It should really be a source of shame on my part, and I guess it is, actually; perhaps I don’t want to come across as too corny/sentimental/slushy, whatever. But I apologise for never acknowledging ‘you guys’ – that is, those of you who comment on posts here; I admit I rarely – if ever – comment on other blogs myself, so I know to do so takes time and effort, something that can be at a premium if one is merely checking in to a regular blog and there’s only a few minutes spare to simply read, let alone begin a discussion. My own personal opinion, however, is that a blog only really comes to life when comments are posted; otherwise, it can easily feel as though I’m just talking to myself. Yes, I have access to stats, so I can always discern how many readers I’ve got out there – and, believe me, they’re scattered all over the globe; but engaging with them makes the author less isolated, for sure; and writing is one of the isolating professions.
It’s a two-way process, of course. Some posts are better than others, and some posts don’t necessarily invite comments; I’m also not so arrogant that I expect them as a given. Most of the time, to be honest, I’m touched that anyone has taken the trouble to comment at all; but as a writer, it’s always nice to receive feedback. It can get a little lonely up in this wordsmith’s lighthouse. And if it doesn’t sound too cheesy, I like to think that you lot are the best of the bunch. Many of you have been with me for a long time, all the way back to a former writer’s residence I used to rent more than five years ago; and there were a few on there I was relieved chose not to migrate here when I opened for business. Any lively disagreements or heated debates have always been conducted at the Telegram in a grownup fashion, respecting the other person’s point of view and eschewing name-calling.
The more someone comments and does so with increasing lucidity, the more rounded and fuller their characters become. You learn something of their lot in life, their backgrounds, their history, their political affiliations both past and present, their tastes in music, movies, literature, food – whatever. Yes, one doesn’t really ‘know’ them as a real-life friend or family member does; but the person they are whenever they slip into their cyber slippers is, in many respects, somebody we do come to know in a way those physical presences never do. True, there is the obligatory pseudonym, but such nom-de-plumes are not adopted for the reasons trolls use them. If anything, these online identities can add to the mystique of the commentator in the same way that every listener paints a mental portrait of each cast member of ‘The Archers’, one that rarely matches the actor’s actual face if revealed. It all becomes part of an ongoing narrative. For example, it has not escaped my attention that Mudplugger’s C&A jacket will be marking its 50th anniversary this year; and I only know this because Mudplugger has seen fit to share it with us.
It is, therefore, with great sadness that I have to announce one of us has left the building. I discovered yesterday that our very own Windsock passed away last year, on 12 May – exactly one month to the day after his very last comment. He was one of the originals, following me here from the other place and becoming part of the Winegum’s fixtures and fittings over four short years. His absence since April was concerning, as he was extremely candid regarding his illness, and as the months passed I began to fear the worst when his distinctive voice was no longer being heard; I actually emailed him when he’d been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, simply to see how he was doing. Alas, I received no reply, but I now know this was just a few days before his death.
We’d emailed each other a few times when I was facing some problems with those nice people at the DWP in 2016; he’d spoken about helping someone in a similar situation in a comment on the blog and seemed like the kind of knowledgeable chap to go to for advice. It was when rifling through some old emails yesterday that this correspondence cropped up and I decided on the spur of the moment to see if he was on Facebook. This was when I stumbled upon a memorial page to him and found out he bowed out eight months ago. It seems so belated to pay tribute to him now, but I simply couldn’t keep this knowledge to myself when I know many of you were as fond of Windsock as I was and looked forward to his comments as much as I did.
Included on this FB tribute was a link to an obituary in his local paper, which I attach to the end of the post; he was clearly a damn good egg in his life beyond this tiny enclave of cyberspace, devoting time and energy to others even when his own personal health was so precarious. He also sounds like he was good fun to be around, and it is regretful that I never did meet him in the flesh; I’ve a feeling we’d have enjoyed each other’s company. His upbeat, optimistic personality always came through in his comments, as did his humour; this remained a hallmark of his observations to the end, even when he could clearly see that unimaginably painful end coming.
Anyone who has been reading the Telegram for a long time will know he and I didn’t agree on everything; indeed, the last time he was prompted into commenting on here was after taking umbrage with some of the points I’d expressed in a post. But it was characteristic of the man that he accepted my explanation for whatever I’d written with good grace, and there was no trace of rancour, merely the acceptance that there are times when old acquaintances have a divergence of opinion; moreover, it was through him airing his objections with such enlightening conviction that the holes in my own argument were exposed to me. We ended the debate by shaking virtual hands. You don’t always get that online.
Having been through somewhat testing times myself over the last couple of years, Windsock was – along with other members of the hardcore Winegum team – one of the first to express his support and encouragement when I tentatively returned to the fray after five months away from the blog in 2018. It’s no exaggeration to say that without that support I may well have jacked this in altogether; and while it might sound obvious, there’s no getting away from the fact that being told you’re wanted does make a massive bloody difference when you’re riddled with doubt and your faith in your own abilities has hit rock bottom. I needed that boost, and Windsock was at the front of a queue I had absolutely no guarantee would even have formed in my lengthy absence from action. Again, that’s a mark of the man.
It’s a shame to have to open a new year and new decade with such sad news from the last one, but I couldn’t open proceedings any other way. Windsock was one of this blog’s most dependably articulate, passionate, thought-provoking and entertaining observers, and you lot make the Winegum Telegram what it is as much as anything I write myself. So, if you’ve a bottle of anything on hand, top up your glass and raise it to one of our own. RIP Dennis Pearce. We miss you already.
© The Editor