you know that thing that happens when you want to write something, something that you want to be one of, if not the, best things you have ever written, you due to the circumstances you really wish that you weren't writing it? welcome to that post. i have no clue how this one will go or how it will turn out, but i'm putting it here and out there. if you've stumbled upon this via a search after wondering "whatever happened to", all i can say is i am so very sorry for what you have found but all the same hope these words have some resonance with you.
how to write this in a way that's not coming over as callous or flippant, and yet is neither the mournful or morose thing she certainly would not wish for? here goes.
two weeks ago today, two ladies of exceptional importance to the world passed away. the passing of one seems to have caused a rather mixed bag of sadness and celebrations, followed by a State funeral that "wasn't a State funeral, honest". the passing of the other caused nothing but sadness amongst all those that were fortunate enough to know here, a sadness tinged with memories of the extraordinary, beautiful, wonderful things she had done for so very many of us.
it's the latter i write of, and remember just what it is that the wonderful Michelle Dorothy Dale did for me, and indeed my (considerably) better half.
if this post turns out to sound rather too much like me, as if it part of some sort of warped, cathartic confession, then that would be to miss the underture here, that for reasons that i will and indeed will not go into Michelle is very much at the heart of the story i write. this is but one of thousands of stories of the magic that Michelle wove around worlds of people, never forget that.
let me take you back, ladies and gents, to the earlier days of the internet. well, the mid-ish to late-ish 90s, really, not the uber-early days in the 80s. this is going to be really difficult to explain to anyone who grew up for the most part in the 2000s. back then a telephone was something that you had in your house, was attached to the wall with a cable and you used it to speak to people. you didn't carry it around in your pocket, it had no screen on it thus you did not play Angry Birds or something like that on it and you didn't have to buy a new one every three weeks just so you could go around and say "i have the latest iTwat".
people seem to get very upset when i do not break up large chunks of text with some pretty, or in this imminent case not so pretty, pictures, so please excuse the interruption as i shove in a random picture of what i looked like back then, in this time that was no doubt seemingly dark to the kids of today.....
yes, that's me walking into the Riverside Stadium. and yes, it is just about as empty now on matchdays as it is in the picture above, ha ha, very funny.
moving on, and what you did was take the cord out of the phone and plug it into your computer. this gave you access to something called "the internet", at least it did if you phoned the right number off your computer. it was astonishing, really - you could look at pictures on this "internet" thing that took only a couple of minutes to appear on your screen. eventually, when mp3 technology came along, you could even "download" a full song in about an hour or so. for us, this was astonishing.
you could also, and yes Michelle comes into the story soon-ish, not only send messages to people who also could do an "internet" on their computer, but you could type "real time" messages to them, or a group of them on a special kind of "internet site" or "web page" called a "chat room".
chat rooms these days, i believe, have something of a dark name and reputation. in the late 90s, though, when only a few dozen people in the country had frequent access to this "internet thing", it was not the case. this was all pre-grooming, pre-predator nonsense. you used it to "virtually" meet others who had this internet thingie, exchange your real name and if you all got along meet up socially. i suppose no one dares do that these days, which is a shame.
anyway, quite by accident i stumbled on a rather nifty "chat site", hosted by M-Web i think, and met all sorts of interesting people. one i should certainly mention here was a dear friend called Rebecca, who i had lost touch with and was very glad to be reconnected to. others would include two Michelles as such, although one had one l left.
a bit too much text? would you like another picture of me from this time? OK, here i am, wearing Morrissey style glasses, busy with my typewriter. yes i did and still do prefer writing letters and posting them, not this "email" business thank you.
yes, i know, quite stylish.
it is perhaps prudent to skim across some of the details here, in particular as it all stretches over a couple of years. basically, this chat room thing stayed open on our desks as we theoretically did work, and many of us became very good friends. i got to be sensational friends with Michelle (with two l's) and her husband Barry (yes, partners went on the internet together then, instead of hiding what they were up to as in the case in some circles these days) and rather good friends in a most friendly way with Michele (with one 1). there was splendid times to be had with all, mind, and my apologies if you are one of them and have not been named here.
