Remembering Budgie Price
09:04:1962 – 22:8:2022
It is with immense sorrow that I post this tribute following the very sad passing of Budgie Price – not only the co-founder and driving force behind the Avon Roach Project but also, to me, the bestest best mate in the whole wide world; my soulmate and superhero…
As is usual with these BLOGS, some of the story will be told through the, this time rather abundant, pictures and captions, but with a slightly different flavour to this main body copy which covers some of the more personal and non-roach related elements of a truly extraordinary man.
This is without question the hardest thing I have ever had to write, and make no apology for the length or the time it has taken. I needed some time but felt it important to do this full-blown tribute that can sit here forever, unedited and unformatted to suit someone else’s layout. And, perhaps strange to say, although painful, it has been quite cathartic, as was the funeral service itself. A true sense of passing and beginning, which I know will continue.
Born in 1962, Budgie was married with two, now grown up, children and ran his own successful building company until a road traffic accident left him quadriplegic from a spinal injury at the age of twenty-seven. However, despite his life-changing physical limitations, he always found a way; and literally overcame and conquered. He was a larger-than-life example to us all; a force of nature.
He was gifted with extraordinary creativity, determination and fortitude, underpinned with an endearing mischievous humility and was, without question, one of the most inspiring characters in angling. Nobody who met or knew him could fail to be enriched by the experience. His achievements are beyond what most could even dream, and highly acclaimed whether you are a roach angler or not.
I was with him for his last afternoon at home from where he was taken to Salisbury hospital. After 10 days in intensive care, he sadly lost his battle at 1-00am on Monday 22nd August 2022, but even here not before delivering some ‘typical Budg’ moments, like telling the nurse assigned to him in ITU she had nice tits…
He spent his final hours, peacefully, in a side room within the ITU ward, where we were able to spend some personal, one on one time to say our farewells, some of the most moving moments of my entire existence, which I shall cherish forever.
What a life? What a man? What a force of nature? What a legacy? What an honour to have known him and been a part of that life?
The funeral was held on the 7th September and was quite literally standing room only to give Budgie a send-off befitting a true legend, which I was honoured to be a part of, and where I made a promise to him in my eulogy, which is included here below the pictures, that I would continue what we started with both the roach and now the barbel gravel spawning substrate enhancements and that I wouldn’t let him down.
Quite strange to say, but it was the best funeral I have ever attended. I have never laughed and cried quite so much in one day. It was the perfect send-off which we all agreed even Budgie would have enjoyed. Plenty of swearing and loud music, plus a wonderful poem written by his close friend Caroline and read by the family which is also included here below. It really is not what you will be expecting: neither was the short film of Budgie which played at the end of the service. So typically Budg’ and perhaps not for the faint-hearted, I have transcribed a few extracts at the end of this tribute.
A true reflection of the strength of his character was that despite being told after his accident that it was extremely unlikely that he would live past 40, Budgie didn’t tell me until much later and actually committed to the ten year plus Avon Roach Project plan after his estimated expiry date. He actually reached 60, during which time he/we achieved a level of Avon Roach Project success neither of us could have imagined – even revealing stuff new to science and never recorded before. And whether or not you believe in all that fate and destiny stuff, something quite peculiar happened over the years, not only getting us two to collide, but also throughout the extraordinary events and eventual astonishing success of the project. Dots were joined and stars aligned; no question. Not only did we influence the recovery of roach in the Avon with thousands of pure-strain fish using our own pioneering techniques, but also had a hand in many other significant associated issues. We helped influence the cessation of the annual mechanical weed-cut; even attending meetings as sole angling representatives as recently as a few years ago when it was tabled for reinstatement. We initiated a considerable number of fry bay excavations and stream reinstatements to provide fry and juvenile sanctuary, which is ongoing. We remain at the forefront of predation awareness and management and even organised and delivered a petition to London – also ongoing. We threw our toys out of our prams and got an agreement from Natural England that their ridiculous policy of widespread riparian tree removal would stop, sat on rivers trust committees, presented at forums and annual conferences, made TV and radio appearances (yes, I know you can’t ‘appear’ on radio) and even wrote a book. And, Budgie was there, front and centre, every inch of the way, and not as a spectator.
We did, of course, also have to go through the pain barrier with some organisations and chest-beating, egotistic naysayers, and it was Budgie’s vision, determination and fearlessness, that kept it all, and me, going. I certainly could not have done it without him… He was a force of nature.
