a moment’s silence for chad martel

October 1, 2012 at 7:51 am | Posted in not bloody music | 4 Comments
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My friend has died.

Charles Martel, universally known as Chad, was diagnosed with lung cancer last year.  Almost as soon as he reached the ‘there’s-nothing-more-we-can-do-for-you’ stage the illness took a sudden and aggressive turn and that was the end.  He leaves a wonderful wife Linz and two beautiful children Joe and Frances.  Some of you will have met him, or seen him sat at the back at gigs.  Recently he took to throwing a few quid into the no-audience underground economy so some of you may also have sent him music.  My friendship with him was one of the key relationships in my life and has, in many significant ways, helped define who I am.  I’m having trouble processing the brutal fact that he is gone.

The funeral was last Friday at the chapel in the beautiful cemetery in York, his home town.  We were very nearly late due to roads into York being flooded.  We drove past newly formed lakes with goalposts or pay-and-display machines poking out of them, which added a further layer of unreality to the anticipation.

After an initial swell of sadness so overwhelming as to be panic-inducing, I settled down and the event proved to be a terrific, celebratory occasion with speeches from those who knew him best and songs by Napalm Death, Jesus & Mary Chain, 13th Floor Elevators and The Fall amongst others.  Chad had left instructions and Linz had made an heroic effort to make sure all was as he wanted.  ‘Eaves’ by midwich was used as background music in the chapel as people arrived, which I consider my greatest honour in all my years of doing this.  Linz asked me to be a pallbearer and to give one of the eulogies, both duties thankfully new to me.  As I stood to speak it felt like the air was crackling and fizzing around me.  I was unable to stand still, blood roaring in my ears.  This is what I said:

Chad and I got to know each other as teenagers and, along with Tim who is also here today, were best friends at the time.  We bonded over a mutual love of alternative music, cult literature and contemporary art but mainly we just enjoyed being off our heads in each other’s company.  We barricaded ourselves in my room, testing the patience of my long suffering parents, and thought we were oh so transgressive and revolutionary, not realising, of course, that we were treading a path already well-worn by generations of teenagers.

At the time, though, we did get up to some noteworthy mischief and remembering those stories has made me smile quite a bit over this grim week.  But I’m not going to tell tales here – sadly, this is not a best man’s speech.  Suffice to say, and with belated apologies to Chad’s mum, that if you thought we were up to something back then, then, yes, we probably were…

We remained close throughout our adult lives.  Chad was, as everyone here knows, an easy guy to be friends with.  Though we didn’t always agree, we never fell out or argued.  He was knowledgeable and definite in his opinions but not dogmatic – he always gave the impression that he had properly thought things through which is a trait encountered so rarely it feels almost unique.  Whenever we saw each other, even after lengthy periods of little contact, we fell into step instantly.  A gap of months would disappear and instead feel like I’d just come back from the bar with the next round.  It was a natural and treasured friendship.

I’ve no idea how much Chad knew of this, but throughout our lives he was a role model to me, increasingly so as we got older.  I saw a kind and gentle man living a quietly principled life and managing to not go mad in the attempt – I looked on in envy.  I saw him make a noble and successful attempt to embrace what being a proper adult entails whilst never losing his childlike enthusiasm for daftness and novelty.  Chad’s marriage with Linz, herself a remarkable woman just as worthy of these speeches as her husband, is a model lesson in how two people can deal with the practicalities of remaining grounded in everyday life, whilst never forgetting the love that transcends it.

If I’d not known Chad my life would have been very different and very much the worse.  I love him and I will miss him.

…and now, after a moment of reflection, I’d like you all to turn up the volume on whatever you are doing as high as it will go.  Let’s tear the fucking roof off in his honour.

EDIT: Baz Buchanan, great guy and close friend of Chad’s for 20 years, also gave a lovely eulogy at the service.  It was moving, affectionate and funny and I’m delighted that he has sent a copy of it to me and allowed me to post it here with mine.  The full text is in the comments section.

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  1. Thanks to everyone who sent Chad cds, tapes and notes in the last few months: they cheered him up no end. I’m less grateful for the endless requests to “play some of Dad’s scary music”…..

  2. very moving Rob,i know i have not been in touch with Chad for many years, but i have many fond memories of old littlehamptom gigs parties spent with him,he was a top man, i had couple of beers in his memory on friday

  3. Baz’s eulogy:

    I knew Chad for the best part of 20 years, he was my closest friend and he is irreplaceable.

    We met one summer in Guernsey. I had travelled there for a holiday and to meet friends who were working. Upon arrival, and being somewhat the daft teen I was, I attempted to hammer tent pegs into the ground using a can of shaving foam – needless to say, this did not end well. Chad told me years later his first image of me was one of me running around the campsite screaming with a trail of shaving foam behind me. After he had recovered from rolling around the floor laughing his head off, he kindly lent me a hammer and a lifelong friendship was born.

    During the following years, which for me were chaotic, Chad was a calming influence – acquaintances came and went but his was the friendship which endured. When things were tough, he would always be there with a cuppa, spliff, kind words and wise counsel. Over time we shared many experiences and he became like a brother to me. In recent years we would often catch up over a few beers, exchange book recommendations, and put the world to rights.

    We all have our memories of Chad, these are a few of mine:

    • A 40th birthday stoned birthday bike ride with the bats flying in our wake during dusk and later on being a little worse for wear he insisted I leave him asleep at the allotment (sorry Linz!).
    • Camping trips in the lake district – one time taking a couple of hours to hike up Coniston Old Man, and when nearly at the summit feeling rather smug, watch in astonishment and shock as a fell runner descended by the same route in about five minutes down the adjacent scree.
    • Showing me the allotment when he first took it on and it looked like it a spade hadn’t been turned over in it for about 20 years. The fun times we had with the initial clearing and digging and the subsequent years watching it grow and become productive.
    • Marching to stop the war, save the planet, and to make poverty history.
    • A cold winter Saturday morning giving away free coffee outside Starbucks for Buy Nothing Day, I remember Chad cheekily nicked some sugar from Starbucks when we had run out! Later in the day running up and down the escalators in Marks and Spencer with a protest banner with shop security in pursuit.
    • Going to great gigs – and terrible ones too! Chips and coke sat on the swings in Scarcroft Park on the way home.
    • Holding the rear end of critical mass cycling rides, chatting whilst angry motorists blared their horns at us.
    • Turning up at the bonding warehouse squat party with smelly cheese and berating someone for selling cans of beer and, these are his words not mine ‘polluting an anarchistic, autonomous space’ (I never admitted to him that I bought a couple of tinnies from the offender later on).

    Chad was a hater of cliché, so I hope he will forgive me this last indulgence when I finish his eulogy with an anonymously penned poem:

    Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
    Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?
    These are the units to measure the worth
    Of a man as a man, regardless of his birth.
    Nor what was his church, nor what was his creed?
    But had he befriended those really in need?
    Was he ever ready, with words of good cheer,
    To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
    Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,
    But how many were sorry when he passed away?

  4. Many thanks to those who have commented and emailed me. Your kind words have been much appreciated. With love to you all, Rob H x


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