STORIES ABOUT BLAKE
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From Dave Brighouse (Ellesmere College)...............................
January 25th 2012
I attended Ellesmere College from 1994 to 1999, and was in the year below Blake. I was shocked and deeply saddened when, yesterday, I stumbled across news of his death in an old EC newsletter I was browsing online. I wouldn't describe Blake and I as having been friends, indeed we had not spoken to each other nor seen each other since we left school, and I am sure that we would probably not have done so had he still been with us. I did, however, have the pleasure of spending a great deal of time with him in the CCF, as he was an NCO in my "patrol" unit in my 5th form year at the college. My memories of people in Blake's school year are not all that fond, the behaviour of many of them being arrogant and boorish. The greatest compliment that I could pay Blake is that he was neither of those things. I remember him as a calm, honest, and decent person of great integrity and with a great sense of humour. I was considered something of a reprobate for much of my time at Ellesmere (albeit a promising one!), and this perception often influenced my treatment by others. Blake, however, always took people as he found them, and in me he recognised my enthusiasm for the CCF and always encouraged it and nurtured it - whilst teasing me about what a reprobate I was, of course! He is somebody that I remember from my school days with great warmth, and I have often wondered over the years since I left what he was up to, and whether he had gone for Sandhurst as I always suspected he would.
I was so shocked to learn of his tragic death, it really affected me in a way that I would not have expected it to. All I can say was that he was a lovely young man when I knew him, and I have no doubt that he maintained his warm, caring character into adulthood.
R.I.P. Blake. I know that you are sadly missed by all he knew you.
From John and Joe Barry (Chamonix) .....................................
We had skied all day long at Grands Montets, Chamonix: big mountain, big snow, and steep, deep and fluffy. The perfect day. And how we had skied!
Blake had begun with a grin fully half as wide as the mountain itself. A grin that told how he loved the wild places and the wild antics that were to pass for skiing tat day: and steeper the slope the wider the grin; deeper the powder, brighter the eyes; dafter the antic, louder the whoop – as young men do and as young men should.
All day long, he (and I,) fell, tumbled, full-fronted, back-looped, crashed, crunched, head-over-heeled, somersaulted, salchowed, pirouetted, plunged and plummeted – a fair few other unintended stunt that will never find their way into the skiers’ lexicon – al the while hurling whooping imprecations to the four winds and the sky – which at times seemed closer than Earth.
By late afternoon, we were exhausted. Shot. Whoops to whimpers turned, then to silence. But never once had the grin slipped. Never once had Blake’s mien spoken of anything but a delight for the here and the now. Never once had right laughing eyes told of anything but sheer, unalloyed joie de vivre. Seldom – maybe never – have I seen anyone to intoxicated, so exhilarated on raw mountain air.
And never was there more eloquent testament to the addictive allure of mountains, and never more passionately, poignantly or positively expressed than by Blake’s wordless grin and shining, soundless eyes.
What a day! What gusto! What a boy! We will no forget.
John Barry : Chamonix
The Vallée Blanche is reputed to be the world’s longest off-piste ski run. Twenty kilometres long, this epic river or snow and ice stretches from the Aiguille de Midi to the base of the Chamonix valley, through scenery that beggars belief; an array of mountainous majesty that makes the heart soar.
I knew Blake only briefly, but was lucky enough to share with him one of those days of Alpine perfection which you wish for nightly, and enjoy so rarely.
Blake was a keen, enthusiastic skier, which I mean as a compliment (he seemed an enthusiastic young man about more or less everything) and a euphemism. He had been skiing in Chamonix for a week or so and had loved every second – but Hermann Maier, practising in Wengen, was not thought to have been feeling any pressure.
Blake had heard tale of the Vallée Blanche; the cloud-bound, nerve-jangling telepherique; he vertiginous beginning via the Midi Arrête; the kaleidoscopic, crevasse-packed Mer de Glace. He was (as per usual) keen and enthusiastic at the idea of tackling the run, but nervous too.
“Could I ski it, Joe?” He asked me one day.
”Course you can mate, no problem,” I replied, knowing how far Blake’s keenness and enthusiasm would get him on a run like this – all he way (thirstily) to the bar at the bottom.
Blake was at Sandhurst with my brother, John, who had returned to Britain to ‘sort out his admin’ (in fact to watch the cricket and let Mum do his laundry), and I happily volunteered to take him down (though I must confess that the presence of a statuesque Swede in the party aided my enthusiasm for the trip).