And although worlds apart in terms of our backgrounds; me a printer and him a builder, we reckon we ended up with the perfect blend – as long as I did what I was told…
So, it’s nice to think that maybe the Avon Roach Project, and me, actually contributed to the twenty years of ‘extra time’ he played before the final whistle blew.
Despite his accident; a moment in time of unimaginable misfortune that changed his world, Budgie blames nobody and was never angry or bitter, he simply adapted, as did those around him. And, given his circumstances, he’d have had every right to take more than he gave, but he didn’t and what he gave, particularly to the environment, puts most to shame. Even his own garden was given to wild flowers for the bees and butterflies.
As if breaking his neck wasn’t enough to dampen the spirit and focus perspective, Budgie then again sailed scarily close to death some eight years later by getting septicaemia, and was given just a 10% chance of survival. So serious was it that his family were called to the hospital to say their goodbyes – that was 25 years ago… Still not content with knocking that many times on deaths door, and through cumulative circulatory related issues, which I’ll not go into here, he needed both his legs amputated just below the knees; which, spookily, was done exactly 31 years to the very day he’d had the accident that deprived him the use of them, but was home again from this within less than a week and in typical good spirits – I reference this in my eulogy below, so won’t spoil it here. So, without question, it took quite a few direct hits to eventually bring him down. He was one bloody tough cookie.
I’m not very strong on spiritual stuff, but respect all who are, and even have my own soulfully connective moments with lost loved ones and no more so than just recently with Budg’ where I have symbolically looked skywards and even spoken out loud to him. I have even heard his voice as we’ve shared a peregrine or kingfisher moment, which I know will continue to my own last breath.
Perhaps the most moving was just after I’d delivered the order of service books to the crematorium reception office the day before the funeral. The venue is situated high on a hill overlooking Poole Harbour where, having dropped off the box of printing, I found myself alone and walking along a path towards the stunning service hall. Mid-way along, I stopped and was bolted to the spot. As I looked, through floods of tears over the expansive vista, I felt an overwhelming, almost tangible presence. I could actually feel Budgie sitting next to me where I heard him say… ‘Oooohhhh, mate; just look at that view. What a perfect place for me to exit.’ I stood sobbing my heart out and answered him out loud… ‘Yes, mate. Perfect’. We both stood there for what seemed an age drinking in the peaceful tranquillity. I then turned to leave and again, out loud, said to him ‘See you tomorrow, mate’.
A month later and while doing a feature for a magazine at one of Budgie’s favourite places on the Avon; partly fishing but mainly as a tribute to Budgie, and actually using Budgie’s rod and reel, and right where we’d often sit and watch our roach spawning, I was describing to Peter (land owner) and Martin (magazine angler/journalist) how Budgie always said that if he gets the choice, he’ll come back either as an osprey (but without the Scotland bit) or buzzard, as they seem to fly for fun; just open their wings and soar… While telling them we looked up to see the rare sight of an osprey circling right overhead… It sent tingles up our spines and, as tears filled our eyes, we all said out loud… ‘Budgie’s here…’
The middle part of this tribute is a sequence of very carefully chosen symbolic and representative pictures and words with a slightly softer flavour than above… A very personal potted history of the project and Budgie and beyond.
Below the pictures are my eulogy, Caroline’s lovely poem and the transcribed sections of Budgie’s film.
It was quite mind-blowing, in the early days of the project, as the roach began using our spawning boards in preference to all natural substrate, and it was all very good sharing the images with the wider public, but the profundity of such momentous moments are made even more special when shared with someone right there with the same childish excitement and on the exact same frequency, and equally responsible for them happening. And, nobody else on earth would I have rather experienced it all with than Budgie.
We shared the mud and the mozzies as well as the glory. And mud, ice, rain or shine, Budgie was there every step of the way. This shot is of us collecting spawn at a wonderful privately owned location. It became one of our favourite places, and the owners some of our favourite people.
A very special place where we shared some very special time, sometimes just feet from spawning roach. It was an honour to experience such a connection and all through our own inventiveness, something neither of us ever took for granted or became tired of. This image made it onto the cover of our book, and was Budgie’s choice.
This was my first choice, but I was overruled and out voted – by one. Still an extraordinary picture though, and one of thousands of wonderful and precious moments, caught in time, we shared over many years.
The feelings of triumphant satisfaction we both got from depositing thousands of our roach into the river each year never faded – outwardly steely calm but inside like jelly.
