Goodnight, Gerry. Sweet Dreams.
In our dotage now, those of us who once thought that 50 was 'old' age; It isn't. 70+ is old age, and what once seemed like a joke about zimmer frames, incontinence pads and late night cocoa is not quite as funny any more. There's not so much to laugh at when we wake up on yet another morning.
On Friday February 19th a man I have known and loved for almost fifty years quietly faded away after a long struggle. Gerry Browning, 1933-2016 was a quiet, placid man. Gerry was a champion rambler, a man of wide open spaces who knew the beauty of the vast underpopulated swathes of Britain. He knew his compass, could read his maps, and he taught us all that just beyond the next hill there lies more beauty than the valley we're still in. Gerry had deep, almost hidden yet searing passions which could surface in colourful emotion. His love of Rugby League and his adoration of the Airlie Birds, Hull FC, a lifelong commitment. And for a working class lad who had spent his life as a highly skilled bricklayer, it always surprised me that in his other passion for modern jazz, just how much he would enhance and influence my own tastes in music. On my first camping trip with Gerry at Robin Hood's Bay way back in 1971, after staggering back from the pub to our tents, Dave Iles and I and the other camper whose name we've forgotten suggested to Gerry that his leadership and knowledge warranted him having a proper title as expedition leader. As he unrolled his sleeping bag, he quietly said "Oh ... just call me Chiefie..." And that's what Gerry became, and has always been for the past 45 years. Then, close friends all, we used to assemble in Hull's Olde White Hart pub each week and Gerry would enlighten us on the latest jazz releases, among other things, and discuss the merits of Hull FC. After other walks we all did together, an initial event featuring about 8 of us took place at Litton in the Yorkshire Dales. It was called the 12 mile pub crawl, and the walk was in honour of a close friend of ours, Mal, who had committed suicide.
On that walk we designated ourselves as The Over The Hill Club, and over the years we've had numerous weekends and expeditions, all led by Gerry, some highly memorable, like the riotous night we spent in the Black Sail Youth Hostel in the Lakes.
You may have left us, Chiefie, physically, but you're still our map and our compass. The last words you spoke to me in hospital were "You lads walk on - we'll all meet up ahead." I know that's true. Bless you for being our friend, and rest in peace, Chiefie. We'll see you off properly on March 11th, 2.30 pm at Haltemprice Crematorium.