Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Forget me?  Absolutely not!

The above 'anyone for tennis' image is of Micky Burn at Cranmer Hall, Norfolk, back in the gilded '30s, snapped during a visit to his dear friend Dinah Jones. How simple it must all have seemed back then. The image forms part of an archive whose importance we are only just beginning to take on board, as, piece by piece we unravel the story of his personal almost-century. 

Another piece to come to light is the very short speech I gave at his funeral service, one of several aired by family and friends. I think it's worth recalling - in royal purple, of course - if only to illustrate the mischievous side of Micky that we all found so endearing. It relates initially to our ongoing work to document his life on film. 

"Over the last few years our work with Micky on what he increasingly came to think of as 'his' film, offered him a new lease on life, and us a window into the sometimes crazy, sometimes sad, but more often than not magical world of Micky Burn.

Increasingly Micky took this as an opportunity to critique every last detail of his life, especially as our frequent trips to Beudy Gwyn, and expeditions to France, Germany and to Chatsworth to be reunited with Deborah Devonshire, brought him into immediate contact with many of the most important elements of his past.

Rarely was there a single day when he was not on the phone re-editing his story, expressing some new twist that MUST NOT BE IGNORED. My last call came on the day before he died, when he insisted that Professor Dawkins and the Resurrection become the film's newest focus: one wonders if this was prompted by private knowledge of some inner clockwork already straining to draw on the last of the energy remaining in its spring.

These last years with Micky have opened door after door to places, people and emotions we now could not imagine having missed. Micky at Saint-Nazaire, struggling to explain how he, wounded and alone, managed to circumnavigate a dockyard whose multiple dangers proved lethal to so many others. Micky arriving at Colditz and engaging the staff in perfect German. Micky tossing Camelias from Mary's tree into the stream below Tan-y-Clogwyn. Micky and 'Debo', geriatric Kathy and Heathcliff that they were, scattering scraps for her many hens. Micky in a crowded Munich restaurant tugging out a small denomination banknote  and proclaiming 'champagne for everyone!'. Micky standing on a crowded platform at Birmingham New Street station, insisting I fix the broken zipper on his pants - him up here, and me down there, and Micky entirely oblivious to all the curious stares. Micky flooding the basement bedrooms of a friend with whom we were staying, having left the bathroom taps running into a tightly plugged sink all night.

In future years I should perhaps retain a vision of him in Commando uniform, or dancing at the Ritz, or perhaps in Colditz announcing to stunned silence the death of President Roosevelt. But for me the image that will most remain in my mind, is of our Michael, on the morning of said flood, standing amidst a chaos of towels, mops and buckets, wearing nothing but droopy and very, very aged long-johns, his face a picture of innocence, inquiring in a little-boy voice - 'Was it me?'"

Forget - how dare we even think of it!