All day Sunday and Monday morning the Met Office, along with countless news bulletins on TV and radio, warned us against travelling: we were due a huge storm with buckets of rain and mighty winds. But Jan and I had to travel on Monday afternoon: there was an event we simply could not miss, not on any account. At the Robin Hood Crematorium in Solihull our friend’s body was to face its final days on earth in its physical form.
Joel Lane died almost a month ago. The post mortem was inconclusive – but Joel had been suffering from ill health for some time, including diabetes and, recently, sleep apnoea. But despite these ailments, to die at the youthful age of just 50 was simply wrong.
We set out early, stopping for a pub lunch beforehand (in The Boat Inn, Catherine-de-Barnes) and arrived at the crematorium in good time, despite the weather, and met up with a lot of colleagues all with gloomy faces. The fantasy/horror community is a friendly, gregarious bunch – but such a get-together is one we’d all gratefully avoid.
Joel’s ceremony was a humanitarian one, led by Patricia Boden. She described Joel in such a way that I couldn’t avoid seeing him doing just as described. Then Tom, his brother, talked about Joel as part of their family. Chris Morgan and Nick Royle added depths by describing Joel the Poet and Writer. All were moving speeches, all bringing tears to my eyes, and they all offered up glimpses of Joel that I don’t want to forget.
The music – surely selected by Joel, perhaps in a supernatural manner – was just as I’d expect (although there were many other singers and songs that would’ve fit the bill). The music was by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (“The Ship Song”), Show of Hands (“Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed”), and Bruce Springsteen (“Born to Run”).
Joel and I shared many musical tastes and yet would try to entice each other to bands we each were partial to. Despite his best efforts, Joel never got me totally converted to The Boss.
Joel was a modest man, one not given to lording it over people (and with his knife-sharp mind he could’ve done so). He didn’t mention to the Birmingham Balti Boys one meal many years ago that he had just won a poetry award. I wouldn’t call it secretive. But he had a “secret”: his full name was Joel David Mandela Lane. That did surprise me – I and many others, I gather, didn’t know the Mandela bit.
RIP Joel. The world is a poorer place now.