Clark Jordan, Buenos Aires
I have just found your webpage about the death of Nicholas Battye. I only learned about his passing today, upon receiving a directory from our 40th high school reunion in Richmond, Virginia USA.
I only knew Nick well for the one brief year of 1968 that he spent as foreign exchange student in the US. We had a mutual friend in our high school librarian, and spent many hours on many occasions in glorious wandering conversations debating the great problems and mysteries of the world. I saw him only once again, sometime in the 70s, as I recall. He mentioned he was either headed to or living in London, I cannot remember. I never saw him or heard from him again.
I thought of him often over the years, and many times when I was in London I wondered if he were still there. In fact, I was in London just a couple of weeks before his death. I have never forgotten our lively conversations, his eyes, his yearning for answers, his smile, or his odd fragility. I was sorry to hear that his life seemed so dark to him at the end, but I recognized that part of him so many years ago. I vividly remember his reading T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” aloud in a class we were in together, and remarking to him later that I thought he had expressed it in terms I had never considered before.
I have mourned his passing today, but enjoyed pulling up all those old memories of times with him. Reading about his friends and his life on the webpage was wonderful for me. I have never forgotten him.
Marilena Kouparousou, Athens
I’ve just learnt about Nick’s death from the website. I was very moved and shocked when I heard about this, although, I have to admit, the last time I met up with him (back in March of 2004) I did get the feeling that he was thinking about leaving this life behind. He described some very strange symptoms to me which he had during the day, which he interpreted as deep metaphysical experiences that he had to pass through. He scared me… but he seemed to accept it, just like he did with all the trials and tribulations he experienced in this life. I did not get in contact him for a long time because I was afraid to hear bad news or no news…
I find the website a great idea and I felt the need to add something to it. Nicholas will remain in my memory as a very sensitive and profound listener of souls. He was for me a very special friend who I could share my deepest thoughts and emotions with. He was capable of listening, and opening an inner journey with you. I feel grateful for having met him in my life and I am sure that wherever he is he is at rest. Nick you’ll stay memorable!
your greek friend
Diane Bush, United States
Of course I was saddened by the news of his death, which just reached me today, via Paul Trevor, of EXIT. The web site is a great tribute.
I was also born in 1950, and saw Nick one other time, in London, post-EXIT. As always, he was kind and giving.
Thanks again, for the great website,and e-mails.
Uthman Collins, Spain
Just a note from someone who knew Nick through the Naqshbandi tariqat. It is the first day of Ramadan for me… and also an eclipse of the sun here in Spain… Wooh! This is the day I go to look for some stuff on Sheikh Nazim and wind up reading about Nick´s death. Strange… moving… moves stuff inside me… I´m not sure what to say yet, as I see Nick through a Naqshbandi sufi lens…
It was a while ago that we met… Sheikh named him Abdl Baqui which he seemed very pleased with as Baqui is the name of Allah meaning, approximately, The Everlasting. In sufism the state of enlightenment is often known as annihilation in Allah and is called fana… the state of remaining in that station is called baqua which comes from the same root as the name…
Levels and levels.
I knew Nick when he was living in Kings Cross I think it was — or is that flat in the pictures the same one? Did he live there a long time?
He used to tell us all sorts of strange tales which were generally like esoteric films with a dash of magic and the occult thrown in, with him in the leading role. Apparently they were accounts of weird stuff that happened to him.
I had not been long with Sheikh Nazim and Nicholas took me to see Irena Tweedie… it was a very interesting experience. It helped to make a link to sufism for my then wife who couldn’t really get along with Sheikh Nazim’s people. I was ‘meditated’ in one of her groups…
I could go on and on… maybe I will at a later time if it is appropriate… and if you would like that… or would like to add my piece to your lovingly constructed section on him?
One small aside that I remember fondly is that we used to call him Wacky Baqui sometimes. He was a very considerate and entertaining companion for the short times that I knew him over several Ramadans in London… and also gave me hospitality in his flat.
What stopped him finding happiness or peace in this life? I don’t know, maybe it was an inability to really submit to Allah’s plan… perhaps he wanted things on his own terms though I’m sure he must have known well and deeply about “the perfection of imperfection” through his Zen teachings. He is and was a part of that perfection and somehow I loved him dearly… I am very sad at the news, I wonder what happened to his liver? You seem to have known him well and deeply and were obviously a close and dear friend… thank you for your lovely web pages on him. I think it is wonderful that so many people were affected so positively by him during his life. Your pages are a fitting epitaph to a beautiful man.
Salaams, love peace and blessings to you and yours in this blessed month of Ramadan.
