Monsieur Salut mourns the passing of a much-loved friend, former colleague and occasional occupant of Sunderland away ends …
It has been a rotten time as far as bereavement is concerned. My next door neighbour in France, seemingly fit as a fiddle when he came round for drinks nine months ago, fell ill soon after I returned to the UK and died a couple of weeks ago.
Vin Garbutt, one of my favourite folk singers (he was much more than that: a great wit, writer and man) died earlier this month.
And all of us, all of us who are civilised I mean, grieve for those who perish in such appalling disasters as the Grenfell Tower fire or are killed by terrorist toerags (except when they manage to kill only themselves or be killed, as in Paris and Brussels this week).
And now, my own former colleague and friend Graham Noble has passed away.
If I am writing about Graham here, it is because he was, or became, a Sunderland supporter for the perfectly good reason that his wife, Frances, was one. He would, with great understanding but perhaps without the same passion, accompany her to assorted away ends. He recognised the folly of supporting Sunderland and reminded me of it often enough.
We worked together for many years and supped together in the pub. He was a terrific, decent, funny man – the surname suited him like a glove – who deserved a longer retirement than heart disease allowed.
Let me remind you of an anecdote that has appeared here at least once:
… my friend Graham attended the 5-0 humiliation at Ipswich under Peter Reid in 2001 (they ended up going down; we survived for another season).
Graham, not one of life’s natural football supporters but dragged along to the odd game by his SAFC-supporting partner, absent-mindedly applauded as the teams left the field at the interval. It was almost as if he was at the theatre.
Unfortunately, we were already four down.
‘Applaud! Yer f****** applauding, yer stupid f****** twat?’ a man nearby burst out. ‘Aah’ve paid half a week’s f****** wages gannin’ doon heeyah to see that heap of f****** sh*** and youse f****** applauding the c****!’
Many or even most of us would probably own up to the occasional expletive aimed at refs or players.
But the asterisk-laden quote above, reproduced from memory of Graham’s description, probably does no justice to the true nature and content of the poor man’s rant. Good job things perked up on the field; we only lost the second half 1-0.
Graham died yesterday, “following complications from his long-awaited heart surgery”. I have no idea whether he might have been saved had the surgery been carried out sooner. I do know Graham was effusive in his praise of the NHS staff who had looked after him, initially – after a heart attack earlier this year – at the Royal Free in London.
He wrote this in February: “The care I received was exceptional.
“With my books and little radio and the general bustle of the hospital and a long line of visitors, the time never palled.
“There was only one irritant: a fat voluble cockney coach driver with a tendency to say “Lovely jubbly” and robust views that he was happy to share with me. They naturally included the opinion that far too many people were coming into this country. Whether he included the 80 per cent of staff at the Royal Free from the West Indies, the Philippines, Macedonia, Italy, France and many other countries striving to save his miserable f***ing life, I don’t know.”
I think that last paragraph sums up my friend better than anything. I am devastated by news of his death and will miss him enormously. RIP Graham and deep sympathy to Frances and other kin.