I thought long and hard about whether to write this post in memory of Crispin. It is too easy to bash out trite words and push them into the vastness of cyberspace, hanging the sensibilities. I don’t want to do that. There is a danger of invading the space of a wonderful family and of friends and relatives who knew him better than me. I would hate to do that. Such a post could overflow with sentimentality in a frivolous social media world, alienating those who did not know him. I may have to risk that.
Crispin was a man who touched so many lives in such a positive way, mine included. And for that reason I am compelled to offer my own tribute.
Crispin and I arrived at the Countryside Agency within a couple of years of each other. He became my colleague, my boss and my friend in quick succession. On my last day in the job, he gave me such an affectionate man-hug in the middle of the open plan that my ribs still ache to think of it…
At work, Crispin was a blend of idealistic visioning and pragmatic realism: he knew the battles that he wanted to fight and win. He held the bigger picture firmly in his sights, whilst acknowledging creeping myopia about ‘interminable’ budget processes and blurry ‘detail’ that could be resolved later. He also knew the value of a contented team and the balance between hard work and rewarding play. I remember waking up the morning after a drink with Crispin and Justin at the launch the State of the Countryside report in 2008 to my laptop bag filled with the contents of my stomach (is this too much information?) and a two-week dose of conjunctivitis… I blamed them squarely for both!
My fondest memories remain those outside the direct line of duty, such as his brazen encouragement of my horse racing vice. When I booked time off for the Cheltenham Festival, he was more interested in my ante-post portfolio than my leave sheet. He was a regular commentator on these posts, offering hearty congratulations on those rare occasions of a successful tip, notably when Masked Marvel won the St Leger last September. And he remained supportively encouraging or mercifully silent about the pile of steaming junk that comprised the vast majority of these ramblings. The very fact that Crispin was reading them, let alone backing the horses displayed his typical loyalty, humour and mischief.
Crispin liked nothing better than a day at Lingfield races, his home track. In fact his house couldn’t have been better positioned, sitting between the track and the railway station. Crispin once recalled an encounter in which a couple of lads returning from the races knocked at the door and asked “Scuse me, have you got any playing cards?” In response to this slightly odd request, Crispin’s unflappable daughter happily produced a pack and wished the travellers a safe journey. “No, no, no we can’t just take them. Here, have this”, said one and proffered a twenty-pound note! Despite all protests and refusals, these boys wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and left to play snap with their expensive cards on the train home, after - one would assume - a pretty successful day on the gee-gees!
We had a great day there last Summer. The racing was good, although Crispin was unable to urge 100-1 shot Barello into the frame of the 3.50. This despite summoning up the spirit of his Italian-based brother, domiciled in the region of the famous wine. In consolation, we enjoyed a couple of pints of delicious Finchcocks ale from a Westerham Brewery barrel mounted on the bar. We had a teary discussion about this vicious, unjust illness that has now taken his life prematurely; and about his plans to make the most of the time that remained. He told me he was stopping short of a bucket list - a wish-list of things to do before the final curtain - but was taking and enjoying every day as it came. I saw how he was drawing such strength from his family, his friends and his faith. I was in awe of his humility, his fortitude and his positive outlook. I still am.
At last week’s funeral, the tributes were uplifting. The readings were moving. None more so than a passage from a letter Crispin had written to his wife which, in parts, served as a goodbye to all of us. “Grieve and grieve well”, he had said. The phrase was resonant and heartfelt. And it sliced through the carefully laid defences of the congregation like a rapier. This was raw emotion. I am not a good crier. Some dab delicately at moist eyes. Others blink away a salty trickle. I convulse with chesty heaves and a shoulder action more at home in a rugby scrum. It was not pretty.
And we did grieve well. We raised a glass to Crispin in The Star Inn. Such occasions are always bittersweet. This was mostly bitter, to be honest, but catching up with old friends and colleagues and meeting new ones was sweet enough. We read stories that had been collected by Crispin’s wife as a keepsake for his children and published in a booklet for everyone to take away. This was a lovely touch. Vivid reflections of an inspiring, humorous, talented, eloquent, intelligent and passionate friend and colleague.
Crispin’s love of Twitter was well known. Never have 140 characters been more effectively deployed. He harnessed the medium to his world-changing causes. Even whilst undergoing treatment at Kings College, he tweeted, “Thinking as a patient, one of many things the NHS needs is a betting shop in each hospital. Why not an ‘NHS Tote' or a 'People's Bookie'? I have now posted this approach to the DoH consultation on their NHS reforms ....”
Fantastic stuff. Crispin Moor: a force for good.