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A good friend of mine died this week. In fact, he wasn't just a good friend of mine. He was a friend of yours too. By his own admission, Mike was a collector of people. He loved company and loved his friends completely.... and he had many! He got sick just under a year ago and had been on a rollercoaster for the whole of 2023. In May, he was given days to live and spent it, not weeping for his own misfortune, but on calling each of us to his bedside, one by one, to say a personal goodbye and to tell us how we had each enriched his life and his, ours. And enrich my life, he did. In the short seven years that I have known Mike he has taught me the importance of friendship; the need for community; the power of positivity and the pure joy to be had in being around people whom you care about. He's taught me the beauty of laughing so hard with mates that you pee your pants just a little bit and the fabulousness of singing Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond at the top of your voice while holding hands in a big circle and being slightly tipsy on Jager Bombs. Those days he was given in May, turned into months and we were truly blessed to have that extra time with him.

Mike was instrumental in introducing my husband and I to most of our best friends today. His insatiable appetite for people coming together was his trademark... usually accompanied by a pint of Timothy Taylors, a bottle of Rose or a very large Gin and Tonic or more recently a pint of cider. To say Mike was the life and soul of the party was an understatement... Mike was the party! But beyond the parties there was a deeper essence of generosity and kindness that ran through his very core. He cared about people immensely and always made sure that everyone was included, involved and thought about. His love of life and his love for his beautiful family shone through everything he did.

On a skiing trip a couple of years ago, Mike, who was a good skier, spent time talking me down a mountain that was much steeper than my skiiing ability. He took time to make sure that I got down safely, with my dignity intact and made the whole mountain down a lesson so that I would get better and have more confidence next time. He showed me such great kindness... that was Mike.

I am very proud to have been able to call Mike 'my mate'. He knew how to live and he lived it well. Emphasising the important things and not giving muster to the insignificant things that the rest of us get so caught up in.

You may be thinking 'what has it to do with The Boundary blog?' Well, I'll tell you. The Shop and Cafe, as it stands today, would not exist if it wasn't for Mike. Whilst it is true to say that there was a committee of a few people who made the extension happen, it is also true to say that we would probably still be in the fundraising stage if it wasn't for Mike. You see, he had an uncanny ability to turn his love of people to the advantage of the community. Many of you will have had a visit from Mike to talk about buying Community Shares in The Boundary - you may also have thought that you buying community shares was your idea - but it was not. Mike's ability to sell is unprecedented! A loveable steamroller who knows when to press the 'Doing Your Bit for the Community' button and when to back off. Thanks to Mike we sold just over £200K of Community Shares in 6 weeks.... let me say that again...TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS IN SIX WEEKS. No one else could have done that other than Mike. We were very lucky that he was part of our project, and the amount of work he put in was incredible.

So. Here's to Mike Crofts. The most generous; caring; fun loving; party guzzling; kind; humorous and gentle man. St Mary Bourne will be a slightly duller place without him and the community a little weaker. He will be missed.

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