Wednesday 20 September 2023

A.A.B. - IN MEMORIAM - TEN YEARS LATER... (Updated Yet Again - See Bottom Of Post)

Me, as Best Man, 15th December 1978.  The marriage was short-lived

On Monday 14th January 2013, I published a post about someone I once knew.  (Click here for details if you're interested.)  Little did I know at the time (only having found out on Sunday just gone) that a Facebook comment on Sunday 13th January 2013 - the day before the post - had expressed sadness at news of his demise sometime the previous week.  Well, what a shocker!  (Thing is, if he's dead, who subsequently amended some of the things on his Facebook page that I alluded to in my 'piece'?  But that's for pondering on another day, perhaps.)

When I recently did a 'Google Search' to again find his FB page, among the selections offered (though only when I used one particular browser out of several available to me) there were some photos and comments that aren't on his site, but apparently in the comments section on someone else's FB page.  (That's how I discovered the comment about his passing, though I was only able to access that link twice - it seems to have now disappeared.)  The photos show a ravaged man who looks far older than the 52 or 53 years he was at the time, likely as a result of him being an alcoholic, something he admitted when he visited our home town sometime in the late '90s or thereabouts (he'd lived 'down south' since late 1977) to a woman he called 'Auntie Margaret'.  

In case you're wondering how I know this, the woman herself told me when I ran into her around 1999 or 2000 and she mentioned that he'd been up for a visit a year or two before.  She'd attended the same church as him, his sister and parents (as in the same denomination, though maybe a different congregation) and was therefore a friend of the family, but he regarded her as an 'aunt-type' figure so that's how he referred to her.  Whether she minded or not (or was actually flattered) is something I'm not privy to, not that it's important.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the news of his passing (if information that's ten years old can accurately be described as 'news' - though it was certainly news to me) as I now wouldn't have crossed the road to pee on him if he were on fire (as I said somewhere before).  However, this guy was once one of my best friends (if not my very best friend - when I was young enough to subscribe to such a notion), so for the sake of our childhood friendship I felt a little sad on learning he'd passed away.  (I'd met him on my first day at my second primary school, on Wednesday 10th November 1965.)  Strange, now, to think that while I'd subconsciously assumed he was yet gadding about somewhere, he'd embarked on the 'long sleep' more than ten years ago.

Sadly, he was a compulsive liar and inveterate fantasist who never seemed to realise that the 'tall tales' he told were so completely unlikely that many people who knew him as an adult regarded and dismissed him as a pathetic object of silent ridicule.  Who knows what made him like that - a need for attention, perhaps?  So the person whose death I'm sad about is the 6 (going on 7) to 21/22 year-old I once knew and liked, not the person he later became (or perhaps always was, but I just never noticed at the time).  Undoubtedly, a large part of my small sadness is related to the reminder of my own mortality that his passing begets, but it's also to do with a life he wasted and a potential he never fulfilled.

In previous posts I've referred to him as Billy Liar, which is probably more apt than Walter Mitty as there was an element of pathos to Billy Liar's predicament, whereas Walter Mitty's was more humorous, being played for laughs more than anything else.  I also called him 'Adam Cowie' on my blog, but his real name was Alan Bowie, which, long after I jettisoned him he amended to Alan Bowie-McDonald - though don't ask me why.  When we were teenagers he lamented the fact that he didn't have a 'middle' name, so I suggested Adam and he became for a good long while Alan Adam Bowie.  (Or A.A.B. when he was writing it on lampposts and walls with a broad-tipped ink marker pen.)

Anyway, unless reports of his death are 'greatly exaggerated' (and if they are, he'll probably be behind it) that's him gone from this softly-spinning green and blue globe which hangs upon nothing, and I'll never see him again this side of doomsday.  Except in memories and old photographs of course, when I still held his friendship in some regard before his slow-but-seemingly-certain slide into decadency and despair.

So here's to the memory of Alan Bowie - though not the Alan he became, but rather the Alan I believed him to be before the scales finally fell from my eyes and I saw him for what he was.  However, the end of our friendship was as a result of his unacceptable attitude and bewildering behaviour, not that of mine.  

Ah, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

The 10 year-old Facebook comment about his death, which I only saw this Sunday (17th)

(Update:) On his Facebook profile are numerous lies that bear little or no resemblance to reality, but one is so easily checkable that I'm surprisingly surprised (after all, none of his lies should ever have surprised me) at the audacity of it.  He claimed to have a rare form of Motor Neurone Disease called ATOL, but it's so 'rare' that it doesn't exist.  I checked with the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and they've never heard of it, even asking me what the initials stood for.

