Duel at Dawn

As told by Eddie Bellord

Happened around: 1966
As far as I remember the duel took place at dawn in Christ Church Meadow sometime in early 1966. It was hatched up in Mike's rooms in Peckwater the previous evening as a "gimmick" to extract money from the national press to pay for a sumptuous dinner in the Oscar Wilde Rooms at Magdalen. The duellists were Mike and me, and others present, predominantly OGs at either Oxford or Cambridge, included the late John Murphy, Colin Gleadell and Nick Kittoe, who dealt with the press and photographers and extracted the moolah from them.

I don't recall whether Mike got into any trouble, but I was given a ticking off by the Dean of Wadham and made to present a copy of "The History of the Duel" to the college library by way of a penalty. Despite the law of "double jeopardy" I was also hauled before the Proctors at the Clarendon Building, given a dressing-down and fined a really quite small amount.

The subsequent dinner at Magdalen was excellent !


Standards and Horses Asses

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2006
Next time you watch a shuttle launch . . .
Keep Smiling Mike

This is for all those whom attend those meetings and question why does it have to be done that way. .
Food for thought.....
Does the statement, "We've always done it like that" ring any bells? Read this email to the end; this is a new one for me The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses. ! Now, the twist to the story. When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.- And -you thought being a HORSE'S ASS wasn't

Memories of Mike

As told by Kit Luce

Happened around: 45 years ago and on..
Michael Feilding

I met Mike about 45 years ago. He must have been about 17 and I about 13. We met on a trip through Italy which was all cooked up by my grandmother, Lila, and his mother Liza.

What a special treat it is to know that his granddaughter will also be named "Lila!" It cements and lengthens the relationship our two families have had for so long. Surely this relationship will outlive the passing of any one of us.

Mike was always very generous in introducing me - a Yank - to his friends. This was especially considerate, as I was not a big drinker of English bitter. But I was a good sport, though he was a better host.

I remember him offering his tiny Epple Street flat to me, my family members, and some friends. Who else on this planet would have done that? At the time, we did not fully appreciate that we were the beneficiaries of such generosity - so modest was he in the offer. So, I got to know the Parsons Green tube station well.

I also will never forget that Mike was the first person to give me permission to ride a motorcycle. Not only did he take me on trips on his big, brawny and hopelessly outdated Harley, but he also gave me a simple Vespa to ride around the cow pastures of Warwickshire. To a young kid fascinated with such machines, this could not have been less than a gift from God. But, somehow, Mike always knew that I would return in one piece, unharmed. I endeavored to prove him right.

Despite being a measured man, with a tremendous amount of responsibility as his second nature, Mike also has a wild streak as well. When a young adult, he and my step?mother did some tremendously funny and creative pranks together. I remember being there when they stole a bunch of Portuguese glass-blown floats as well as the weight that held them down and went off into the night with these artifacts. I can only wonder what the poor fisherman thought of all this. Remember that I was an impressionable youth at that time.

And then there were the shooting parties at night, looking for rabbits. My, how we stuffed a small Land Rover with about ten shooters, and there was a competition as to who could kill more rabbits?the drunken, swaying shooters or the driver. It was a chaotic scene with guns protruding from all angles, firing at anything that moved. And Mike was always the driver. He usually succeeded at killing more rabbits by running them over than the rest of us could by shooting them. (I don?t mean to suggest that this was mean, as the property had far more rabbits than it could tolerate.)

His Mom - such a sport - was up to pulling bullets and plucking feathers off of the pheasants that the men had shot, while they lay about drinking beer and recounting their adventures. What a saint.

Mike was often overshadowed by his charismatic elder brother, William, who could simply snow any woman alive and made a deep impression on me. It wasn't just the trick tooth that he would reveal to you if you pleased him. But at the same time William was extremely talented, and it?s a mystery to me why his best efforts did not become better recognized. I am proud to have a few of his paintings and sketches, one pulled from Lu Shan, omitted by the appraisers who said it had "no value."

