Dave Kinnear, Raconteur, Co-member of Everton Park and Bootle Sports Centre Squash Teams

A raconteur, according to my online dictionary, is someone who tells anecdotes in a skilful and amusing way.

Dave Kinnear was not a raconteur in the usual meaning of the word.

True, he would tell stories at great length – and who knows how many weird and wonderful stories he’s related over the years – and true he had a kind of storytelling skill – if converting a straightforward story into a complex mix of diversion, cul-de-sac and red herring is a skill, and true he would be amusing – albeit in a baffling kind of ‘Help, I’ve lost the plot, Dave!’ kind of way.

But more than all this, Dave was an urban myth, a legend in his own story life time – and the legends he is part of, are legendary.

Once, there was this fella who reckoned that he had been part of all his families stories – even though he hadn’t been born when they’d taken part. ‘I know these things!’ he’d say, mystically.

Once, there was this fella who persuaded his ill brother to let him drink his medicine – to stop this brother getting into trouble.

Once, there was this fella who had such a deft little wrist shot on the squash court – that his opponents would find themselves on court red faced, high tempered and fuming at the innocence of that squash shot which always had them running the wrong way, or left them flat footed or left them just looking plain silly.

We – his squash mates from Everton and Bootle – met Dave over 10 years ago at Everton Park squash courts – quite how, we can’t quite remember although Dave would have known…

We got playing together on Wednesday nights and before too long we had been signed up to the Thursday night league, complete with so called training on Sundays – again, quite why and how is fuzzy – but Dave would have remembered.

And before we knew it there we all were, driving around Merseyside over many cold winter Thursday nights to play at clubs we had difficulty finding in the squash league schedule – Burscough, Birkdale, Xaverien – pronounced for some reason that Dave would have explained – as SFX.

Dave, with his storytelling, anecdotes and explanations provided the social glue for our team.

Once, there was this fella who told stories in such complicated and detailed fashion, that his audience frequently turned to stone, complete with puzzled expressions across their stony brows.

But what his audience didn’t know was that Dave knew stories of before he was born, and consequently had so many stories to get out to his family and friends – and had so much to say – and so little time to say it – that he couldn’t be wasting time with the craft of telling his legends – so just got on with it, talking to everyone, conversing with everyone, remembering everyone and everything – and becoming a master raconteur to us all.

Dave, you’re a bit of an urban myth in our eyes – thanks for holding us together.

Nick Owen
Bootle EP Squash team
6 March 2006

Richard York Owen: Deal or No Deal?

The last time I saw you was at the retirement home in Stafford. We had gone up stairs to your room to prepare to go out for what you used to call ‘a swift pint’ – although the concepts of ‘swift’ and ‘pint’ were often awkward companions in your sentences and never sat happily together.dad - 18

You had the TV on and we sat and watched “Deal or No Deal” for a bit, the programme in which a hapless contestant is plucked out of obscurity from a group of hopeful contestants and is given 1 of 22 red boxes in which a sum of money is hidden.

He tries to guess what might be in his own box by opening the other contestants boxes, one by one, revealing the money they contain. By a process of elimination he starts to figure out what prize might be left in his box. As the game continues however, he is subjected to the temptations of an off screen ‘banker’ who offers him various ‘deals’ which may be less of more than his potential prize. The contestant’s dilemma is whether to cut his potential losses, accept the deal or reject it with a polite ‘thank you, Mr. Banker, but no deal…’ – and continue his progress in the game, with the hope that he is going to land a bigger prize and beat the banker into the bargain.

You and I sat and watched this for a few minutes and chuckled over the hapless contestant. He’d look at some-one else’s box and then look at his own and we could see him thinking…. Does he have some thing better in his box than I have in mine….? Is the grass greener over there or here in front of me….? On this occasion, he plumps for someone’s else box – and has his hopes dashed when the other player reveals the biggest treasure, a whopping £250,000. This steady drip drip drip of continual disappointment continues through the game until the potentially glorious destiny the contestant was confident about early on in the game is dashed into a thousand pieces. The only box left in the end is his own, complete with an apologetic 10p prize. The other contestants swarm around our 10p victor, all commiserating in what might have been.

