Four or five years ago, an old Oxford associate of mine, Keith Tolstoy (not his real name), was running an amusing blog called Webside Gleanings, on which he collected links to all sorts of oddball delights he had somehow discovered on the Internet. He it was who first led me to Other Men's Flowers (although I am strangely unable to relocate the first post I visited there, or Tolstoy's post which directed me to it), a formidably literate, dazzlingly diverse, and exquisitely written blog created by Tony Brooks, a retired gentleman in the south of England. It immediately became my favourite online reading.
Before long, we were quite often commenting on each other's blogs, and that in turn evolved into an occasional e-mail correspondence; I came to regard Tony as one of my most valued online friends, and someone I would very much like to have met in person. In fact, I have admitted to a certain envy of the man: he was so erudite, so witty, such an elegant writer; he maintained a consistent excellence in his blog writing that was quite daunting, a standard that I have aspired to myself but fear I shall never achieve.
Tony had been experiencing some health problems over the last year or so, and had therefore cut back his frequency of posting. In April he took a turn for the worse, and he passed away on May 25th.
His funeral will take place this afternoon. You can make a donation in his memory to the St Michael's Hospice.
His family have decided to leave Other Men's Flowers online. I look forward to being able to continue to revisit his rich archives, although the pleasure will be undercut by the sadness of no longer being able to interact directly with this wonderful personality.
As I commented on that final post on OMF:
I'm glad that the blog will remain online. It is a fine tribute to a remarkable man, and I'm sure it will in future bring pleasure to countless new readers who were not lucky enough to discover it while its author was still with us. All of us who were thus fortunate, whether casual or regular readers here, are very grateful to Tony for sharing so much wit and whimsy and beautiful writing with us. I shall miss him very much. It is surely a sign of a life well lived to have inspired so much love and admiration in people he never met.