Barbara E. Gibson, Virginia
I feel strange writing to you at this late date, but later is probably better than not at all. I knew Nick Battye when he was an exchange student in Richmond, Virginia. I am not a former girlfriend or even a former friend. I hardly knew him. We sat next to each other in English Literature class. We had very little in common except that we were good students and somewhat unorthodox. When I learned of his death from former classmate Rick Williamson, I was, of course, saddened, and I visited the website that you so thoughtfully set up. It was then that I discovered that over the years Nick and I had developed some similar interests, most notably Jungian psychology. While I have never become an analyst, for the past 20 years I have read and studied a great deal. I was so sorry to learn that, where my search led me to find meaning and hope, apparently Nick found troubling questions and despair. I would have liked to have known the person that Nick became. I would have enjoyed is company. I also would like to think that he would have appreciated the person I have become.
That brings me to the special gift that Nick unknowingly bestowed upon me. After reading the eulogies from his friends and spending time with the poems his passing inspired you to write, I felt that I had discovered a treasure, a precious place that I would be called back to time and again. And I have visited and revisited your website, enjoying the various postings and links, the book and music lists, and, most significantly, the energy of the place. I confess that I have been a lurker on your website for nearly a year. There is something about it that feeds my soul and nourishes my spirit. I like to think of it as a gift from Nick because from all accounts in life he bestowed many such gifts, and it seems appropriate that in death he would continue to do so.
Betsy Cockriel, United States
I just heard the news here in the States that Nicholas had passed on. I took a chance to do an internet search for information, because I heard nothing except that he had died, not when, where or why. My name is Betsy Cockriel, and I knew Nick, as he went by then, back in 1968 when he was a foreign exchange student in Richmond, Virginia. I was 15 years old at the time and he was my first love. After he left the States in July of ‘68, I saw him in London in the summer of 1974, and once again in Richmond, when he came back to visit in 1977 or 1978. At that time, he was preparing to enter a Buddhist monastery. After that I only heard bits and pieces of news about him from the family he lived with in Richmond while he was an exchange student.
After reading the short bit you have written, I am even more saddened. I had always felt Nick never really found his place in this world. He was such a deep, old soul, even back as an 18-year-old. I had wished a life of contemplation and prayer might be his calling and he would find peace and happiness. If you have time, I would really like to hear from you. Thank you for posting and for being his friend.
Carole Cole, California
It was so good to hear your voice and the voices of those gathered. Many thanks for posting our words and making them so visually appealing. I copied you on a note of condolence I emailed to Marcus. It’s almost 9pm in your corner of the world and the sun is shining brightly here in California as we all remember Nick.
May all continue to go well as the music is plays and the wine flows in honor of our friend.
Love and blessings
Stephen Brady, London
I won’t be able to be with you today — things didn’t go according to plan for today. Why should today be different?
I’m sorry that I didn’t know Nicholas well, or better, or that he was a photographer or that some called him Nicholai or that he was so generous and giving and did so much good for so many people. I still don’t know how to pronounce his surname, but there always was an undeniable aura of mystery about him. Offset by that mischievous sparkle in his eye.
It’s just past 3 now. I’m going to read again the memories, and so share with you the life and the lives he’s left behind.
I heard about Nicholas on the day after Thanksgiving. That same evening a friend sent a belated Thanksgiving wish, in the form of a Thanksgiving Day poem. I didn’t know there was such a thing.
Swing the shining sickle, cut the ripened grain,
Flash it in the sunlight, swing it once again.
Tie the golden grain-heads into shining sheaves,
Beautiful their colors as the autumn leaves.
Pick the rosy apples, pack away with care,
Gather in the corn ears, gleaming everywhere,
Now the fruits are gathered, all the grains are in,
Nuts are in the attic, corn is in the bin.
Loudly blows the north wind, through the shiv’ring trees,
Bare are all the branches, fallen all the leaves,
Gathered is the harvest for another year,
For what we have, we’re grateful, our day of thanks is here.
Thank you for helping his world touch mine.
Carole Cole, California
Gratitudes for Nicolai B
I thank you for the day we met.
I thank you for prompting me and my babies to leave Rue Daguerre “toot sweet”.
I thank you for securing that tiny terrible basement flat in the holy ‘hood of Hammersmith.
I thank you for the laughter and tears in that funky London launderette.
I thank you for your insistence on composing on the foolscap page.
I thank you for playing father and stringing babytins to make curtains.
I thank you for the gleam in your eyes and the dance in your walk.
I thank you for your seasons of sensitivities.
I thank you for your brand of compassion and your sense of fun.
