We had known Fred as someone we had seen around and noticed for about the past four years, but only got to know his name in the autumn of 2010. He was a local character, distinctive in his flowing white hair and slightly unkempt appearance. We would see him in the local pubs, from Hanley to Crewe, usually with his drinking companions Stan and Billy; the three of them making up a kind of drinking equivalent of ‘The Three Musketeers’. Sometimes we would see him alone, sitting at Newcastle Bus station, smoking reflectively, or outside the Wheatsheaf in Stoke as the bus passed taking us back to Keele from Stoke station or Hanley. When we encountered him in person, he seemed to be a man of few words, but we always got an acknowledgement from him.
And so we come to the last few months. It’s been a busy time, and we haven’t been out and about so much, so when we remarked, about a week ago, that we hadn’t seen Fred, Stan and Billy for several weeks, we put it down to that. Until last night, when we saw Stan in Newcastle, in one of their favourite drinking haunts. We mentioned that we hadn’t seen them for a while, and then Stan told us that Fred had died of a heart attack on April 4th. He had been out the night before, but had looked in a bad way. He passed away that night.
Although we didn’t really know Fred at all, apart from someone to say hello to, we really felt we had lost a friend. He was one of those people whose presence was reassuring in this uncertain world.
So Fred, wherever you are, we hope you are happy and free from pain. Put quite simply, we miss you.