Quite a few years ago my stepmother introduced me to one of her friends, his name was Bill and he was a retired schoolteacher from Lancashire, his wife was Jean and they lived in Norfolk; he was well into his 80’s. He’d taught French.
Bill and I hit it off immediately to an unbelievable degree, he in a tiny village in Norfolk and me in northern California, we began an email exchange that involved daily emails frequently, nay, always, running to several pages dealing primarily with gardening, the arts, politics, TV, books, travel and life in general: we became like brothers, we were ‘best friends’. He was the best friend I ever had.
One day Bill revealed to me that he had loved jazz as a young man but that his wife absolutely hated it and wouldn’t allow it in the house. Jazz had been my main source of musical enjoyment for most of my life. Bill was extremely competent with the PC computer system, I was a Mac owner. I suggested that I could send him a selection of jazz that he could enjoy on headphones that wouldn’t bother Jean, he thought that was a good idea. So I created the enclosed playlist and emailed it to him, he responded how much he enjoyed it. It was all new stuff to him but he was so open minded that he played it regularly whenever he was on his computer. He also regularly visited the Spill and shared his comments and opinions with me.
This went on for quite a while until one evening he told Jean that he wasn’t feeling too good so he’d go to bed early. A minute after he’d reached the top of the stairs she heard a loud bang, she raced upstairs and found Bill collapsed on the bathroom floor, she called emergency but he died en-route to the hospital. It was an aortic aneurysm which is a bursting of the main artery which runs down the back.
Two items have brought this to mind just now, one, I just came a copy of the CD that I’d made for Bill, the other is that he told me about his experiences in WW2, he was in the army signal corps, he was involved with D Day and the advance to Berlin. He was a wireless operator and drove a truck with several mates, they’d set up a temporary radio station with a tower antennae wherever the action was; he did this all the way to Berlin. He was also in the courtroom at Nuremburg throughout the trials there, he was the one responsible for transmitting the trials back to England.
Bill was a fabulous gardener, he was a lifetime member of the Royal Horticultural Society, he knew everything about everything agricultural, He lived in an 18th century cottage and at the time of his death he was involved in totally insulating the interior and researching photo voltaic panels for his roof.I’ve just watched a series on Netflix titled ‘Five came back’, it relates to five Hollywood directors who were involved in documenting the war, if you’re curious check Wiki at : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Came_Back. A quite amazing series that is composed of footage, most of which I haven’t seen since WW2. If you can’t deal with it all try and see episode 3, it deals with D Day, the advance to Berlin and the aftermath of the war. That’s what triggered my memories of my friend Bill.
His wife Jean sent me a copy of the program from his funeral, I was touched to see that she had come across this playlist on his computer and included it to be played during the preliminary stages of the funeral ceremony.
Here’s his playlist.
Body & Soul – Art Pepper
Round Midnight – Art Pepper
Cherokee – Marcus Roberts
Ashkabad – Anouar Brahem
Blues in Thirds – Bechet
God bless the child – Billie Holiday
Splanky – Basie
Lil Darling – Basie
Summit Ridge Drive – Artie Shaw
Jeep’s Blues – Ellington
Night Rider – Stan Getz
Every Time we say Goodbye – Charlie Haden
Davenport Blues – Ry Cooder
K.C. Blues – Charlie Parker
Jam Blues – Lionel Hampton [exerpt]
Margie – Dave McKenna
A foggy day – Benny Carter/Oscar Peterson
Parker’s Mood – Charlie Parker
I’ll see you in my dreams- Dick Hyman
I’m Glad There Is You