Several years ago I had the good fortune to work with the wonderful Figen Murray. It was my first lecturing post and she was a lecturer in counselling. She was extremely organised, remarkably tidy and good listener. During our time working together, I went through a difficult time and she was calm, reassuring and kind. We have both since gone on to better jobs and despite living near each other have not managed to keep in touch. A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the sofa waiting to watch the Graham Norton Show and there was Figen on the local news. Her son had been killed in the Manchester bomb. She was, despite this devastating news, the calm reassuring presence I remembered. I made the effort. I went to the memorial for Martyn in the local park; I baked brownies and took them round and on Friday I went to Martyn’s funeral.
Martyn’s death was senseless. I could rant and rave about the Manchester bomb. On an emotional level I found it exhausting. I have a daughter who, if she had any interest in pop music, is the right age to have attended the concert. On a political level, this was a targeted attack on young girls, another example of violence against women. It was a puritanical assault on enjoyment and Martyn knew how to do enjoyment.
So, I’m writing about his funeral here because this is a blog space about how I use culture (literature, theatre, film) to discuss the world at large. Martyn’s funeral was theatre. Martyn also loved popular culture. The funeral was a deliciously camp experience, a real poke in the eye to the censorious moral attitude that had killed him. Martyn arrived in a horse drawn carriage in a coffin covered in his cultural addictions – Coronation Street, Bette Middler, Mariah Carey, etc. It was a master class in story-telling. Michelle McManus was a master of ceremonies and she was humbled and funny in her discussion of the kindness of Martyn. There were clips from Martyn’s social media and television appearances that were hilarious and brilliantly timed. There were big power ballads, sung beautifully. It was heartbreaking to watch his brother, young friends and partner sobbing with a coffin, but so often there was laughter through the tears. He was loving and he was loved
Whilst I love Doris Day and bad rom coms, Martyn loved soap operas and divas – different flavoured cheese. I use my love of Doris Day to be clever. Martyn used his loves to be funny and kind.