I always knew Donald Holms as an old man, bent with age, crinkled with wisdom but with graceful, fumbling hands and long slender fingers that would clasp yours tightly as he regaled you with stories of his magnificent youth. His weathered face still held strong, handsome elements, which were framed by bewtiching and eccentric eyebrows. It was easy to assume that in his hay day, that he was an important and beautiful gent and quite possibly, a heartbreaker.
For me, a visit from Donald was always a pleasure. The phone would ring through the pub around the quiet hour of 3pm to announce that he would quite precisely be arriving at 6pm. Everything with Donald was always quite precise. I would reserve his little table, in the middle of the pub just where he liked it best, and break into a grin when he would slowly appear at the door in his cap and his long coat, supporting himself upon his frame. For some, walking with a frame might make them clumsy or seem weak but Donald would move as if he had all the time in the world and as if it were no trouble at all. He was persistent and tenacious and hated to be helped. He made no apology for his speed and neither expected nor wanted a hand to reach out to him.
Once settled upon his throne, Donald would begin his nightly ritual 'Sally dear! How wonderful to see you!' and he would stroke my cheek and lean his face in for a kiss. Squinting at his watch he would assert that, as it was 6pm sharp, he would have a double espresso, a large glass of shiraz, a double whiskey with ice and a large glass of water. He would also meticulously place an order for 'one of Matthew's exquisite omelettes' at 7:20pm and remind me that his taxi would promptly bear him away at 9pm.
In the first few years that I knew him, I worked in a quiet pub on the outskirts of town where I could sit spend enough time with him by the candlelight and chat about life. He often talked about how he had moved over from Canada in the 1950s and worked for the BBC Radio and then went on to found the Open University, something of which he was very passionate about and he would go to great lengths to encourage my ideas. Donald was a lover of young people, especially the ladies. During those first years, we were so close that he would call me his 'Fairy Granddaughter'... he liked to make a little family out of the people who took care of him and those people in turn, delighted in taking care of him, too.
Now of course, people have a habit of talking of the deceased as if they were angels and of course there were times when Donald could really test your patience but all he wanted to do was to share his tales with you and tell you how wonderful he thought you were, even if you were running around like a maniac trying to make all of your customers happy. Quite plainly, he loved to love and persisted for as long as he could to share his warm heart. He was a fantastic storyteller, an intelligent gent and a dear man who I will miss greatly.
Goodbye Donald Holms.
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