I thank you for understanding and marveling and wondering and trying and ranting and raving.
I thank you for searching high and low for something you could not name.
I thank you for Stonehenge and cooking with lots of onions.
I thank you for young love and young confusion and for friendship and simple stupidities.
I thank you for your diligence and your sharp-as-a-tack intellect and your fantasies of British and American culture.
I thank you for your grace, your determination, your penmanship.
I thank you for delicate India ink drawings and lovely watercolors.
I thank you for your soulful stance, your ability to reinvent yourself.
I thank you for your inquisitiveness, your prayerfulness, your sometimes sly smile.
I thank you for your vainglorious head of hair and your Japanese moment with the silvery shears.
I thank you for the hours you poured over Ezra Pound and the gift of the collected poems of George Oppen and the lectures on art and culture and painters like Kandinsky.
I thank you for finding our 400 year old cottage in Cornwall and for driving our old red car on the sunny sides of the streets.
I thank you for being, for being and seeing and hearing and photographing and reading and reciting and eating and drinking with a passion that brought attention to your being and your struggle to be.
I thank you for your courage.
I thank you for sharing some time, some magic, some madness, some music, some sacred tales in a place that was often a sanctuary.
I thank you for befriending Peggy, for visits with Hunter, for visits with Jeff and David and their little lads.
I thank you for putting up with the mighty Commander Milburn and wife Elspeth who (remember?) wanted so much to be Sylvia Plath.
I thank you for that attitudinal man from London that said we were like Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald in their finest and worst days, as if he knew them and what they were like.
I thank you for our little telly and our indulgence of watching Monty Python.
I thank you for your sweet tooth and the discovery of Devon Cream.
I thank you for the encounter with Bert-The-Bee-Keeper and our experiences at the castle of John Williams’ wooley monkeys habitat.
I thank you for taking us to Heathrow and letting us go off into the wild blue yonder.
I thank you for visiting us every now and again on the east and west coasts of our lives.
I thank you for your style and the way you touched inanimate objects.
I thank you for the images, the questions, the reprimands, the concerns, the moonlight through the rain.
I thank you for your constant love of children: especially Sage and Harleigh. They thank you and love you too.
I thank you for your pacifism, your liberalism, your me-ism, your mixed message-ism, your hey Jude-ism… your…
Oh Lord, I thank you for all the things I may have neglected to ever thank you for in that era, in this life, in this world. You are a very good egg Nicolai: a dazzling Fabergé encrusted with soul gems. If only you knew that there was no reason to be perfect. (With your affection for the music of Van Morrison, I now wonder if you ever heard his tune “Professional Jealousy”. It might have shed some needed light on the awful things you were grappling with. The lyrics might have given you added strength to just let all the negative things go. To just forgive and forget.)
As fate would have it, we met and saved each other from a testy time in Winter and we were blessed to celebrate Spring. As you travel on beyond the beyond, here are poems-words-lyrics from a few male writers I believe you loved. So, with this, I give you an infinite number of thank yous and no goodbyes. I sign off as you often did in your epistles to me:
two excerpts from Rumi:
You are the taste in every lip,
the intention of every religion,
you swing your great heart out of the
ground and put your shapes in the air.
Half crazy is not nearly enough for you!
The sacred letter alif turns into a circle,
the rim of a wine glass.
This madness rises out of love, and weeping.
We must not be afraid of what anyone might say:
Be source, not result.
Last night the moon came dropping her clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing, falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks.
Everywhere is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.
Here’s the new rule:
Break the wineglass,
and fall toward
from George Oppen:
In the sense of transparence,
I don’t mean that much can be explained.
Clarity in the sense of silence.
from Rainer Maria Rilke:
I live my life in growing orbits,
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.
I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.
from Van Morrison’s Hymns To The Silence “Why Must I Always Explain”
Have to toe the line, I’ve got to make the most
Spent all the years going from pillar to post
Now I’m standing on the outside and I’m waitin’ in the rain
Tell me why must I always explain
Bared my soul to the crowd eh, but oh what the cost
Most of them laughed out loud like nothing’s been lost
There were hypocrites and parasites and people that drain
Tell me why must I always explain
Why, why must I always explain
Over and over, over again
It’s just a job you know and it’s not sweet lorraine
Tell me why must I always explain (alright)
Well I get up in the morning and I get my brief
I go out and stare at the world in complete disbelief
It’s not righteous indignation that makes me complain
It’s the fact that I always have to explain
I can’t be everywhere at once, there’s always someone to see
And I never turned out to be the person that you wanted me to be
And I tell you who I am, time and time and time again
Tell me why I must always explain
Well it’s out on the highway and it’s on with the show
Always telling people things they’re too lazy to know
It can make you crazy, yeah it can drive you insane
Tell me why must I always explain.
