Thursday, 22 August 2013

Memorial for Rob Soldat

We were at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia in London last Wednesday. My Young Man had encouraged me to try a special beer from the Greene King stand, 5X, which was only being put on sale at certain times throughout the day, and was only available in a third of a pint at a time. There was a long queue.
When we got our drinks we went to find somewhere to sit down, and the Young Man had a quick look at Facebook on his phone - and that's when we found out that Rob Soldat had died. At least we had an appropriately special beer to toast his memory with.

This was the picture shared by Richard Booth's Bookshop on Facebook.

The memorial service was this afternoon, at the Masonic Hall - and it was packed out. Rob was a well-loved man, and everyone there said what a gentleman he was - as well as being remarkably knowledgeable about history, folklore and literature. His brother said that the family name came from East Prussia, when their great grandfather had come to England in the mid nineteenth century (and his father was described as a "gentleman"). A few years ago they discovered that the ancestral family home still existed, and went to see it - it was being renovated by a Russian billionaire!

Several storytellers were there - Rob was a noted storyteller and went to the storytelling festivals. He had an arrangement with Judith Gardner of the Children's Bookshop to take books of folklore along on a sale or return basis. He also worked on the market on Thursdays, and gave guided tours of Hay Castle, and took part in courses on folklore - one of the speakers read out a poem he had written on one of the courses, in the style of Taliesin, about a cat (which he had chosen as his totemic animal). It began "I am the mew by the foodbowl".
After the speeches, and the singing of Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, which Rob had chosen, there was a buffet.
One of the ladies there told me that her little girl had wanted to come to the memorial service, because she was sad that Rob had died too. "Why are you sad?" her mother said, thinking to have a serious talk about death with the little girl.
"Well, you're a rubbish storyteller!" she said.

On display along the edge of the hall, and in the entrance, were photos of Rob, and some of his weaponry - a couple of swords and a pair of gauntlets, and a helm, which he used on several occasions. One photo was of him dressed as a Knight Templar for the launch of one of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins novels, which was done at Hay Castle. Father Richard was there, too, to bless us all and save us from the Templar Curse!

Also on the table was a little box for donations towards a planned storytelling event later in the year, in Rob's memory. The organiser is hoping to put it on around October, and if it goes well to maybe make it a regular event.

I went looking around the web to see if I could find any photos of Rob, and came across this blog entry, from 2008, which seems typical of him. The writer is a young man from Oman on a sponsored trip to the UK in search of "an authentic picture of UK culture", as part of the Crossway Foundation's Offscreen initiatives to make connections between young people in the UK and the Middle East:

"We were in a beautiful ti-bi in the green field near the house that we live in and Robert ” a story teller” was with us in the ti-bi. He made an interview with us for the BBC radio. He asked us about the offscreen project and how did we enjoyed our trip in the different countries in UK. After that he started to tell us wonderful stories. The stories were short but we enjoyed them very very much. He said that the stories are traditional but each story teller has to use his own way of telling these stories. We all listen to him carefully because he was very good."

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