IN FEBRUARY 1988, Stan Gebler Davies was diagnosed as suffering from lung cancer and wrote an article in the Evening Standard under the headline 'It's so hard to tell your friends you're dying', writes Louis Jebb. Happily, he was operated on successfully, made a good recovery, and returned to work. In September 1988 he wrote the first of his Saturday articles in the Independent. The last of them, published last Saturday, was the 148th in an almost unbroken succession of fortnightly pieces, a happy mix of domestic diary, tales of and from James Joyce, of music, and unfashionable politics. They were written successively from his houses at Kinsale and Skibbereen, both on the coast of Co Cork, and latterly from Dalkey, south of Dublin, where he lived at the time of his death.
The cast in the Gebler Davies drama consisted of neighbours and animals, musicians and journalists, the women who fascinated him and were fascinated in return, his good friends the photographer John Minihan and the priest Fr Kit Cunningham (Roman Catholic chaplain to what was once Fleet Street), and a succession of the most agreeable members of the Irish Bohemian world: the writer Maeve Binchy, the film director John Boorman, and the actor John Hurt and his wife Jo.
His first piece for the paper was a Kinsale diary, and the last a memory of the kindness shown to him by Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge when he was their neighbour in Sussex in the early Eighties, prompted by the latter's recent death.
In November 1990 he gave a picture of the place where he wrote, at home near Skibbereen, in prose that is typical Gebler Davies: laconic and funny, and touched with gentle, musical cadences:
I do not work in the house . . . I am exiled to the stone hut wherein I write at the moment . . . I walk up the boreen to the stone hut, which has been done up as a perfectly habitable cottage. It was previously the abode of donkeys, cows and chickens, whose dung was forked across the track for numerous decades, making the earth very rich there . . . I walk up the track (that is what a boreen is) meantime through the leaves that are still falling and have just begun to decay, giving off a pleasant mushroomy smell . . . listening to the mild gale blowing and concentrating my mind, so far as I am able, on that subject of money. I am as happy as I have been in all my life. It is a dangerous condition. I do not care.
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