Found and Lost

When I first moved up to London from the countryside, way back in the early 1970s, I became a volunteer helper at one of the first gay counselling groups that sprang up around that time. This was Centre, long since gone, but it was similar to London Friend, which still exists.

At Centre, I met some people who I can still count amongst my friends, nearly forty years on. One of them was Sameer Bowyer, a volunteer like myself, but who took me under his wing to help me learn the ropes. Sameer was an interesting guy, a member of the Royal Zoological Society (he was a herpetologist) and a jeweller (he was making jewellery for an eclectic set of people such as Alvin Stardust, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Toyah, George Melly, Humphrey Littleton, and many other pop and jazz stars of the time). He kept a collection of snakes at his home, and I remember visiting him once at feeding time. I was simultaneously fascinated and somewhat taken aback to find that their diet consisted of live white mice.

However, we had rather lost touch with each other by the end of the 1970s. Centre had closed, and we were both involved in our own lives and in our work. It was through my work that I moved to the Netherlands in 1983. On the occasional trip back to London, I would go to the open-air art market that was held on Sundays along the Bayswater Road, where Sameer used to have a pitch. The first couple of times, the other traders said that they remembered him, but that he hadn’t been there for a long while; later they would simply shake their heads – they didn’t know the name.

And that’s where it stood for many years. Then in 2008, I was idly using Google to search for long-lost friends, and turned up a reference to a Sameer Bowyer. Curious, I followed it up, and thus re-established contact with him after a gap of thirty years. Emails and the occasional telephone call followed to exchange our stories of what had been happening in the intervening period. He’d lived a full and happy life, but recently tragedy had struck – his partner of 34 years had recently died of meningitis. Sameer himself was not in the best of health, although at that point no firm diagnosis had been made.

I had hoped to meet up with him during a brief visit to the UK last year, but he was ill at the time and did not feel up to receiving visitors. So we contented ourselves with exchanging Christmas cards.

This year, I sent him a card as usual. Alas, I received an email yesterday from the husband of his niece to say that Sameer died on the 7th December, and his funeral was on the 15th. Apparently, he came out of hospital a short while ago having being told that his lung cancer (the diagnosis finally came through…)  had passed into his lymphatic system and had entered the brain. He spent his last few days in a hospice in Windsor.

I regret that we did not manage to meet up again. However, I am glad that we managed to re-establish contact and exchange tales of what had happened in that thirty year gap. I shall remember Sameer with fondness. A real gent.

Addendum 19 November 2019: I’ve managed to find an old photo taken of us both when we were at Centre – that’s Sameer on the right in his wolfskin coat…


About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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9 Responses to Found and Lost

  1. Pat Pollock aka Blackberry-rum says:

    Dear Geoff
    Thank you for writing about Sameer, we in the Ebay Pirates Group (more to do with Johnny Depp than pirating videos!) knew him as Eclecticoldsod, or Eckers, and one of our group googled and found your blog. We too only recently discovered he had died, though we knew he was ill. You’ve obviously known him, and in real life, much longer than I did. I met him only once, and spoke to him on the phone for what turned out to be the last time about 3 months ago when he was still pretending (to us if not to himself) that the chemo had beaten the cancer. In his case mind over matter didn’t work – but he is now reunited with Leon.

    A brave, funny, strong minded and loving man and I am more proud than ever to have known him having read your story of his earlier work.

    Lots of love and thanks


    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Pat, thanks for your comment. Yes, Sameer will be sorely missed, but for now, at least, he lives on in our collective memories. It’s not a substitue for the real, living, breathing Sameer of course, but it’s all we have. And we can tell the tales of Sameer to each other to keep the memories fresh.

  2. Susann Barnes Fish says:

    I first met Sameer when I moved to Sunninghill, in 1979, next door but one to Sameer’s mother Dorothy. she was a wonderful lady. I met Sameer several times. The first time he had long hair, a velvet jacket and thigh length boots. He took me to see the boa constrictor he had in the garden. He fed it a live white mouse, which he bred, and then let me hold the snake. Quite an experience I must say. When he moved flats in London he gave me his Siamese cat called Cat. He was beautiful and I brought him to New Zealand in 1974. Dorothy Bowyer kept in contact with me until she died, and Sameer wrote to tell me. That was really the last time that I heard from Sameer. I just typed his name on a general search, and found your notes Geoff. Sameer was a great guy.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hallo Susann. Many thanks for adding to our memories of Sameer. He certainly had style – he was very fond of a wolfskin coat that he often wore during the time I knew him. With his long hair and moustache he reminded me of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood as portrayed in Sondheim’s Into The Woods – very raffish and with an air of devilment about him.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      I’ve updated my post with an old photo of Sameer…

    • Niki Stark Devlin. says:

      This is beautiful. I was another pirate (see Pat’s comment above)
      Eckers and I spoke often. We (my children and I) visited him several times and each time they were entranced by this man that seemed magical. On one visit he handed me a box and asked me to open it when the time came. I asked him how I would know. He just smiled with those brilliant blue eyes and told me I would know.

      A few months later the news came that Eckers had died. He was adamant online that the chemo had worked and refused to allow anyone to mourn whilst he was still with us.

      Within the box was the most exquisite powder compact with a beautiful Wedgewood silhouette on the lid. The note explained that it had belonged to his mother and he wanted her elegance to live on.

      I treasure it to this day.

      A beautiful, wonderful and in his own words an ‘eclectic old sod’

      He is still deeply missed.

  3. Leigh Chapman says:

    Thanks for updating this with the photo, Geoff. Although I only met him in person once, he’s instantly recognisable from the picture. When I met him he was silver-haired!
    Like Pat above, I chatted to him online for a long long time. He had a wicked sense of humour and a mischievous way of making people wonder if he really meant what he was saying, which of course, he didn’t.
    He had such a soft spot for animals and took in one of my friend’s kittens when she needed homes for them. When I met him in his amazing house crammed with antiques, he and his partner Leon made sure me and my two sons were made to feel at home, finding them toys and talking so kindly to them.
    I still think of him and miss him.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories, Leigh. I find it disconcerting to realise that he’s been gone almost ten years ago now, but pleased that people still pop in now and then to share their memories of Sameer. I miss him too.

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