Sunday, 14 September 2008

Sean Blanchard tribute: Charles Shaar Murray guest post

There have been two deaths in my life this year. Both Ken Campbell, my former boyfriend, and Sean Blanchard, who I met through Charles Shaar Murray, were found (separately, in Islington and Essex) on Sunday 31st August.

Sean was an avowed leftist of anarchist stripe, formidable in his block's tenants association, a rich assortment of working class anarchists, leftists, creatives and assorted misfits. Sean claimed to have devised the phrase, "Eat The Rich" as a T-shirt slogan in the 1980s. He gave me one of his dwindling stash of said precious items which I still have. And will wear. And will probably post a pic.

I hope Sean and Ken are sharing a pint wherever they are now in spirit. RIP, guys.

Madam Miaow

Tribute by Charles Shaar Murray

Between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, when I lived in Angel House on the last block of Pentonville Road, Sean Blanchard was one of my closest friends. Most days, we’d find ourselves alongside each other in a pub then called The Pint Pot, on the corner of Pentonville Road and Baron Street, whiling away our lunch hour over pints of adult beverages and copies of The Guardian. Sean had a serious fondness for both beer and conversation, and was a connoisseur of both. These encounters always began with Sean’s rital greeting – ‘How’s the day?’ – followed by, if my glass was anywhere near empty, ‘More beer?’

He was warm, witty, well-informed and well-read. He knew his history, his politics and his literature, as well as his pop culture. A veteran punk from the class of 1976 who’d been at school with Robert Smith and the rest of the guys from the original Cure,he also had a fine appreciation of jazz and blues, and he knew his Hendrix as well as he knew his George Orwell. As laid-back as he might seem at one of his lunchtime drinking sessions, he could also be a hard and conscientious worker when motivated by a cause, exemplified by his work for the Legalise Cannabis Campaign and the formidable energies he displayed as an activist for first squatters’, and later tenants’, rights at Charles Rowan House, where he was living when I first met him in the 80s and continued to live throughout his life. As a student of politics, his loathing of everything to do with the right wing combined with healthy scepticism of, verging on a fine contempt for, the far left, made him a natural anarchist. He claimed to have, many years ago, coined the phrase ‘Eat The Rich’ as a T-shirt slogan, and produced several very faded shirts, so adorned, as verification.

We saw less of each other after I moved away in 1998, but whenever I found myself back in the old neighbourhood I’d always call Sean to try and hook up. The last few times I saw him were at Filthy McNasty’s, when I was either playing a gig with my friend Gary Lammin or meeting up with my colleagues at The Word magazine, whose offices are just over the road. [MM's Note: Sean had booked Filthy's for his 50th birthday celebrations, tomorrow, 15th September. The same booking will now be used for his wake.]

Sean could always be relied upon for warmth, wit and wisdom. One day, many years ago, while more than usually depressed over the then-recent collapse of my second marriage, I told him, ‘It’s weird when you look like Joe Strummer but feel like Woody Allen.’ Sean raised an eyebrow, took a swig of ale and retorted, ‘You ought to try looking like Woody Allen when you feel like Joe Strummer.’

I shall miss the man I called Lord Blanchard very much indeed, and regret not having seen more of him over the last few years. The moral of this? Look after yourselves, and see your friends as often as you can. I still have Sean’s number on speed-dial on my mobile phone, and I intend to keep it there for a while.

Lord Blanchard – RIP. I hope there’s a good pub in heaven, with good conversation and a suspension of the anti-smoking regulations, otherwise Sean will start circulating a petition for a transfer.


harpymarx said...

"The moral of this? Look after yourselves, and see your friends as often as you can. I still have Sean’s number on speed-dial on my mobile phone, and I intend to keep it there for a while."

I think that is very true.

A good mate of mine died a couple of yrs ago from cancer and for ages I couldn't remove her mobile and land line off my mobile cos it seemed so final. It may sound daft but it took ages for me to eventually comes to terms with her death and finally remove the numbers.

martin thaddeus said...

I was in school with sean through the 70's we met at middle school and soon became fairly close. He was far and away the cleverest boy in the school and had to study on his own rather than do lessons as he already knew it all. He was also the toughest, so if Sean said that poetry was ok then who was to argue. He was certainly influential in many ways on my outlook, I guess he gave me a bigger world. His humour was daft and clever in equal measure. no thats not true it was daft.
i had been trying to track him down in thelast few weeks, I had something to tell him, and now I never can.
Ok, so we were walking home from school and these two knobs from the year above are hassling us. Sean pushed his bike as we chatted, trying hard to ignore the jibes. when we got onto crawley high street one of the jobs made a grab for the bike. Old Sean pitched into both of them. He handed me the bike and let rip. as it happened the shop we were outside was owned by my next door nieghbour who caim running out. What going on he asked. Sean still punching replied with the immortal words.. " I'm just sorting out these big bullies."
later i mention that i had not helped.. " that alright sunshine." he replied, and it was. there was not expectation on me to join in. that was his job.
by the way i well remember him reading Charles shaar murrey and taking the piss.