What follows should have appeared earlier today but I have suffered another
Stannah Day. That is when the early morning care worker in East Ham reports that
the stair lift is not working and it becomes a case of drop everything and jump on
a train to await the arrival of a repair man. The last Stannah Day was
as recently as 6th
October and one begins to wonder about their competence.
I was away all weekend but headed home early yesterday because I had an evening blog in mind but the journey took an hour longer than usual due to a long tail back on the A3 during which time the mobile kept ringing for text messages, but I took no notice. However all was revealed when the phone rang again quite literally as I put my key into the front door.
Last Monday as I emerged from the Blackwall Tunnel an LBC traffic report told me that there was gridlock in Erith and beyond after a fatal hit and run involving a cyclist on Bronze Age Way. I quickly thought as I headed north on the A12 how fortunate I was to be too mean to pay the Dartford toll, now I can’t help feeling how callous it was to run the word fortunate through my mind because that front door telephone call said the cyclist involved was none other than Brian Barnett who was a good friend of Bonkers (555 emails from him in the last two years) and known to everyone in Thamesmead who followed its news and gossip.
Brian could be seen at practically every Thamesmead event whether formal or fun and the occasional Council meeting and was a keen follower of cycling as a sport. The day before his death following the collision with a lorry which did not stop he was warning fellow cyclists of the dangers faced on London’s roads.
Brian was an entertaining character and cancer survivor who knew something about everything and loved to talk about it. A self-employed window cleaner who would help anyone and everyone. He used to visit an elderly gentleman from Crayford almost daily and take him out on day trips to keep him active and alert.
Those trips would be in his old car but latterly by train, that’s because last May Brian’s car was written off by an out of control bus in Dartford. The insurance company offered a pittance for it but Brian decided he could continue his business using only a bike. When asked how he would manage to carry his window cleaning gear he reminded me he only did shop windows so a ladder was not required.
An inexpensive ex-Royal Mail bike proved to be too much like hard work and instead he put his insurance money towards an electric bicycle. The week before last while I was standing on the Harrow Manorway flyover watching the new road surface being dug up Brian appeared out of nowhere. He had seen me from a passing bus and jumped off for a chat and told me that his precious electric bike had arrived.
No conversation with Brian would be complete without a tirade against the police, Bexley Council or maybe Peabody, perhaps all three. He had had run ins over parking not only with Bexley Council but with Dartford too and was always ready to explain how he had beaten them at their own rotten game.
Such was Brian’s appeal to so many people that during the course of yesterday evening I exchanged messages and conversations with several of them including Councillor Danny Hackett, MP Teresa Pearce and a former Thamesmead and Lesnes Safer Neighbourhood Team police officer, all in a state of shock.
An Evening Standard reporter phoned me twice seeking information - Danny and I think Teresa received calls too - promising a report in this evening’s issue. Sadly it appears to have been displaced by the Royal pregnancy. Brian would have had something to say about that.
Brian is the sixth friend I have lost in just 14 months but his is the death that has hit me hardest. He wasn’t my closest friend but his passing, unlike the other five, was totally unexpected. I keep seeing him not only telling me on the flyover about that electric bike which came out of the bus crash and appears to have led to his tragic death, but in a variety of places in Abbey Wood and Thamesmead where he would update me on exactly what he thought about various well known Conservative politicians, not to mention the injustices inflicted on bloggers by the police in both Bexley and Kent.
I do not recall Brian telling me about his Mother but I understand he had one still living to whom I am sure every reader will join me in sending their heartfelt sympathies. We are unlikely to see another Brian in Thamesmead.
26 Bonkers’ blogs include photographs by Brian Barnett, sadly there are none of the man himself. The two that appear here show him lurking in the background of Splashpark demo photos in 2015.