A Tribute to Mike
By Christopher Whitfeld

A fitting tribute to Mike in the familiar words of Henry Scott Holland…

Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you - whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone; wear no fixed air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was - there is absolutely unbroken continuity.
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near… just around the corner.
All is well.

My knowledge of Mike goes back through a variety of hearsay to his childhood, and through personal acquaintance and friendship to London in the 1960s when there was some form of life before Celia - and when he even taught me to tie a few flies - and I know from my own personal experience that he DID suffer fools gladly - he was generous indeed with his forbearance and tolerance… his patience learnt, I surmise, from sitting and waiting for the fish to bite…

He was, probably from birth and certainly to the end, a triangular person - his work and home life on the hypotenuse, as it were, his fishing and his reading on the other two sides - a solid and secure right-angle triangle. Pythagoras would have loved him - and no doubt enjoyed and benefited from his company as much as we all have done over these past more than 70 years.

But perhaps most of all, in addition to Celia, John, Cathy, Edward, Nick, Pauline, Mark, Julie, Kelly, Sarah & Paul, he enjoyed the company of, and bonded with those who shared his great and lifelong passion for fishing.

And among just a small handful, that strong bond was wrought between two brothers-in-law, Mike and Les… Out in a boat on a dam in the Eastern Transvaal, on the Zambezi in Namibia, around New Zealand’s rivers and lakes, they could both forget - with mutual delight - their Whitfeld relationships and concentrate on the job in hand…

In South Africa Mike discovered in Les a true soul-mate - or maybe trout-mate, or tigerfish-mate. They loved to converse and to correspond on their past catches and their future fishing plans - they could talk together till the seacows come home…

That’s not all, though, because Les also appreciated and greatly admired Mike’s broad and deep and global knowledge and interpretation of history and literature. As Les came to understand, you could easily get Mike hooked on such subjects but you would never catch him out.

At the end of the day, however, and in the morning and in the afternoon, it was the fishing that bonded them most surely and most closely. It is therefore very fitting that on behalf of Les (who is so very sad he cannot be here today) and at his behest I should read a brief excerpt from Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler”…

Man’s life is but vain, for ’tis subject to pain
And sorrow, and short as a bubble;
‘Tis a hodgepodge of business, and money, and care,
And care, and money, and trouble.

But we’ll take no care when the weather proves fair;
Nor will we vex now, though it rain;
We’ll banish all sorrow and sing till tomorrow
And angle… and angle again.