Way back in 90’s I was bigly into answering Exchange and AD questions online in email groups like the Sunbelt lists, Microsoft Newsgroups, and some Yahoo lists. From those support groups, I joined some other groups with people who had “personality” where we could have more colourful conversations. One of those groups I’m still with today is TechSantuary. We moved the group to Yahoo back in the 2000s, and have been going since.
The members of the TechSanctuary group have been some of my closest friends since 2000. They’ve had an impact not only on who I am and my mental well-being they’ve also been a guide in a number of my travels. Local tour guides are normally the best, and meeting people in person is fun. Based on that math I’ve traveled all over meeting and bumming couch’s from the group members.
I randomly showed up in San Diego once to meet the Etie’s because I needed a road trip. That turned out well and we’ve been back many times since. Once flew to London to meet Les and Martin and others. Flew to Indianapolis once to meet twisty and her clan, another time I diverted a cross-county road trip to drive through Chicago to stay the night with Drew. Other drips we stopped in Vegas to meet William and San Francisco to meet Brian and Michelle. Having y’all in my life has been a gift.
Les, from my memory, is the fifth list member whose passed away too soon in the last few years. Counting right now made me think about it; I never realized how many have passed. John, Sherry, Bart, Darkcat… sadly life and location made it difficult to attend services for the others. Les is only an hour flight away and simple to attend. Plus he’s Les.
A few weeks ago while Les was still with us, near his end. I decided to fly to Newcastle to visit him and spend some time with Les. It’s never fun to say goodbye, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been able too. Months ago when we went to Glasgow and Edinburgh we’d planned to spend the day with Les. I was excited for Michelle and the kids to meet this amazing man whose been such a big part of my life. Sadly it did not happen. Les was too sick from his cancer treatments and not able to make the trip to meet us. Back then it still sounded like he was going to make it and I figured we’d be back soon enough to meet him.
I met Martin in front of the hospital. We walked through the maze of a hospital until we found Les. We spent a few hours with Les chatting and catching up, saying good-bye, asking how he was doing and feeling. After the visit, Martin drove home and I explored the town some more. We parted thinking we’d have another visit with Les in a week or so. We didn’t have that chance, Les did not last that long. He went so fast when he went. It all happened this year. He was healthy last Christmas then went down hill fast. I’m thankful for how he was able to go with time to end things on his terms and I’m thankful for the time I got to share with him.
While in the hospital Les was able to direct Aaron how to clean up his house, he was able to liquify and distribute his retirement, change assets over into his brother’s name, and basically close out all of his accounts and life. A clean way to go if you have to go. Les had the opportunity to shape the last memories his loved ones would have of him. The Les in the hospital bed never able to go home again is not the Les I wish to remember; didn’t take any pictures of him. In my mind the Les I recall and picture in my head will be the Les below, looking happy goofy and healthy with more hair then he knew what to do with.
Both trips to Newcastle were on the same flight. Leaving Dublin at 0945 and coming back from Newcastle the same day 2230. Both tickets were less than 30€ round trip. Lunch and dinner cost me almost as much as the flight. First, visit I arrived in Newcastle with a few hours to burn before the official visiting time at the hospital and Martins arrival so I took the train into the city center for a burger and walk about.
Started on the Gateshead side for the river and walked around there for a bit until I crossed over and explored the Newcastle side of the river eventually finding the no car shopping road in town where I had a lunch and bought some m&ms. Around 1330 Martin and I met at the hospital and went into visit Les. After our visit, Martin started his drive home. He said it was about 6-7 hours of drive. Lucky for him his Tesla drives itself for some of the journeys so it’s not all on him.
After the hospital, I explored some more, found a massage shop open after 6 where I had a nice massage then back to the airport where I bought some things for the kids and snacks then home.
Didnt get a chance to visit again
The tears I shed when I heard Les passed a few weeks later had nothing at all to do with feelings, they were totally caused by the onions I was cutting at the time making dinner.
Today I’m flying to Newcastle again then taking the train to the angle of the north to find the Les Service attendees for the service. Well I thought I was going to take the train. Turns out Martin was waiting for me at the airport when I got off of the plane. Was hoping he’d be there but was not expecting it; we never officially worked out the details. I was listening to a Harry Dresden and on a mission to board the metro and did not see him. He had to sneak up behind me and tap my shoulder to get my attention.
We rode from the airport in Martin’s fancy Tesla to Gateshead where we picked up Keith. We had some coffee at a costa then headed for the service across the motorway from the Angel Of The North at a small hotel where we met Andy. The room was setup with a handful of round tables covered in tiggers. We knew Les had a thing for tiggers but we were not aware at all how many there were in his collection.
His brothers, Geoff and Steve told us the collection at the service was maybe half of what they’d found in his flat. Geoff said we all had to take them home or else. He said he’d be checking us at the door to make sure we had some. He meant it too, we watched him checking people as they were leaving stuffing their pockets with Tiggers. I packed as many as would fit in my back pack and wished I had another bag with me to take more. If all goes as planned I’m going to attempt to resurrect tiggercam once I can take over the domains.
The service was pleasant. It was mostly Les’s brothers Steve and Geoff, and close friend Paul talking than reading pre-submitted stories followed by a buffet and more stories. After the service, Martin took off towards home. Keith and I were going to bus into town and part ways at the train station. On the way out to catch the bus a friend of Les’s, John offered us a ride into town which we gladly accepted. He told us a story of Les stressed out during some servers being on fire where Les’s frustration and humor annoyed John who turned quickly at Les making Les duck thinking he might have gotten hit. That turned into a bit of a laugh afterwards. Les and his witty dry humour there even when things when were on fire.
After being dropped at the train station Keith and I parted ways then I walked around town for a bit thinking about taking in a movie. Not finding anything interesting playing I went for a massage at the place I visited the last time I was in newcastle. The gal recognized me and actually asked how my friend was if I was back for another visit to see him. I told her the visit was sadly for his service. She comforted me the best way possible by spending extra time driving her knees into my back massaging my shoulders. All of the deep tissue massage.
After the massage, it was dark out and I was still full from the buffet at the service. I figured I’d give walking to the airport a try. My route followed the metro north out of town and gave me some new areas to explore around the metro. After a few hours of walking and thinking and dealing with feelings and stuff it was obvious I was not going to make it to the airport on time. I gave up waking and boarded the metro.
At the airport there were two people ahead of me at security; score !! Boarding the plane was a bit of a shocker. I heard the gate agent announce priority boarding and figured I had some time to relax. I was wrong. As soon as she finished announcing priority boarding she announced general boarding then went right on into last call; gate doors are closing. I looked around a bit confused and noticed most everyone else was in the same boat. We all got up and rushed onto the plane. – away we go headed for Dublin.
Pictures and stuff