Sara Wagee, Canterbury
In my year, ‘ Nicholas’ classes were held on dark winter evenings at the end of a full Thursday’s teaching and usually attended by only Paul and myself. The classes were therefore relaxed and informal and he led them in a way that was focused but flexible.
My abiding memories of his teaching relate as much to his personal anecdotes as to the formal teaching. But in many ways, there wasn’t a great distinction between the two because Nicholas seemed to teach Sufism from the inside out. The teaching seemed real to him and religious experience a fact of everyday existence. He couldn’t stop the theory from being alive. He imparted a sense of wonder.
He told us tales of seeing angels at the foot of his bed as a child, of a strange meeting with 2 men in Turkey that left him unconscious on the ground and of his view that if they want you, the Sufis will find you. They found him in London and his Sheikh was a regular visitor in his dreams.
Then there was the kind offer of a lift home in his car. Paul and I appreciated it with some trepidation, due to the condition of the driver (fueled by wine and the occasional curry) and the car (exhaust pipe rattling like mad as he drove it to its limits)!
He was one of those distinct people who see under the surface and leave an impression.
John Ernsdorf, California
Although the time we spent together in this world was oh so very brief, I knew that at the end of our short time we had created a life-long friendship. My only regret is that we didn’t have the opportunity to share more of life’s experiences together in this world. Your love and giving spirit live on within all those that knew you. The ability to make a lasting bond within the shortest of moments is unique and wonderful. Thank you for making our time together a time well spent and one forever remembered.
Love and peace,
He who calls to God from the depths of his heart, will find his abode in the clear skies of love.
Elaine Gibson-Bolton, London
I have not seen Nicholas for the last 6 months but nevertheless feel an enormous loss, sadness, guilt. I feel like something really positive in my life has gone and I have cried a huge amount — ironically the very state I was in when I first went to Nicholas for help 10 years ago. Sitting opposite him for most weeks over the last few years means that thankfully I will have no problem remembering his kind face, and from where I sit at work everyday, I can effectively see the back of his flat.
I did not know he was physically ill — that has been a real shock — but I regretfully did suspect his despair and feel guilty for not being there for him when he was always there for me and my family. I owe him so much for my current health and happiness and will think of him always. At the end of the day I feel that he was let down by his circumstances and in my heart I know that when I stopped seeing him regularly I probably became another small contributing factor to his disappointment.
Jennie Tuffs, West Lothian
I am very sad to hear of Nicholas’s death from liver failure. It must be three years since he visited us in Scotland, I had no idea that he was unwell. Thank you very much for contacting me, as you know Nicholas was a dear friend of my twin Jo Levy, and during her last years Nicholas was with her often.
Regrettably I am unable to attend the funeral on Friday but my thoughts will be with you and Nicholas. He died very young.
Celia Cionnagh, Birmingham
Many contributors have said many beautiful things about a memorable man. I shall remember Nicholas as a gentleman who was courteous, thoughtful and who demonstrated an unwavering loyalty and support for someone close to me for some 25 years. An enduring memory I will have is of his warmth — epitomised in the ‘bear’ hug he gave me when we parted after my wedding party.
Many have benefitted from Nicholas’ wise words — to me he spoke of the danger of financial compromise when it came to the purchasing of wine; it is advice that has stayed with me and costs me dear! Thus, I feel it appropriate to leave the following extract from Gibran’s The Prophet as a fitting memorial…
And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the winepress, say in your heart:
“I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
And like the new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”
And in the winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
And let there be in the song a rememberance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.
Be at rest and at peace, Nicholas — the world has been enriched by your being.
