We Dance Alone
I include below a post I put up yesterday on Facebook. I didn't originally intend to copy it here, as while I have many Facebook friends who knew Bill there are few if any of my blog readers who did. But you never know.
Yesterday was Chris Eyre's 59th birthday. Therefore it follows as the night the day that today is William Fisher's 58th - wherever he is.
Those of you in Durham with Chris and myself will remember Bill, who in those days went by his birth name of Liddle. If you didn't know him then (and you missed something, let me tell you) you may have met him when he was best man at my wedding. In the following years, Bill changed his name to Fisher following the deaths of his parents: he had a complex (though I believe loving) relationship with them both, but clearly felt a need to put that Cheshire life behind him and move on. Then he emigrated to Japan, specifically to Tokyo: after which he simply fell off everybody's radar. This was in the pre-Facebook, pre-email even, days, back in the early 1980s. The letters stopped arriving, not just to me but to everyone else: he simply vanished.
Never a year passes without my wondering what happened to him: his is a very present absence. I have invented all kinds of jokey scenarios, imagining that one day he'll be spotted on a National Geographic documentary as the abbot of a Zen monastery somewhere, or that he offended a yakuza with his mordant wit and now has permanent residency in bridge support #37 of the Tokyo Expressway. The reality will be more mundane. Maybe he was hit by a car, or was electrocuted by his toaster. Maybe he got ill and died: food poisoning perhaps (Bill was a great lover of exotic food, though it would have to be vegetarian) or something insect-borne. Or maybe having moved on from Liddlehood, he wanted to take the next step and move on from the whole of hos former life. Maybe he's out there, protected by the formidable linguistic barrier from all but the most determined searches, living out his life, quietly or not, on his own terms.
In the words of the Buddhist mantra, may he be well, may he be happy, may he be free from suffering. Alive or dead, I can wish him no better than that.
Of course, alive or dead, Bill would be horrified at the thought of anyone getting maudlin, or even serious over his passing on (in some sense or other). So here is a piece of music we both enjoyed hugely (and used to sing along to). From the wonderful wacky send-up album Flash Fearless v the Zorg Women Parts 5 & 6 (I still have it on vinyl), I give you Alice Cooper. If you knew Bill you will be able to imagine him karaoke-ing to this one.
Not surprisingly, thinking about Bill made me receptive to thoughts about death and disappearance, so when reading in a biography of Sandy Denny about her funeral I felt like copying this extract. It may help to know that at the time Richard Thompson was living in a kind of Sufi commune (his wife having left it and taken the children).
Among the things Richard felt compelled to say was in response to something voiced by a grieving Dave Cousins, but was an undercurrent in many a mourner's thoughts, "What a terrible thing to happen. All this music that she should have written." Richard turned to him and relied, "No, she wasn't destined to write any more music, she was destined to die when she died."
That may not have been what Dave Cousins wanted to hear, but it seems pretty good advice to me, and actually quite comforting. It reminds me of a line in Richard Bach's Illusions: Confessions of a Reluctant Messiah: "Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't." It also reminded me that my own mother, solidly Church of England, always told me when I was small that there was no point in worrying about death because when it was your time to die, you'd die: no sooner, and no later.
Of course, the point with Bill is that none of us knows whether he is dead or alive: we have no closure. In that respect we are in the same situation as those whose relatives have been "disappeared" by governments or terrorists, unsure whether to hope or to let go. So here's a final piece of music, which I'd forgotten all about until I began this post. I don't know whether Bill ever heard it, but I suspect he would have loved it as much as I do.
Sting - They Dance Alone by jpdc11