The Story of Bones

I met Bones at a Vike show at Tonbridge Castle in 1991. One thing led another, and in the way of these things, we fell in love. He came to live with me in Norwich, in the days when five of us shared a post-student house on the now-legendary Sigismund Road. Those were heydays: days of Vikings, and role-playing, and battle practices in the park. Days of innocence and wonder and drinking too much cider round campfires in the darkness.

Bones – Sigismind Road, 1991

They were also the days when we made our lifelong friends, those people who, twenty-five years later, are still family.

Bones was a character, a casualty, a joker and gentleman. He’d been a patched member of a local motorcycle club, still had the ‘FTW’ tattooed on his forearm, but had fallen prey to depression and alcohol. His life in Norwich was a new start for him. He did his level best to quit the Special Brew and to ease back on the booze, and certainty, it seemed to be successful.

Occasionally, inevitably, there were flashes of darkness. Bones had five years on the rest of us, and I always got the impression he’d walked places we hadn’t yet discovered – certainly not in our early twenties.

So – Tintagel. May 1992. A long way from Norwich, but the first show Bones’s group, the Northland Mercenaries, had put on in many years. So, of course we went. Loaded into the back of the van, camping kit and all, we drove overnight and we set up tents in the breaking dawn of the Cornish coast. And it was perfect, exactly the kind of community and brotherhood that welcomed and supported us all. That first evening, as the dusk closed in, we walked down the path to Rocky Valley, looking at the old tin mines and the spiral patterns in the stone – it was a magical place, and we sat in wonder on the edges of the Atlantic. Bones wanted to climb around the rocks, and no-one batted an eyelid – that was just the kind of thing he did.

I remember we joked about it: ‘Don’t fall in that, mate, I’m not coming in after you!’

The second night, Monday 2nd May, a date that will remain with me for the rest of my life, we walked down the path, again. We looked at the tin mines and the spiral, again. We sat by the seething ocean, again, and Bones wanted to climb around the rocks, again. The fact that he was wearing a monks’ habit and pair of army boots didn’t really register. We were at a show, and kit was still worn in the evenings.

After a while, we started to wonder where he’d gone. We waited. We waited some more. Then we got up and started to look for him. Cliffs. Campsite, shops, toilets, pub. No Bones. Not anywhere.

And this is point where my memory gets very blurred…

I remember the darkness falling and the whole camp mobilising for a search party. I remember voices in the dark, I remember the police, and the sound of the coastguard helicopter, and the lights. In all the melee, I remember someone – Graham? Jon? – saying to me, very quietly, ‘I think you should know, they’re looking for a body’. I get chills thinking about it, even now. I remember sitting by the fire, numb, disbelieving. I remember the bad taste jokes – because that was how we dealt with it. I remember people sitting with me, and lots and lots more cider. And I remember waking up in the tent Bones and I had shared, all his stuff scattered round me, and knowing, and hoping…

But they hadn’t found him.

They never did.

Bones was never seen again. No body, no explanation, no nothing. Common sense says that climbing round the edges of the Atlantic, half-pissed and wearing a monks’ habit, was not the brightest move in the world, and that he must have drowned. I remember Graham telling me that he probably hit his head as he went in – hence his lungs filled with water and the body sank…

But we will never know.

Bones had his issues. Did he fall – or did he jump? That kind of depression, it’s not impossible. Or is he, even now, serving tea in the Tintagel Tea Rooms somewhere, and riding out with the local Sons of Cornwall?

He left us with a hole. But he also left us with his sense of humour, and his craziness, and a powerful community that’s lasted two and half decades. He left us with a certain dent in the fuel tank of his old Yamaha, and the archetypal bikers’ denim cut-down that I still have in my wardrobe. For those of you that have read Ecko, Lugan was Bones’s CyberPunk character, complete with roll-ups, +5 Pocket of Eternal Dog-Ends, and the FTW tattoo on his forearm.

But most of all, he left us with a question, unanswered and ever unanswerable…

I like to think that, wherever he ended up, he saw the funny side.

Bones – Rocky Valley, Tintagel, 1992.

