In late December the news arrived that Simon Morris, erstwhile singer and leader of The Ceramic Hobs among many other things, had died.
Writing about someone in the aftermath of their passing seems a silly thing to do. Words fail us: they just don’t have the gravity, they float away. Best just kiss: keep it simple, stupefied. However, once our words have settled from their flailing, they can help to point towards things that matter.
Many people knew Simon much better than I, and for longer, but – his having left his fascinating imprint upon my window – here is my take.
When I needed somewhere to store a stack of stuff after I had pulled the rug from beneath my own domestic circumstances, Simon was the first to step up and offer his spare room and garage. At that time, though we had a musical association, it wasn’t as if we knew each other particularly well. He thus accommodated my clutter with never a chunter, for as long as this was needed (it turned out to be several years). This was emblematic of his generosity with his space and time: the arrangement of visits to him would tend to be accompanied by his promise to take us on a maraud somewhere scenic – and it was on those jaunts that his delicate attunement to nature, and sense of curiosity, even a quiet awe at everything he noticed, really came to the fore. These were the times when Simon’s being-himself came across to me most fully and clearly: he seemed to be there as man and boy all at once, fully in the moment, enthralled yet serene, very much in touch. Messages he sent from, or following, holidays to wilder places likewise sang with the music of the creatures he’d seen, the climate and the way he’d felt it; he spoke with great enchantment about that area of woodland visible across the fields from his front window, where he and friends would go after nightfall to make music together. His sense of joy at recounting an unplanned walk which took him away, alone and anonymous, from a foreign city and into woodland is particularly memorable. His essential tenderness likewise came across in his tales of late-night waltzes with his loved ones to particular songs that we shared a high regard for.
Discussions with Simon could cover any ground; he was among the most open minded of people one could ever hope to know, his perception and appreciation expansive. I’ll always remember with affection, too, his ready sense of irreverence, his keeness to lark and laugh: a serious sense of fun. Simon was a most creative dramatist of human absurdity, of the lunacy underpinning mundanity, adept at subverting darkness with his own beams of light and heat. I see him chuckling through his vape as we discussed shared experiences of certain intimate medical procedures; and bandying around favourite jazz and rap lyrics, spontaneously spoof-reading his way through the drama of disintegtration that is “The Message” over a rudimentary drumbeat. There was the afternoon we tittered ourselves as silly as a pair of tipsy tweens listening to an Oi LP; an evening wedged up at the front with him and another friend, a bunch of sweaty moshing ageing fanboys romping and jumping, pointing and shouting, at one of the last performances I saw The Fall do. And his basking in a golden afternoon in Hoylake, delightfully infusing his roaring and screeching with the bliss and tranquility of the day, channeling the sun.
I’ll remember Simon with great fondness, and a sense of thanks that he invited me in for a time; there’s an accompanying strain of sadness regarding the sense he sometimes exuded of being distant and inaccessible – and, pluming from this, a plaintive sense of helpless bewilderment about … it all. Inevitably, the sunshine has its shadow.
The last time I saw Simon was early in 2019: he seemed happy and hopeful, was apparently well settled into writing his unsettling work and spoke of it with evident pride, and talked about some opportunities that were about to open out to him. “Our paths will cross again” was just about the last thing he said to me: my life lacks some significant dashes of colour as a consequence of a fact that this now can’t happen.