• Kate Clarke

Etching Your Name Onto an Ice Cube

People keep telling me to watch Afterlife. I'm a little scared of it right now. I will see it at some point. Ricky is a hometown boy, after all, and I feel a bit bad about doorstepping his parents when I was a reporter. I read an interview with Gervais once, where he was asked what he would like his legacy to be. He said something like: "Being concerned about your legacy is like etching your name onto an ice cube."

Then he was asked if he wished he'd had children, to carry on the family name and to remember him when he was gone. He replied: "Having children so you can be remembered is like etching your name onto an ice cube and putting it in a cold room."

Unless you are Elvis, Shakespeare, or Martin Luther King, legacy is probably too much to expect.

Terry used to say that hearing a certain chord would always make him think of Champ Hood. I'm not a musician so I can't tell you which chord it was. It was one of those warm, jazzy, Hoagy Carmichael ones that sets you down on a warm riverbank amid hummingbirds and frangipani. The smell of Swarfega and the sight of a working man's hands makes me think about my lost brother, Graham. If I hear a bar band play The Wild Rover, or I see a curvy girl with a flirty walk, I think about Lauren, a lovely, funny, earthy woman I worked with, who died young.

I don't know how concerned Terry was with legacy. He was a performer, so he had a certain amount of professional vanity, I suppose. He didn't have very much of it. He wrote because he had to - it just fell onto the page, for him - and he performed because it was fun. He would have liked a hit record, but it wouldn't have changed his lifestyle much. (Though he did fantasise about buying an Ozwald Boateng suit with that first big cheque.) Heaven knows he had the longest memory for those he loved and he guarded their legacies. He knew how much his grandparents gave him by doting upon him as a child and he honoured them for it. And he knew how much his parents gave him by being steady, careful, good people.

I've mentioned before how the kindness of strangers and friends has stopped me in my tracks these past months. A friend drops me an email to say "I thought about Terry yesterday while I was on a walk" and that idea makes me happy for days. A musician he once shared some drinks and songs with, sang one for Terry's birthday this week on a Facebook broadcast, because another friend had marked the date on her calendar...small kindnesses with long, long echoes. I know there will be many other moments like that which I won't get to hear about. I don't need to hear about them. I know they happen. We have all lost someone, or fear losing someone, or fear our own end, and it makes us mindful of the losses around us. I do know that if you have someone in your life whose loss will wreck you then you're the luckiest person alive. Maybe that is a legacy to aim for - will I ruin someone when I go? It's just a thought.


Champ Hood and Terry Clarke


The wind is weeping

The cornfield cries the blues

The moon is keeping

A close watch, one step removed

Terry Clarke

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