Dave Royle

Dave died the day the Manchester bomb went off (15th June 1996). I was in the bath in my 6th floor flat in Salford. The bath literally wobbled from side to side. I asked Carol what had happened and she said “there was a gust of wind”. Not a leaf was moving outside.

Dave had been caught up in the Harrods bomb and I think he died pretty much around the time the Manchester bomb went off. One of his books was called “A Controlled Explosion“.

When I met Dave he was firing on all cylinders, fired up and fiery. In 1976 we both rocked up to West Suffolk College of Further Education or Bury Tech, with friends Jo and Tom. I was in awe of them because they were already a very established couple then and they really really are today.

Dave and I had an intense short fling. We were both hot for each other. Lots of fireworks. We played Joni Mitchell’s Hejira and Abba’s Knowing me, knowing you. I didn’t know what a Dancing Queen was but I was about to find out. I was heartbroken on the other Queen’s Silver Jubilee to find out Dave didn’t want to continue with our affair, I thought my world had come to an end. The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen was not to be played at Bury Corn Exchange that year because they were banned. In the Tech we were spinning Steve Miller Fly like an Eagle and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

We remained friends, we wandered round Bury, drinking beer, sometimes with Rodney and others from the Tech. We had a brief, very brief spell with the Liberal party. He bought me tiny China cups from a junk shop and I still have them. Dave was tall, handsome and slightly bandy legged. I was a long haired hippy with a maroon cord jacket, jeans and cowboy boots, not even sure how to do a halfway house to queer. I wanted boys and I wanted girls.

One time, in Great Livermere, we entered the unoccupied vicarage (which had once been home to M. R. James, ghost story writer and of whom I was later to find that Carol was a great devotee). I got hit on the nose by a jack in the box disguised as a tin of cigars.

After Tech, Dave set off for Cambridge to continue with his love of English and wanting to write. He introduced me to the 451 club on Newmarket Road. I saw drag queens for the first time plus the rowers on the floor for The Gap Band’s Oops Upside Your Head (I didn’t want to get on the floor then, let alone at any time after). By this time it was obvious what Dave was wanting and getting.

We’d meet up at Christmas, Pat and Ken, Dave and Helen’s parents always so welcoming to me. Dave would grumble away in the background, always wanting something more, something else. After Dave died Pat and Ken continued to invite me to their home until they themselves died. I miss them too.

During the Cambridge years, Dave and I took a trip to Ireland. We hitchhiked, got drunk, picked up a stray dog, got soaked many times and had an experience with Dermot near Shannon airport, nylon sheets, and masses of generosity to complete strangers. On the way back, we were extensively searched and questioned by border controls because it was the day that Mountbatten was murdered, 27th August 1979. Dave later wrote up this trip into a novel called I Smell Burning. It was his last book and we tried unsuccessfully to get it published. It took a while to convert Dave’s Amstrad floppy disks to that printer paper on a reel with holes down the sides then from that to regular A4. Once on that I scanned it all in and then had usable files, however I had to use optical character recognition to tidy them up as they’d got a bit scrambled in all the conversions. Eventually I got it onto Kindle. It hasn’t made any money but it’s there.

Dave went to London to pursue his dreams, writing for magazines, proper writing, and politicking and having sex all over the place. I’d gone to uni in Cardiff and was having lots of sex with guys and then with girls. We drifted apart. Our meetups became much more occasional.

It must have been ’94 or early ’95 when I got the phone call from him. I knew what he was going to say before he said it.

I spent a weekend with Dave a few months before he died. He’d said to me way back when that he didn’t want to have anything wrong with his brain. So that’s what AIDS did for him, a bloody bomb in his head. That weekend he was seriously out of control, partly AIDS, partly fear. He was funny, he was awful. He was beautiful, he was scared.

After Dave died, some of Dave’s long term friends and his family kept up a June picnic on Hampstead Heath for 10 years. We’d scattered his ashes there in a place that gave him pleasure on a very windy day, some of us getting eyefuls and mouthfuls of Dave. What’s new pussycat?

