Eulogy for my Brother Carl

Hear the eulogy here.

I first met Carl shortly after I was born. He saw me and chose my name. And then we were four, our little family, Doreen, Charlie, Carl and Andrew. He did OK, it’s a fair enough name, although he and my Dad often shortened it to ‘Drew’. In hindsight though, given his future love and obsession with Black Metal, I was lucky I was not named ‘AZMORGOTH THE DEMENTOR’. Which would have raised a few eyebrows at the registry office at Burnley General Hospital. Or maybe not. Given our proximity to Pendle and the rumors of witchcraft associated with the area or the local Hellmouth… otherwise known as Padiham.

As a boy, Carl was the clever one. Reading prodigiously early, and he was selected by our school to be placed in a special music program in which a Cello was bestowed upon him! Incredible! We’d never seen the like! It barely fit through the door of our little terraced house on Prestwich Street. I was not deemed Cello worthy, I was given the ‘Wooden Block’. Not a full glockenspiel mind, just an actual little piece of a block of wood, that you could hit with a little stick. It made just the one sound. A dull wooden thud. The sound of low expectations. What I’m saying is, you don’t find it in Symphony Orchestras. Bach never wrote a series of suites for the wooden block that stirred the soul. Not like the glorious Cello. But then again, on the flip side, there’s no competitive Cello soloist leagues amongst Burnley’s many pubs and would you rather have to lug a cello home across Stoops Estate or have a wooden block stowed snugly in your back pocket? So the joke was on him really. And he knew it, the cello was a burden which he had to heft about for years, on buses in the rain, through spaces that were too small and were more suited to the wooden block. And it was a struggle - he was a sweet, kind and big hearted kid. The head teacher at our Primary School often gave his favorites nicknames and his was the wonderfully ironic ‘NASTY’, partly to fit with the alliteration of Newsham - ‘Nasty Newsham’ but also, because Carl was anything but nasty. Even when struggling with the cello. He never lashed out, it was internalized, he would seethe with a frustration like a Victor Meldrew, like Basil Fawlty, a Burnley version of Sisyphus, the character in Greek Mythology who was cursed to pointlessly push a rock up a hill for all eternity. And the music teacher he had was by all accounts an old school banshee whose pedagogical philosophy was raw anger and poisonous disappointment. But it was a honor to have the cello, there was no way he was going to be allowed to give it up! …No wonder he needed a drink… and there was no shortage of places to get a drink. Amongst Burnley’s many, many pubs. As a kid, I used to think that there were more pubs in the town than people. There was anyway, back in the day, when directions to anywhere were given via the landmarks of pubs… Left at the Crown, right at Harry’s Bar, up to the Carlton. He was often carrying burdens we could not help him with.

The cello was the first burden I saw Carl with and couldn’t understand or help him with. It’s a wonder he liked music at all - but he did - he loved it! In most of it’s shapes, forms and varieties. In his teenage years in the 80’s you would find him hand sewing and embroidering denim jackets with the names of his favorite bands, superb works of art really. Beautiful tapestries on denim. Heavy Metal was a big love. Maiden, Sabbath, Slayer but there were also the Rockabilly years and electronica - Erasure in particular. The romance of O’lamour blasting out on the bedroom record player, the soundtrack to his teenage love life. He had a great little group of friends. He always had friends… and particular soundtracks for them. He was easy going and up for anything most of the time. The perfect partner in crime. With a wit and turn of phrase that could make you laugh so much you almost pissed your pants.

Our thing was listening to Bob Dylan - our parents had a bunch of the albums and singles on vinyl. And I think we had the words remembered to Subterranean Homesick Blues before school made us learn the Lord’s Prayer. And of course, it is a more poetic, powerful and vital incantation.

We saw Dylan in concert twice together. Once when we took our mum to see him at the NEC for her 50th Birthday and the first time at Glastonbury in ’98. Great memories. Good times. The Glasto gig was very special. We got close to the stage and Dylan played a lot of the classics and we sang every word together. It had been a long day of revels and as the gig went on I felt Carl leaning on me more and more… before the encore I asked him if he was ok and why he was leaning on me so heavily and he looked at me in surprise and said ‘I thought you were leaning on me!’

That was us, leaning on each other. He was a wide reader and a voracious, passionate intellect and I grew up in his shadow. I learned by his example, both good and bad and if anything, I’ve only made my way because I was able to stand on his shoulders.

Of course we’ve lost Carl before, we’ve had practice in a way, not that it makes this any easier. We lost him for many years to his affliction. Which he hid from us, to which we had no answer for. To which we could not help him. To which, like many alcoholics, he was in secret communion with at all times, until that conversation grew and blocked out all things, the good, the bad, the ugly. For us, to be outside this communion was to be put on mute. And yet even when it consumed him, he still managed to get multiple promotions at work and he still managed to way more than adequately provide for his family. It was a road he chose to walk alone and it was only something he finally overcame with the help of Andrea.

And so this final losing is particularly tragic because he was over ten years sober now and he’d worked hard to finish college and graduate and had begun his own therapy practice. I’m sure he was going to go on and help so many people. He was going to help people with a depth and knowledge that can only come from empirical lived experiences understood and bound to the discipline of academic study and practice. It’s a great loss in so many ways.

I hope he knew how loved he was. I hope he knew how many people he had comforted and made laugh. I hope he knew how well liked he was by so many even if sometimes we got frustrated with some self destructive habits that sometimes got the better of him.

A few years ago, I asked him to walk The Coast to Coast trail with me. 192 miles from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay. He was busy starting his new therapy practice and with work but he was wanting to get fit and he knew it would be an adventure so he said yes. We didn’t know then that the cancer was already in him, we didn’t know that it was wrapped around his adrenal gland so his body couldn’t properly turn food and glucose into energy so he couldn’t properly burn fat and build muscle. In hindsight, it was a truly amazing feat of strength that he managed to complete that hike with me. And it was an amazing hike, so many laughs, so many stories and memories. We sang the Manchester Rambler and made up jokes along the way. We turned tears of exhaustion into tears of laughter at the end of every day. He saved a young Israeli tank commander from being lost on the moors. I wish you could have seen the way he would slam through the doors of remote pubs and hostels at the end of of our fifteen mile days, caked in mud and sweat, in Death Metal t-shirts saying things like ‘Rotting Christ’. The looks on the locals faces. Priceless. It would always ensure there was space around the fire for ‘AZMORGOTH THE DEMENTOR’. Treasured memories.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you today. To share this remembrance and celebration of my brother’s life. I’ve so many stories I wish I could share with you as I’m sure you have some to share with me too. It is hoped I’ll see you at some future gathering around the scattering of the ashes next year, when we get this COVID beat and we can all travel and congregate again, like we used to. And then we can have a get together in a more informal setting and remember all the good times we had with Carl, all the laughter and share what he meant to each of us and how he brightened our lives and helped us carry our own burdens. But until then I will have to say goodbye like this.

You were a good brother, a friend and a mentor. No more burdens for you now. We’ll carry you now in our memories and hearts and I’ll see you in the faces of my children. Particularly their smiles. Rest easy big man.

Carl Newsham

1971 - 2020

R.I.P