I lived with Mark since 2006. This time last year he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and a little more than a month ago he died. His funeral was on 13th December 2022 at Honor Oak Crematorium. This post is intended for those who were unable to be there, to give a flavour of the service, and to record the tributes that were made to him by those present. Tributes were paid to Mark by his sister Claire, his university friend and first flatmate Beth, and by me. They are reproduced below. The funeral was organised by Poppy’s Undertakers, and the celebrant was Jo Napthine, both of whom I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Mark chose Henry Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn as the opening music.
Jo opened by welcoming all the different guests:
In many ways you all represent different aspects of Mark’s life – his family and home – his loving parents Paddy and Ron and his sister Claire, his student days at Oxford, his work life in the city of London, the pleasure he found through singing in the London Gay Men’s Chorus and the many communities of friends he found in Brockley and beyond. You are all connected by your love for Mark simply by being here today.
Then she mentioned that Mark had no religious beliefs, but that a poem which he had often spoken of as a favourite perhaps gives some indication of his attitude to death. It is An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin, and she read an extract of the final stanzas of the poem
…And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:
Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.Philip Larkin
Tributes to Mark
I remember the day Mark was born- a sunny day in June. The first time I saw that scrunched up little face staring up at me. At that moment we went from being a young couple with a toddler to being a proper family. Finally I was no longer outnumbered!
Marks first year saw the great snow of the winter of ‘63 because of the snow we rarely went out that winter and when the thaw finally came and Mum took us round to the shops, Mark who had never seen a bus before screamed in terror at this red apparition descending down the road towards us!
When I think back to our childhood several things come to mind- firstly Marks love of food
Home-made Trifle was the breakfast food of choice, Chocolate tree decorations supposedly a post-Christmas treat after the tree was taken down, would often have disappeared by 12th night. Marks skill in unwrapping the foil treats removing the chocolate and reshaping the foil to its original shape was an unparalleled skill I have never since seen matched. The year he ate all of them is the year I particularly remember…
Secondly, board games in our family usually caused arguments particularly Monopoly. His insistence as always wanting to be banker possibly indicative of his future career. No game could ever be played according to the rules and he was not above helping himself to the bank when you weren’t looking!
We shared everything- a sledge, Lego, measles. We even shared the same hallucination as our temperatures climbed –our beds were covered with water.
And of course, this time of the year reminds me of the Nativity plays our small primary school would put on. Mark, one year whilst in the infants, was cast as a shepherd- sitting there in his blue ladybird dressing gown with ladybird buttons down the front and a tea towel on his head. Fortunately, his dress sense has improved a lot since then!
Mark always felt he should have been born first which meant he always wanted to do things first or better than me, whether it was riding his bike without stabilizers first or studying incredibly hard at school which ultimately led to him being offered a scholarship at St John’s Oxford. We were so immensely proud of him.
But he was always by my side, my little buddy, and together we achieved lots of firsts; first bike rides –him and I; first bus trips into town without grown-ups; first adventures into the woods on some Enid Blyton inspired game.
The teenage years and beyond like many siblings saw us follow our own dreams, but I know if I needed him, he would be there in a heartbeat no questions asked.
My first friend, my brother –Mark.
Markie was very kind to me back in the 1980s. I arrived in London two years after everybody else and he took me under his wing. He had just bought his Brockley flat and was looking for a flatmate so, a few weeks after he had picked up the keys, I moved in as his lodger. My first impression was one of light. The walls had been newly painted with white paint. The rooms had high ceilings, and light poured into the front room.
When I think of Markie at that time, I see him as an elegant man: tall, well-groomed, setting off for the City in his Kenzo coat with a brand new calfskin briefcase. When I get out my old photos I realise he was also a good-looking man. I couldn’t see it at the time – beards were out of fashion in 1986 and all of us, male and female, were trying to look like David Bowie – but studying those photos with 21st century eyes, I think he might actually have been the best-looking of us all.
