Wednesday 24 September 2008

Duncan Larkin

Duncan died on Sunday. He'd been struggling with complications from the Hodgkin's disease that has been a part of his life for some years now; on Sunday, his heart failed while he was in hospital.

We shared a flat and friends and lives in Portsmouth long ago in our student and post-student days. I remember the Christmas Day when we were broke and had nothing to eat but pasta. Still, we had each other's company. Sometimes we went adventuring together. I remember a beautiful autumn day in a Kent orchard, the year when we 'did' the hops and apples, I was up at the top of an apple tree, admiring the vapour trails in the cloudless sky and the little grooves that earwigs make in the top of apples; from the adjacent tree, Duncan was singing "Johnny and Mary" in that slightly mournful, breathy way he had while singing. And walking the Welsh Marches and camping out on a hill looking over to the Skirrid. Oh, lots of things, and writing them down flags to you the moments I describe, but doesn't communicate that special thing about them that triggers such strong memories now. You had to be there, of course. Happily for me, I was.

Duncan lived and worked around Europe, I went off to sea. We lost and regained contact. We used to bat e-mails at each other in the early morning while I sat at my desk doing my drawings and he in turn sat at his desk, broadcasting to the Austrian nation.

He worked hard at understanding my change, despite his own preoccupations. Here is what he wrote to me three years ago, which is as much about Duncan as it is about me:

I used to think of you as rather the epitome of manhood at the tender age of 19 ish when we met. I never thought of you as macho, or mean, or pigheaded or selfish or an of the other characteristics oft associated with being a man, and heaven knows I'm laden enough with those, but, I really thought of you being how man should be, how I wanted to be. And how that?
Well, you were enterprising, inquisitive, knowledgeable yet modest in any ignorance...of which there seldom seemed to be much. You knew something about everything. I really wanted to be like you then. I hated the posing overbearingness of men, who always seemed locked into a perpetual oneupmanship. So senseless. It all seemed unnecessary to you and I liked that. It never once occurred to me that you were feeling like a woman inside, you realise that? I thought your abstractedness was a result of growing up literally apart from the rest of society. Not like me, stuck in Romford, Essex and then Maidenhead, on the very skirts of the seething city.
I guess I am working up to the plea of "Are you sure?"
I learnt from you and a couple of other lovely people since that it is really ok to be in touch with one's femininity. the feminine side, as the media seems to have rather trivialised lately and be flambuoyantly girly at times. Oh yes, i have enjoyed my prima donna moments at times. so, good old friend...i hope not to piss you off, but maybe am one of the only ones who is brave enought o ask you, are you sure the operation is going to make a woman of you? Do you really want to be a woman, is not possible that you could just be a person and not genderspecific├č gosh i have done`something to my keyboard and it is not working properly...
have to stay i cap lock for some reason.

oh, well, i guess you have been living as a woman for three years and obviously seem to be "enjoying" it as far as i can tell...maybe it is just what you need..i really hope so old lass...just worrying sorry,

as for me, my blood is starting to fall according to this mornings test, but no worries, and the whole thing goes ahead next thurs as planned.

absolutely no voice left, as the cortizone really hit my vocal chords and the slight cough is worsened by the chemo..generally weakening, tiredness, and a bit fed you may be able to tell..ggg ..

enjoy the bike making!



He came over to visit this summer, with Sonja, his partner. I enjoyed showing them around my little world, and seeing them being so good together, though Duncan was really unwell and it was hard work for both of them. I looked forward to seeing them again in Vienna.

Sonja called on Sunday with the news.

This is clumsy. Maybe the best goodbyes are said silently. Maybe there's no such thing as a best goodbye.

Here he is at the other end of the music process for a change


  1. I think what you wrote was a good tribute. I'm sorry you've had such sad news.

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your loss. He was clearly a good and understanding friend.

  3. I'm sorry to hear this, and I think your feelings come through loud and clear. Best wishes, Dru.

  4. RIP to Duncan. A good friend obviously, and heaven knows we all need them in our lives and miss them when they go. What you wrote wasn't clumsy, it was poetic. Perhaps there are no best goodbyes, but there are authentic, loving, appropriate ones and your words certainly have those qualities.

    Do you think he's read them?

  5. No, that wasn't clumsy. That was beautiful.

    Sorry for your loss, losing a friend is a sad thing.

  6. I'm sorry to hear of your friend's death, Dru.

    Your tribute to him was very moving.

  7. just read your tribute to dunc,glad u 2 kept in contact,and u had a oppotunity to see him in real time. you 2 had a special friendship and I understand ur loss. keep being u xx

  8. Thanks, Phil. How are you, by the way?