Today would have been my kid brother's Neil 60th birthday........
Who? I hear you ask?
Neil was just one of the new group of 'speed climbers' based in Sheffield in the late '70's & early '80's and particularly the group who congregated at the cafe in Stoney Middleton. Some of the group went on to be (in)famous inside & outside the climbing fraternity but sadly many are no longer with us, and Neil is one of those. Whilst climbing with the group in Pembroke in October '82, I'm not sure where, he had a bad fall & spent 4 weeks in a coma in Morriston Hospital. I travelled there on my old Norton and spent several days sat by him, holding his hand and talking crap. This obviously disturbed him enough to jog him out of the coma & eventually he was transferred to Sheffield hospital from where he was discharged in January '83. Then began the long rehabilitation - physically he was only a shadow of his former self and the head injury had significantly affected his peripheral vision, the importance of which you all know. He spent almost every waking hour either in the gym (almost unheard of then) or on the climbing wall at the Poly (sorry, Hallam Uni.......). He knew that he could not climb to the standard of his previous buddies but also knew that he wanted to keep pushing himself, soloing back at his old haunts. I just hoped that he would get strong enough & fit enough before the reaper cut him down. Sadly, that was not to be, and on 19th July 1983 Neil fell whilst soloing on Wasted, dying at the scene, aged just 21.
I hope that none of you ever experience grief like that. I was 2 years older than Neil and I literally could not speak for over 2 weeks. To all of you who came to the 'funeral' at the Friends Meeting House in Sheffield, a very belated 'thank you'. You probably thought me rather odd, but not being from Sheffield or a climber (discounting a bit in the Scouts) I knew nobody, and the pain was just too much. Similarly, the scattering of the ashes at Stoney was a dreadful experience. I have been there many times since and it's still painful - and no caf......
It's nearly 40 years now since Neil died, and whilst not forgotten, it has been pushed away, only a few years ago I actually threw away the birthday card I received from him, which arrived the day before he died (and a week after my birthday!!). Thinking "I must let this go". Now I wish I hadn't. Sending birthday cards was not something Neil did! Last Christmas I was given a copy of Jerry Moffat's autobiography with the comments "I think you knew him?" That brought all the memories flooding back & then friends just seemed to start tripping over bits on the web.....
As kids Neil & I were inseparable, living an idyllic 'Boys Own' lifestyle in North Yorkshire in the late '60's & early '70's. Building dens, go-carts & boats, sailing & canoeing on the Derwent, camping, a bit of climbing & getting into all sorts of 'good' trouble!! Oblivious to the real world. At secondary school, Neil's troubles started - an IQ of 152 but Dyslexia was not understood & he found himself in the bottom set at school & extremely unhappy. My parents got him a free place at Breckonborough School, near Thirsk. A disaster for me & tbh, not much better for Neil. I lost my playmate overnight, and I'm horrified to say, that over the next 3 1/2 years I can only remember visiting him once. Our parents divorced, the family home was sold, our mother went back to Uni in York, our Dad went to work in Germany and by 15 I was living on my own in a semi derelict house. (Looking back, I'm amazed I wasn't taken into Care). Neil left school with 2 crap GCSE's, really not a good outcome. The highlight of his time at Breckonborough was taking his pet grass snake to vet 'James Herriott' who was unable to help.... He went on to an "Apprenticeship" at Newstead Riding Centre near Darlington, who were truly horrible, and where he lived in an old caravan for 2 years. In that time, I only managed to speak to Neil twice on the phone, which was located in the farmhouse hallway, as was the norm. He must have SO lonely in those pre mobile phone days. I wish that I had done more, but from age 13 to 22, I lived in exactly 25 different locations & my life was not the easiest. Later on I started to race motorcycles, with some success, and I can assure you that funerals & hospitals are not domains reserved for climbers - almost absurdly, to protect my mother, I never told her about my racing activities!!
Neil left the stables in '79, aged 18 & went to live with his mother in Sheffield. Signing on the dole & becoming a full time climber, with the tiniest bedsit in Broomhill. Any of you who went there would have been astonished not only at the tiny floorspace (I just managed to sleep on it once) but also at the range of hundreds of books, many 'heavy' Russian authors etc! Not the norm for a youngster who proclaimed that a near empty grit bin was the ideal overnight accommodation!! He took me bouldering a couple of times early on, and I was amazed at the strength in his fingers, and he talked excitedly about the routes he was planning & the people he was climbing with - non of which meant much to me.
Apologies for the ramble, if anyone has any photos or memories of Neil that they would like to share with me it would be great to hear from you. I have virtually nothing from age 12 onwards. Looking back, I think that, mostly as a result of his various life experiences, Neil was a very inwardly unhappy character which encouraged him to take poor risks. I have responded differently to those challenges, and I have tried to ensure that MY son, who is more like Neil than me (!) KNOWS that he is loved - so important. 
 https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/rocktalk/neil_noddy_molnar-738133?v=1#x9505665, reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Molnar
I had some really great fun times with your brother. We first met at Stoney Middleton, I asked Neil if he had anyone to climb with and he said, “no”. We hooked up and climbed together often for the next couple of years. We hitchhiked all over the country, dossing out in bus shelters and public toilets. So many great memories. He was a great friend and I still think of him often.