Some of these shots of us are truly soul-stirring and the look on Budgie’s face here says it all – oozing pride and fulfilment…
Some of the pinpoint-timed shots were wonderful and Budgie and me had hundreds of favourites that made into our top ten, like this one…
It was never going to be just about fish, and we got really heavily stuck in with other issues like habitat reinstatement for fry and juvenile sanctuary and, it has to be said, our impact over the years was not insignificant.
And Budgie said of this great picture ‘Even here we got photo-bombed by these two muppets. We just can’t go anywhere these days’… Seriously, we were blown away by the support.
And so, we wrote a book… Having served a life sentence in the printing trade, it meant we could produce and publish it ourselves and were extremely happy with the result, as were the many hundreds of lovely folks who bought a copy.
Despite being completely alien to Budgie, just as all the building and project construction stuff was to me, it didn’t stop him enjoying a visit with me to the printers to see the flat sheets coming off the press. He absolutely loved it.
The book launch was quite a surreal experience. Despite being partly hampered by appalling weather and covid distancing restrictions, it was a fantastic afternoon and we shifted nearly a hundred copies.
We did a limited leather edition of 50, which sold out before we’d even finished binding them.
Even here while we were collecting auction donations for our annual fundraiser from Chris, which we did each year, Budgie staged the publicity picture with his cheeky sense of humour.
We were even featured in mainstream newspapers. This one in the Times.
We were also filmed a number of times for Sky and BBC telly and while we felt honoured to be asked, when the cameras were gone and we were on our own and reflecting, we still quietly wondered what all the fuss was about.
It seemed a natural progression as barbel are another of our favourite species and the initiative would be fast-tracked with regard consents and support through our already notable track record in matters of the river.
Defiant and as tough as they get… 60 not out.
He needed no excuse...
This intentional misspelling of ‘Lost Count’ with the removal of one letter, was on an earlier birthday cake, and described as ‘the picture you can never unsee’ when shown as part of the montage sequence of his life at his funeral.
A very proud granddad, with tiny granddaughter Isla.
What a wonderful moment in time. The apple of his eye, laughing with her granddad.
The Prop Forward at full pelt long before the ‘reset’ button was hit… Despite the unimaginable changes to Budgie’s life, he remained philosophical and stoical, as well as shocking and mischievously daft.
It’s a huge honour to be asked to say a few words here today –
First thing I thought was I wonder what Budgie would like me to say – then heard his voice in my head… ‘Mate – try not to trip over anything… and don’t just bang on about the Roach Project. But, do try and flog ‘em all a book, if you can keep their attention long enough – if you can’t, then just pretend to get all choked up and make a run for it…’
So, here goes… Budgie Price – ABSOLUTE LEGEND…
Budgie had an infectious charm, as we all know, and fully earned the right to his uniquely irreverent, sometimes tangled, outlook.
And while there’s enough stories for another book, I’d like to share just a few of our typical Budgie adventures, illustrating his unique character, if I may. …When the grown-ups weren’t looking.
Unquestionably, the most outstanding is, of course, the astonishing success of the award-winning and ground-breaking Avon Roach Project, which was a huge part of our lives for over 15 years.
The sheer scale and lunacy of the original concept lent itself to being dismissed before it had even started. But Budgie doesn’t do dismissed, clear from the moment he was told, following his accident, to accept his limitations, which roughly translated in Budgie’s head as ‘tell him it can’t be done and he’ll show you just how it can…’
I was for the main part ‘voice activated’ which was OK but did come with its drawbacks, particularly as Budgie had an infuriating way of instructing me, which would later actually become profoundly soul-stirring... He would literally operate me; and was infuriating, until I realised he was actually doing it all himself but with my hands, evident from every push on a saw or hit of a hammer being matched with movement of his own hands. Once I realised, it was quite overwhelming, and I never argued again.
Seeing Budgie as just sitting and watching was so far from reality… And in the case of the Avon Roach Project, it has been hard to get people to see beyond the lies their eyes were telling them… And was always something Budgie was far better at dealing with than me. And I stand by what I have always said… The Avon Roach Project would far more likely have succeeded without me than Budgie.
He was acutely aware of the passing of possibly limited time so was always keen to get on and conquer, which, of course, he did, but with an endearing mischievous humility – often, I’m lucky to say, with me.