We rose early on an azure morning and proceeded to have the sort of day that God (who was also a skier) intended. Excited pre-run banter over bacon and eggs, the awesome ride into the hills, and the unmatchable wonder of the Vallée Blanche itself, including the obligatory picnic of wine and cheese in the Salle à Manger and the (no-less obligatory) million or so powder-induced falls.
Every time I turned to look at Blake (weather mid-urn, mid-nosedive, or mid-recovery) he was grinning. As we passed each regal peak his grin was wider. As we neared the valley floor the grin widened still. And as he slouched, exhausted, into his first beer of the evening, his grin matched the entire width of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Blake reminded me that day why I go o the mountains. It was a privilege to share them with him.
From Davina, a good friend……………………………………………
“Blake's certainly an individual! I always admired his drive and ambition, I was even jealous I couldn't be more like him. His passion for the mountains has inspired me and I always felt I was in safe hands when we climbed together. He's someone I'll always think of when I'm on the rock or in the hills.”
From a gentleman at No 12!.............
"Blake and I were neighbours in our beloved Holmes Road as well as members of Oxford OTC together for a short time. Blake knew me as one of 'The Gentlemen of 12!' We even worked for similar Outdoor Education Programmes in Oz. You must have learned a great deal about what a special person your son is over these past months! I too have very fond memories of our shared experiences as a community in Reading, Blake was central to that community, one of life's rare gems and I was sorry to have drifted out of touch with him on leaving University in 2001."
From someone who met Blake at the Royal Engineers.................................
"I sang at the Tower of London this morning and got the chaplain to pray for
Blake. Whilst I'm not really religious, it can't do any harm. And at least
when he turns up he'll be famous!"
From an old school friend..........
"A little story about when Blake and I were at school - Ellesmere College - we both returned from a long weekend, to find a note on our door, see MDTS (Mr Sampson, our House Master) A.S.A.P. on our return! We discussed in the room what could we have done wrong, room was OK etc. Turned out they had been doing some fire alarm checks, and found a bottle of Vodka in the roof cavity of our room, but it had water in it. We both knew we hadn't had it, but trying to convince Mr Sampson was a little tricky, but Blake’s confidence won him over I think!"
From the sister of a girlfriend of Blake's......
"Blake always could teach us a great deal about life - seizing the moment, and living for the day. His disappearance has certainly made me realise this, to the extent that it has been very instrumental to my decision last week to resign from my job in order to become a full-time Mum - something I have thought about for a long time, but never before had the courage to do."
From a very good University friend.............
"I have so many stories of my first friend Blake, that's what I always call him as he was the first person I met at Reading and we immediately got on like a house on fire! Instead of re-counting all these stories and taking up pages and pages here are a few little memories that make me smile!
First day I met Blake we went off to the Union to explore and then stayed up till the early hours putting the world to rights over a bottle of Bundaberg rum.
Blake's very tight cycling shorts he bought for a pub crawl on one of his many trips to the Charity Shop.
His experimental cooking always involving chillies and mayo, no wonder my culinary skills are now a little crazy!
Blake once tried to out do some hard blokes who were break dancing in the Union, his twists and turns on the floor were simply unique.
Blake and Beth's romantic night, 3 course meal, flowers, even us as waitresses but guess where....yes in the shed in the backyard.
His green tracksuit bottoms, Hawaiian shirt and his Aussie sandals.
21's game, Killer Kings...he loved a good game and few sociable beverages.
Blake's first introduction to make up , earrings and bra's at the "Come as Your Mum Pub Crawl" he looked a treat!
He was like a child searching on the Net for his name one day he was on such a mission for Blake Hartleys even found his name on some hockey league, all a little ironic now!
When Blake got his new Voice Recognition Computer, he didn't get down to work instead he and Blackers tried out their DJ skills blasting odd noises all round our Halls of Residence.
3 legged pub crawl where Blake and I started badly trying to master our technique but after a few 'Snakey B's' we ended up winning.
His obsession with keeping the food cupboards in a methodical and logical order.
His green garden chair he bought just for hangovers.
When Blake tidied his room it was like an army exercise, his room like mine was often a muddle but his army bag that was a different matter always organised and packed on time for OTC.
I think nearly every lecture I shared with Blake I laughed and giggled as he either fell asleep, didn't write notes or very odd ones usually consisting of 3 lines or he would just argue or debate a point with the lecturer if it was a juicy subject.
Drinking BMW's in Yates in Reading and Blake despaired as Beth wanted one but didn't like the Baileys or the Malibu I think,
Dancing in the Union with Blake after me dragging him up to Brown Eyed Girl.