Dave wrote:

Maybe, a short story in Oranges and Lemons 1987

Pleasing the Punters 1990

Pictures of Sand, a short story in Fabulous Tricks 1992, which he co-edited

A Controlled Explosion 1993

I Smell Burning probably written in 1995

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Mandy Spry 6th June 1961 – 9th October 2017

In the pub! With a pint of Landlord.

At 20 Mandy was drop dead gorgeous, and that didn’t change. I first met Mandy in Staveley Road in Bradford along with Bee and Deb. Mandy lived nearby in Ivanhoe Road and they were all students at Bradford Uni. The early 80s, Bradford was dark and wet, living under the shadow of the Yorkshire ripper with a curfew on women which we rallied against. We spent our time lolling about on sofas without legs, rushing into taxis to go to pubs and clubs – the Bavaria, Manningham and Oak Lane pubs, ingesting dodgy substances and dancing our socks off all night, literally on more than one occasion. Mandy had bleached blonde hair, black leather jacket, DMs and skin tight stripey trousers on her long long legs. An absolute stunner with an obsession for Stevie Nicks!

Pengorof, Rhandirmwyn

Backdrop of Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Queen and David Bowie, the Human League, Clint Eastwood and General Saint, the Specials, the Selecter, the Beat, UB40 as well as Fleetwood Mac.

Mandy moved to Brixton, we chased her latest heartthrobs at the Ace of Clubs, slept on her futon, worried about the bullet hole in the window.

Mandy supported me as I left a disastrous relationship, with mud bath therapy at Weston-super-Mare, not in a spa, just by the sea with real mud. I got together with Chris and Mandy joined us for parties in Wales. Chris and I motorbiked to Coombe Martin and we met up with Mandy and her mum, Anne. After dark we went high above the sea and barbecued mackerel we’d caught that day, so good, and drunk again. Mandy went from working with Dale Spender to restoring and creating furniture in Leeds and then to ranging the countryside and becoming a bat expert. There were times when we drifted from each other but then really reconnected about 17 years ago. It was never a friendship that meant we had to be in each other’s pockets but one that could be picked up and continued from where we had left off.

Mandy, Annette and Ros settled into West Hey Head Farm, Mandy left countryside services in Leeds and trained to do remedial massage. As I was getting into hiking and mountaineering, Mandy got into first river kayaking and then sea kayaking. We pursued our outdoor passions and shared our adventures over walks which always included a pub meal and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. The Top Brink was a regular venue, along with the Robin Hood in Cragg Vale, and the Robin Hood in Pecket Well long before Mandy moved there.

Helping me with belaying to get through my Mountain Leader award

After Mandy’s first occurrence of cancer, she asked me to walk with her to help build up her strength. We walked a lot at Hardcastle Crags, with Heddy, and it worked. We walked in everything, often in the dark. I loved that she didn’t let the weather stop her. And so we continued, all through the recurrence and the treatments. We walked round Withens Clough reservoir in the dark, the only time I ever saw her very angry about the cards she had been played. She had just been told she had a year to live. Well she outdid that prophesy and outdid it in style, deciding what she wanted to do with her time, who she wanted in her life and organising her affairs.

At mine and Carol’s wedding reception 2008

I feel privileged to have had a part in Mandy’s life, that she trusted me and had a clear picture of what she wanted me to do. She always listened very well and came up with constructive ideas of how to approach problems, in a safe place where we could share our fears and tears. Her support stretched over our interwoven lives over a great long time. She was so loving and generous with her time for me when my soulmate Chris (one of the donkey care team) was dying.  One of the things Mandy said then was that people who were dying totally had the right to choose what they do in the limited time they have left. It seems such an obvious thing to say but at that time of Chris’s illness it was a major issue. Mandy knew then that she would be doing this for herself in the not so distant future. She was very aware of her own mortality and wanting to get the most out of the time she had.

Mandy gave me so much, from her knowledge of plants and the natural world, her remedial massage skills, her practical skills, but most of all, her unconditional love and support. Paddle on, my love.

Dignity in Dying