As we wait, the previous service ends, black clad families emerge from the chapel, the young men with shaven heads, one sporting a neo-nazi arm band, the menace subdued by the democracy of death. And then it is our turn. Old familiar faces, friends who you are pleased to see after many years, an Irish priest delivers an inappropriate service for an atheist. Finally, the curtains close and grief is inescapable. Now to the pub, memories, laughter and stories. So many stories. So much laughter.
And of all the memories of Denis, laughter predominates. I am hugely grateful to have known and worked with him. A multitude of infuriating faults and dubious personal hygiene were overwhelmed by anarchic humour, profound kindness and an abundant array of catch phrases. He was a marvellous, entertaining tutor, but I have to wonder whether he would have survived had he been starting a career in education today, with its mechanistic, prosaic instrumentalism and grinding bureaucracy. Denis was not typical, yet he worked in a system where he was possible. That is the big difference. A world without spontaneity, idiosyncrasy and creativity is an impoverished one. Just as his friends have lost Denis, so education is in danger of losing its soul.