Picture courtesy of Graham, and taken about 15 minutes before Bones disappeared. And there’s just something about the faraway look…

17 thoughts on “The Story of Bones

  1. Thank you for sharing with those of us who don’t know you from that chapter of your life. What a story.
    It sounds as if he went the way he (was) meant to, from the way you describe him.
    Do you feel he’s left a shadow over your life, a huge question mark as to why and what happened? How do you move on from something like that?
    Sending you love.

    • You move on through community, I think, and ours was very close. He left a question mark for along time, but twenty-five years heals even the scars. It’s why, when Isaac asks me what I’d do, I never know what the answer would be :)

  2. Well done Danie – I think the story needed to be told. It filled in some of the gaps for me as well since I wasn’t at the show but back in Norwich. Lisanne rang Sigismund from what I remember and Mike came round to tell me…although we didn’t actually know for sure at that time. It was all a bit of a blur. I do remember tho that Steve took his bike from the lock up to and the brakes failed on the journey… which makes you wonder what would have happened if he’d decided to ride down.. :-o

      • Yes, I was back in Norwich too. I remember getting a phone call from Alan in which that normally phlegmatic friend sounded on the verge of distraught. I also recall crying on Val’s shoulder for about half an hour before we headed over to Sigismund – just about every Norwich Vike member not in Tintagel was there. By coincidence, Octopussy was on telly that night, and we all managed to laugh at my crap hairdo – but the mirth was understandably muted. Sounded more self-reassuring than amused. And yes, I love old Bones to this day. Wherever he is, I hope that he’s happy – and that I catch up with him some day.

        • I like to think that’s he’s waiting in the pub somewhere. Who was it that saw him dating in the fire at the Wake, saying ‘You don’t get hangovers where I am?’

          • That was Jane, wasn’t it? And, if memory serves, it was a day or two before the Wake, when Alan prepared the Elixir. She saw a mini-Bones – I guess that size-changing isn’t an issue where he is either – dancing in the demijohn. The same moment that I got the uncanny sensation that, if I turned around, he’d be right behind me, chin in hand and nodding approvingly…

  3. It wasnt me that said that, I was broken down near Birmingham and knew nothing about it til I got home, Ferret said he was glad I wasnt there, as they would have been looking for 2 of us… he may well be right! So many memories, the birth of the elixir, nights round his place , slowly getting wastedvand putting the world to rights… chatting up the same girls… he always said he wouldn’t make 25. Wish he had been wrong

    • We threw the last of the original Elixir batch on the fire at the Wake, I seem to recall, and it went WOOOMPH! like a cupful of petrol. We were all sitting there going, “We DRINK that stuff?!’

      Couldn’t do that now…

  4. It was a sad time although we weren’t at Tintagel that year we had the pleasure of knowing you both through Norwich battle practice’s amongst the shows we all did together, my mine memory at one show was how much you were an item, and Bones appearing out of your tent shortly followed by yourself, it may well have been at Surlingham Ferry or Magham Down, we all miss those days and Bones certainly left his footprint on us all.

  5. Jane and I were living out of Sigismund Road at the time, across the city at Beaconsfield and we simply couldnt afford to go to that show – it was the wrong weekend for Giro’s and that was that.

    I cant remember if, when the house phone rang, if it was Jane or I that picked up the phone and listened to what was being said. And then passed the phone to the other.

    Thats a weekend that will stick with me throughout life as a “if I had been there, could it have been different” but I understand these days the answer is simply no! When you get the call to the next life you have to go.

    Still, the bugger better have saved me a seat on his bench near the fire, as I am now older than he was.

    And seeing this conversation isnt the story about clearing out his lockup and the gallon of golden I dont think we need to go into that.

    • The funny moments – and the dark jokes – were the best things in all the sorrow. And yes, he’d better save us all a spot, or I really will punch him :)

  6. I remember first hearing this story when we went to pour boos into the sea for Bones when I came to the Tintagel show with you (around 2001 I think). A sad and mysterious event. x

  7. I remember getting the call from chris the only call ive had like that and hopefully the last. Story well told Danie these dry old eyes are stinging from the tears starting to well up in them , although I dident know Bones as well as the rest of you, he was a very likeable bloke and always had time to speak to me, where evere he is i hope hes saving a seat and a drinking horn of the elixier for me.

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