somehow Michelle (yes with two l's, and i am going to trust you to read it properly going forward so i won't point out the differences again) clocked that Michele (oh go on then with one l) and i were something of a pretty decent match.so good, in fact, that she took it upon herself to solicit donations of a purely financial nature from fellow members of this chat room in order that the two of us might be brought together. i think this is probably one of the first cases of the internet used to raise funds for a, for want of a better term, charitable concern. nice one!
things change, of course. the class chat room thing that M-Web had was taken away and a rubbish one put in its place. this disappointed all but our bosses, but no matter, a number of us had already met in person and had all each others' contact details.
it was the case, then, that we frequently met up for social things. there are a stack of stories, but now is not the time for elaborate details. let it be said that we all had amazing drunken times, amazing sober time, fun with firearms, cars, cinema and all sorts of things like that.
it was at one such social gathering that, with just the slightest coercing from Michelle and Barry, i did do that thing where i found myself proposing to Michele. that she said yes tells you that she didn't really spend any time at all thinking about it. thankfully.
yes, OK, pictures you want. Michelle and Barry very kindly went as far as creating some truly amazing wedding invitations for us. i seem to be known for my love of cinema, and indeed totally useless on a practical level knowledge of films, so from that they took their cue with the design.
quite impressive, i know. this was created in or around early 2002, by the way, a time when creating something like the above took an immense amount of time, talent and knowledge. it is, i know, something that a child can these days create with the toy that is Photoshop (or similar), but back then this was an audacious display of time, dedication, skill and talent. i'm not quite sure we ever thanked Michelle and Barry enough for this.
yes, since you ask, the back was as equally impressive, but far be it from me to encourage you just to take my word for it.
wow. and yes the attention to detail extended as far as which specific DVD artwork they "borrowed" for the invite. some of you won't need telling exactly which film the credits at the bottom belong to.
an important part of wedding invitations is that thing that happens when you have the wedding on the day that it says on the invitation. well, unless you are George out of Seinfeld, of course. this all happened, despite on the morning of the wedding Richard and, if i recall correctly, Conrad suggesting that we stop off at the venue where my rather infamous, if not quite legendary, stag night took place. what happens on a stag night generally stays on a stag night, unless it ends up in a soaking wet ball in your car and you cannot for the life of you recall exactly how that happened.
at the wedding, Michele had her sister and my sister as bridesmaids, and i of course had the best man there is as my best man, that being Richard. absolutely no way were we to allow Michelle and Barry to end their interest in our marriage, though, and we were both delighted when they accepted our request to be witnesses to our union.
aside from my qualification of her being so very, very important to all of the above happening, i probably have not spoken as much about Michelle in this post as i should have. i think, ladies and gentlement, that the sneaky, cheeky smile you can catch just a fragment of in the above picture tells you more of her and her character than any or all of my crappy writing could ever hope to do. loving life was never, ever enough for Michelle - she wanted all in the world to be together with those they should be, embracing the lives of others that you were fortunate enough to share.
sadly, as again back then there was not really what one would call a "digital camera" to take pictures all the time with, i do not have anywhere near as many pictures of our beloved friend as i would like. i do at the least have this one that i can show, although i can assure you i have a thousand folders full of thousands of images of fantastic times safely stored away in my mind.
sometimes, not often but sometimes, you find yourself doing that thing from Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads, wondering how did i get here and what if i had not done this, that and the other. if no one had invented this internet thing, and if i had not randomly stumbled upon the formerly amazing M-Web chat thing, well, i might not have met my darling, beautiful best friend of a wife, and i perhaps would not have met two of the greatest, dearest friends i've ever had in the form of Michelle and Barry. i say perhaps and might because, without any particularly well structured set of beliefs, i've seen and experienced far too much of this world to not accept that things sometimes do happen for a reason, be it by default or design. i'd very much like to think i would have met all 3 anyway, but the internet certainly made it a good deal easier.
this has all been my story of my friend Michelle Dale, although honestly there are so many further tales and anecdotes i could put here that i would probably need a second blog to get most of them in. this story just seemed to be the most important. there are hundreds of people out there that can tell you of a similar way that Michelle had a similar, beautiful and amazing impact on her life. in her life, as shall now forever be in her passing, there was not one person out there who had a single not so happy thing to say about her either. quite a rare human being.
we shall miss you, my friend, but we will feel all that you did for us forever.
thank you for reading.
be excellent to each other.