Keith was born in London in 1960, moving to Norfolk when he was about 6 years old.
At Grammar School he excelled at many sports –hockey, cricket, football and sprinting – representing both his school and the county. In 1975 he was very proud to play at the Oval, as part of the Lord’s Taverners schoolboy cricket team.
Keith was also a mischievous prankster with many tales to tell of his escapades at school. For example, one Christmas the sixth formers were told their common room didn’t look very festive so they, quite literally, lifted all the decorations from the school hall. On being found out, they had 30 minutes to return them before the Queen’s representative arrived for Assembly! Another story told of the time Keith and his friends moved a teacher’s car to the bottom of the sports field one foggy day. On discovering this, the teacher’s language was not exactly scholarly!
As a teenager, Keith caught the eye of a local football talent scout and was offered a trial for Tottenham Hotspur. You can imagine how this went down with his Arsenal supporting father! [These two teams are rivals that traditionally hate each other!]
Sadly, injury prevented him attending and his interest and time was soon taken up with his friends’ band. Keith travelled with them to many gigs, ‘roadie-ing’ for them. He often told the story of how he was packing guitars in the van one night when a drunken lout began to threaten one of the band members. On rushing out of the van to the defence, Keith tripped but managed to turn into a somersault, landing on his feet in a karate pose. The lout ran!
After a while Keith joined the civil service, working at the local JobCentre. He made many good friends there, and worked his way up through promotion to the dizzy heights of Grade 7. His job has entailed many things through the years, from helping people find jobs, supervising Youth Opportunity placements, helping to fund small businesses, dealing with large budgets for further education and writing speeches for ministers. The civil service supported Keith as he studied for his Bachelor of Arts degree through the Open University and, later, his Master of Philosophy through Warwick University.
I first met Keith just a short distance from this church, in the Church Rooms. Although I lived in a village a few miles away, my school and my best friend were here. We became involved in a performance of a Christian musical called ‘The Witness’ which met in the Church Rooms to pray and rehearse. I got to sing the part of Mary and Keith was one of the musicians, playing his guitar. From this came many musical opportunities to sing and play, along with our friend, at lots of churches and Christian events, including a weekly prayer meeting and Bible study group opposite where we now live!
I fell in love with this handsome man with the beautiful eyes and the wicked sense of humour, but didn’t dare let him know!
In 1982 I went to teacher training College in Lincoln and fate, (or God), gave me the chance I needed – I got the mumps. Whilst in sick bay I plucked up the courage to write a jokey letter to Keith, only to find he liked me too.
By 1983 we were engaged and in 1984 we married – just a week before I had to return for my last year at college! Keith drove to Lincoln most weekends to be with me, and calculated that he spent nearly a year there himself. His battered Datsun Cherry also broke down on every stretch of the road to and from Lincoln over those 3 years.
For 10 years we lived with Keith’s parents. In 1989 his lively, bubbly Mum died of leukaemia. Keith was devastated. I don’t think he ever really got over it to be honest, and I’m sure many of his later health problems, both physical and mental, stem from this time. We were both thankful, however, that we were on hand to help and support at this time.
Two years later I was pregnant with our first child. Sadly, she died in the womb, just 4 weeks from her due date. You can imagine the pain we went through. Keith was such a strong support to me and I well remember leaning on him, mentally and physically, as we buried our Rebekah.
A year later we moved into our own home, taking Keith’s father to live with us. A year after that and our beautiful daughter was born. Such joy! We both cried at her birth. Keith was so, so proud of his little girl. They played typical rough-and-tumble Daddy/Daughter games, shared bedtime stories, played and had days out. Those early years were very happy times.
I must mention that Keith’s sense of fun and mischief continued through his adult years too. He was famous for telling long story jokes with excruciating punch lines. Who can forget the one that ended with ‘for Hans that does dishes is as soft as Gervaise, with wild, green, hairy lipsquid’? [This was a reference to a popular advert for washing up liquid with the line “For hands that do dishes can be soft as your face, with mild, green Fairy Liquid”.]
Once, on encountering some buskers in Cambridge playing beautiful classical music on their violins and cello, Keith asked them if they ‘knew any Quo’. [Rock group 'Status Quo'] They promptly began playing ‘Rocking all over the world’, earning themselves a generous tip.
Keith was a Francophile, speaking French on holidays there with such a good accent that the locals thought he was French. One evening at a posh hotel lounge in Disneyland, Paris, a bored pianist was playing gentle jazz to the guests. Keith asked him if he knew Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. With a twinkle in his eye, the man picked up some music and played it with gusto! Soon all the genteel clientele were singing along and head banging. After resounding applause the maitre d’ had a quiet word in the musician’s ear, and it was back to the quiet music of before.
As time went on, Keith succumbed more and more to worries, depression and stress caused by his work and his health problems. Let me illustrate how he dealt with this: we had a cute guinea-pig called Ginger. When she was little she would hide in a toilet roll inner whenever she was scared. As she got bigger she could only fit her head in the tube, and was constantly amazed that we could find her. Keith’s approach to all his anxieties was very much like that, except that his cardboard tube was alcohol. The more he worried, the more he drank. The more he drank, the worse his health got, causing more worries. We tried everything to help him but, as I later learned through Al–Anon, you can’t make someone give up; they have to want to do it themselves. I am very grateful that I could be with Keith in the end, to tell him not to be afraid as God lifted him from the shelter of his tube.
I want to finish by reading a piece from the book ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, aged 37 ¾’. Our hero, like Keith, has been worrying about dying. He consults his super-religious friend who says “I am looking forward to being able to worship the Lord for all eternity. What greater joy can there be than this?” Adrian thinks ‘Well, of course I go along with that. I mean – yes, absolutely....’
He then asks his wife if she thinks he’d enjoy heaven. The reply – ‘only if they give you your own special corner to moan in.’
Finally, a monk comes to visit Adrian’s church for a question and answer session.....suddenly found myself on my feet. Felt about 6 years old as I spoke.
‘I don’t want to die...’
‘No,’ said Father John, ‘neither do I. Life can be very good. I’m sure Jesus didn’t want to die either. His friends and family, the natural world, laughter, tears, work – he loved it all I’m sure.’
‘But heaven – the idea of heaven seems so...I don’t know...’
‘Adrian, what are you interested in?’ asked the monk, ‘really interested in, I mean’.
‘Cricket.’ I didn’t mean to tell the truth. It just slipped out.
‘So,’ said Father John, ‘for you, Adrian, God has to make sure that heaven is at least as exciting and stimulating as scoring a century against Australia at Lords. Is that your wife sitting next to you?’
Anne smiled and nodded.
‘If Adrian keels over suddenly, my dear, and he’s on the point of death, you’ll know what to do now?’
‘Yes,’ laughed Anne, ‘I’ll buckle a pair of pads on him – quick.’
So I hope that Keith will once again be enjoying all his sports, while playing his guitar to Queen songs. Oh, and watch out God- you never know what trick he’ll play on you too!