He was intelligent; gentlemanly; very, very funny; easy to talk to. And, as it turned out, very easy to live with. He made absolutely no demands upon me. There were no washing-up rotas, no weekly shops, no house rules. He welcomed my friends and I welcomed his. We threw a couple of parties. It was all so straightforward. He never got cross. He was never moody. We just shared a life of effortless good-humour.
Our housekeeping arrangements were very simple. In the living room we had a pink sofa and a sound system. In the kitchen there was a coffee machine and a bin. Markie chose the smaller of the two bedrooms and in it he had a humidor (for his cigars) and a futon. I had an upright piano and a mattress on the floor. We did absolutely no housework and, in time, the flat grew a bit shabbier. The dazzling sunlight bleached the pink sofa; the bin filled up with coffee grounds and a thin film of cigar-ash settled on the sound system. But I don’t remember feeling bothered by this. If anything it made us feel more in tune and more at home.
Sunday mornings were the best. Markie woke up before I did and I would hear him padding around in his dressing gown. He put on the coffee-machine and then chose something for the sound system. It could be anything at all, from Thomas Tallis to TheThe, Ella Fitzgerald if it was raining, Grace Jones if it was hot. But best of all, he liked the great English choral anthems and I would hear ‘Hail Gladdening Light’ rolling in under my door, with Mark’s deep baritone voice effortlessly putting in the bass part. After a while one of us would go out to buy the newspapers. There were seven Sunday papers in the 1980’s and we read them all. I can remember being astonished by Markie’s ability to absorb information, make sense of it and file it away. He had the most astonishing memory for people, places and events.
Markie was a good friend to me at the start of my life, but I do not think I was such a good friend to him at the end of his. We drifted apart, struggled to keep in touch. I missed opportunities when I could have done more, and I feel bad about that. It was almost a miracle that, a few days before he died, Dianah and I were able to meet up with Lawrence and spend an hour together with him at his bedside in Ladywell Hospital. I would like to thank you, Lawrence, for bringing that visit about. It so easily might not have happened.
There he was. Exactly the same. Well-groomed, articulate, courteous as ever. Brain, wit, voice, face all intact. Dianah had brought some photographs and we talked about mutual friends. As usual, his memory was far in advance of my own. He remembered where everyone was and what they were doing. He even remembered the name of the perfume that Dianah wore to a winter ball almost four decades ago. A few minutes before we were due to leave I reached out my hand and closed my fingers around his forearm. I am so glad I did, for the memory of that touch is very dear to me. His arm was so warm and smooth and alive. And, in a sudden rush, I remembered how much I loved that brilliant, funny, maddening, sometimes impossible, lovely, precious man.
It’s only in the past year or so that people have started asking me to describe my relationship to Mark. Ambulance teams, mainly. And triage nurses. And ward sisters. They wanted a word they could put on a form, and of course I was never able to do that. How can any relationship be summed up in a word?
Among our friends, he was always my ‘landlord’ and I was his ‘tenant’. Technically, of course, that was true. When we met online, I was moving to London and I asked him offhand if he knew anyone with a room to let. ‘You can stay here if you like’, he said. Just like that, the deal was done. Six months later when I actually looked around the flat and met him in real life I was still a bit nervous about moving in with a complete stranger. It was only as we parted after that meeting that I thought to ask his surname. ‘Jeanes’ he said.
‘Oh, like Isabel Jeans?’ I said, thinking of the actress who plays Aunt Alicia in Gigi.
‘No. Spelt differently – with an extra ‘e’’
It was sort of in that moment that I knew we’d be living together for a long time.
I remember once early on, Mark telling me ‘I’m not going to be your Virgil you know. I can’t guide you through gay London like Virgil guided Dante through the circles of the Inferno.’ But of course in many ways he was my guide, and during our years together he taught me most of what I know about how to live.