He called his younger brother "Squeeze box", because Charlie played the accordion. He would play relentlessly while we endured the close confines of the car as we motored around Italy. Now, he did not play it badly, but, as the saying goes, "a gentleman is one who can play the accordion, but doesn't."

I will never forget the hearty laugh that Mike was so prone to. It told you immediately of his recognition of you, of your acceptance by him, and of his promise that, today, We're going to have a good time.

My last few times in England, I often booked a dinner in an Indian restaurant, following the dictum that the only good meals in England are breakfast and Indian. But Mike was a real aficionado of Indian food. And I was the happy host of a number of these bacchanals, whether at the Copper Kitchen or the Red Fort or the one on King's Road. He would always want the spiciest dish on the menu, usually a lamb vindaloo, and then a smattering of attendant dishes like dal (lentil) and pan (plain bread) and other ameliorating side orders.

Michael's wedding to Linnet was, on the one hand, the classic wonderfully old - fashioned event in the tiny village of Hurstbourne Priors, and on the other hand, a prototypical "Sixties event". Walking right through the ceremony was a full-blown brass band - straight out of Fellini or perhaps from the movie "Blow Up," something that made one feel so alive. While this had nothing to do with their wedding, it was yet another sign of the positive energy which would come to characterize this relationship - and what sprang out of it! Ironically, as we Americans watched the proceedings, we had to note that it occurred on the same date that America declared its liberation from British rule !

Santa Fe

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2006
Is this where Santa Fe went wrong?

Keep Smiling Mike

Columbus sets foot on the shore in the New World for the first time. He sees two natives standing on the beach. He approaches them and says "Buena's Dias Amigos." One native turns to the other and says, "There goes the neighbourhood."

Sarah Palin

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2008
Email from mike - October 4, 2008 5:14:20 AM MDT

I have finally had Sarah Palin explained to me. While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, a doctor struck up a conversation. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin. The old rancher said, "Well, you know, Palin is a post turtle.'" Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him, "What's a post turtle?" The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle."

The doctor looked puzzled, so the old rancher explained, "You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with."

Keep Smiling Mike

Wedding Balls

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 1982
In June 1982 April and I came to England for the purpose of getting married in Rugby followed by a Blessing in St Edith's - the church in Monk's Kirby Warwickshire. Because we both worked we left Florida on Friday night and arrived bleary eyed on Saturday morning. Mike met us at Gatwick and hustled us into the car explaining that we had to get to the registrar in Rugby before noon. Then followed one of the most terrifying rides of my life as Mike sought the outer edge of performance available in a Ford Cortina. He did however push it hard enough to leave time for a sharpener in the local before engaging with the Rugby registrar.

We got to Rugby just in time and rushed upstairs to see the registrar. It soon became apparent that all was not going well and we soon heard raised voices and words like "Lord Denbigh" and "50 quid" coming through the wall. Eventually Mike emerged flushed but happy and the ceremony went on as planned.
Only afterwards in the pub did he reveal that the Rugby Registrar was of a conservative bent and didn't fancy the Florida divorce certificate I had brought with me. It took Mike's best persuasive powers (and I suspect 50 quid) to convince him that this was not a Las Vegas quickie divorce but was in fact a legal document.
Anyway we made it and got married but it was yet another debt I owed to my beloved brother. He never asked for the money back or anything - though he did love telling the story.

