Bob’s last party at Ph’s barn

The evening at Ph’s barn, was magic. Most had left, few came, mostly locals, but also Pete Sinclair and Bev, who’d filmed with Bob in Kathmandu and attempted to film the Haj with him in the early 1970’s. Here in a Suffolk farm barn, with firey space heaters to warm, we drank Ann Dingwells paid for wine, ate food I’d bought, smoked some good grass and watched four films of Bob’s films, thanks to Stewart Orr, who’d mastered them onto digital.

Appleby Fair was first. Bob the camera man, of boys bare back on horses, riding roughly into river water to clean them off before the fair. Of faces of men now long dead. Of a way of life gone now, free, carefree, tough, unsentimental.

From 1970 to 2002, and Langer, a portrait of Imogen and her gift of a tumbling down house, which she transformed into an amazing restaurant hotel, with the help of Toby, who made labels for all the wine bottles, to prevent them from being lifted by her previous managers. Imogen’s kindness to Toby is touching to see, as she describes one of his ‘moments’ which will pass, but right now, he is taking this opportunity of emptying his life contents on to the lawn.

Ph, in his flying jacket, held conversations with equal anarchists.
Maggie said: ‘I had no idea’, and I realised then that the Suffolk people had only seen Bob in his sliding days.

A remarkable film of Benjamin Brittan and Peter Pears, at the Snape Maltings was directed by Bob and here you looked through his eyes. Bob know then he’d live not far from there. Peter Pears singing emotively, expressively. Bob cutting in an out of Peter Pears, the stage prop movers, the reed beds, the caterers, as the music wove them all into one. Oh where is he now? But, I remind myself, he’d be full of the red Merlot now.

As we drove back over the old air field, I dimmed the car lights, and we saw the stars clear above and around us, Jupiter bright, Orion strong.

I walked the dog, wept for Bob and all those conversations we did not have, or might have had and walks we did not take or might have taken. I’d been amongst Bob in some of my hay days, remembered them, and then remembered the later days. He was to come to Halesworth, to live with me perhaps find a place in Halesworth – he could not be alone in that Suffolk field, unable to drive, alone. We talked of taking the train to London town occassionally, or going up to Norwich cinema city. He had plans to make some new films. But the Merlot would have been there too. I felt the missing, but also the warm friendship of his good friends. He chose his friends well. I returned to drink red wine with the girls.

Rupert recalled his last conversation with Bob. ‘She would have made a wonderful mother’, he’d said of me. I must have been out of the room.

I’ve finished my wine. I’m listening to Brahms’s huge sweeping music.

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