Denise Whittaker, Birmingham
You could say many things about Nicholas…
…that he had once been a man with dreams for the future to fulfil, …that he was a singular person who set and worked within his own terms, …that his way of seeing the world embraced a natural inclination toward the holistic honed by his religious training, …that he did not necessarily see barriers separating out this unity, and that this clarity enabled him to act as a guide to the rest of us as we struggled over those hurdles, …that he could conversely be seen through modern day eyes as sometimes overstepping the mark, …that he had a profoundly spiritual presence, but was a mystic with an earthy appreciation of the world and sometimes raunchy sense of humour, …that he was a modern-day healer who latterly defined himself as the wounded healer, …that he was a gentleman who always treated others with honesty and respect, …that he assumed he would be met with the same integrity as that with which he treated others, …that he was apt to attribute powers of discernment to others which they perhaps did not possess, …that he wasn’t streetwise and might sometimes appear a little naïve, …that he could find it difficult to operate within the straits of modern convention and refused to compromise, …that this combination of many qualities rendered him very special but essentially vulnerable, …that the experiences of latter years made him feel disillusioned and increasingly wary — and weary — of the world, …that it was this disillusionment that injected his eyes with sadness and finally broke his heart, …that he ultimately felt it his lot not to receive a fair hearing, …that as years went by he felt himself victimised and was not prepared to put his head above the parapet once again and expose himself to potential misinterpretation and misrepresentation, …that, though often very hard, he managed to maintain a personal dignity even in difficult circumstances, …that he gently but firmly demanded that friends reconcile themselves to his not heeding their advice as well intentioned but inappropriate for him, …that of late he could see the immediate in technicolor and also the journey beyond, with heightened perception and senses that took him onto a different plain, …that — wherever, whenever, whatever — he was always on the other end of the phone for you with words that were somehow right.
…whatever one says, Nicholas Battye was a good man, and I am honoured that I was able count him as my friend for over twenty-five years. He was a true friend — loyal, kind, generous, patient, understanding, great and vibrant company, and, more than that, the closest I have ever had — or can ever hope to have — to a brother. And that is perhaps the most personal tribute I can pay him.
Thank you, Dear Nicholas. I shall miss you. Rest in Peace.
Sage Kibbee Cole, California
The news that Nicholas had passed on was like a crushing blow to the deepest part of my being. The magnitude of this loss is very challenging to put into words, but on the simplest level I need to express that I will never forget the profound impact that he had on my life. When I think of Nicholas not only will I miss his kindness and intelligence, but especially his spiritual presence and focus. How hard it is to accept that in this life I will never see or hear from him again. When I last spoke to Nicholas it was very difficult to hear that his life had become so challenging. This is the only time in my life I can remember Nicholas expressing so much anger and frustration about his circumstances. It saddens me to know that he never fully settled the fight for his reputation. From my perspective it seems so clear that this fight played a big part in his early demise. With time, I suppose I will gain more perspective and meaning on this whole situation, but for now it all seems so unfair. Nicholas I hope you have found the peace and serenity you were searching for in this life. Nicholas I miss you. Nicholas I love you. Nicholas I will never forget you. Ever! Till we meet again my friend.
Mark Woods, Cambridge
I found a rare happiness and liberation in Nicholas over the last few months as I kept in close touch with him, aware of his failing health and preparation for the Other World. I spoke to Nicholas on the Monday before he died and he evinced an excitement and wonderment at the increasing regularity and depth of his contact with the spiritual realms, seeing it in Castaneda’s terms. Though I have known Nicholas for over 20 years and he has been my best man and probably single greatest impact on my life, I am happy that he was ready to go and that it represented a release and the culmination of his life’s work. He continues to teach us all still both in his legacy and his continuing presence.
Rick Williamson, Richmond, VA
In 1967, Nick came from Sydney to Richmond, Virginia, USA, through a Foreign Exchange program to spend a year with my family during my last year of high school. We and it have never been the same.
Our school colors were blue and orange, so to “match my light blue sports coat” one of Nick’s first purchases was a bright orange sports coat. He was all about flair, fun, and laughter, and with his Australian accent (at that time he was quick to point out the great difference between his versus a real English accent) he was immediately popular as soon as a word came forth from his lips. This period of history was near the height of what we called the “British Invasion” of pop singers such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Herman’s Hermits, etc., so everyone here figured he was British, and instantly fell in love with him. He was a ‘chick (girl) magnet,’ and it was not unusual for him to have several dates each weekend. He cast a large shadow of goodwill, and I was glad to be a part of the phrase, Nick and Rick.
Does this sound like the Nick you knew? From some of what I have read at the website, I’m not too sure, but I swear what I am saying is true. Girls swooned! …and his laughter was contagious. I can still hear his distinctive laugh in my ear, these 36+ years later. At that time, his favorite TV show was “Rowan’s and Martin’s Laugh-In,” which poked fun and promoted the ever-changing “groovy, baby” lifestyle of the era with puns, jokes and sight-gags. Nick’s bursts of laughter nearly shook the room during the whole show, but not quite as much as the occasion of the first rather formal dinner our family used to celebrate his arrival.
