Anthony was a genuinely wonderful person.
He had a lifelong, mischief inspired passion for art forgeries. Aged eleven we turned a sandstone door lintel into a standing stone and buried it in Botanic Park. It may still be there. Covered in crude markings. In later life, talking to Archaeologists, he found great humour in the idea of objects having ritual significance. He asked what the ritual significance of forging standing stones is.
Later he learned to be an Engineer. Measuring, striking, transforming metal into things. He was a collector of the minutiae of Engineers’ behaviours. At various times he would shout “Faster, sonny, faster!” in an indeterminate Yorkshire-Welsh hybrid accent, purloined from his Engineering Tutor’s instructions on correctly using hack saws. He was convinced Engineers go mad in their fifties and cease to be rational. He moved on from Engineering.
He learned to be a Printer. Combining the machine skills of Engineering with his Artistic talents he cranked out posters, letterheads and calling cards and endless design work for a pair of opportunists whose business depended on cheap labour and tight deadlines. In the long tradition of Printers, he hid genitals in design work. He moved on from Printing.
After Printing he was paid by the Oil Industry to learn to identify birds. His nascent passion for observation and nature flourished. He helped observational Ornithology in Wirral with bird counts and sketches. Among the birds he enjoyed observing were the Godwits. As much for the variety of names as for their habit and appearance. In a rambling conversation, we once identified the Fuckwits and Lackwits: fictional counterparts of the Godwits. Birds identical to Godwits except with a diet consisted of endangered or extinct species. Anthony never moved on from Birdwatching.
After acquiring the skills and patience of an Ornithologist, in later life, Anthony achieved an honourable Bachelor of Science in Psychology. His hard work combined with experience to give him a rich understanding of Psychological Time and the Nature of Personhood. He could have taken an overt, justified, pride in his achievement but rarely did. It is a deeply shaming thing that his talents were not appreciated more fully. He never needed to move on from Psychology.
Woven into his Engineering, Printing, Ornithology, and Psychology was a lifetime of Caring for other people. It began with his Nephews and Niece. He was the Person entrusted with caring while his Brothers and Sisters were off, out, having lives. His quietly accumulating contribution to other peoples’ lives made the World an appreciably better place. His final years included Care for our Mother whom he gave a quality of life and a retirement that would never have been possible otherwise.
For many years he trained in the Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu Schools of eclectic martial arts. He remained a Person not given to physical confrontation. His martial arts practice included “Utsuwa” and “Tamashii” – the constant and inconstant aspects of Personhood. This became an intrinsic part of his relationship to Art. He was profoundly interested in deception in Art ranging from optical illusions to art forgeries. In his degree work he recreated optical illusions from the repertoire of Marcel Duchamp and Bridget Riley to demonstrate the illusions of everyday perception.
His Art was not fashionable. It involved faking images in subtle ways. Using a fine nib he drew portraits consisting of repeated five pointed stars without lifting the nib from the page. Then mechanically copying the image to create illusions of machine production. When he began using Computers he reproduced a digital image by stacking up bed linen and lighting it to produce the illusion of a ghostly nude lying on a bed. The interplay between Person and Machine held a fascination for him that never diminished. In image creation he gradually adopted an understanding that creating machine images did not create human stories: human images are self images.
Understanding Psychology led him to Philosophy. Profoundly Sceptical of Modern Philosophy, Postmodernism was, for him, handwaving. He had a fondness for Guy Debord, though, and read widely among Moderns. It was in the Ancients that he found most sympathy to his own ideas. That to have ‘eudemonian existence’ – to live ‘the good life’ – treating philosophy as a preparation for the end of living was more important than the worldly manipulations the “Anglo-Americans” whom he thought had missed the point: philosophy is deadly funny.
