Thursday, 5 January 2017

A visit to Highgate - paying my respects

It's easy to separate us mourning fans from the gawkers and other onlookers at the sea of flowers at George Michael's house in Highgate, London. We all have the same slightly dazed look on our face, trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. Some, like me, have tears in their eyes.

When I get there Wednesday morning, a week and a half after the devastating news of George's death, there are quite a few people around. They are all walking around quietly, looking at everything that's been left as a sign of love for George. Almost everybody has their camera of phone out to make a little video or take some pictures. But not in the tabloid way, in a respectful way. I talked a little while with fellow fan Yota, she is a Greek fan, living in South London. She felt it was 'important to be here'.

And that's exactly why I'm there too. Fellow fan Nesh, a member of a GM Facebook group, very kindly offered to print my tribute to George and take it with her to George's house in Goring. I was so touched when she wrote: "George has it now".

My tribute to George at his house in Goring
I'm so grateful to Nesh who took it there

When I saw the photo of it lying there amongst all the flowers I had a little cry and suddenly I knew: I had to come to England. To pay my respects and perhaps to make his death finally seem real to me. In that last aspect the trip failed utterly. While I was standing amongst all the flowers I kept waiting for the front door to open, I kept expecting George to step outside to admire all the things fans had made and written for him!

So I booked my trip and as it was incredibly last minute the only way to get to London I could actually afford was by way of an overnight bus, all the way from Amsterdam to London. I had done the overnight bus thing once before in 2011 when a similar lack of funds made it the only option to get from Dublin to London. This time it wasn't nearly as bad, for one thing the Wi-Fi actually worked! There was a long unscheduled stop (hours!) near the borders at the Eurotunnel, because we had a stow-away in the baggage hold. Because the bus was standing still we could hear the radio much clearer. You know that thing where your heart knows even before your ears that there's a GM song playing in the background? I knew it was George but the sound was so low it it took me a while to figure out it was Let Her Down Easy. Aww, beautiful but so sad now.

When we finally got to London I only stopped to leave my luggage at the hotel and took the bus to Highgate. And immediately knew I'd made the right decision in coming to London. There was so much to see! There were countless flowers of course. But also candles, flags, little plaques. I saw a little teddy bear, beautiful garlands, balloons - everyone had been so creative.
There were also many cards and letters, speaking of memories, bereavement, grateful thanks but most of all love. The love was almost palpable.

And his car, oh his car. That's what made me break down finally and cry. The fans had made his car all beautiful, with flowers, and little messages. It was such an act of love. I put our own card of love on his car too. Here's the FB live video of my visit.

My last letter to George at Highgate.
Thee candle on the right is my rainbow candle.

I mentioned before that for a little while in 2010 I wrote to George every day, doing my bit to cheer him up while he was 'away'. And now that George has moved so much farther away from all of us, I wanted to send him one last letter. I took it with me to Highgate and left it there, with a little rainbow flag candle. Here it is, in a slightly edited form.

Hey dear George,

It's me again, your voluptuous black fan from Holland. We've never met but I'm sure you've seen me a couple of times at Symphonica shows, looking so happy standing as close to the stage as as I could for The Medley. I've been writing and blogging about you for a little over 10 years. You gave me so much joy  and your music meant so much to me I just had to come to London to say goodbye to you. Only it turns out I  can't - my chest actually hurts at the thought of saying goodbye. So I will just say 'be well my dear George, be at peace. And wherever you are, know that you are loved'.

The first time I went to your house in December 2006 I felt a bit ashamed and embarrassed. I didn't want to bother you, but I so much wanted to see where you lived I couldn't help but take a look. My wife and I took the subway and walked up to the beautiful village of Highgate, certain we'd easily find your house. I'd seen photos of you standing in front of it so how hard could it be? We walked around and finally saw this beautiful, elegant cottage. The understated (less is more!) Christmas ornaments on the door convinced us: this was your house. Mission accomplished! On the way back to the subway we saw a young woman standing on a tiny bit of village green, staring intently at a house,  a single red rose in her hand. Right! Clearly we'd been gazing adoringly at the wrong front door (I think it was Sting's house actually).

The lyrics to Jesus To A Child are going through my mind constantly. Where are you George? I hope you are with your mum and with Anselmo. But I also hope your soul is still around to comfort your dad, your sisters, and all the other family and friends who loved you so much. Because they are all hurting so bad. Poor David Austin, in losing you he lost his very best friend. And poor Andrew, who's fighting the English tabloids on your behalf. And Pepsi and Shirlie , who lived with you through the heady days of Wham, and clearly still love you. Ronnie Franklin, who's feeling bereft.
And let's not forget your amazing backup singers (Shirley, Lucy, Jay & Lincoln) who are sad beyond words. I've never heard backup singers complete and envelop a voice so completely as they all did with yours. You were all meant to be together. It must hurt them terribly to know that the five of you will never sing together again.
And my heart just aches for Kenny who loved you so much for so long. Whatever hurt you two caused each other, I'm sure there was also still much love between you.

