I’ve hoped too long

Rest in Peace Mr Mark Holroyd

Sometimes, Facebook brings you shit news; sometimes it’s even harder because it’s news that means you want to be with the friends who share what this means to you and you can’t be with them even though they really get where you are coming from. It seems it’s how you find out about people dying these days, too.

On March 3rd of some year I can’t determine, a boy fell out of the pub on top of me. He was six foot two, hair down his back, covered in ink, the hottest smile I’d ever seen. We went back to Alison Prince’s house and a legend was created in which Alison’s mum walked in on a very steamy kiss. The kiss ended, but 20 years’ later, the story was that Mark had actually asked Alison’s mum to give him five minutes. He did not, of course, as he was always a complete gentleman to other people’s mums.

That night, I wrote a little something about him in my diary and I sussed him right from the start. He told me way back then, in those last years of the 80s, that he was an alcoholic. I wrote then that if he kept on like he was, he was going to die. It took him 22 years of fighting and losing and trying and losing some more and in the last few years, we got to watch him fade away, trying as hard as we could to do something about it. In 2008, his mum had kicked him out, again, and he came to stay with me for a week. I won’t lie. It was hard work. He was listless, depressed and couldn’t sleep, though he was trying so hard to stay off the booze. But I got him, right from the beginning. Little 17 year old wise me said…

He just wants to drink his life away, some kind of guitar hero like Slash or Dave Mustaine or Chris Holmes. In a perfect world, he’d be in LA, playing guitar – a superstar. 

I think after the initial shock of meeting someone on a slow suicide, we all kind of got used to it. He was always a clown and I loved him very much. I never stopped wanting to be able to take away whatever it was inside that had switched to self-destruct, and I never could. I knew that the moment I met him and every single one of us who have stayed friends with him has known it ever since. We kind of had to put that aside and remember it wasn’t always like that.

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This is Mark and me at a reunion gig in Bury in 2009. True to form, he got in a fight and had to be kicked out. Life was always like that with Mark. I didn’t see him from about 1995 to 2007 but when he saw me in the kitchen at Henny’s, we hugged for about 20 minutes. And then he probably did something really offensive that made me want to hurt him.

I think I thought in that 12 year hiatus that he would have died. In fact, probably one of the last real times we were really good friends, he’d been run over and was in hospital for weeks. I thought he was dead then and visited him loads. I think I’d got round to thinking he was invincible like Keith Richards and he was never going to die. Like he could do whatever he wanted to himself and get away with it.

I wrote him a poem in 1992 called Mariners 4, 5, 6

For all those crazy, intoxicated nights in your company,

I still know you, transient. 

I see the swooping gentleman, 

the darling child, 

the stolen daffodils, 

a sad clown-warrior 

fighting with himself,

drunk on his own philosophy.

Your soul, siamese to mine, 

Is stars away.

I know you as well as I know myself. 

You see me as you see a looking-glass 

A reflection without sense 

A reflection without depth; 

An echo from a star that died billions of years ago.

I know you. 

I know you as well as I know myself.

As the years went by, I took it a lot less personal that I couldn’t find something to help him anchor himself to this world. It was just Mark; it wasn’t for lack of trying on my behalf. I’ve watched him dying for a quarter-century.

Despite all of this, I have nothing but happy memories of him. Getting a surprise visit from Mrs Prince, him nick-naming me Purple Haze – something he still called me. Mark doing crazy, crazy things I cannot repeat on here, for it is a family blog and it might make your eyes bleed.

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Mostly, reactions have gone from ‘WTF?’ to ‘Waste of a total dude’ and lots of pictures of Mark in the prime of his life. He leaves behind his daughter, his princess, and that in itself is a whole other story of sadness. Mark’s mum died then and it sent him into a final spiral. He adored his mum above everything. He’d gone to rehab again, but left because it was ‘too Christian’.

Mark is the only person I communicated with entirely in swear words and profanities. We still had a funny, free friendship like we did when I was fifteen. He used to send me messages like this: “ur the best girl i no x love u x”

but also like this: “Watching dwarf pron and thinkin of u x”

The guy was NSFW from the moment I met him.

Exactly this time last year, he’d decided to go to rehab again. I sent him this:

“Good luck and big hugs. You know we’re all rooting for you big man. The world has not seen what you can do yet xxx”

In August, he sent me this: “Ur prediction of me lasting for ever was a tad wrong got hepatitis of the liver” and I just knew. All the fight was gone from him.

I don’t like to think of him like that, because as much as he spent a long long time dying of this disease, he also did a lot of living. I can’t count the amount of fun times we had, like when we went to a concert in Bradford and how on earth we ever found it, I’ll never know. We went to Liverpool first and then the police redirected us, thankfully, in the right direction. He saw me at my blackest and darkest, and I think I saw him in that place too.

I’m going to finish with a sad song that Mark always played when he was at his worst, and then a happy song that will always remind me of him. I think this first song is just about how he felt. I just looked at his Facebook page and it was the last song he posted. It’s funny. I kind of knew it would be.

And because that’s not how I want to remember this remarkable, crazy madman…

Night, Mark; hope you’re raising hell wherever you are, and if you are in a bar filled with pirates then have a drink or two with them on me xx

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16 thoughts on “I’ve hoped too long

  1. This is a lovely tribute to one of those people who are hard work but have that spark that means you cannot abandon them, even when your own preservation is threatened. I hope everyone has room for someone like this in their lives. They teach us a lot, and remind us that there, but for some genetic lucky draw, go ourselves. Learning about someone’s death on Facebook or email is horrible though.

  2. i can’t tell you that i’m sorry that mark died. feel bad for the people that think your nuts. mark was alive. you are alive. most people are sitting around practicing for the old folks home. live live live. be alive. have to much fun. hell ive been arrested for having “to much fun”. billy

    1. You sound like you know where Mark was coming from 🙂 He definitely never sat around waiting for the end. He might have been dying a long time, but he did the most amount of living. And yes, most of it crazy, arrestable fun.

  3. Oh, Emma, not sure what to say, but here goes … You know a little about my battles, futile at the best of times, it seems so much of the time, totally heartbreaking at the worst, and I think you may possibly just have cornered the market on how it will all end. I hope, if it does, that someone cares enough about my lad to write about him like you have written about your friend Mark.

  4. truly beautiful that Emma – remember the last time I saw him was at the reunion gig and ended up doing my first aid bit on him and patching his hand up whilst battling the crowds in blind tiger!!!! Had some lovely but sad chats about October last year with him via fb and could tell he was tortured with his demons, lets hope he’s having a better time wherever he may be xx

  5. Beautifully written, brought a tear to my eye. Had some awesome times with Mark, all my booze filled youth had Mark involved, I used to infuriate him with my quick witt, I could answer back anything he tried doggin me down with, 🙂 But he had great respect for his mates, would never let his frustration boil over

    1. Thanks Justin… my favourite, completely inappropriate Mark-based insult was when he put his facebook status as ‘having a wank’… Dean put ‘hope your Mum doesn’t walk in’ and he put ‘hope yours does’. Only Poo could make a joke about Mrs Cardwell like that and it still be funny and a bit weird and also not beyond the realms of his wank bank.

  6. Can I just say this it was a bit wrong as mark’s mum did not die last year It was this year so we have lost two brilliant people this year.
    Thank you

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