Melissa's Baby

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2008
Email from Mike - April 29, 2008 12:08:19 PM MDT

Not sure where the Bongo Drums have reached, so telling you all anyway. I'm probably out of turn and will get my knuckles rapped in due course! Melissa has had a 12-week scan to prove that she is pregnant. There are grainy black and white scan pictures available, which purport to indicate something the size of a chipolata sucking it's thumb. Personally, I think
this is an over-rated art form.Send any congratulations to Melissa at feildinguk@aim.com Keep Smiling Mike

The Grand Canyon

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 1968
In 1966 Mike and Willy Pelly were going around the US - at first in an old Lincoln called Abe and then on motorcycles when Abe died. When they got to Flagstaff Arizona they decided to turn north for a quick visit to the Grand Canyon. Alas Mike fell asleep on the bike and crashed breaking his collar bone. An ambulance driver from Ash Forks picked him up and took him back to Flagstaff from whence he was shipped back to Blighty.

Being a pestilential younger brother I was making a similar trip (also on a motorcycle) in 1968 except in the opposite direction. Being unable to resist the temptation of sending Mike a snotty postcard from the Grand Canyon I also turned north and as the evening light faded I ran into a cow at 70 mph. As it happened the same ambulance drive from Ash Forks that picked Mike up also picked me up and to my astonishment showed me showed me Mike's pickup record from two years earlier.

In 2004 Mike and Linnet came to stay in Santa Fe and being only a day's drive from Flasgstaff we rented the largest hunk of American metal we could find - a Lincoln Navigator - and set out for the canyon together. With luck and Detroit on our side we finally made it in one piece.You can find a picture of Mike's face on this site.

American Politics

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2005
The appended came into my email today. Can you confirm it? When will it take effect?

Keep Smiling Mike

Subject: New California and the Blue States

Dear Red States:.

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.
In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people
of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly:

You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs.
You get Alabama.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue.
You get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.

By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Unknown Author in New California

Tribute to Mike

As told by William Feilding

Happened around: 2008-12-01
My lords, Ladies & gentlemen, friends and relatives of my beloved brother Mick...I'm delighted that these few words of mine are to be delivered by my godson Alex...I didn't know that he could read joined up writing!
Now, only the most ancient among you will remember this but Mick, who arrived seven years after me, thanks to Adolf Hitler, was a remarkably good looking child, and visitors to the house would always say " That's the one I want to take away" much to the chagrin of myself and Charley who was there at the time.

But sadly he was afflicted with the disease of Asthma, which he battled manfully throughout his life " puffer in hand". Successfully too, he fenced for Downside, got into Oxford, and got into the papers for fighting a duel!! He then came to New York, worked at the Hudson Institute where I gave him , for his birthday, a 1949 Lincoln, christened Abe...his pride and joy. In this "Abe" he crossed the States, broke down in San Francisco and swapped it for a bike upon which he fell asleep in the gloaming outside Flagstaff Arizona and fetched up in the hospital. I got a call in NY from the doctor asking me to pay for the repairs. Two years later I got another call from the same doctor telling me that we've got the other one here. Charley had taken the same route with the same result... he hit a cow.

He was also a highly principled man...in New York he ran my Lancia sports car up the chuff of a truck. I returned to New York after and visited the garage filled with trepidation...the car had been completely repaired. After I left art school he was the first person to buy one of my paintings, two dragons for five quid! BUT WITHOUT A DOUBT THE CROWNING MOMENT OF HIS LIFE was his marriage to the beautiful Linnet..an event that almost didn't take place because at his batchelor party he had too much of this and that and vanished...we had lost him but found him in time for his wedding which they left in Pearson's helicopter. I, incidently, appeared as best man dressed in purple pants and purple ferrari...both Pearson's, which I crashed.

Mick was also not immune to Feilding blunders. When working for Atlas Air he once did his grocery accounts on their computer which tied up the baggage handlers for a week. He was also good at enlarging my rough drawings to mural size by the use of calculus, logarithms and pieces of string. But his piece de resistance was when, travelling down the New York state highway at 90 mph in my Shelby with Linnet and Charley he saw some sparks under the dash, let out a yell when it shorted through his thumb and cut out the lights, powersteering and power brakes in the dark...a real bum clencher that!!