There are so many things I want to thank you for.
Your music helped me through some incredibly tough years.
Because of you I finally picked up the courage to do what I always wanted to do: write. Writing about you was easy. And starting a blog and writing reviews of your shows was a wonderful experience.
In 2007 your amazing 25Live tour opened up my world. I wanted to see it so badly I took to travelling as far away as Vienna, Dublin and Belfast for shows. It was very hard for me as I was and am agoraphobic and leaving the house causes me so much anxiety but I managed it. I even conquered my fear of flying for the most part because of you!
Anne from GeorgeMichaelNL and Meme from the Twitter Reviews and I had this little online club, with you as the honorary (that is: most talked about) member. We talked about you and what happened at the shows and about our own lives. If it weren't for you I would never have met them and they've both become such good friends.

What's it like where you are, George?  I hope they have a heavenly recording studio. I picture you sitting at the controls or in a recording booth, grinning happily because things are going well with your music. That nasty tracheotomy scar and the damage it may have done to your voice is all gone. And look, you've got a brand new extra octave to play around with.
I hope your mum gave you a big hug that lasted for hours. Did you say 'hello' to Anselmo yet? Of course you did. I bet he told you he cried over Jesus  To A Child. And did Phil Ramone tell you yet how proud he is of you and what you did with Symphonica? And how much he likes the documentary George Michael at Palais Garnier?

I still can't believe the choir up above got so much better, they are so very lucky to have you, George. I've always said you should have released a Gospel CD and that you'd make a kick-ass worship leader. I'm sure it won't be long before you're producing and arranging the Hallelujah's or whatever it is they sing up there anew.

George, you were an inspiration to me in so many ways - I looked up to you.
I know a lot of your fans, both male and female, harboured secret dreams of enjoying a night of passion with you. I had a different though just as unattainable dream, and just a dream it will remain. I daydreamed of just sitting around the kitchen table with you and listen to you talk about music, love and life.  And I'd have loved to hear your true coming out story, all of it. Because that side of you fascinated me, and I've always felt there must be so much more to it than what you could share with us over the years.

There's this wonderful sad little lament in The Lord Of The Rings, when Sam is convinced ring-bearer and best friend Frodo has been killed by Shelob. "Don't go where I can't follow". It's been on my mind a lot these last few days. You are gone and we won't ever see your wonderful smile again, won't hear you say 'doyouknowhatImean', won't hear your lovely laugh and won't hear you sing live again. But we have your music. And while we can't follow you where you have gone, I do hope our love can still find its way to you.

Be well, dear George. I'll love you till the day I die.

Dear George, your friend Meme Larmour wants to say goodbye to you too. She gave us Lovelies so many great Twitter Reviews, and like me she was an unofficial member of the Dutch Twitterteam. Anne who founded the Dutch Twitterteam and is the boss at GeorgeMichaelNL sends her love as well. You'd like them both, they're both great, pleasantly crazy and they love you to bits.

Here is what Meme wants to say to you:

You are my only Minstrel.
You are my only Music Man.
You coloured my soul with your poetry.
You soothed my ears with your honey'd tones.
You filled my heart when it was empty.
You gave me friends when I had few.
You gave me hope for a new day with new music & love........
Now in your absence no comfort yet from your poetry music or vocal balm.
Time must pass and pain must lessen.
And then when time enough goes by we will meet again.
For Souls as sweet as yours are too bright for our darkness.
And you will light our paths once more.

Xxx Meme Larmour


  1. This is so beautiful I got teary eyed reading it.. a few spilled over. You sure have a way with words.

  2. This is beautiful! I got all teared up reading it. Its so personable and genuine. You sure have a way with words. Thank you for allowing us to see it. God Bless George Michael - he will be missed!

  3. Ada, This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your feelings and experiences. I have been feeling so alone with my grief and actually a little embarrassed. I don't understand how I can feel so sad about someone whom I've never met, so reading your blog helps me feel less alone. I'm thinking his passing is effecting me so deeply because this year I turned 50 and I've been refecting back to my 20's. And Wham and George Michael were such a big part of my life. I am having a hard time accepting he's gone. Why? Something deeper is going on here. I just can't seem to accept it. Thank you again for your blog. Melanie (Los Angeles)

  4. Wow that was heartfelt for sure. Still unbelievably painful. I minis you George.

  5. magnifique hommage a ce fabuleux et respectable beau George Michael