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Upton. A friendship  






 Richard Kessling



There are those whose friendship is so integral to one’s life, that only their death reveals its depth.


Lawrence and I knew each other while at school, but it was the funeral of a mutual chum that brought us together. Poetry, ethics, philosophy, all things raging, budding-adult, and beer, drew us closer. I learned of his early childhood in Battersea and the straitened circumstances, dragged into middling class home ownership by the seemingly ceaseless labour of his mechanically minded father: mostly he worked seven days a week. I believe Lawrence’s mother worked but I cannot recall it being spoken of; she was always home when I called. She was indulgent and interested in Lawrence’s works, which were a mystery to his father, and both his parents seemed content to have Lawrence set up his roneo, letterpress and photocopier, taking over the best room in the house: but then, neatness was never a byword there, just a warm welcome.


Once a car came into my life, Lawrence’s desire to go a long way dovetailed nicely into my desire and ability to drive fast. Lawrence always navigated, pushing at the boundaries of what was possible, and we would end up, having dossed down in the car, in the wee hours, in some peculiar and occasionally prohibited place such as MOD grounds on Salisbury Plain, nestled up by Sellafield and so forth. We came neither to be arrested nor otherwise harmed; those were charmed times. A particularly memorable time was wakening, to the sound of some chanting, in some verdant copse in a deep valley somewhere in central Wales. Stirring each other out of cramped cold limbs, the predawn lit an adjacent clearing where people dressed in white robes held seemingly secret ceremony, far from prying eyes. Our car was painted matt black and was only noticed when we switched on and shot through; uncommonly trepidacious. 


It never occurred to me that I might have been being led astray by Lawrence, but I now imagine him demanding that I was one of his missions, perhaps more certainly, one of his projects.


Our mutual interest in ancient monuments took us the length and breadth, more often to the South West than the North. Some trips were “business”; poetry book/pamphlet selling, distributing and poetry reading. All the time Lawrence would tell me stuff, what project he was working on, what he was studying and of course politics, linguistics, history and so forth and where all that might have come from. Once juggling Leibnitz and Turing, led to my asking: ‘How is it that you got interested in computing, Lawrence?’ ‘Oh, it’s just another language’, he replied: along with Swedish, Polish and Greek that I knew of (my Latin was better than his, though perhaps I flatter myself).


I feel I might say that when we were young men, I was astonished by his ability (to use the vernacular of those 1960’s times) to “pull birds”. Of course he did not “pull”, for he did love women. On this topic, and for those who knew Lawrence, he was, and I feel unsurprisingly, in love and loving the woman of his longest relationship: he was devastated by its ending, mostly the manner of it, of course.


The care we took for each other was undiminished by my putting down roots in Australia, frequent and sometimes fulsome missives were exchanged: e.g. close typed ten foolscap pages, and then came www.


Lawrence was fiercely non-discriminatory, accepting that all people are effectively, genetically as one. He found discrimination based on pigmentation, creed, politics or whatever, to be anathema. He mellowed, in recent years, to regret some or other vehement expression, carrying the burden of having failed to engage in dialogue and counsel.


His dedication to his art and his craft was paramount, as it is for all whose work is such. My not being an artist of any kind, I can only say that I struggle to grasp the depth of such commitment. I feel feeble to the power of those who push the boundaries of their art so far as to sorely try the comprehension of their peers.


So it goes.




copyright © Richard Kessling