A Word In Your Ear - December 5, 2013

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I first met Brian the plumber on Whitegate Drive. He had walked from North Shore, whistling while carrying a U-bend.

Talk about the Life of Brian, his was the life of Riley.

Brian Riley had once been a driver in London and chauffeured a top industrialist. Later he enjoyed using “his own pins” - for life had given him a second chance.

At Lytham Crematorium last week we said a final farewell - amid tears, laughter and Nat King Cole. Brian was in his 80s but full of vigour, right up to his sudden passing.

Three decades ago I’d bought my first house and needed help. I couldn’t have bumped into a better man.

“Just give me a cock ‘n’ hen!” He’d told me, after spending a day in my loft fixing a water tank. It was rhyming slang and 10 pounds was far too little.

Later he painstakingly rebuilt a period bow-window for me over days. I’d often return from work to find some tools there and an abandoned mug of tea. Racing would be on telly and his ‘Sporting Life’ to one side - but no sign of Brian.

Someone had called with an emergency - and Brian didn’t like to let people down.

If our corner local was quiet, he would linger when he really wanted to leave - just to keep you company. When people joined him in sunshine outside, he’d fold away his beloved ‘form’ and give them full attention.

Brian was always a hard working man but also a gent, with a head for chess and gentle humour.

Years ago, a fuel explosion on a pleasure boat had left him badly burned and close to death. Only the intervention of a top surgeon visiting the local hospital saved him.

After that, Brian was simply grateful to be alive - and shared that joy generously.

That’s why, last week at Lytham, it was standing-room only.

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