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Today's quote:

Saturday, February 19, 2022

On this day two years ago ....

Chris Mellen with his charming wife


Pete, I met you in the early '80s when I acted as a barley broker between various grain traders and Abdul Ghani. If this message reaches you it would be great to catch up, and I would like to get in touch with Abdul Ghani."

That email in October 2010 - see here - renewed an old acquaintance which morphed into a long friendship which lasted until - well, 'hier'.

Chris Mellen, with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Affairs from the University of Sussex and and a Master of Science in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, was a true renaissance man, multi-talented, multi-lingual, multi-marital (four at last count!), and, born a Jew and raised by the Jesuits and converting to Islam in 2000, even multi-religious.

Suave and flamboyant Chris in better days - taken from his LinkedIn profile

Apart from our past commodity trading in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we shared many interests, such as a love for the writings of Julian Barnes - we both subscribed to his sentiment in "The Sense of an Ending" that "... the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be", and Hermann Hesse, with Chris sometimes calling himself Goldmund - as he confessed, "No savings left after a timetime of living beyond my means. My life has been rather self-indulgent. I rarely refused myself anything."

Sometime in 2018, Chris was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer which confined him to months and months of hospitalisation and vicious chemotherapy as well as several bonemarrow transplants - "I'm due for my tenth spinal tap; the treatment costs so far are $750,000" - and a myriad of other 'medical advances', none of which worked.

As he wrote, "I'm struggling with the discomfort, the endless pain, and incipient depression." By 14 October 2019 he'd had enough. "I am home. The cancer has morphed into acute leukemia and is incurable. I hope to see another year but ... I am trying to seize the carp every day. It's challenging. I enjoy your news and admire your energy."

A fortnight later he'd found just enough energy himself to get back in the saddle of his treasured Harley-Davidson: "Took the old girl out for a spin today. It's my hormone replacement therapy."

But it was not to last and he was back in hospital for more treatment ...

On 31 December 2019 he WhatsApp-ed me, "Thank you for your messages and commentaries - much appreciated. The doctors have run out of ideas [which, strangely, coincided with him running out of money] and I hope to be able to go home to die in the next few days. Sorry to admit this, but I love you old bastard, and I admire you, fucking fascist that you are ☺. I'm thinking of you, you crusty old dog."

And shortly afterwards, "I'm breaking out. I've had enough. My wife will take me home tonight. Halle-fucking-lujah. I wish we could celebrate the shit and derision of this dystopian disaster together. I feel so close to you, you miserable bastard."

Back in bucolic Bussy-sur-Moudon (population 198 which, until recently, he was still trying to increase), Chris was a happy man: "I'm home, recovering from the trauma of the last year. I am a happy man. I am a satisfied man ... no regrets ... I have been true to myself and have accepted who I am and the choices I have made. My wife is the love of my life and my kids are very close to me. Good night, my dear friend."

We kept on exchanging thoughts and ideas and I told him about the devastating bushfires which had us almost wiped out as well, to which he replied in typical irreverent Chris Mellen fashion, "I'm praying for you, Christian, Jewish and Muslim ... I am mumbling incomprehensible guttural sounds on my hands and knees with my asshole aimed away from the south-east and towards the glittering heavens, all on your behalf. I have difficulty reading. These are the side effects of the chemo. I am damaged goods after ten cycles of chemo treatment. So my current challenge is to assess what's left and accept my new me and learn to live with both the cancer and the after-effects of the chemo instead of engaging in a head-on war with a disease that we do not understand. My treatment was not the fruit of a scientific analysis but the result of the doctors' hunches. I was unaware of the primitive methodology of this pseudo-science that we call medicine. I am planning to keep going for another decade. I am ready to make big compromises in order to remain active in this new life. It's the constant pain that prevents me from having a good laugh but if that's part of the deal, so be it. I'm far from ready to go."

Suddenly, on 4 February 2020, the decade had shrunk to just a few days, " I've been given a few days to live. I just want you to know how much I have appreciated your friendship. See you on the other side, brother."

What could I say to that, other than to pass it off light-heartedly, "Don't believe everything you're told, Chris. You'll probably still sell a few loads of barley before you go (although not to Abdulghani). 'See you on the other side'. That's what the surgical assistant said to me before they wheeled me into the operating theatre which confused me no end. When I woke up again and she was leaning over me, asking for my date of birth and how many fingers she was holding up, I was quite surprised because I had always been told that St. Peter had a long white beard."

Silence for a week, and then on this day two years ago "Chris est mort hier", presumably from his wife. Je suis tellement, tellement désolé.

They say the only death we experience is other people's, and I had experienced Chris's slow demise for over a year. See you on the other side, you old bastard! We both know we're checking out just in time!


Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

                                   --Constantine P. Cavafy


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