Upon retirement he became a most efficient den mother and was a great help to myself and his many friends when he became trustee of Newnham...He also gave us Emily and Melissa and Lila. I saw him last Summer and he was starting to deteriorate in mind and body, suffering more pain and life was like waiting for an unwanted train. The release, when it came, was mercifully quick.....I join you in bidding farewell to the nicest man I ever knew. MAY HE REST IN PEACE, William

Memories of Mike Feilding

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2008-11-16
The great Yogi Berra once said "You gotta go to people's funerals or they will never go to yours".
Sorry Mike I guess I blew it - but you know why I cannot be there and I know you have already forgiven me.

As you all know we are a family of three brothers - following the public school naming tradition William being the eldest was Broma, Mike was Bromi while I earned the name Bromo. Mike was, and is, my brother and and my best friend and I will always love him as both a brother and a best friend.

We were close in age though radically different in temperament . I am sure I was as pestilential a younger brother as pestilential younger brothers can get. I have clear memories of laying Mike out with the butt of my plastic "Kit Carson" rifle having lain in wait behind the schoolroom door for most of the morning.
And while Nanny bandaged the wound I was (so I am told) heard to yell up the stairs "I can hear you crying from here".

In spite of this (and so much more) Mike always did his duty as a brother. At Downside his room was always open when I needed refuge and his philosophies were always simple and comforting. When I was confused about life Mike taught me that if you are floating down a river and you want to know how you are doing - don't look at the water - look at the banks. His wisdom remains with me every day - he showed me the importance of knowing where you came from and where you are going.

Mike grew up in a body that challenged him every waking hour - asthma dogged him day and night and more recently we learned that an enlarged heart had sapped his energy throughout his life. And yet none of this was able to quell his playful sense of humor, his deep understanding of the importance of laughter and silliness and most of all, his powerful sense of duty and family. When our father was ailing it was Mike that Mother leaned on for support and he was there when she needed him. When Mother was ailing and William and I were away in foreign lands it was Mike who shouldered the burden and looked after Mum. He never complained about this to us because that was not his way. He shouldered the burdens and carried on.

Although in many ways a staunch traditionalist Mike was among the first of our generation to embrace the new technology of computers and it was this love of technology that brought him and I closer in the last ten years than we had ever been before. Several years ago on a whim I sent him a webcam and to my delight he embraced the idea enthusiastically. Between us we puzzled out the emerging technology of Internet video conferencing. At times we would chat three or four times a week and he was unfailingly comforting when I was in trouble, amusing when I was sad and always willing to talk through problems we shared, we chatted about everything and nothing. I doubt I would have seen more of him if I had lived down the street. His calls meant the world to me. When I became physically disabled it was his encouragement that saw me through the pain, his constant reminders of my duty to the ones I love that prevented me from ending my own life prematurely. I owe him more than I can say.

105 Hartfield Road became the one house April and I HAD to visit in England - or perhaps it is more fair to say it was the one house in England that when we went there, they always let us in. We were always assured a warm welcome, a thorough tour of the relatives and a wonderful time. We visited many times over the years and April and I eagerly looked forward to staying in Wimbledon .

When Mike and Linnet visited us in Santa Fe in 2004 it was one of the proudest moments of my life. We had both had difficulty in reaching the Grand Canyon in the past (more long stories) but by renting a Lincoln Navigator we finally made it. The look on his face when we reached the South Rim is something I will treasure forever. It was fulfilling a promise made so long ago.

But if you want to understand the real person that Mike was look no further than the wonderful children that he and Linnet have brought into the world and raised. I see many of the finest qualities of his and Linnet's spirits so clearly in Emily and Melissa - the daunting wit, the natural inquisitive intelligence, the stubborness and grace that make each of them a delight to be with.

Although it is very easy to be deeply saddened my the loss of my brother I am going to make it my goal to celebrate instead the joyous friendship he brought to my life and many others. He loved fully and was fully loved by everyone who knew him. I am happy that he is free from the confines of this physical world and look forward to seeing him again in the next.

