Richard Wilkinson

Cold are the Crabs ... and some memories of Martin Click the flowers to navigate the site


Richard first read Edward Lear's transcendentally oblique sonnet, then offered some memories of Martin.

Cold are the crabs that crawl on yonder hills,
Colder the cucumbers that grow beneath,
And colder still the brazen chops that wreathe
The tedious gloom of philosophic pills!
For when the tardy film of nectar fills
The ample bowls of demons and of men,
There lurks the feeble mouse, the homely hen,
And there the porcupine with all her quills.
Yet much remains – to weave a solemn strain
That lingering sadly – slowly dies away,
Daily departing with departing day
A pea-green gamut on a distant plain
Where wily walruses in congress meet –
Such such is life ...

We came to live in Macaroni Wood in 1978, thirty-three years ago!  One evening I went to the New Inn in Coln St Aldwyn's where I met a fresh-faced Nicky and Martin, who both looked about sixteen!  They announced they were the new landlords of the village pub.  There began a close family friendship of both adults and our children which has remained to this day.  Holidays together,  Christmas dinners together and many, many miles of long walks together.

Whilst people know all about Martin’s love and knowledge of music and his phenomenal ability to play many instruments, I wonder how many of you knew about his knowledge of trees, birds and wildlife.  Martin had the enviable ability to recognise most birds, and particularly birdsong.  He could also identify trees with ease and his knowledge of wildlife was extensive.  I remember once on holiday in the Lake District when we were out walking and Martin spotted a red squirrel in a tree.  I didn’t know red squirrels could be found in the Lakes.  We stood watching it for ten minutes and it never moved.  I’m still convinced it was stuffed and he had nipped out the night before and put it there!   And on another occasion when Liz and I played with Nicky and Martin in the local school PTA quiz and, against the odds with other teams of six to eight people, we  won: the main reason being a photo-round of wildlife in which Martin, with a bit of help, scored a maximum twenty-five points, elevating us to the winning position.  The four of us also played as a quiz team at the Keepers' for about fifteen years, regularly winning; until it eventually dawned on us that the drawback to winning was that we had to set the next quiz. 

Martin was very complimentary of my very basic music skills and convinced me that my three-chord guitar playing and dreadful singing voice were so good that I should take part in the local panto.  Even now I half expect to look down to my left and see Martin laughing out loud to some dreadful jokes.  His laugh was so infectious that it convinced the audience that they should join in.  As with all pantos, the trick was to make local references and jokes.  Many an evening was spent over supper, not just setting ever more outlandish quiz questions, but also honing the scripts with corny panto lines.  No wonder Martin laughed out loud night after night: all the worst corny jokes were his!

Martin’s musical talents are well known in Macaroni Wood where, with Barry and Jean, he is still a legend to many young adults with special needs, who they regularly entertained.  The legend also spread to Friday nights during Air Show week, when he performed to – and with – the various crews staying at the woods.  I would kick off with my three-chord trick and lousy voice and within seconds Martin had worked out what key I was failing to sing in and told all the other guitarists how to join in and cover for me!

And when I foolishly committed myself to playing Christmas carols at the Keepers', I rushed round to Martin’s to get him to re-arrange the same three chords into something that everyone could join in – and we spent the next twenty Christmases together, freezing outside the pub by the Christmas tree, singing away; with Martin leaning over his pupil to correct the playing by telling me the correct chord.  Something like: 'Silent G, Holy G, all is D ...'

Liz and I will miss his wit, charm, personality and, above all, his friendship more than we can possibly express.


Martin Clare Music Fund

Richard is the Centre Manager at Noah's Ark Children's Venture
in Macaroni Wood, not far from Fairford. Money from the retiring collection will partly be spent there: click for details. The Lear poem, from the Teapots and Quails collection, was something that always tickled Martin a great deal.

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