dog in her name.
Loopy Lew just wandered I think. He would go where he found himself, and being (to be fair) a friendly and agreeable fellow make friends and half the time let them make up his life.
He was cremated. The gravestone would either have been blank or crowded otherwise. But I disagree that we do not know who he was. He was everyone it seemed, and everyone died last week.