Good by bro - for now.

Wild Wild W8

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 1955
Mum and Dad finally figured out I was infatuated with Kit Carson and for Christmas bought me the complete outfit - black hat, leather chaps (simulated), and a frilly leatherette vest. Best of all was the plastic Kit Carson repeating cap rifle.

There being a chronic lack of Red Indians in Kensington in those days I took up position (Kit Carson style) behind the schoolroom door. Eventually Mike came wandering in and with a whoop I leaped out and caught him a mighty crack on the back of his head with the butt of my trusty Kit Carson rifle. To my dismay instead of falling unconscious as the Indians did Mike set up a mighty bawling and bleeding that brought Nanny running.

While she bandaged his head upstairs in the bathroom I sat disconsolate at the bottom of the stairs. I am told my last comment on the event was "I can hear you crying from here". Having disabled my beloved brother there was nothing for it but to go practice my Tiger pounces on Mr Jackson - but that's another story.


As told by Alexander Denbigh

Happened around: Date unsure
There are far too many stories to tell of abortive launches (or should that be lunches)This tale relates of,surprisingly, a lunch in the summerhouse. Those of you that know of Newnham will know the chaos that this will no doubt entail. My apologies for not giving a precise date but, Summerhouse! If I have to explain you wouldn't understand. This was one of the standard lunches in the aforementioned Summerhouse where we all enjoyed a sensible repast and no cream eggs were shot (another story) We managed to persuade Mike that perhaps it was time for the launch of one of his infamous balloons.This needless to say was met by great expectation and being a wonderful summer's day the outcome seemed foregone. A crepe ballon floating over bone dry crops dripping parafin,what could possibly go wrong?

After preparations that would have put Branson to shame the launch time arrived,with several willing volunteers(?)firmly holding the base of the balloon the cotton wool was duly ignited.The Balloon was rapidly filling with hot air.Cries of "Not yet" filled the air.
There was an expectant pause of breath as the Balloon slowly lifted from reluctant hands.T minus three,four,five seconds.Then nature taking its dastardly cause sent a breeze to capture the Balloon and instead of taking to its intended destination of the great blue yonder decided to send it instead towards the lake at an ever decreasing altitude.
This sent Mike not only into a rage that nature should be so cruel but also hurtling down the bank by the lakes to try to save his creation. The end result was a very damp and apologetic Balloon but an audience that was rolling on the grass having seen Mike in full action mode trying to rescue the Balloon from a watery demise himself ending up running into the lake fully clothed and vanishing under the waterlillies only to surface with his laughter ringing in our ears determined to get the next one right.

Tuna Fish

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2006
Email from Mike November 15, 2006 5:50:57 AM MST

Singing Fish - This guy bought a parrot fish because the salesman said that he could teach the fish to sing. His friend tried to tell him he couldn't teach a fish to sing, and he said, "I can to teach him how to sing, he does sing
but he sings in the wrong key. Do you know how hard it is to tuna fish?"

It's easy provided they have the right scales.
It's easier if they have a herring aid

May cod help us!

Keep Smiling Mike

Wall street bailout

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2008
Email from Mike September 29, 2008 8:46:47 AM MDT


Keep Smiling Mike

Political Jokes

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2006
Will Rogers:

I've nothing against political jokes. The problem is that too many of them get elected. . .
Nothng's new, except the change in confusion occasionally. Hope you survive it all!
Keep Smiling Mike

Memories of Mike

As told by Ali and Libby Aberdare

Happened around: (9/12/2008)
Alastair Aberdare address at Mike?s Service of Thanksgiving, 9 December 2008

Linnet, Emily and Melissa have asked me to share some memories of Mike from the perspective of his friends at Oxford in the late 1960s. I only wish I could do him justice, and that I had access to what would have been wonderfully reassuring and down-to-earth advice from him, along the lines of "Just do the best you can, squire" which is what I'll try to do. A number of other friends of his have provided me with memories of Mike, only a small proportion of which I have been able to include for reasons mostly of time, but in some cases of decorum!