Now, I very much doubt that he actually had MND, but if he did, you'd have thought that was bad enough without having to invent a 'rare form' of it, wouldn't you?  Or perhaps he just had to be different from your 'average' MND sufferer.  All I can say is that I'm extremely glad I don't suffer from his overwhelming compulsion to tell great big obvious stonking whoppers.  Now, you'll have to excuse me - I've got to take my new spaceship out on a trial trip to Alpha Centauri, but don't worry; thanks to its nuclear-powered warp-drive I should be back before teatime.

What do you mean you don't believe me?  Cheek!

A.A.B. in the back garden of his bedsit in St. Andrews Road, Southsea, December 1978 

Stop The Bus Dept: I've just found a recent email from the MNDA in my Junk file, which made me wonder for a moment whether I might've been doing my former friend an injustice in regard to his 'ATOL'  Here's a 'cut and paste' of part of its contents...

There is a form of MND called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): 
This is the most common form of MND, with weakness and wasting in the limbs, muscle stiffness and cramps. Someone may notice they are tripping when walking or dropping things. Life expectancy is usually two to five years from the onset of symptoms.

I don’t know if this is perhaps what your friend had, but it may be that he was using an incorrect acronym. There are many variations of MND but I am not familiar with ATOL.

However, according to my ex-pal ATOL is a rare form of MND, whereas ALS is the most common so simply getting the acronym wrong wouldn't really account for the discrepancy.  I'm therefore disinclined to be charitable and give him the benefit of any doubt - especially as there's no doubt all his other lies were definitely just that.

(Yet another update:) I 'phoned a couple of funeral directors near to where he'd lived and one was able to confirm his death as they'd arranged proceedings.  He died on January 10th 2013 and was cremated on February 1st (16 days short of what would've been his 54th birthday).  Strange to think that he left our home town in 1977 and that for most of his life he'd lived elsewhere.  I wonder whether he ever missed the place where his parents had brought him up?  Also, he left this world under another name, not his birth name, which, to me, seems incredibly sad.  Was that his wish or was it something he hadn't even considered?  I'll never know, but he'll always be Alan Bowie to me, not Bowie-McDonald.  I never knew that man.

P.S. I've just been messaged by one of his FB friends who informed me that he died of cancer.  Surprisingly, he made no mention of that particular illness on his FB page.  I hope his demise wasn't too painful and that he met it peacefully.  Marge, the woman with whom he lived (not his wife), predeceased him, but I don't think it was by long.  Perhaps, along with his illness, he just lost the will to live after she died?  A sad end indeed.

Again, outside Portsmouth Register Office, 15th December 1978.  In case
you're wondering why I'm the only one looking at the camera, there were
two (one in front, one on the left), both taking photos at the same time

(And another one:) The Cornish Gazette kindly provided me with a copy of his death notice and I was surprised to see only the name of McDonald used, not Bowie-McDonald.  The latter double-barrelled name was the one I supplied to the funeral directors when making enquiries, and the dates of his death and cremation - as well as his age and where he'd lived - are a match, so there seems no reason to doubt it's the same person.  His second wife left him (just like his first) and he and his daughter were estranged (her decision) so the 'much loved husband and father' is likely only following the usual 'etiquette' employed in such situations.  After all, no-one who dies is ever a "wrong 'un", are they?  Still, it's a sad situation, all things considered.

I've printed out his death notice and affixed it inside a notebook he gifted me back in December of 1980, which is quite appropriate and also somewhat ironic I suppose, in that the details of his funeral service are now recorded in the pages of the book he gave me over 40 years earlier when he was very much alive.  And here endeth his story - a whole 10 years and 8 months after he died.

Alan around the age of 7 or 8, I'd guess.  He gave me this
photo when I was down in Southsea/Portsmouth in 1978


Colin Jones said...

I've been reading the original post from 2013 which was fascinating but I'm curious how he made his wife's life hell. I've known people who told obvious fibs but nothing like your former friend, Kid. On the subject of him adding a name - I know somebody who changed his surname to Parker by deedpoll (that was his surname when I met him) but I persuaded him to change it back to his original surname Price (which he did).

Kid said...

I once knew a guy called Jimmy Jobbey who changed his name - to TOMMY Jobbey. (No, I'm kidding.)

