The wonderful Sarah Webb died in September of this year. Look at this smile and try to believe that this fresh-faced looking lass was actually 49, Chief Executive of a large organisation (the Chartered Institute of Housing) and used a stick to get around. That's the impish grin of a genuine, funny, spontaneous human being – the kind of person you'd cheerfully get stuck with in a lift. The kind usually weeded out or somehow flattened on the way to the top.
Sarah – by contrast -- sat at the top of the housing policy tree and held the door wide open for staff, activists, tenants and interested fellow travellers like myself, fortunate enough to be asked to facilitate CIH conference events to make sure tenants felt sufficiently confident to ask tough questions of all "heid bummers". She was inclusive, no-nonsense, friendly and smart. Her knowledge of Scottish housing problems and affection for this country was so strong I always assumed she must have grown up north of the border. Wrong. Barefoot kids in Blackhill during the 1970s did kindle her passionate belief in better housing as this excellent Guardian obituary explains. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/15/sarah-webb-obituary
I was in Norway for two months in September when Sarah died of cancer, and just heard the bad news on return from Gordon Proven's funeral in Ayrshire. Both of them used to light up lives. So hard to believe they're gone. And because bad news always comes in threes, farewell to James Bowie who used to live in our local village of Abernethy and was killed on Friday in a road accident in Kinross. Amazingly James was 80 but looked half that age and, though he was deaf and mute, managed to communicate an incredible joy in being alive. I used to see him standing at the bus-stop as I sailed past on the bike to get the paper. Being a fair-weather cyclist, it was always good weather when we met and he always waved. I still remember one beautiful day after a cloudy week – he pointed up at the blue sky and round us at the green fields and then at his heart and blew a kiss. As my mother says, it's a great life is you don't weaken.