Ian lived most of his adult life either at sea or in Florida, so we didn’t see a great deal of him. But we knew he was always back in the UK for the Cheltenham Festival, where he contributed in no small measure to the continuing profitability of assorted bookmakers and licensees in the locality. He also, as I discovered when talking to his friends, contributed immeasurably to the happiness and joy of his fellow race-goers and dinner companions.
He was a good man. I loved him. It was profoundly sad to watch the pancreatic cancer take hold and diminish him physically but never mentally. He fought hard and uncomplainingly but even Ian couldn't resist the inexorable destructive power of the cancer.
To accompany the scattering, we had a simple service. A priest of the Anglican persuasion held it together with the familiar incantations – dust to dust, ashes to ashes – before Nick, a friend also called Ian and I each said a few words.
My words were not mine. They were those of Constantine Cavafy, a poem called Ithaka, the cadences and content of which seemed to me appropriate for a seafaring man who reached his destination too soon. Here it is:
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind--
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Today from the everysmith vaults: I was in front of my computer at 1am for the live stream of the first of the Chicago Fare Thee Well shows by those members of the Dead who aren't dead. Well worth the sleep deficit, especially the second set and especially Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's. And the encore was Ripple:
You who choose to lead must follow,
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.