August 13, 2013

The Richard Cooper Memorial Walk

Visitors to London find the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and Memorial Walk:

I'm establishing -- informally, here on the blog -- something new: The Richard Cooper Memorial Walk. Here's why.

#  #  #  #  #  #  #

From Edinburgh, we took the train to London, a city I’ve visited countless times. From 1978 to 2000, it was my “home away from home,” thanks to my treasured friends Terry and Richard.

I met Terry in 1976. He was visiting Washington and decided to drop by BNA because our company had recently bought a 10 percent interest in a newsletter publishing business in London where Terry worked as a barrister-editor covering labor relations. When he showed up at BNA, the receptionist referred him to me, since I was the associate editor for BNA’s labor relations publications. That night, he joined my wife and me for dinner. It was the start of a (platonic) love affair that has continued to this day.

The Day before I Left for London, "The Talk"
A year later, I was scheduled to leave for a week in London, staying at Terry’s flat in Ladbrook Grove. The day before my departure, the family therapist we were seeing said – typically, just as our hour was ending -- it was time for the “hidden agenda” to come out into the open. I had told him privately, at the start of our association, that I’d finally come to terms with my sexual orientation and wanted to “come out” to the family when he thought the time was right (we were working on other family issues at this time).

So, we had “The Talk.” My wife and I agreed to separate and begin the divorce process. While I was in London, Diana sent me a “Dear John” letter. She told me she wanted the separation to begin immediately, and that she had made hotel arrangements for me when I returned.

That was 1977. I continued visiting London at least once a year from 1978 to 2000. Initially, I stayed with Terry, who had moved to the house where he is now. Being at Terry’s was something like staying at a fraternity house. He loves to be surrounded by people and fireworks, and seems to have little need for quiet recharge-the-batteries time. I’m the opposite.

I soon became friends with Terry’s great pal Richard, who lived in a small two-bedroom flat in a quiet mews three blocks from the Paddington tube station and its quick express train to Heathrow Airport. When Richard suggested that I might find it easier to bunk at his place, I readily agreed. 

The Charm of Bathurst Mews
You can see from this picture why I loved staying at Richard's place. Here's the entrance to Bathurst Mews and Richard's flat . . . right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, THIS bucolic lane:

Richard loved Scotland, and I was very happy to join him on trips there. When I retired in 1995, I anticipated spending even more time in the UK.

It was not to be.

Richard was one of the world’s funniest men. But behind the wit was a very insecure, vulnerable man. For reasons too complicated to recount, Richard decided to kill himself in the spring of 2000. Again, Terry became involved in a new turning point in my life.

An End and a Beginning
Terry delivered the eulogy at the memorial service for Richard, whose friends had flown in from all over world. The day before I was scheduled to return home, I had a farewell lunch with Terry and Patrick, another good friend, who was going home to Bangalore, India. Toward the end of the lunch, we decided we needed to do something to cheer ourselves up. So we began planning a tour of India for the next year.

When I told my son about my plans to visit India, he urged me to tack on some time in Nepal, which I did. That decision opened the Nepal chapter in my life . . . a happy chapter still being written.

#  #  #  #  #  #  #

So, please join me on the new Richard Cooper Memorial Walk.  

This is the walk I would take on my jet-lagged arrival day. From Bathurst Mews, it's a one-block walk to the Lancaster Gate entrance to Kensington/Hyde Park.

The walk takes us through Kensington/Hyde Park, Green Park, and St. James Park to the familiar sights of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Thames.

I didn't know this photo was being taken, but it captures perfectly how I was feeling as I walked away from Richard's old place at 39 Bathurst Mews, where I'd spent so many happy times.

1 comment:

B DuPree said...

Beautiful story. I have so enjoyed reading about your travels. My husband and I traveled a great deal before his prostate cancer recurred. Now I'm living vicariously through blogs like yours. Your approach to life is very impressive.