This is my late friend Gordon when we were walking the Red Stripe. I went to his wake just the other day and just before I set off I found this image of him taken in the 70s. It’s taken from a 35mm slide found in the corner with a load of other unrelated pictures. I suspect this was taken just before his feet got too blistered to carry on, which in the circumstances was not really surprising as the rucksack in the foreground was what I was carrying and the one next to him was his load.
In true Gordon tradition, as the erstwhile King of Sheddism, his wake was in the pub near to where he lived with his family. I’m told that he had his own seat in the place. Known locally as the Low House it was a throwback to what pubs are really like, but with some improvement on the food, no sight here of the pickled eggs of the 70s, or the plastic pork pie covers with internal resident fly. Located in a little village in the middle of Suffolk in a landscape as flat as a pancake one of our mutual friends mused: ” Why do they call it the Low House”? It was obvious to the rest of us, “Well it’s about six feet lower than the other pub in the village”. Hardly at the bottom of the hill as they don’t do that sort of thing in this area.
Our mutual friend Richard, a man who made me redundant in the 1970s and who is still a good friends. We drove across country. Me driving and Richard giving me the odd instruction from my phone sat nav as the lady therein seems to be lost for words when the engine starts. We’d worked with Gordon in those pre -redundancy days, he wrote the words and we tried to do the pictures. In the main we were involved in trying to get people to apply for work in a range of jobs, from Bus and Train Drivers to headier management posts. Here Gordon spent much of his time persuading clients not to use such phrases as “…the suitable candidate will” and we would often hear him muttering: “what about the ****ing unsuitable candidate for crying out loud?”
During our stay at the pub, some of Gordon’s old school friends gave us all some stories about the man himself and what led him to sheddism. It’s when people you don’t know talk about people you do, that you discover that there was always more to them than meets the eye. This was nowhere truer than with Gordon. As one friend said, although he had this outer rough Yorkshire carapace, he had a very soft centre, bit like a Belgian truffle, I laugh at the comparison as he would be naturally outraged.
My companion on the trip Richard was supposed to give a short address, but was not aware of it, so demurred, but has had time to put his own thoughts on paper and spread the word about one of our closest friends. Here’s what Richard would have said:
“Gordon and I met around 1969 when he arrived at the advertising agency where I worked. We hit it off straight away: two working-class lads who didn’t come from London, both with similarly liberal views, an anarchic sense of fun and a love of the odd pint. The people who come up with the ideas – they’re called creatives these day (he would have winced) – combine writing skills with artistic ones. Gordon and I became one of those teams.
We worked together and socialised together and after my marriage went toxic Gordon invited me to join him in a flat he shared with Jim Hannen (who can’t be with us today, much to his regret) and so we ended up living together as well.
In fact, I am partly responsible for Gordon and Sue moving to East Anglia. The flat also holidayed together and one Easter we laid a map on the table and someone pointed to the Suffolk coast and said, ‘let’s go there instead of the West Country’. And so it was that we descended on a little town called Southwold. Which had its own brewery. Result.
Something that hasn’t been mentioned is Gordon’s love of games. Mainly the sort that his imagination created. This is something I wrote in my autobiography a few years ago. Apologies to all Scots present:
We seem to have worked very hard – I recall lots of praise being heaped upon us – but all I really remember is having a riot of a time. We spent lunchtimes in the pub next to the office, played office cricket with a plastic ruler and a rolled-up ball of paper, made up a complicated game involving rolled-up balls of paper (again) and plastic cups. It was called ‘Sleicht it doon the Glen’ (no idea how to spell it) and had a Scottish flavour and arcane rules; you could score with a ‘Tannockbrae’ and a no-ball was indicated by shouting ‘nae bimble!’ We were tolerated partly because we were ‘creative’ but mainly because we delivered the goods.
Eventually, we both moved on but have always stayed in touch. He will always be over my shoulder checking my grammar. Only last September – the last time I saw him – he tutted about my use of an exclamation mark. And there will always be that explosive snort of laughter. Never to be forgotten”
Richard Shiner, 25th March 2019
This is an image I found taken in the 70s of most of the team who inhabited those offices in London and where the odd game took place. Norman, the man in the middle, was the chief typographer and helped me greatly in those times. I think the bloke that I have forgotten was another copywriter working with Gordon, but his name escapes me now.