Farewell Brian Longley – STOP THE CLOCKS…

Farewell to Brian Longley……… – STOP THE CLOCKS –
A Tribute to the loss of a special person – from Bruce Clark:
In Funeral Blues, W. H. Auden wrote of loss. It was loss of a different kind, but loss is loss, and when it feels so profound, so heartbreaking, the only thing to do is to “… pack up the moon and dismantle the sun…”.
Our great friend is dead.
Christine once said to me that she had always thought of Brian as a cockroach. I laughed at her insightfulness and said, “Yup,” because I knew precisely what she meant. He was indestructible. In canoeing terms he could survive a nuclear blast – and he thrived at Ground Zero. On the hardest of days, in the toughest of conditions, when all other paddlers had wilted, Brian would endure. He would sit with that straight back, bite on his pipe, spin those 222’s, and get it done.
We did several Umkomaas Marathons together and on one torrid, unbearably hot day, I developed heat stroke. My severe nausea resulted in catastrophic driving – which began to annoy him. Oblivious to my vomiting he said, “FFS, Bruce Clark, did you not see that rock? It was only the size of a truck.” He made me paddle to the bank where he physically picked me up and put me in the back seat. With my front-seat juice pipe in his mouth, and me retching and whimpering at the back, he paddled us to the finish – more-or-less on his own. When the world had stopped heaving, and my mojo returned, I said, “Hey, Brian Longley, you know those lumpy bits you were sucking out of my juice pipe? You were drinking my vomit. You know that, right?” This amused him immensely and, for years, it was a standing joke between us that we had been intimate.
Our habit of using each other’s full names came from who-knows-where but, for as long as I can remember, that’s the way it was, “Brian Longley, I believe it is your pull.”; “They’re catching us, Bruce Clark, pull like you mean it.”; “I won’t let you down, Brian Longley, we’ve been intimate.”
I’m going to keep this short because, to describe every aspect of Brian’s immense influence on canoeing, would be like describing individual boulders on an extremely large mountain. Other people can, and will, do that. Suffice to say that, when last Friday’s dreadful news filtered through, canoeing clocks across the *world*, briefly stopped.
Getting straight to the point: Storm, Jay, Nick, the extended Longley family and, of course, our most-beloved Maria, we ache for you. We are crushed. We care – deeply – and you are loved.
I don’t know what comes ‘next’. Nobody does. Some people take great comfort in believing that death is simply a change of state. It is so tempting, especially in times of great sadness, to think that we can pick up old friends and do it all over again. Wouldn’t it be great to go for a paddle with Niels, and Jomo, and Bill, and Gareth, and Brian?
But if paddling with Brian, you must know this: 5am means 5am, 20 laps means 20 laps, sixty kilometres means sixty kilometres, and pull like you mean it.
So long, Brian Longley. Goodbye, my old friend. Being intimate with you, for the past forty years, was an absolute pleasure.