Last night I received devastating news that one of my best childhood friends Craig had died unexpectedly. I still can't believe what I have been told.
I have known Craig since we were Gisburn Road infants/junior school in Barnoldswick or Barlick back in the day when we were in Yorkshire.
Craig was bright, intelligent, funny, talented and well liked even at an early age. He was good looking lad and was always the one the girls ran to catch when we played kiss chase at infants. I don't know if they allow that these days but it is one of the earliest memories of Craig.
Craig supported Liverpool, and he was a very good player I was always pleased to have him on our team at Gisburn Road and I still have a picture of our 11 a side winning team wearing what now looks like the 1966 World Cup team colours. Looking at those in the team I think we'd have given them a run for their money.
Craig was a good footballer and he did captain the Colne & Nelson district under 11 team which had Michael Phelan ex Burnley Man Utd in the team. In terms of football because Craig went to Ermysteds he never really played football which I think was a loss because he was good, almost as good as me.
Out of school we were always hanging out together, going "chubbing" for wood for bonfire night brings back fond memories for me. Summer holidays were real holidays back then we would play footy, cricket, tennis and golf down a Rolls Royce. Craig played left handed but we only had right handed golf clubs and he still managed to win. Some of those times he was looking after his little sister Alex who would hang out with us, I often wondered what she made of us all.
Craig was what we used to say "brainy" he was a quick learner so I was not surprised that he passed his 11 plus to go to Ermysteds. I scraped in with him as a borderline case which is probably why I struggled at school. Craig just was naturally bright and after his first year he was in the top class with Wilbur.
I had to break this news to Wilbur who lives in Spain, he is equally devastated.
It was a strange experience at Ermysteds very traditional almost military and Barlickers were I felt treated as outsiders. Saying that Craig did well at school and managed to avoid being dragged into the rugby culture.
Back then most kids supported "dirty Leeds or Utd, or the Mighty Burnley" But not Craig He followed his beloved Liverpool with a passion that I know he kept all of his life.
Music, Craig loved his music early on and in particular Soul music, he used to get Blues & Soul magazine. He shared my love of dancing in a working class community where men used to stand at bar watching the dance floor, Craig would love to 'get down and boogie" straight away.
I remember many a night at Angels in Burnley and the dramas as to how we got back to Barlick or how we would try to get past the bouncers. Even then I always seemed to attract attention of bouncers, Craid never had trouble getting in Angels.
1980 was a big moment as both Wilbur and I left Barlick to study. But I would look forward to returning to Barlick and having a crazy night out in town (when we still had pubs). Back in the day Barlick had a reputation of being a bit "lively", and we had a few such nights when I was back.
What Craig gave me was a sense of community, he was a proud Barlicker and although he has had his ups and downs he always managed to present a positive outlook on life.
My biggest regrets is that in his last few years I was absent, busy with my own issues. I know that is the same for all of us. But when I look at the lovely picture of Craig and know I'll never see that smile or get a big hug from him I can't stop thinking I should have been there for him.
I have spoken to his sister Alex today, and said I'd be posting my response to his death and confirmed I will be at the funeral on Tuesday. I'll leave here for now as memories are coming back to me and will post more later.
Craig if you can hear me, I always loved you. We've both been through tough times you more than me. But you have two lovely children Jodi and Kirk who are living proof of the wonderful boy then man you became. Life is shit sometimes and taking you away from your family and friends before your time is one of those times. I will cry and mourn your passing but I will continue to treasure the 50 years I have known you and the good times and laughs we had together.
Rest in Peace "Lambsy"