Somebody summed him up perfectly recently by describing him as always having a twinkle in his eye - which is so, so true... As well as an extraordinary determination, there was devilment in him. Which I was often on the receiving end of…
This was evident one day when we were fishing and discussing the construction of filter vessels for our roach tanks. On the way home, he got me to drive slowly through a village where he revealed his thoughts… ‘Them’s what we need, mate…’ pointing to people’s glass recycling boxes. ‘We need to nick about a dozen and fix pipes and pumps. They’ll be perfect for what we want.’ I said I wasn’t really comfortable with pinching stuff and besides they have Downton Council printed all over them. He said ‘We can just sand that off. And anyway, nobody will think to look for them in Ringwood, especially in your back garden… And, I have thought about it… even if we do get caught, nobody will think it’s the idea of the boy in the wheelchair, so it’s you that’ll get carted off to be raped and buggered in jail; which, is a small price I think I’m prepared to pay…’ He was, of course, joking and just giving me an idea of what he’d probably already built in his head.
In the real world, wheelchair protocol was handled according to circumstances and usually with tolerance and humour and I only ever once saw Budgie react angrily… It was in hospital where tensions were high anyway as he’d been blue-lighted there five days before one of our annual fundraiser doo’s – which he did make in the end, by the way.
It happened when a health care assistant asked me, we assume because she’d seen the wheelchair beside the bed… ‘Would your friend like a cup of tea or coffee?’ I gestured with eyes and a nod towards Budgie to suggest she should be asking him… Then, undoubtedly because of the heightened tension, a spark hit Budgie’s powder keg and he went off… ‘Excuse me, I might be disabled but I’m not bloody stupid. I’m right here, and if you want to know if I want a drink, then bloody well ask me. I’m perfectly capable of talking for myself. And no, I don’t want a drink thank you very much.’
She looked at me and smiled and said ‘I’m really sorry but I’m deaf - and I have to lip-read - and because your friend is laying down, I can’t see his mouth clearly enough to see what he said. He can have a cold drink if he’d rather…’ I smiled back and said – ‘He says he’s fine, but said thank you very much for asking…’
Last one… and it’s my take on his legs and another example of normal… In Budgie land…
To anyone else double leg amputation would be monumental; to Budgie it was an inconvenience with a positive payoff, he said, if he didn’t die from the anaesthetic.
So, on the day of the op’, not expecting to hear for a week, I paced and worried and thought of nothing else – then, while trying to anaesthetise myself with lager, at about 9-30pm, the phone rang… It was a cheery Budgie saying – ‘Hello mate. Just letting you know it’s all done… Legs off and sorted and I’m now three stone lighter…’ And to the question ‘How you feeling?’ he answered ‘Erm, fuckin’ starving as it goes – Oh, and I might be home Friday, so why not come over for coffee on Saturday and I’ll show you me stumps?’
Now, I can be a bit sensitive when it comes to Budg’, so after sobbing my heart out for the first ten minutes of seeing him; he said…
… ‘Right, I’m having prosthetics, which means I’ll be able to wear shoes, which’ll please Rose. Already know the shoes I’m having - Georgie’s getting me a pair for Xmas, and I might even be able to have roach printed on the sides of them, which won’t please Rose. And, what I reckon is size 9’s - I don’t want big flippers like yours. I want dark hairy ones like an Italian footballer, and with gaps between the big toe and the others so I can wear flip-flops in the summer… What do you reckon?’
I couldn’t believe I’d just sobbed my heart out… What a legend; and typical of how Budgie dealt with the world.
I’d like to finish, if I may, with a few personal thoughts… This could get messy…
Budgie battled more adversity than any ordinary human could stand in a lifetime but just got on and conquered. He always found a way and was astonishingly creative - testament to which is the Avon Roach Project. Nobody who met or knew him could fail to be enriched by the experience. He was truly inspirational… A force of nature - as well as being a right pain in the arse sometimes.
We had our moments, like all close friends, but Budgie was simply the greatest person I have ever had the privilege to know; made even more special by being able to call him my best mate. We shared a connection few will experience - an empathy beyond words.
I loved him… He was my hero… And I told him so, even again in his last hours. Some of the most poignant and moving moments of my entire existence, which I will cherish forever.
So, I end with the words I started with – Budgie Price… Absolute Legend…
I promise to continue what we started – and I promise I won’t let you down.
