We knew this time would come but were hoping for a miracle so that Mike would still be with us, but although he fought bravely it wasn’t to be. He was also praying for that miracle even though things looked pretty bleak, such was his zest for life.
Mike, what can I say? He was one in a million and it’s impossible for me to imagine a world without him in it.
We first met as young kids in 1962 when we lived a stone’s throw from each other in Great Barr and forged a lifelong friendship – one that meant more to me than any other I’ve had.
What you saw was what you got with Mike – he was warm, friendly, humorous, intensely loyal and he possessed these attributes both man and boy – he never changed at all.
I think the only time he and I had a minor disagreement was in those very early days when we were talking football and I asked him what football team he supported, and he said Manchester United.
After I picked myself up off the floor, I counselled him on the merits of switching to West Bromwich Albion and after going to a few matches together as well as training sessions, he was converted.
We went to many matches together in the 60’s – in fact we did everything together – whether it be kicking a ball at our beloved Recreation Ground (nicknamed the Rec), cricket at Edgbaston, fishing at Sutton Park, train spotting at New Street or Snow Hill, and I have fond memories of penny for the guy and carol singing at Christmas, where we would knock on doors and make up the words because we didn’t know them and we’d fall about laughing.
These memories have never left me, and I know they never left Mike either because we’d still talk about them.
I moved to Australia in the late 60’s and we kept in touch for some years and then lost contact until I looked him up on a trip to the UK with my family in the late 90’s. I knocked on the door of the house he lived at all of those years earlier and miraculously his mum answered and gave us his contact details.
Mike came over to see us that night and we had plenty to talk about. All of those years of no contact hadn’t affected our friendship at all – that spark still remained. Mike mentioned this himself when we spoke on the phone a few days before he passed away.
Lynne and I have made several trips to the UK since and one of the highlights has always been to spend as much time as possible with Mike and Lorna.
When we last came over, Mike was quite sick, and our aim was to spend as much quality time with them as we could. Whilst it was a struggle for him at times, he was keen to do whatever he could with us, and we had some great times in places like Liverpool and Blackpool. I found that if I threw him the car keys his eyes would light up – maybe his health was temporarily forgotten about. To say he was a car enthusiast is a major understatement.
Earlier this year we knew that Mike’s health was getting worse and then he confirmed it by phone, but amazingly, he was at peace – I would even say he sounded upbeat.
One of Mike’s passions over many years was to travel to Australia to see us. It never quite happened but in that phone call he said, ‘I’m coming to Australia’. Of course, I said ‘WHAT’ and then he explained that Lorna will be coming to stay with us and has been given permission to bring Mike’s ashes with her. He was excited in telling me about this.
We look forward to Lorna making that trip where no doubt we’ll spend much time talking about Mike over a glass of wine or 3. Lorna, your room is ready whenever you are.
Mike, I said what I felt in that phone call a few days before you passed, and I meant them mate. Thank you for your friendship – it was an absolute privilege to know you and rest assured I will never forget you and neither will Lynne. She also knows what an outstanding person you were.
For one last time, Up the Baggies, Mike.
Your old mate Dave XXXX