Mike and I were friends from before I can even remember. Both of us called Mike. I'm told we were friends from the age of three. We grew up a few houses from each other in Great Barr. We always looked odd together because he was so tall and I was so small. To anyone who remembers 'Only Fools and Horses', we were like the Driscol Brothers.
We got up to some wild times together, including into our teens and I am very grateful that I just don't remember many of them. Unfortunately, Mike had a perfect memory. In recent years he would tell me about the things we did, and I would think 'how embarrassing' and 'please shut up Mike PLEASE'. He remembered everybody, every place, every occasion in great detail. We were teenagers in the late 60's and early 70's and I cannot even remember going to some parties he talked about. But we were there.
I remember his first car. A 3-wheeler he could drive on L-plates. I remember being scared as he went round corners. He was never slow at that time. He made me sit in the footwell because he wasn't allowed to carry passengers on an L-plate. It just made me even more scared. If I popped my head up to look, he would push me down again. Then he got his famous Moggie Minor. Fantastic times when your mate gets a motor. We loaded up one weekend and went to Lincoln Pop Festival to see Don McClean and Joe Cocker and Slade and Status Quo. Exactly 47 years ago, and those were the new days of freedom and rebellion and we were there in full swing. It’s a bit of a haze now, and to be honest it was a bit of a haze then as well.
It was at that time we both discovered girls. And I am so glad we did. Girls saved our lives. Literally. Mike worked in Birmingham centre and we would always meet with a strange lot of people on New Street in Birmingham, all great characters and so many of Mike's work friends. They were great times, drinking in The Tavern In The Town, in New Street Birmingham. We'd be there most nights, normally. But girlfriends have a way of interfering with a guy's calendar, and so it happened to us, that night, November 21st 1974. We weren't there in the pub the night it was blown up. Mike was never a believer in divine intervention, perhaps he is a believer in female intervention instead.
The characters that Mike met throughout life he never forgot and would always mention fondly. Mike only ever spoke well about people. I don't know how many noticed that. He would always talk about people's qualities and never seemed to moan. You do tend to notice those ways in which close friends are different to yourself. Me, I loved a moan. Mike saw the positive. And isn't that a much needed trait of a West Bromwich Albion fan? Always looking for the positive. I became a West Ham fan because I like a good moan.
We lost touch in the family years and getting on with life and careers. When we caught up again it could have been with happier circumstances considering Mike’s diagnosis. But the one thing that I saw once more was that same old female intervention. Once more coming to Mike’s rescue.
Mike and Lorna were a team. And I witnessed this over recent years. Mike never ran away from any situation, he never hid. If something had to be confronted, that’s what he did. Lorna and Mike together built up their expertise on Mike’s health issues. It would have been too much for anyone to cope with and it was certainly a challenge for two. They both became experts in Mike’s needs and treatment. In particular it has been Lorna’s strength and determination that allowed Mike to carry on for so long. Year after year they were able to keep life as normal as possible, including their regular trips to see the Baggies lose.
Mike helped EVERYONE. He never liked to see anyone having a problem if he could help. I developed my own health issues at a time when Mike was in the midst of his own. But he and Lorna took me in and took charge and control of the situation. Mike even marched me to the hospital demanding I receive treatment. What a great friend. Lorna and Mike helped me recover from my own problems, just as selfless is their nature. How I wish I wasn’t so helpless in return. But I’ll remember Mike the way he was. Very kind, very caring, with great loyalty and immense honesty. Lessons for us all.