Saturday, 7 February 2009

Tribute from Sean

Words from Sean, Richies mate:-

Dear Sam

Please accept my condolences and sincere apologies for not being able to make it to Rich’s funeral. Unfortunately, work are sending me away to the Middle East on Friday, which is really shitty. The compassionate leave I need is only available for direct relatives.

I understand you guys are getting together on Saturday, I will be writing news stories at a telecoms conference in that day. To say the least, I would rather be in Maidenhead. Wayne asked me if I could write down some memories from days of yore when the Wildman was a Wildboy. Though, the Rich you met, fell in love with and married as a thirtysomething, was the same crazy, hilarious man that he in his twenties, teens and naughties. My enduring memories of Rich will be that he was always interested in doing something different. Conforming and doing the expected just weren’t his thing. He’s an inspiration to us all.

As a youngster, while everyone at school was into football, Rich carved a niche as the best cricketer around. His fast bowling was legendarily menacing. Rich was our secret weapon in school cricket, since he was about a foot taller than any of the other kids our age, he appeared to be about two or three years older.

Our school was on track to become the champion of whatever cricket league we were in, right on track until the last match of the season when our games teacher inexplicably decided that Rich would be last in the bowling order. The opposition had a batsman of Bradmanesque ability. He single-handedly smacked our best efforts into the boundary time after time. Until Rich got a turn, it wasn’t quite bodyline, but he piled in a few bouncers and just about took the head of the batsman clean off. We didn’t win the match or the league title, but that didn’t stop us laughing all the way home about the sheer terror Rich’s bowling induced in their star batsman.

When he wasn’t honing his killer right arm deliveries, he never sat still. Rich always had a project of some description on the go. From taking on minor civil engineering jobs like building an absolute death trap tree house or digging a “mine” in the back garden of the Wildman’s Julian Road house to learning a wide variety of obscure, knife-wielding, martial arts.

While most of us ere more than happy to just play computer games, Rich used to hack into them and create completely new ones. I distinctly remember one platform game he wrote from scratch that involved steering a ginger biscuit past a number of hazardous levels before ultimately dipping it in a giant mug of tea. Slightly more innocent than Grand Theft Auto, but at the same time strangely compelling! He was always creative, not content to sit back and accept that things couldn’t be changed.

I guess it was these early tinkerings with computers that caused Rich to steer off in another direction from the rest of us at 16. Most of our group went on to do A levels at the same school we’d doe GCSEs, but Rich did his own research and went to a different college altogether to learn how to become a computer programmer. He was adamant, even then, that he wan’t just going to have “a job of work” which is what his dear old dad had said grown ups had to do.

As well as the computer, another prominent feature in Rich’s room was an old typewriter. It was at this typewriter that Rich created Albert. He was a cowardly dragon who featured in adventures that we penned together. We’d take it in turns to write a page at a time, each time trying to outdo one another in terms of storytelling and surrealism. I have to say Rich always wrote his page faster than I wrote mine.

While my chapters tended to focus on structure and direction, his were characterised by weird and wonderful creatures and settings. This was the first time I’d ever written fiction, and it’s something that I’ve loved doing ever since. That’s why I ended up writing for a living, so I have Rich to thank for that early inspiration. Though writing business stories about telecoms isn’t quite as much fun as writing about Albert and friends!

We even recorded one of the Albert stories once, with each member of our circle of friends taking on a different character (I’m pretty sure this was Rich’s first theatrical performance!), and we also created an entire role-playing gaming system based around Albert and the magical world he lived in. It was like Dungeons & Dragons on acid with magicians summoning occasional furniture and warriors turning into weretrees rustling at the moon.

Before we both embarked on our separate academic paths though came a reward from our respective parents for passing our GCSEs. A three-week trip to Ibiza! Staying with sister Chris and family and then sleeping in Chris’s gym was a holiday that involved listening to a lot of Sex Pistols, drinking a lot of vodka and completely failing in all our attempts to pick up girls. For some reason the young ladies of Ibiza just weren’t interested an two spotty 16 year olds from Nottingham.

When we got back home we stayed in touch, during those post-school, pre-university days when we ‘discovered’ a mutual love of a nine per cent strength lager called Crucial Brew and Rock City nightclub. Though, again Rich had to be different. While our circle of mates were all into various heavy metal bands, he opted to become a goth! Even now I associate Fields of the Nephilim with sitting in Wildo’s back bedroom drinking Mad Dog 20/20, planning a night at the TBI.

Our musical differences didn’t stop us creating what was probably Lady Bay’s first punk thrash metal band, Rebel Death. Well, I say band, at that stage it involved one crap electric guitar, my limited knowledge of bar chords and Rich’s lyrical musings. If you want to hear Rich’s Revel Death song ‘Against Society’ being performed by the band go to if you’re easily offended, don’t go there! He didn’t play in the band, but he is credited with writing two or three of the songs and we always played Against Society at our gigs.

We saw less of each other after we both went to university, it was during this time that Franco can no doubt fill in some of the gaps! After uni though, we teamed up for regular jaunts and continued our friendship as if no time had passed. Although, during those days, our musical tastes which were more closely aligned. Having both moved on from ‘alternative’ music, we embraced house and techno in a big way. Clubbing was the new passion and like everything else that Rich did, there were no half measures.

One classic memory I have of a post-clubbing Sunday was driving along with Rich back to Banbury where he lived at the time. I don’t know where we’d been, but we were driving along in the fast lane of the motorway and, oddly, my car started to decelerate. I say oddly, because I had my foot right down. The clutch had snapped so there was no traction whatsoever and cars were starting to pass us on the inside. A gap in traffic allowed me to steer us over the carriageways and onto the hard shoulder. Without breaking, my car was still freewheeling along at quite a pace. Then miraculously, a service station appeared on the horizon.

Amazingly, the car had enough momentum to roll the best part of what must have been about ¼ of a mile to the service station, up the slip road, into the car park and bang into a parking space before coming to a complete halt. Laughing like a drain at our good fortune, Rich had called up the AA who promised to drop him back in Banbury and then take me back to Nottingham. The downside was we’d have to wait a couple of hours for the pick up, the upside was the case of beer we had stashed in the car boot. Sitting, in the sun on a motorway service station grass verge watching the traffic roaring past, beer has rarely tasted better.

Obviously, we both settled down a bit since. Over the past few years Rich made a life for himself in Maidenhead and I made one in London. Sadly, we didn’t see enough of each other during this time. But I know he was very happy with his new life. He didn’t stop doing new and interesting things and he didn’t stop making friends and influencing people. Right up to the end inspiring people all over the world with his blog.

Rich, a Wildman by name and deed, is a total legend, and though I’m deeply sad at his passing, I’m extremely glad I had the good fortune to have lived only two streets away when we were growing up.

All my love,

Sean x

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