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I’d first like to thank you for coming today. Funerals are not something that any of us enjoy but Martin would be surprised to see how many people are here to celebrate his life. We wear many hats and mean different things to the people in our lives.  Martin was a much loved son, brother, uncle, friend, teacher and mentor – many of his friends also thought of him as their brother.

Martin was gifted in so many ways, through his use of language he painted the most amazing word pictures.  Some of you may remember 2 years ago at Dad’s funeral, Martin delivered the eulogy “what he wrote”   – and I’ve got to follow that.  So I’ve done my best, Martin If you’re marking my work – I’m targeting a B but I’d be happy with a B minus or C plus – but what I don’t want is too much green or red ink correcting my grammar or the comment please see me, must try harder.

So ……. How do I start to put into words the amazing life Martin lived  –  I’ve tried to unite the threads but there may be a few thread bare patches.  So here is a glimpse …….

Our Dearest Martin,

We’ll let’s start at the beginning  – your timing has never been great, born during visiting hours 3 days before Christmas.  As children, your birthday was the start of Christmas when we’d decorate the tree and go to the pantomime.

We had a very happy childhood – wonderful family holidays and adventures such as you and Dad decided to dig up a wrecked anchor on a beach in Wales just to see how big it was, the time in Cornwall when you climbed a rock on the beach and the coastguard was called.  Typically you climbed down safely and wondered what the fuss was about. 

When your head wasn’t in a book we’d spend sun drenched days building dens, getting into mischief, being dad’s assistant, cycling, canoeing and camping, and in the dark days of winter playing games such as monopoly for hours and hours.  You were a keen boy scout and were awarded chief scout.

The brains of the family, aged 5 the school Headmistress told Mum and Dad you were very bright, gifted and had the ability to go to university and achieve great things in your life.

Between finishing school and starting university you went on what they now call a gap year – off you went with a small bag, a change of clothes, a razor, toothbrush, some cash and your passport in your pocket to Australia where you worked on construction sites and farms.  Returning  via India Jacqueline and I met you in Delhi. This was pre internet and mobile phones and I recall the arrangements to meet were rather sketchy made on a quick reverse charges phone call – it all worked out and we had a fabulous time and a few adventures.

After your travels  “up North” you went to Huddersfield Polytechnic to read English and Humanities followed by a MA (English Literature) at the University of Leeds.  I remember visiting you in your student accommodation which today would be condemned.  Returning south you completed a Post Graduate Certificate at the University of East Anglia (Norwich) and became an English teacher.

As if two degrees and a post grad certificate wasn’t enough you completed a Master of Business Administration and in 2015 graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a doctorate in Education focusing on Education in Post conflict environments.

So taking things chronologically your teaching career started in “little Scotland” a steelworks town in the East Midlands – officially known as Corby.  This is where it all began – your passion for all children to have a right and access to education irrespective of their background or gender.

Whilst teaching in Daventry you wrote and produced a musical based on Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  William Golding’s Agent declined your request for permission to write the musical but not to be deterred you went ahead changing the “conch shell” to be a PE teacher’s whistle and the main character to a girl called Peggy.  The head master was not thrilled but it was a success and 3 successful productions followed.

Promotion called and another move to a large comprehensive school in Rugby where you were Head of English, Drama and Media. 

Then a change in direction moving to Shropshire with your partner Jacqui – you became quite the expert in soft furnishings.  Keeping true to your roots you did supply teaching between soft furnishing shows and exhibitions  in areas of deprivation in the midlands where many students were not keen on attending school never mind sitting exams – somehow you inspired and ignited their curiosity for English through Motor bikes and Eastenders.

Unfortunately your relationship with Jacqui ended and it was time for a rethink and a change of scenery.  

Well it was a radical rethink and changed the course of your life –  a career in Educational Development  – which took you to Indonesia, Banda Aceh, Timor Leste and Sierra Leone where you worked for organisations such as VSO, International Rescue Committee, British Red Cross and Plan International to name a few.