What might have been is an epithet for many of this games contestants: what might have been, had this not happened, had that not happened… If only…. If only not…. hindsight, as the contestants on this show will readily tell you, is the ultimate prize in the game of Deal or No Deal.

The prize of hindsight lets us revisit the past and put all the wrongs right and the rights even better. The losses turn into gains and the gains metamorphose into triumphs. Hindsight gifts us 2020 vision, complete knowledge of the state of the turf, the weight of the jockeys and the mood of the horses. Hindsight instils in us the wisdom of knowing where the finishing line is and how far it is from the starting line: hindsight give us magical predictive powers to guarantee the name, colours and pedigree of the 3.45 at Aintree on a wet Saturday April afternoon.

Which is what we set out to do a few years ago at the Grand National, perhaps the time when I saw you at your happiest. Out in the Tattersall Stands, stamping in unison on the wooden floors with the massed ranks of the Irish, French and Scouse bookies who had met up for their annual pilgrimage. Your winnings of perhaps £100 for the day were spent by 10 that evening on Guinness and Chinese takeaways which replenished the predictive powers of your stock of hindsight and which led to the identification of some more dead certs for the following week out on the race courses across the country.

Watching your travels as we grew up meant that places like Aintree, Chepstow, New Market, Haydock and Uttoxeter became mysterious, hallowed lands – part of a cultural landscape through which money seemed to flow freely – albeit too frequently in the wrong direction. Elvis Presley was making a name for himself in that far off country and the land there offered you escape, freedom and the opportunities to open innumerable boxes, all of which were marked with the really big prizes, all of which were too alluring for you to turn down.

Your journeys through that landscape provided us with some puzzling and yet delightful memories: the trips to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – 15 times; skating around Brighton ice rink in circles for whole weekends at a stretch: your work as a chef in a Jersey hotel kitchen whilst fending off the mysterious interest in you by Frankie Howard. Treasure hunts on holiday in which prizes of multicolour biros, cross word puzzle books, wind up dogs and Barbie dolls delighted everyone. Your easy, generous desire to entertain all of us led you to organise shows and pantos for many people of all sizes, shapes and ages; your charm and tolerance of others helped bring the best out of them; and your willingness to assist in developing other people’s potential sometimes perhaps dampened your need to fulfil your own.

In recent years the cultural landscape you visited took more diverse and startling turns. Watching your journeys from Stafford to Redditch, Usk, Cheltenham, Bristol, Bath, Sutton Coldfield and Leeds forced us all to look at the places we thought we were familiar with, in new, harsh, uncomfortable lights. Your return to Stafford earlier this year however provided all of us with a sense of relief that you were coming close to something you would call home. We know these were not easy times for you too: but know too that your positive and optimistic outlook carried you through.

In the end, your optimism happily outshone your hindsight: and that was a deal worth winning. In your game of Deal or No Deal, you beat the banker with the best deal of the lot.

Testimonial for Richard York Owen, 30 July 2007

 

Flow: prayer for a provisional ending

As life begins
The circle of evolution continues
Life flows through my body
like the wind blows through nature.

Flowing beside the city
Beside the river
Down by the docks
Along the far side of the port,

My words and stories evolve into thoughts and memories
and through these
my world becomes a performance.

A place where the boats fill up
The seagulls fly straight
And the passengers look out
To a place and time

Where my imagination flows
My humanity becomes a performance
Where possibilities begin
And end and begin again.

The tide surges
It falls back
The salmon are left on the shoreline
Waiting for the signals

To call them back
To the ocean
And back to the stream
They left in their youth.

But will the flow ever end?

Composed with Emily Frodsham on the morning of the death of Steve Jobs, as part of the final performance of the Flow Community Arts Autumn School, Sigdal, Norway.

Geoff Pennycook, in memoriam.