187. Float like a butterfly…

“So, what does it mean ‘trending on Twitter’?”

“Right,” I say.  “Touch the ‘Search’ icon… now, give it a second to refresh –  and, look, there’s a list of the main things that people are tweeting about at the moment: at least, the main hashtags being used.”

We look at the list, ActorLaddie and I.  Some of the entries mean nothing to me but in at number five, pop pickers, is a real blast from the past.  AL touches it and we follow the link to the following tweet:

“Just saw Postman Pat trending on Twitter and worried that 2016 had claimed another celebrity. #Phew #PostmanPat.”

Phew indeed.  Simply the start of a new series; Pat being still alive, well and battling extreme weather conditions in Greendale.

It’s a different story this morning.

#FloatLikeAButterfly. #RumbleInTheJungle.  #WhenWeWereKings. #NoVietCong. #TheGreatest.  #Legend.  #MuhammadAli.

What I don’t understand is why I’m so very, very upset at the news.  I don’t even like boxing: wouldn’t watch a match if you paid me.  And we’ve hardly been short of people to mourn this year: losing Victoria Wood was particularly terrible.  But for some reason, this news has left me weeping onto my keyboard in a way that would definitely be frowned upon by Health and Safety.  And I don’t really know why I feel so upset.

Perhaps it’s tied up with him being such a big figure when I was a child.  With seeing him being interviewed by Michael Parkinson: floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee.  He was in truth, one of the first black people to make an impact on me – my part of London being pretty much entirely white in those days – and he was confident, and eloquent, and, yes, pretty.  So losing him is losing another part of the world in which I grew up.

Subsequently, as an adult, I’ve learnt about the integrity of the man.  His refusal to fight in Vietnam.  His refusal to be treated as a second class citizen by the country whose anthem played when he won Olympic Gold in 1960, and then refused him service in a diner because of his skin colour.  His refusal to hide when being diagnosed at 42 with the condition of champions.

Because, of course, there’s the Parkinson’s connection.  He was one of the first people I registered as having PD.  At the time, it was said that he’d got it through having been hit so often on the head, which makes complete sense if you know nothing about Parkinson’s.  Guy gets hit on head.  Brain goes wrong.  Simples.  (You should see my trophy cabinet. Heavy weight champion of Thrush Woods, me.)

I actually heard Michael Parkinson on the Today programme this morning saying how ironic it was that boxing had caused the Parkinson’s which had stopped him boxing.   And then killed him.  I screamed at the radio for a bit (“you die with Parkinson’s, not from Parkinson’s”) but I don’t think Michael heard.  He was never good at listening to women.

Anyway, this isn’t getting the baby a new bonnet and I’ve a garden to weed.  Last words this week to the Champ.

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavy-wAlieight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right.  As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could.

As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people.  And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

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