He was deeply intrigued by the deadly fun. He gave me a copy of the “Book of Dead Philosophers” one Christmas – promptly purloining it, reading it and then recommending it to me quite highly. Returning it to me with, some weeks later, with a hand written scrap of paper. A book mark with a quote from that Necronomicon:
‘It is my wager that if we can begin to accept our limitedness, then we might be able to give up certain of the fantasies of infantile impotence, worldly wealth and puffed up power that culminate in both aggressive personal conflicts and bloody wars between opposed and exclusive gods.’
He found the death of Aeschylus by Tortoise utterly hilarious, insisting he had inferred the assassinating species: Vultures. He was very much impressed by the capacity of the Ancients to move onwards. It influenced him, more profoundly than we realised, that Life is a preparation for Death. Despite being amused with Vultures his sense of awe and wonder at the Universe is what really drove him.
His Care of our Mother was a contribution to everybody’s life that was more than merely functional. For decades he would engage in ‘Necessary War Work’. This War Work ranged from emptying a commode to buying bread to late night-time conversations while our Mother knitted and talked about her life and her Work. It was a listening therapy of a kind somewhere between Psychology and Philosophy.
The War was the Class War. Sadly, one he was losing. Anthony never moved on from Caring.
Throughout his life, Anthony cared more for his Nephews and Niece than his Siblings. He had helped to care for them as infants and that meant more to him than anything. He took genuine pleasure in their achievements and the opportunities they could have which extended to a happiness at the achievements of their friends. Especially Musician and Artists. He was profoundly happy that they might have greater opportunities than himself. That was the core of his belief: the World should move on from being crappy.
Anthony knew a tremendous amount about our Family History ranging from whisperings of East European pogroms to the realities of the Irish Diaspora and the intricacies between and beyond that. He researched his Grandfather, in part, fulfilling a desire to know more about the Blacksmith his Mother was proud of. It was also research that revealed his Grandmother had been something of an Opera Singer. His practical rationale for this: caring for our Mother was helped by helping her to recall those people. It was part of his genuinely compassionate capacity to show people the importance of their own living. There was powerful cause for him being our Mother’s favourite child.
Despite a life filled with seriousness, Anthony stored immense humour and wit. His knowledge of Music ranged across the Twentieth Century. On seeing the Residents, live, in 1983 he remarked, “we must be the only members of the audience not in a band”. He listened to the tintinabulation of Arvo Paart with equal joy as listening to Skate Punk. He was particularly enthralled with Magazine and Nirvana. He could be scathing about musicians; enjoying vaguely obscene yet informed descriptions such as that of The Bangles: ‘putting the les on the bang to become the world’s first scratch and sniff band’; to describing every punk record as going on ‘far, far, far, far, far too long,”. His ability to cast a full horoscope using mathematical techniques learned when he was Engineering informed sharp commentary around bands manufacturing their image. Of one band he opined that their ritual circle looked as though it was for summoning the Butler of the dyslexic and entitled of Dante’s Inferno. And, of, “You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead” he remarked: they play a lot of Diablo.
Anthony enjoyed Computer Games. Undoubtably his favourite was Diablo. His favourite character: Deckard Cain – to whom he bore, and acknowledged a passing resemblance. He could summon Cain merely by uttering the words “Stay a while and listen!”. His game characters were named as a pun on necromancy and his scepticism: Rezn. Rezn was, invariably, a necromancer and a resurrectionist. When Decard Cain died, in game, Anthony was heartbroken. When Anthony died, some friends made a digital pilgrimage to ‘The Ruins of Sescheron’. A digital destination of rememberance in a game.
Anthony struggled with Poverty for years. It is easy to dismiss poor choices and gossip about anybody lacking the latest consumer culture trinkets. That austere life is far harder to live. It is almost impossible to live in secular poverty. His poor wellbeing was not helped by his self medication. Without the generous, and frequently frustrated, help of our Older Sister, Anthony would have fallen between the cracks long ago. He persisted in weaving a warped fabric of social value within a world resisting his presence.
Expecting Anthony’s life to be revealed through one obituary is a mistake, it is found in the memories and affections of the people he knew and who knew him. He enjoyed his life which, given his circumstances, was a profound achievement.