Just after New Year I traveled for something that I have never done before, to see tributes laid outside the final resting place of a celebrity that had passed away. I went to the home of George Michael.
It would feel unusual enough admitting to that if I was a massive fan of his. But I wasn’t, so it definitely feels weird!
My fiancée was a big fan though, and it was her suggestion. It was posited to me as something we could do together before we were both back at work. “A nice drive out”.
I live in Salford and Goring-on-Thames is 184 miles away. That is not exactly what I would think of as a pleasant drive out.
What made it worse is that lots of people also decided to go out that day. The results of three traffic accidents along our route meant the journey took well over 4 hours.
In fairness I had commandeered the TV from 6pm onward the night before to watch the last NFL games of the regular season, including staying up to watch the Green Bay Packers win their divisional title, so she was allowed to call this one in.
I don’t want to make out that our relationship is somehow a battle of the sexes, between male sports and female celebrity obsession. It’s not a battle at all. It was an unusual request in many ways, but I was happy for us to spend the day together.
Also, I should say, Sally is not a celebrity obsessive at all. Nor someone who would hold a vigil outside the home of someone she had never met normally. But we did have one more day off together, and he was her teen idol.
Even now, he stands as the one man that she would leave me for in an instant. That he is gay, and dead, means this is almost certain to not be an issue.
George Michael’s home
Long journey to one side, we arrived in the pretty village of Goring-on-Thames and parked up. There were a few cars, but it didn’t feel like the place was swamped. This was a week after he had passed away.
Whilst not swamped, it soon became clear we would have no problem finding his house. Looking up the road you could see a few small groups of people carrying flowers, all heading in the same direction.
Once we arrived there were about about 20+ people stood mingling and looking at the various tributes.
Rather unhelpfully I said to Sally “see, you’re not the only nutter.” This was taken in good humour, as it was intended, but I knew to give her space here.
There were piles of flowers along the side of the house. Tributes ranging from small hand written notes attached to bouquets to large laminated collages of pictures with printed messages.
It did feel odd in a way, but not too disconcerting.
It felt odd because I was stood outside of the private home of a man I didn’t know who had died the week before, it felt odd because so many people had traveled various distances to be here, and it felt odd because I couldn’t really sneer at them because I had done the same.
But at the same time, it was a calm and serene scene. Everyone there was respectful, and considerate of each other. Conversations of lowered voices were being had by strangers all on the joint topic of George Michael.
Sally overheard a conversation between two locals saying that he did not stay at the house much, and instead spent most of his time in London.
Which makes sense, as it was a lovely location if you have a bit of money and want somewhere to occasionally escape the big smoke. The house itself played it’s part in the serenity of the scene, understated but charming.
A light was on and the steam rose from the outlet, meaning the heating was on inside. In fairness, the door and gate to the back was completely blocked by flowers. If anyone was inside they were trapped!
A peaceful place to rest
After, we had a long walk along the riverside, which added to the beauty of the place. As with the rest of the journey, the increasing levels of mud slowed us down and increased my irritation.
But my mood was raised when my new fitbit went off to tell me I’d done my 10,000 steps for the day. That was an unexpected positive for the day, but you take your victories where you can.
On the long drive home me and Sally reflected on the day. She was worried I was annoyed at the distance driven. With doing stand up comedy though, these kind of distances are easy enough for me.
I feel she felt sated in having the time to reflect. Not just on the passing of George Michael specifically, but also on a significant part of her childhood.
For me it was worth doing for the experience in itself, which was not as weird as I thought it would be. I was not particularly a fan of George Michael’s music, but I loved his attitude.
When caught cottaging, who else would then release a pop song and accompanying video to both parody the situation whilst also saying “fuck you.”
We’ve lost a number of the great men and women who knew how best to say “fuck you” in 2016, and he was one of them.