From the Ready to Go site, familiar territory to most Sunderland fans, comes two pieces of unrelated news.
The first is that the SMB (Sunderland Message Board) and Speakeasy Chatroom, sources of good lively debate but also outbursts of offensive drivel, have been shut down.
The explanatory message read simply: “Closed due to libellous posts. Hopefully back later but don’t hold your breath.”
The people responsible for depriving hundreds if not thousands of SAFC supporters of access to these forums know who they are, and how they forced the hands of Roger and his colleagues at RTG. The sheer effort put into running the site deserved better**.
But the other piece of news put the first (a minor inconvenience when all is said and done) in the shade. Hazey, well known to RTG subscribers as the man behind the spectacularly misnamed Dull Ramblings blog, had lost his spirited but unevenly matched battle with cancer.
Hazey – Graeme, from the North East but living in Kent – had charted his life and descent towards death with disarming honesty and gritty humour. He swore a lot more than suits some of us, but then he had a lot more cause than most to do so.
When first confronted with life-threatening disease, he vowed that there would be a fight. And it was clear from his regular postings that one hell of a fight was waged. That shone through his writings, from short, pithy descriptions of the reality of a nasty illness to uplifting news of plans for a book to be called, as he had named the disease, My Dark Friend.
But on Boxing Day, only 30 years old, he wrote on his blog:
christ, im going downhill fast, I really am. I’m loathe to admit it but I’m failing. I have no energy, I cant get out without becoming knackered within 200 yards. It’s sad but it’s the truth. It’s great seeing my mam and dad but I think its a shock to them how weak I really am, so weak. These limbs once so lively, this heart once so vibrant, my dark friend is squeezing the life out of me, slowly but surely, the pace quickens, the days darken but I still see the light, I dont fear the end, I shall be released from all my burden. and how heavy this load is that no one can share, I plough this road alone.
These were not his last words. On Jan 3, amid appalling suffering, he reported the full, brutish detail of what he knew to be his dying days.
And three days later, this message appeared, from his wife and sister:
This is Liz and Mel. How do you put this into words? other than we want to let you know that Graeme (Hazey as you know him) died at 4a.m. this morning. This blog and board have meant more to him than words can say and we know he would have wanted all of you to get the news as soon as possible. Right up to a few hours before his death he asked us to check the board for new messages from you guys. So many of you have said he was inspirational. This gave him great comfort and made him realise what a wonderful person he was. We are going to start a thread on the board for you to leave messages for him. And in a few weeks time we are planning a memorial nights in both the South and in the North East. We’d very much like as many of you (his virtual friends) to come along and celebrate his life with us.
Thank you for everything. Keep checking his blog as we would all like to tell you more and expand on this message.
I did not know Graeme, and knew little of or about him until recently. Having dipped into those far from dull ramblings, and read more than a few of the responses his words prompted, I have a feeling the world is tonight in a poorer state without him. RIP.
* With thanks to Tom Paxton, unwitting provider of a fitting headline
** Ready to Go’s forums have now returned, with appropriate warnings about the future conduct of subscribers but also with lots of poignant, respectful, heart-warming messages about Hazey at this and other threads.