Off you went to Indonesia – working initially for VSO in Flores and Bali.

Following the Tsunami in Banda Aceh you worked helping communities rebuild their livelihoods and setting up education programmes.  A few words does not adequately describe the situation and the conditions you worked in.  I remember seeing some of your photos the destruction was indescribable, you told stories of taking hours on difficult  and sometimes nonexistent roads to reach remote areas to set up schools.  Whilst in Banda Ache you met  a team from the University of Pennsylvania and  your life changed direction again.  Recognising  your talent and enthusiasm for education you were invited to study for a Doctorate in Education in the US.

Post doctorate you returned to South East Asia this time to Timor Leste – a post conflict area where you worked on a School Dropout Prevention programme.

Your final overseas role took you to Sierra Leone in West Africa and then you finally returned  to the UK working for a couple of development organisations where overseas trips where limited but you did manage to visit the Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela on a trip to Ethiopia – which is still on my list to visit.

So let’s go back to the start of your work in Education Development.  I always felt the time you spent in Flores was a happy time in your life. There are so many stories but we’ve not got all day so here are a couple.

Where is Flores we asked as we dug out the trusted Phillips New School Atlas – it’s close to Rinca and Komodo – the home of the famous Komodo Dragons and a few islands East of Bali.  When you went nobody had heard of Flores let alone knew where it was and now it’s a tourist destination! 

After a short intensive language course  in Yogyakarta – you quickly became fluent in Bahasa Indonesian with a Flores accent – you, your backpack and motorbike helmet arrived in Flores  to be met by  –  Romo Nani (an English teacher and priest)  – the beginning of a true and lasting friendship – you became each other’s “eja” which in Indonesian means a very very close friend / brother.  You were welcomed at Johannes Berkmans seminary a catholic boys boarding school and a seminary for priests which was too be your base in the small hill town of Mataloko which could be a bit chilly and misty. Dad always said there aren’t many fathers and sons who have spent part of their working lives living in religious institutions.

You changed the minds of the local English teachers who on your arrival thought teaching English was burdensome.  By the time you left they were proud to be English Teachers.  You motivated them, identified their talents and gave them skills and self confidence to be teachers and to make teaching fun.  

Travelling on your trusted motorbike where the roads were often rough dirt tracks and barely passable with mud and landslides during the rains – you often had to leave your bike in a village and walk the remaining miles to remote village schools.  You were awarded a certificate for 2 days of extra ordinary off road motorcycling  “No river too deep, no mountain too high” – through rivers, paddy’s, stones, bricks, valleys and grass – safely achieved. 

Martin you hold a special place in the hearts of many people in Flores and they are saddened by your loss. I’ve received so many messages of condolences all echoing that you were not only a colleague but also a brother.  Your presence in Flores is still present today – you planted the seed for the creation of FLORETA – Flores English Teachers association which exemplifies how teachers in remote areas can learn together in a professional community – you were like a running stream, flowing abundantly to satisfy those who yearn for water.

In Flores sharing coffee and a family meal together in the kitchen means you’re part of a family – you belong to us. You belonged  – you helped create not only a learning community but a family.  Both I and then Mum and dad witnessed this when we visited Flores with you  – everybody loved you

On leaving Flores your friends gave you the great honour  of calling you a “Mosalaki” – a great man from Flores.   The story goes your friends wanted to give you a leaving gift and something symbolic from Flores – a “hairy bag” –  When you received the gift oh… how you danced and danced happily with a traditional sword lifting it high like a “Mosalaki”  – your friends watched you with their hearts filled with love and pride saying  “Mosalaki Martin”.

Family was important  – being in the  “Bosom of the family” –  simple pleasures just being in each other’s company.  Coming home from overseas at Christmas – Laura, Matthew and Daniel were always excited – we’d spend hours of fun – playing cards – crazy 8s, kings and thief’s at the kitchen table, dressing up with the gifts and trinkets from faraway lands  – brightly coloured necklaces, bracelets, scarves, hats  and fabrics each with a distinguished design and stories from the villages.