He made his wife's life 'hell' in an emotional way, CJ, in that he'd sometimes go off to his naval base in the morning and then she wouldn't hear from him for days on end. She'd 'phone me, distraught, to ask if I'd heard from him, but I hadn't. Whether or not there was ever any physical abuse I don't know, but his behaviour and lying caused her an enormous amount of stress, so much so that she turned to the church for solace around a year and a half or so into the marriage.

When I last saw him in 1981, he said his wife was away looking after her sick granny, which may have been so, though I suspect she'd already decided to leave him by then and looking after her gran gave her a convenient opportunity. He either hadn't realised it yet or just didn't want to admit it.

Thank goodness you commented - I'd started to think that this post wasn't going to get any bites.

Must ask - why did you want your pal to change his name back to Price? I once changed my name to Percy Hinkle Pinkerbottom (honest), though not by deed-poll, which isn't necessary in Scotland (as long as it's not for criminal purposes). All you have to do here is inform all the relevant authorities and people and places you deal with of how you now want to be known. I'll maybe tell that story on the blog some day, though I've an inkling that I alluded to it before. (I've still got my unemployment card with that name on it.)

Colin Jones said...

Thanks for that info about your former friend's marriage, Kid, and I can only hope that his poor wife had a happier life after she finally left him!

I persuaded my friend to change his name back to Price because I thought it was rather silly he'd changed it in the first place so Roy Parker became Roy Price again thanks to me. He had a friend who'd copied him and changed his name from Simon Morgan to Simon Biggs (after Ronnie Biggs the train robber) but he too changed back to his original surname after I told him that Morgan was the same surname as Captain Morgan the pirate.

Kid said...

I wondered if he'd maybe changed his surname to Parker because his first name was Peter and he was a Spider-Man fan, CJ.

Yes, I hope she found a decent man who treated her right and with a bit of respect. She deserved it. My former friend claimed on his FB page that he was married (to another woman), but he was never a bastion of truth or accuracy, so it may just have been a woman he hooked up with. Regardless, she left him as well, and he took up with someone else, but I've no idea how long they were together before he died. Sometimes people are just afraid to be alone and will accept just about anyone, so that could be the explanation for her putting up with him. She must have known that he was a compulsive liar - it was hard to miss.

Anonymous said...

I confronted a classmate about his lie. He proudly replied: "Well, I fooled you!" With some liars, a feeling of superiority, to their dupes, may be a motivating factor. A liar I met, in adult life, justified her lies on the grounds that, "Everybody lies" - when clearly they do not. In AAB's case, however, the outrageousness of the lies makes it seem pathological, as you suggest. Isn't telling lies continuously linked to psychopathy & narcissism, too - who knows? I imagine Boris Johnson qualifies in several of those categories!


Kid said...

I doubt that A.A.B. would ever have admitted to a lie, P, even if he could boast "I fooled you." When, as an 8 or 9 year old kid he was discovered to have traced an illustration he'd claimed to have drawn, he simply changed tack and said his sister had drawn it. The implication being that if it was a tracing, his sister was the liar and not him. Which doesn't really make much sense, but that was the 'logic' he followed.

Anonymous said...

Kid - Could you possibly take down my comment? Reading it back, considering AAB's passed away, maybe it's in bad taste, whatever his shortcomings.


Kid said...

If you really want me to, I will - but I don't think it's in bad taste as it's more about pathological lying than it is about A.A.B. Also, you were merely responding to my thoughts, not taking a dig at him as such. Besides, he's been dead for 10 years so it's hardly 'too soon'.

Colin Jones said...

No, absolutely nothing to do with Peter Parker, Kid - my friend didn't read Marvel comics!

I agree that Phillip's comment isn't in bad taste!

Kid said...

What was in bad taste, CJ, was my former friend claiming on another FB site (the one for our old school I think) that he had been a commanding officer on HMS Sheffield, which is now a designated war grave. He was never any kind of officer in the navy and was in fact a hospital porter in Gosport at the time of the Falklands war. Trying to big oneself up by claiming to be a Falklands war veteran is what's bad taste, so P doesn't need to feel he's doing the guy any kind of injustice.

Your pal didn't read Marvel comics? What was wrong with him?

Anonymous said...

Gordon, it's me, Alan. I'm not dead. I got put into the Witness Protection Scheme because I helped bust an international drugs ring ten years ago. My death was faked and I was given a new identity to throw the drug barons off my scent. I'm in Russia at the moment as part of a spy group for MI6 trying to bring down Putin. Don't tell a soul. I now have a new name, one that is ordinary and won't attract attention. Signing off for now, Bond... James Bond.

Kid said...

Surely you mean Bond-McDonald... James Bond-McDonald?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...