I met Mike within a few days of arriving at Christ Church. I was immediately swept up by his warmth, friendliness and general air of benevolent, if bemused, tolerance of anything the world could throw at him. One thing it threw at him was poor health; even then he depended on his "go faster machine" to control his asthma, but so determined was he to ignore it and live life to the full that it was always easy to underestimate the seriousness of his ill-health.

Mike Hibbert, who knew Mike from the age of five, remembers that at his first boarding school Mike was (rather improbably) known as "Mouse". He was small in stature, at least in a vertical direction; but he was extra-large in heart and in personality, with that chirpy, slightly cocky way he walked, and that infectious laugh of his. If he was a Mouse, he was definitely a Mighty Mouse.

Within days a number of us, including Andrew Dobson and Mark Robinson, had established a regular poker group, I suspect instigated by Mike, who seemed to have much the greatest familiarity with the rules. The poker was accompanied by much alcohol (which always seemed to have far less effect on Mike than on the rest of us), much music (favourites ranged from Marianne Faithfull to Tom Lehrer and Flanders and Swann) and much laughter. Mike remained one of my closest friends for the rest of my time at Christ Church, and long beyond.

All of us will remember so many good times with Mike. I missed the duel he fought with Eddie Bellord at dawn in Christ Church meadow; this had been dreamt up by Mike as a means of earning money from the Daily Express to fund a slap-up dinner, in which it was wholly successful. Mike was a keen fencer, of course, although this may have been partly to do with the opportunities it gave him to visit various girls? schools, ostensibly to provide coaching in the sport. It was at a party given by Robin Gilkes and Andrew Dobson, I understand, that Mike met Linnet and persuaded her to accept a lift afterwards on his motorbike (the much-loved Harley, presumably) rather than an alternative offer of a taxi.

In our third year I and three others (Jeremy Luscombe, the late John Murphy and Joe Shelley) shared a house with Mike in London Place, at the foot of Headington Hill. The owner was a distant relative of Mike?s, I believe; the house itself was at least as quirky as its occupants, since it and all the rooms within it were diamond-shaped.

We entertained some friends to Christmas dinner there - I presume Linnet was one of them - with Mike much to the fore in the arrangements. We bought a splendid 18-pound turkey, only to find we had a 16-pound oven. Somehow the turkey was forced in, but when we got it out after several hours cooking, shaped as a near-perfect cube, we couldn't seem to get much meat off it. Only after much head-scratching, and of course various technical suggestions from Mike, did we realise we had it upside-down. So Mike was not always to be relied upon in culinary matters, and certainly not in matters of dress, where the famous denim shirt constituted a major proportion of his repertoire I understand it remained with him literally to the end.

Then and later Mike was always cheerful, always dependable and always up for some fun. At the same time, he was also one of the most mature and responsible amongst us. On one occasion, after a more than usually lively evening at the Duke of Edinburgh and other local hostelries, we discovered in the morning that we had somehow accumulated a collection of road signs from surrounding streets. What seemed a rather jolly undergraduate prank took on a more serious dimension when we received a call from the police, who had apparently found out that we were responsible for the diminution of the local signage.

When an officer arrived to reclaim the signs, and to determine how to deal with us, Mike insisted on handling the negotiations, partly because he felt it his duty as the official tenant of the house, but especially because he was aware of the potential risks of any trouble with the law to John Murphy's future career as a solicitor. He played his part well enough to succeed in persuading the officer not to take any further action beyond removing the signs himself. However, it later turned out that things were not as they seemed: our visitor had not been a policeman at all, but a friend of John Gillibrand, who had set the whole thing up to give us a fright in which he certainly succeeded. Nonetheless the incident clearly demonstrated Mike's sense of responsibility as well as his absolute loyalty to his friends.