Imagine a dozen people sitting around a large dining room table with china and crystal and silverware. One of which was my dear, 70-year-old, stately, very mellow grandmother whose etiquette and demeanor would be similar to your Queen Mum. Got the picture — you Brits will love this one! Everything was delicious and everyone ate quite a lot as was typical of our family, and as she finished, my grandmother commented with an American expression which has a quite different meaning than yours, as she very politely said, I’m stuffed! Food in Nick’s mouth was sent out with a burst of laughter that may have been heard several kilometers away! I thought he was going to die of laughter. Needless to say, he apologized and quickly made an excuse that he had just thought of something funny, but explained it to me later so I could join in on the cross-cultural humor.
No one could ever forget Nick. He had a black woolen cape which he used in cold weather, and it had a bright red inner lining. He jokingly fashioned himself as some sort of playful vampire whenever he would don that cape. There are probably thousands of stories that could be related if we were to poll the many folks who knew and admired him, but you can be sure that none of them would be sad. He was always one to joke about life, and merriment accompanied him.
The only sad part of this email is that most of us lost touch with him. My mother sent him Christmas cards to the best known address we had at any given time, but there was little response. While I was living in Seattle for two years, I received a call from Nick who was either living in or passing through Los Angeles, California, at the time. He flew up and we had a day or so together. We went to the seashore, which in the state of Washington is rather rocky, and it was a dreary, overcast day, and the waves were flat. Nick had changed dramatically, it seemed to me, and was somewhat like that ocean scene. Still had that great smile and the twinkle or brightness in his eyes that others have alluded to, but much of the former Nick was missing and his disposition was rather sullen and gray like the sky that day. He was searching, I thought, for some meaning in life. From what others have written, it seems like it may also have been a lifelong search. Did he get an answer?
Needless to say, I am so very sad to hear of his parting. It had been years and years since we had heard of anything about him, so in some ways, he had already been missed. The kind lady who called me yesterday morning to tell me of his death said that Nick had saved the correspondence inviting him to his American high school’s 35th reunion, and other letters, but he had never responded. When I visited London several years ago, I would have loved to have seen him, but alas, I didn’t even know he was there.
For my parents and younger brothers who had the pleasure of living with Nick for almost a year, and indeed I am sure that I speak for ALL of us who knew him in the USA, we send our condolences and prayers, and will always think of him fondly. At our next high school reunion you can be sure that we will, with a tear or two, offer a toast to the memory of Nick’s life that meant so much to us.
Lorraine Odiari, Zurich
Let me start by saying that I am extremely grateful to have known Nicholas. The times I have had the opportunity to converse with Nicholas left very deep impressions on me which remain to this day. Not just because of the depth of his knowledge, but most of all, because of his sincerity.
I am sorry, I cannot be with you on Friday, but my thoughts are with you all in London. I also celebrate his life.
My deepest sympathies go to his family and of course to you Stephen, for having lost a life-long friend.
Denise Whittaker, Birmingham
My name is Denise Whittaker, an old friend of our dear Nicholas, who sadly heard the news of his death last Friday evening from Dr Sangeeta Patel. The memorial on your website is a fitting tribute to Nicholas and a great help to those he leaves here, and I would like to thank you personally for all the work and — I’m sure – tears— involved in putting it together. I shall myself be endeavouring to contribute a few words to the site over the next couple of days, but at the moment am still in somewhat of a state of shock and sorrow as I bring to mind my many years of memories of this so special person and adjust so very slowly to the reality of the books I can’t return. I was moved to see the quote from Fletcher on the site: this seems to have been a passage which resonated with Nicholas, for I have a piece of paper on which he wrote it down for me many years ago, and I remember hearing him recite it in his gentle yet powerful manner at Jo Levy’s funeral.
Nicholas spoke to me many times of you and I know he very much appreciated your friendship and kindness towards him. I myself met Nicholas when we were students at SOAS, and he remained a loyal, trustworthy, wise and vibrant friend over the ensuing twenty-five years. I have no brothers, but can say without any reservation that Nicholas was the nearest thing I have ever had — or can ever hope to have — to a brother, and this is perhaps the greatest tribute I can pay him. I lived for quite some years just over the way from Nicholas in Bloomsbury, and although I later returned to my home town Birmingham, we always kept in close contact courtesy of the phone and visits on his part to myself and vice versa. I stayed at his flat on numerous occasions, a place of solace and serenity — and humour too — even in the more difficult times.
Nicholas was also a friend of my now late father and my younger sister, Celia Cionnagh, who has a beautiful singing voice, having performed semi-professionally. He came to her wedding in Birmingham in 2001, and told me both on that occasion and many, many times subsequently how very special he found her voice (she sang at the wedding) and how something in it spoke to him.
Sangeeta Patel, London
21 years ago, you were thriving, in a new life, a successful business. I was half my age now and had learnt little. You were going to be there for me.
