On May 19th at 6:10pm a man called Brian Farmer was found dead in his flat. His body had evidently been lying there for at least a week, and there was evidence of murder. The details are still unknown, so I'll update this post as soon as I know more. Or maybe I'll repost it to keep it at the top of my page.
Brian Farmer had been my friend and neighbour since 2003. We spent many
hours sitting and drinking together. I want to post some of my memories
of this wonderful but eccentric person.
Brian was born in Hay Mills, Birmingham in 1948. He served in the British army for 22 years. When he left the army in 1993 he came to live in Small Heath, Birmingham. He spent the last two years of his life living in Yardley, Birmingham. (For those unacquainted with Birmingham, Small Heath, Hay Mills and Yardley are neighboring districts that are linked by the Coventry Road).
In the army Brian worked as a driving instructor for tanks. He didn't only instruct British troops, he was also sent to Canada to teach Canadian soldiers. He told me an amusing story of an exercise he took part in in the north of Canada. Several tanks had to take part in a race to a place that was 30 miles away across the ice. Brian's tank was the only one to arrive, all the others got lost.
Brian's hobby while in the army was mountain climbing, and being posted to foreign countries gave him plenty of opportunity. Brian claims to be the only person ever to have climbed to the peak of Mount Fuji in the winter. He attempted the climb as the leader of a group of four soldiers. The base of Mount Fuji is guarded by American soldiers, since climbing attempts are forbidden in winter, but he forged a document saying he was allowed to make the climb. On the first day he could see that the three soldiers with him were having problems, so he brought them back down. He was about to abandon the mission himself, but then he spontaneously turned back and climbed to the peak as a solo mission.
Brian told me that the happiest day of his life was when he shot down a Turkish plane with a machine gun in Cyprus. He says that this was an amazing achievement, since the chance of shooting down a plane with a hand held gun is close to zero.
I asked Brian on more than one occasion how many people he had killed during his time in the army. At first he was evasive and changed the subject. Finally he told me that it's something he would rather forget. When he remembers the army he prefers to think about the good times drinking with his friends.
When Brian turned 40 he was put in charge of the officer's mess. At first he was annoyed at this, because it meant he was no longer in active combat, but he soon grew to enjoy his new job. It meant that he was allowed to grow his hair long, which is a rare privilege in the army. He also mixed with high ranking military personnel. In particular, he claimed to be a personal friend of Prince Phillip and spent time with him whenever he visited the troops.
In 1990 Brian volunteered to take part in the Gulf War. I don't know the reason he had to volunteer. Maybe his regiment, the Royal Irish Hussars, didn't take part in the war. Prince Phillip was present when he volunteered, and when he heard that a member of the regiment had volunteered Phillip said, "It must be Brian, he's the only person crazy enough."
After fighting in the Gulf Brian returned to his duties in the officer's mess. He could have continued with the job for years, but he retired for the sake of his son. Brian's son was also in the regiment, and it was a tradition that if father and son are in the same regiment the son is never promoted to a higher rank than his father. Brian had never advanced further than sergeant, so he thought he was holding his son back. After Brian retired his son was promoted twice within 12 months.
Brian had saved money and was planning to buy a cottage on the Isle of Skye. Unfortunately, his wife divorced him immediately after he said he was quitting the army. The savings were divided, and he couldn't afford his dream any more, so he returned to Birmingham.
After leaving the army Brian had problems dealing with "normal life" and was unable to hold down a job for more than a few weeks. When I met him in 2003 he was working as a traffic warden. One of his many jobs. He was fired because he was letting off elderly women with a warning. He told me that he didn't have the heart to write a ticket for little old women.
Brian's main hobby after the army was his motorbike. I don't know if he belonged to a club, but he went on biking trips with friends and visited biker bars. He had a large collection of LPs, mostly from the 1960's and early 1970's. He never owned a CD player. Brian liked to drink, especially beer and cider. He had a special mix of brown cider, white cider and rum which he proudly offered to his friends when they visited. I refused, it tasted vile to me, but he enjoyed it.
During his time in Small Heath, where he lived for almost 20 years, he lived in a squalid single room. He was obviously unable to look after himself. He kept his rifle, a souvenir from the army, in his wardrobe. I once asked him if it was loaded, to which he replied, "Mike, there's nothing as useless as an unloaded gun".
In his last few years he was having trouble with his memory. I first realised it was serious when he forgot the name of his granddaughter. Later on he forgot what road I lived in, even though he had visited me many times. As he became more confused the parasites descended on him to take advantage. He received his army pension on the last day of the month. The local drug addicts used to visit him on that day, claiming they were his friends and asking him for money. He was too senile to refuse, and he was almost broke by the next day. On one occasion he refused to open the door and his window was smashed. This led to him being evicted, but his new place in Yardley was bigger and better. Unfortunately the addicts soon found out his new address, and the cycle started again. It's almost certain that some of them were responsible for his murder. I'll post more details as I find out.
Link to the BBC report of Brian Farmer's murder.
Click here to view the police appeal concerning the murder of Brian Farmer.