Tuesday 6 September 2022

Keith Shearer - The memories

Meeting at a pub

After Boris Johnson’s last address as Prime Minister in front of 10 Downing Street, I was clicking through a few things as you do online before I in the confluence of many thoughts decided to search for ‘Keith Shearer Architect’ on Google.

I went out with Keith in 1991; we met at The Prince Regent on Liverpool Road in Islington, one Sunday afternoon around Easter, I could not account for what brought him up there from South London where he lived. I was housesitting for a friend who had gone to Mexico on a street off Caledonian Road, so this pub was my local even without much event.

Until I met Keith there, I never struck up a conversation with anyone, I guess I was just seen as someone who came in, ordered a drink, and sat in a corner until the closing hours. Then Keith came to say hello, we struck up a conversation and he invited me over to his place.

A friendship becomes

Later that evening, he brought me back home where I was housesitting and after he left, I noticed that he had secreted a £20 note under a book on the table. This was when I was still looking for work and trying to stick to roles in computing rather than doing something else.

After that, we met up a few times, I was invited to a party with his friends and soon we became an item, and I moved in with him on Christchurch Road in Tulse Hill. Our domestic arrangements were easy, as he had a lodger who just could not be kicked out of the kitchen for the want of trying.

Keith was an architect with a firm in North London and he quite daringly in my view rode a bicycle to work when cycling on the main roads in London was not fashionable and quite desperately unsafe.

Tremendously talented

He was also a polyglot, he had such an ear for languages, I was just fascinated in not only his ability to speak languages but to write in Arabic, Cyrillic, and Japanese kanji. I have now read that he spoke Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Italian and Serbo-Croat. I believe he spoke many more languages and one afternoon he bought a Yoruba language book and started making sentences, he was that gifted.

When I eventually found a job, Keith helped me with all the formalities in getting references from Lagos and all the preparations I needed to start before I found my own accommodation, including the move to my new place. I guess from then we began to drift apart.

6 years later, I returned to live in London from Ipswich and basically had an apartment on the next road from where he lived. We met up a few times and after 2 years in London, I was back in Ipswich and then in the Netherlands for over a decade. We did not keep in touch.

The memories to remember

However, Keith brought me new experiences because I attended my first gay pride with him, learnt more about gay history from him, and my first encounter with someone living with AIDS was a friend of his who had returned from France to spend his last days, desperately trying to write his story for which he needed some computing support, which I provided.

In many ways, I was naïve, not too understanding of the dynamics of gay relationships and was left to my devices most of the time. When I returned to the UK, I did try to contact him again, but my Internet searches indicated he had moved out of London.

The unexpected discovery I made this morning was that Keith had passed on in May 2021 at the age of 65. That was quite a shock, he had suffered a heart attack and I would have said Keith was one of the fittest men around and definitely of his peers too. It is sad news, but I remember Keith for his sense of fun, his tremendous help that was needed for me to settle down in the UK, his desire to try new things and his easy speaking voice that concealed a bundle of talent and ability.

May his soul rest in peace. James Keith Shearer, 1955 – 2021.

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