14 years ago, I met you. I needed love. You gave it. I needed to learn to give. You showed me how. I needed to be upright. You taught me the way. They couldn’t bear your integrity or compassion and tried to destroy you. You were always there for me. Was there more I should have done for you?
7 years ago, I needed love. You kept giving it. I needed to study. You taught me how. They couldn’t bear your scholarship and tried to destroy you. You were always there for me. Was there more I should have done for you?
3 years ago, I had love. You kept giving me more. You had taught me how to succeed, and I had freedom. We celebrated. They couldn’t bear your achievements and tried to destroy you. You were always there for me. Was there more I should have done for you?
3 weeks-21 days ago, I had love. I was thriving. Your body could fight no more. You did not ask for help. You were always there for me. Was there more I should have done for you?
7 days ago, you found freedom. You were always there for me. There was more, so much more, I should have done for you.
Marco Rojas Baldeo Singh, London
A kindred spirit (for my guide Nicholas): A light, a beacon on the dark horizon I have no longer. I had not the opportunity to meet the few souls who stepped in after he left this world, nor most of the other souls who have been touched by his presence here. Although I spent the last few months with him talking about his situation and his time which was near, I do sadly feel a sense of regret for not making more time to spend with him in his last days; even after he tried to call me just before. I was not able to be there for him. He told me only one or two people here could really connect with his real internal experiences of mind and spirit during these last months. And I am grateful to have had the opportunity and experience of sharing some of this with him. Indeed I felt never alone in mind in this city with the knowledge that he was a call and a few minutes away. Now I do. A true teacher, an insightful, compassionate and wise friend and guide. An enlightened soul. I will love and miss dearly.
Joanne Taylor, Sussex
I’m very sorry to hear your sad news. I’ve never lost a greatly long loved friend, so I am trying to imagine your sense of loss and how you must be grieving. Part of your family. I hope the funeral proves some kind of solace. I can remember Nick on the narrow boat on your 50th birthday — a figurehead almost at the front in the stern, cloak wrapped around him — oh and that hat too? Seems to me that Nick has always been mentioned in your conversations with me about your life and doings. Thinking of you.
Aydin Mehmet Ali, London
Hope you will all remember Nicholas tenderly in his last physical presence on the day. My thoughts are with you and our Nick.
Esmerelda Sanz, London
I went to one of his courses in Birkbeck College, and subsequently met a few times for chats and a few evenings with friends. I was totally mesmerised by the amount of meaningful knowledge he had, poetry, history, religion, therapy, human stupidity and hope… He taught like no-one I’ve known.
His academical persona more or less shared flat with his personal one, in the first I could see the beauty, the enthusiasm, the knowledge and the sheer love for words, for concepts, for accuracy, for God… Yet, on his personal share, I could see the torment, the tiredness, the pessimism…
The most clear memory I have of Nicholas is of one of the evenings after class, in whichever hotel it is, near the college, talking until the small hours where I was sharing a mystical experience and I could sense his eyes, so bright, so clean and young… smiling despite himself, because overall I felt the tormented share of his self cast a cloud over his life. I could see his understanding of what I was sharing, his passion, and at the same time his huge disenchantment with human experience.
Nicholas was one of this people who “hurt” me, I really wanted to do something to shake his pain, his disappointment, I so felt he had so much to offer. People like him are so rare… I tried on several occasions, to no avail.
I could have heard Nicholas for days on end. I normally have little interest in intellectual knowledge made of words, but I always felt Nicholas’s was different, he ‘knew’, something in him did, and it came out in his classes as it did in his chats.
Last time I saw him he came to my warming house party — over 3 years ago now! — and he was giving time, wisdom and a lot of encouragement to another very special person I treated and loved, another searching soul, very fragile too, who died around a year after that party.
I’ve drank a glass of wine to your health, Nicholas, and wish you are in the space you needed to be, in the flat he belongs to.
There are many sentences that stick to mind that he said: one of them was that in the main, he found books were better company than people.
I’ll think of Nicholas and I’ll think of his eyes, often going in a different direction than the rest of him, however sad or disenchanted his words might be, his eyes needed very little to shine, and looking into his eyes was really an experience, the teaching without books, the speaking without words…
I’m blabbing, I suppose the glass of wine is doing funny things to my head, which I often thought was your case too, Nicholas, and yet, such a comfort, I felt…
Will be there on Friday to say “till next time” with your friends.
