Closing

"It's difficult to say good-bye."

 

Roger was terminally ill. 

He lived as independently as he could in a caravan in the Hertfordshire grounds of a good friend, close to my family and me. He fed the birds and squirrels and rescued pheasants from the local shoot.

Every so often there would be a crisis and he was admitted to hospital. 

 

Roger drew this in hospital

 

I remember his being admitted in an emergency on one particular occasion and, on visiting him the next day, I found he had been dressed in borrowed robes.  He was sitting up in bed wearing uncharacteristic paisley silk pyjamas and dressing gown.  His long greying hair had been shampooed and the curl brushed out.  He resembled Ivor Novello.  He grinned, "Do I look like an old queen?"  We laughed until it hurt; he was spitting blood through the laughter. 

When Roger had the strength, he entertained fascinated crowds in Leicester Square, close to the site of his first busking at the age of fifteen - and close to the new statue of Charlie Chaplin, an early influence on his work. The statue lacks vitality and is a poor imitation; the real-life Chaplin, and the full-of-life Roger, were determined, vivacious originals.

There was a slight chance of a liver transplant, but doctors soon decided that he was not sufficiently resilient physically to survive such an operation.  His health deteriorated.  He and I were told he had days to live. 

In one of his 'seventies cabaret routines, Roger closed with a song that ended with the line, 'It's difficult to say good-bye'.  Difficult, yes, but he and I did say a final good-bye to each other.

He died of a haemorrhage on August 13th, 1988. 

Roger's body was buried under a cherry tree not far from where his father was born.  A few relatives and friends held a simple, secular graveside funeral ceremony.  At the wake we sang and reminisced together.

Instead of a memorial stone, there is a plaque bearing his name on seat F1 in the dress circle at the Theatre Royal, Stratford, East London.

Roger was fifty-one when he died. He lived what the rest of us would regard as several full lives.

 

 

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