This week I was in That London to attend (Lord) John Roper's funeral.
For one reason and another I never got to meet him (though I was a handy route for someone we both knew to come out to him - through the phrase "I'm dating Jen Yockney, Chair of DELGA*") but he had a splendid and vibrant political activist's life spanning five decades. Failing health meant taking his leave of the Lords last summer, and he died ten days or so ago.
At the service (Lord) Dick Newby spoke about John's vital work in the 70s during the EEC membership referendum, as organiser of the Labour rebels, making sure there were just enough Labour votes in each division that the UK would go on to join the EU despite the strength of the Tory rebels on the other side. He would be one of the key players in the SDP and then a Lib Dem peer after the merger. Thus two of the 'gang of four' were in attendance at the funeral, along with a plethora of Liberals from the red benches.
Others will write in more detail and far more eloquently than I could about his life and his passing. But they might not mention this: at his funeral, each guest was invited to take away one of the hippos from his huge collection of hippo toys. Here are just a few:
Mine is a pair of hippo bookends.
I found my copy of the memorial service book from dear Becky Taylor the other day, which brought forth a tear or two, but this is a splendid alternative way of having something by which to remember someone.
* - as it was, kind of, still called at the time