Catharina Lovén, Rinkaby, Sweden
I am sorry for your loss. I didn’t know him so well but I remember us visiting his parents’ house in the Northern suburbs somewhere. I hardly recognize him in the picture. I remember meeting him in London too when he had changed religions and we were at some market or other, and a house where he had some friends, or practised his religion. Looked at the slide shows from Hampstead Heath as well, that was exciting. Some things remain the same. Look after yourself.
Rabinder Bery, London
Nicholas’ death came as a shock even though he told me of the symptoms he had been experiencing lately. I think this is because we hope for the best for those we care about and don’t want to hear bad news. It was good to hear from you, even though you were calling with sad news, as I had not only been upset to hear of his death via Personnel but that none of his friends or family knew. It is comforting to know that his friends will be meeting to remember him next Friday.
Stephen Brady, London
Susanne just told me about the death of Nicholas. It’s sad news — anyone’s death diminishes me and all that. Kind of rolls off the tongue. Kinda glib. Kinda really true. I knew him and will miss him. There’s no way around it. Though he could sometimes venture a bit over some pre-conversationally-established edge, he didn’t always see it, and leapt over. Talk is cheap. Leaping — that’s something to think about.
There’s nothing to say and I don’t know how to say it but that I know you knew him well and he was your friend and am sorry for your loss.
David Craik, London
I am kicking myself about the delay but deep down Nicholas was someone who knew about his own particular path with a clarity and perspicacity few of us achieve. We shared many a glass of wine, usually late at night when I had finished my evening teaching shift. In fact I would look up to his window to see if the light was on and telephone him to see if he wanted a rest from his own four walls. I was always pleased when he chose to take up my offer and, as was the case with all who knew him, gained enormously from the ensuing conversation. A big irony and source of current discomfort is that the police have left all the lights on in his flat since his body was taken away at 3.50am on Friday 12th November — so whenever I return at night I have an impression of him being in and perhaps we’ll meet up for a late night glass of wine — wishful thinking now of course.
Stephania Melnychuk Taylor, Toronto
Knowing how much Nicholas meant to you, I imagine you’re quite possibly just now, several days later, coming out of initial shock numbness & that his passing leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of your life. I’m sad for you.
Having met Nicholas only once, I’m afraid I haven’t many memories of the man to share with you. :-( I DO remember that he sat in a place of honour at the lovely long wooden table at a dinner you held in the kitchen of your home, “holding court” there. I DO remember how you often spent time with him when you and I lived together in London, meeting up at the cinema and whatnot, and how much you valued his opinion and advice, his friendship. Yes, a hole. A very large hole.
Ruth Eisenhart, London
There was nothing ordinary about Nicholas. He gave himself and his time to everyone with such generosity. I think what I most admired about Nicholas was his integrity. Second best was not an option. His breadth of knowledge on religion was inspiring but what I loved about Nicholas was that he wasn’t just a dry academic. His knowledge was tempered with wisdom.
It’s hard to describe what Nicholas meant to me and the gap he leaves in my life. He was such a gentle human being. I only wish that he’d taken the same care and concern for himself as he did for his friends. I’m sad for myself and friends but happy that he is where he said he wanted to be.
May his soul rest in peace.
Marcus Battye, Sydney
I am Nicholas Battye’s younger brother. Although an ocean away, I am feeling the loss deeply as I heard the news about an hour ago. My heart goes out to you, and his many friends, who find the loss a keen hurt. Our memories of times shared will offer salve. Feel free to pass on my email address firstname.lastname@example.org to any who wish, in efforts to reconcile the loss, some dialogue.
Chris Battye, Sydney
Now he finally knows what is ‘on the other side’. I hope it is to his liking, as this life rarely was. We loved him.
Diana Young, Sussex
I only met Nicholas maybe a couple of times but he was a memorable presence. You sound enormously bereft. I am very sorry. Keep the laughter with you.
Kumiko Nagano, London
I am so shocked by the news. I am very very very very depressed… makes me stop doing anything in front of me… maybe because I feel Nicholas might killed himself… of course, I hope it’s not that, but whatever, it’s a really really really sad that thinking of I won’t have a chance to see him any more.
Kumi-chan, there is no question of Nicholas having killed himself.
However, it has been a long time since he wanted his life. His health had been deteriorating badly, and he would not consult a doctor. The last time I saw him he said he was taking a walk every day, so he was looking after himself to some degree. On a larger view, he told me more than once that he could foresee no future he wanted to live for.
I miss him too. I don’t share his despair, and see no reason you should. He was unhappy with his situation and clear he was unwilling to do what might have lifted him out of it. He had, he said, started over three times in his life, and did not have the energy to do it again.
Sometimes there is nothing to do with the people we love but to keep on loving them.