We joked about the need to explain Strictly, and characters and plot lines in popular TV drama’s. To our surprise when you returned to the UK permanently you became a Strictly fan and we’d guess the judges scores and who would be eliminated – small rituals, happy memories.

On becoming Dr Martin Canter with a touch of irony we called you Doc Martin as you’ve always worn Doc Marten boots and shoes.  I think you were the only person to receive a replacement pair on the “guarantee shoes for life” scheme.  You and your docs went everywhere irrespective of terrain or climate.

Music played an important part of your life – playing the trombone in the Beyton School and West Suffolk Schools bands, going to concerts, gigs, reading NME and Mojo. 

You listened to various genres – never a fan of commercial music – some might say a fan of the obscure.  If you heard music on the radio you’d previously discovered  you would be most disgruntled as no one liked their heroes to besmirched by the masses.  With friends you’d spend hours introducing each other to different music and bands broadening  your horizons laughing an praising each other’s choices.

Music bonds friendships and on a trip to Bukit Lawang in Indonesia you and your colleagues spent happy evenings relaxing  by the river with a guitar singing raucously and much to my surprise I’ve learnt  John Denver became a  favourite.  You’ve also been known to entertain your niece and nephews and anyone else who was prepared to listen – with renditions of popular songs whilst waiting in the long queues at Alton Towers .

You loved Art and design – a great fan of art deco. You’d spend hours with your friend Ian discussing visual art introducing each other to different artists and styles.  You and I did that too.

It’s no surprise you loved literature you’d read anything from different cultures and genres –  you’d always provided me with recommendations.

One of your greatest passions was cycling, either participating or watching.  Cycling in all weathers to school in Beyton you probably set yourself time trails  You were a great fan of the Tour de France either as a on-route spectator or watching on screen wherever you were in the world.  As a family we would naively chose our riders at the beginning of the race and occasionally select the winner.

Where ever you went in the world you’re bike went with you – It gave you freedom, a means to explore and engage others in your passion.

In Banda Ache you were a founder of the Aceh Bicycle Community a group bringing the joy and pleasure of cycling to those devastated by the tsunami.

Whilst in Timor Leste you completed the Tour De Timor an annual international mountain bike race -five gruelling days of racing covering almost 500 km with significant ascents and descents a tough endurance event.  You said it was a bit tough and your legs and bottom were a bit sore at the end.

Dad was a keen cyclist and you we’re passionate about restoring his bike. We enjoyed many happy hours cycling in Suffolk – you tolerating my moaning on what we called the windy ride of death but was quite impressed at the speed I went through the speed restrictor at Stowlangtoft.

You loved tinkering with bikes and cars – you’d spend hours  with Morris 1000 and bike parts distributed all over the house, garage and conservatory but you never saw the mess.  I can hear you saying driving the Morris 1000 is  “real driving – you’ve got to drive through the gears – the “motor” is unforgiving. No fancy gadgets like modern cars – easy to drive and simple to maintain”.  

You were gifted, talented, clever, bright, intelligent, kind, caring, humble, friendly, helpful, fun, witty, humorous, gentle, thoughtful , reflective, supportive, impactful,  inspirational, creative, practical, a mentor,  a teacher, patient, tolerant, able to see all points of view.  You could relate to anyone whatever their background, you made them feel at ease. You always saw the best in people. You were the life and soul of the party and everyone wanted to be in your company.

We all have light and shade, sunshine and darkness  in our lives and sometimes it’s difficult to keep the balance.  Unfortunately the darkness and shadows were often present during your life and you were unable to see how beautiful, gifted and loved you were as you struggled with your mental health. 

You were so loved by all your family and friends and you have left a significant void in our lives – we will mend but it will take some time and the broken bits may not go back in exactly the same place.

Martin you may be gone but your spirit is still alive in the heart of anyone you shared in your life. You were my brother but you were also a brother to your friends.

Tina Canter

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