Blake spending days on the Internet trying to find the perfect bag, torch or something he bought on Ebay from Australia.
Blake 21st party was chaos and brilliant from start to finish, I still treasure my green glasses.
His trips to Essex were always full of excitement, kebabs, cocktails and beers.
His late night essay writing.
His enthusiasm for the "Agric Bash"
Sorting out my love life on several occasions with his usual logic and great listening ears.
Listening to Jewel, Counting Crow or Garth Brooks.
Talking and breathing 'army' at a lovely and memorable day at Sandhurst.
So many memories and times with one of my best friends and these were literally just a few!!I miss him, Sarah X.
From another Uni friend............................................
" Blake is such a lovely person and is such a good friend to us all, it helps keep me going through the hard days thinking about the fun we all had at Holmes Road and how lucky we all are to have spent that time together - whenever I look through my photos, I have a great number of Blake, in some silly pose that makes me laugh usually in one of his lovely dresses for a pub crawl!"
Quote from someone who met Blake.........
"I met Blake at the potential officer familiarisation visit to the Royal Engineers just before he went to Sandhurst. Fantastic man with a great sense of fun and adventure. I was just about to set off for an Alps trip and he spent ages suggesting good places and recounting stories.
I'm really sad that he has gone missing, and I hope he turns up safe and well."
Message from a friend in Canada............
"I too haven't given up hope, I remember Blake as a very strong person, with qualities that put many men to shame. Based on this I too believe Blake is still alive."
From his girlfriend..................................
"I feel so lucky to have met Blake - he has played a huge role in my life over the last five years and we have had so many good times together - I cannot begin to do them justice on paper. I have so many stories and endless memories I could share. Instead I am sending you a few photos of some of the fab times we had- I think they speak for themselves! Blake meant the world to me and, like so many others, I miss him dearly. Beth x"
From Simon Mole, another Uni friend..............................
"We were both enrolled on the greatest undergraduate course at Reading- being Rural Resource Management! I instantly got on with Blake like a house of fire and over the three years we had much fun both with the course and in general at Uni. I often ended up in the same group as Blake when giving presentations and the lethal combination of myself, Blackers and Blake always caused a few laughs!
I found myself round Holmes Road more often and not and the various parties and BBQ's were always fun and normally involved dressing up in women's clothes, Blake leading from the front! One of my most treasured memories of Blake was once in RG1's when I happened to come across a very pretty girl called Beth. Well I thought my chances were quite high so I turned on the charm and I couldn't understand why Blake kept on interrupting my progress by shouting "How's your bird" and "Haven't you got a girlfriend?" At the time I was very annoyed with him for dashing my chances and only later I did realise that the joke was on me!"
"Well............'How do you spell.....?' was a very common Blakeism."
"A word I can think of 'off the bat,' was that he was always impressed with was
'adroit.' Some lad on the news described the British army as being 'adroit.'
I think he fancied himself as being 'adroit.' Also, he'll be proud of me
getting it into this e-mail three times.
Bit random, but he is the only person I have known talk about being "in
the UK" rather than Brittain, United Kingdom, England or even Home, no
always "the UK".
"Its hard to think...but the best Blake'ism has to be... "Ah well!!!!!!!!!!" It's my fave...if there was nothing much else to say or it could be at the most serious time but it was his philosophy...don't stress about it!"
"No worries" but I think anyone that went to Oz says that now! "
Question: "Where did you buy that from.................? Blake's answer: "The charity shop!"
If Blake was here this is the sort of message, (full of " Blake’ism’s"), which I think he would want to send to you!
-The speling is beter thow!!
“Oh my Lord”............ what’s all the fuss about? Ah.... well....., there really are “no dramas,” despite the fact I have put you all through “a world of pain” and I really should give someone “some grief” about it!!
I have just taken a little “bimble” because I have an “adroit, cheeky little cunning plan!
Any “random” ideas about where I might be would be gratefully received, please pass them on to “mumsey!”
"My theory is that Blake is trying to beat the Guinness Book of Records with the worlds biggest bender (booze up) in the history of mankind. I am sure he will make millions from the sale of his book "Blakes Binge Bonanza" when he returns! I have every faith that he will return."
"......the latest idea the lads seem to have come up with is that Blake bumped his head and had amnesia but did recover....realising he was now a millionairess's toy-boy he decided not to return to Sandhurst for fear of being sent to the Brecon Beacons again!!"