May peace be with you now my friend… The bestest best mate in the whole wide world - my soulmate and superhero… Loved and Remembered today – every day – and for always…
And I know I speak for us all here today when I say… Budgie Price, I am so glad you happened to me………
An Ode to Budgie… by Caroline Diment
This is a poem for Budgie - I call him my old mucker
Sometimes he is my hero - Sometimes a cheeky fucker
He had an awful car crash - He came in just after me
So covered with equipment - It was all that I could see
He was quite unresponsive - I’d shout Hi in my best voice
He had to wake up in the end - He didn’t have much choice
His lovely wife called Rose - Who was never far away
To love and to support him - Nearly every single day
They had two lovely kids - Mickey four and Georgie two
They were so very tiny - They helped us pull him through
He had so many visitors - You could barely see his bed
I invited all the hunky ones - To come see me instead
He led me into mischief - And kept me up late chatting
So when I went to physio - I just slept on the matting
He was an early riser - He loved to chat and sing
All the nurses loved him - Took him under their wing
Everyone was lovely - It was the best time ever
When you go through tragedy - It helps when you bond together
He had a friend called Dawn - Who was a total star
She went on to have two babies - She even drives a car
And then came Martin Savage - What a brilliant guy
We had a special field - To smoke the drugs he’d buy
There was a lad, Paul Patten - His twin sat in his chair
When his brother stood up - The nurse could only stare
We were all assigned a primary - Our one and only nurse
His was Janet G******t - It couldn’t get much worse
She was very indiscrete - She couldn’t give a hoot
Budgie was the first one - To give his nurse the boot
Now we’re both much older - His kids are fully grown
They’ve fled the feathered nest - Found partners of their own
He’s achieved amazing things - Filled the rivers full of roach
He’s eloquent and knowledgeable - No subject he can’t broach
Budgie is a bloody miracle - Cheated death in many ways
Even had his legs off - Then home again in days
Budgie and Rose have a grandchild - She’s a perfect poppet
But time keeps passing by - There is no way to stop it
We’ve lost some valued friends - I love him like no other
His importance is immeasurable - Like a sarcastic older brother
I’m not really very talented - It’s the best poem I could write
So, I’m pretty sure he’ll tell me - That it’s absolutely shite
The Kubler-Ross change curve
A few years ago, Budgie made a little tongue-in-cheek film, which was aired at the funeral, about the ‘Kubler-Ross change curve’… the five emotions experienced by those facing or who have narrowly escaped death – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
It was a typically light-hearted personal and very dark-humoured reflection and opened with Budgie saying to the camera with a deadpan straight face ‘There’s nothing quite like the surprise of hitting a windscreen at 40mph. Well, that’s what happened to me’… Budgie always had a knack of grabbing your attention. He then goes on to his ‘Kubler-Ross’ reaction of denial… ‘I awoke from my coma in Salisbury Hospital Spinal Unit and realised I couldn’t feel anything from my armpits down, whereupon I was told’… ‘You’ve suffered a spinal cord injury that will affect the rest of your life. You’ve broken your neck and will never walk again’… To which he replied - ‘Well, you can stick your doctorates right up your arse. I’m a rugby player; a prop forward. And, I haven’t even got a neck. And, besides, I had my appendix out and was back at work in a fortnight’… Fast forward to the acceptance bit of his film and in typical Budgie fashion, he lists the things he would no longer be able to do… ‘Picking my nose, because I can’t straighten my finger; pulling a wedgie out cos I’d be sitting on my arse all day and keepy-uppy will be a thing of the past…’
He finishes very profoundly, which is also typical of Budg’… ‘When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change. At such a moment, there is no point pretending that nothing has happened or saying that we’re not yet ready. The change will not wait. Life doesn’t look back and we have no choice but to accept our destiny’…
We can’t change the beginning, but we can start from now to influence our own destiny, and sometimes we’ll have to start again, like Budgie did. So, while Budgie’s passing is perhaps another beginning for us; there is no question that the legacy left by this extraordinary man will enrich the lives and destinies of generations to come.
Budgie was a ‘Prop Forward’ not only in rugby, but also in life…
From a personal perspective, I can let him go knowing I have nothing I wish I’d said and nothing more I wish we’d done. That said, I do wish he could have enjoyed the glory of the Avon Roach Project for longer than he did… We achieved so much and had fantastic fun along the way through an extraordinary connection and empathy few will ever experience. So this, my full-blown, unapologetic tribute has been for what I genuinely consider a true legend.
And so, finally, to my bestest best mate in the whole wide world, one of the most outstanding individuals I have ever encountered, I say…
‘See you tomorrow, mate…’