Inevitably, many of the lessons were about eating and drinking. Mark loved a glamorous restaurant, he loved flirting with the waiters, and was often ushered by the smiling Maitre’D to his ‘usual table’ at Joe Allen’s or at Galvin. He taught me that in the best places you could walk in off the street looking like you’d slept in a hedge, and still be treated like royalty – if you had his charm. Often on Sunday afternoons we went to Café Boheme in Old Compton Street, where Mark would order Last Word cocktails. He chatted up the waiter, ‘you know what would really go with this cocktail is a plate of madeleines?’ To my astonishment the waiter persuaded the chef to make him some, and thereafter we had them so often that they wound up on the menu. He had no pretention about his enjoyment of posh eating places. Sometimes he’d come home late having treated himself to a solo meal which he’d enjoyed while plugging in the earphones of his iPad and watching Hairspray to the astonishment of the waiting staff.
He loved the musical version of Hairspray and watched it repeatedly with boundless joy. It was part of the joy he took in all music, and particularly in musical theatre – a joy I think which was instilled in him by his parents, Paddy and Ron. Under his (and their) tutelage I was introduced to the work of Sondheim. He loved opera too, and church music. These were all unfamiliar spaces that he guided me through during our life together. Joys of life, which he unlocked. Foreign travel was another. He was a brilliant travelling companion, and seemed to know exactly where to go and what to do. He had no anxiety about sitting in the most touristy café in the town square and snoozing over an Aperol Spritz.
Some things he was unable to teach me. The brilliance of his dress sense, and his colour sense. He loved the atmosphere of a gentleman’s outfitters, and he leaves behind a collection of gorgeous knitwear. He despaired of my wardrobe, pointing out that I always seemed to dress, ‘as from a compost heap’.
A friend said to me recently that she found grief to be a very lonely experience. This has been true for me too. That’s not to say that I haven’t been bowled over by the support and love of the many friends who have contacted me and shared their condolences and their memories of Mark – and thank you to everyone for being here. I’m really looking forward to chatting and hearing more of your memories of him in the Waverley Arms later on. But I guess loneliness is sort of the whole point of grief. Mark was my constant companion for the last 15 years. He was my landlord, yes. We ate together always. We went on holiday together. Earlier in our relationship we went on the pull together in the gay fleshpots of Soho – and it was through his shameless pulling techniques that I met my partner Simon. More recently we’ve watched Hollyoaks together, with him outlining the ludicrous backstories to me as I changed the dressings on his feet. He adored Hollyoaks and even when he was in hospital during his last weeks he would signal it was time for my visit to end, because Hollyoaks was on soon. Now in the evenings, sitting on the sofa, I still look up from the TV to his chair, expecting to share a thought or a laugh, but he’s no longer there.
I told him I loved him often. Sometimes I told him so often it irritated him. But I still don’t feel like I said it enough.
Reflection and Committal
After the tributes there was a moment for quiet reflection, and then Jo spoke the Committal blessing. While this was going on we listened to Eclogue by Gerald Finzi
The final piece of music Mark had chosen was Set Me As A Seal Upon Thy Heart by William Walton, and we listened to this after the Words of Comfort and before we filed out to toast his memory at the nearby Waverley Arms pub. I was told later that Mark had often sung this piece in his college choir at Oxford.
I loved Mark. Nobody could have a better friend or landlord.
If you have memories of Mark, do feel free to add them to the comments
7 thoughts on “Mark Jeanes 1962-2022”
Absolutely lovely, Lol. Bravo.
I’m so glad you’ve gone to the effort and put this online Lawrence. My condolences to you.
You have captured the essence of Mark. Although I worked close to him I wasn’t involved in his part of the company but he always said hello or good morning.we shared chocolate and Thursday evenings in the wine bar . He was also interested in Neighbours, the Aussie soap. I used to watch it in the staff kitchen diner and he would pop in and ask me what was going on. All in all a lovely sweet guy. Xxx
Thanks so much for putting this together Lawrence. So many beautiful tributes to a special man.
Thank you. It brought back wonderful memories of Mark.
Wonderful to read these, Lawrence. Thank you. With lots of love, Lucy x