Cars, especially Mike's trusty Triumph Herald, figure in many memories. Jeremy Luscombe remembers frequently seeing the Herald parked in the cul-de-sac across the road from London Place, with the bonnet open and only Mike's legs visible, sticking out underneath it. Mike taught me how to do handbrake turns in the same cul-de-sac. We drove down to Italy in the Herald one summer, and on the very first day, on a crowded motorway to Paris on a wet Sunday night, were involved in a pile-up. Luckily the Herald emerged still driveable, although the front bodywork was all bent downwards and would catch against the front wheels when braking or turning. We made it to our camp-site in Neuilly, and the following day the ever-practical Mike found a stout rope, tied one end round the front of the car and the other round a large tree, and then reversed the car smartly. This had a dramatic effect, restoring the front end (with much bending and grinding of metalwork) to something like its proper shape, while the tree remained completely unaffected - although its furious owner suddenly appeared, bright red in the face, waving his arms and yelling, "Mon arbre! Mon arbre! Qu'est ce que vous faites avec mon arbre?"

Mike was always an unfailing source of practical help: fixing cars, computers, all sorts of mechanical and electronic devices, and (not long ago) the lock on Robin Gilkes?s bathroom door.

In all the years I knew him, and despite his often poor health, I never remember Mike being downcast or downbeat. He had a fund of sayings to get him and others through any difficulties: "You have to laugh or you'd cry. "if you?re not ill there must be something wrong with you" "sometimes I just stand and stare" other times I just stand; and so on.

Often at services like this, I learn all sorts of new things about the person being celebrated, which lead me to see them from a different perspective. But in Mike?s case all the reminiscences I have received, wide-ranging as they are, have revealed the same Mike, and shown that he was exactly the same wonderful, warm, generous and delightful person to all of his friends. I've mentioned some of them; but there are so many, many others, who knew and loved Mike just the same. He was so quick to make friends, and so slow to lose them (if indeed he ever did).

Because that's what Mike was the best friend we could ever want or hope for, fun-loving, amazingly generous, responsible and wise, indomitable in the face of his ill-health, expert in so many practical ways, sometimes naughty but unfailingly nice, and utterly dependable and loyal and caring always the one to go to for advice and support whenever one had a problem. I immediately thought of Mike when the Times recently published a reproduction of a poster from World War II, which simply said in large white letters on a red background, Keep calm and carry on: exactly his approach to life, with lots of laughter added in his case. Goodness we shall miss him; but goodness how lucky we are to have had him as a friend.

April's Birthday

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2008
Email from Mike

Botherkins - A thousand pardons for not getting myself together on April's Birthday, but belated Happy Birthday wishes. I hope she isn't dismayed by approaching 29 - but don't worry, you'll never get there!
Male Communication With Female Sex Rule 1: No specimen wearing a smile can ever be over 29.
Keep Smiling Mike

Security Alerts

As told by Charles Feilding

Happened around: 2005
Please find below the current security levels in Europe. The attachedphoto illustrates the preparedness of the best people.

Keep Smiling Mike
Security Alerts FRENCH RAISE ALERT LEVELS.......

Following the events in London last month the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from 'Run' to 'Hide'. The only two higher levels in France are 'Surrender' and 'Collaborate'. The rise was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing their

Updates from around Europe

The Italians have increased their alert level from "shouting excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".

The Germans have also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "full dress-uniform and marchingsongs". They have two higher levels, "invade a neighbour" and "lose".

Seeing this reaction in continental Europe the Americans have gone from "isolationism" to "find somewhere ripe for regime change". Their remaining higher alert states are "take on the world" and "ask the British for help".

Finally here in GB we've gone from "pretend nothing's happening" to "make another cup of tea". Our higher levels are "chin-up and remain cheerful" and "win".