This is the first time I've been asked to write an obituary for a close friend. It is a very difficult thing for me to do for Colin because I am still suffering from disbelief at losing him. Colin had become a very good friend indeed, and I want to express the loss that all his friends feel. And the fact that Colin is no longer here has made me think not only about Colin and the loss of him but about all my friends, and all our friendships.
They are so important to us, and yet we take them for granted. It wasn't until he died that I knew Colin's second name, or his religion, or many of his interests, or many other things about him. And none of it matters, because he was Colin.
I still find it hard to believe that never again will I see Colin sitting at the bar of the Irish Pub, cigarette in hand, looking steadfastly ahead. Or sitting with another friend at the table by the door, which is how I remember him from the last time we met, on his last Friday a month ago.
We are all in shock. Absolutely. Not just for the loss of a dear friend - the selfish reason - but for the fact that Colin was just 30 years old, and had most of his life ahead of him if not for the dreadful accident.
I had known Colin in Prague a few years ago as a fellow Scotsman of a somewhat taciturn nature to nod to along the bar of the James Joyce pub. He missed that city in a way which I don't, and it was one of our favourite topics. "I know how you feel about Prague, but I feel different," was one of the things he would say when that city came up in conversation. He held his own views, but respected those of others.
In Bratislava a few months ago I saw Colin quite often at the main bar of the Irish Pub, the home-from-home of both of us. He sat there for hours at a time, looking straight ahead, minding his own business, saying little. He was a man of few words, but every one counted. Several times I went out of my way to talk to him, thinking he might be lonely. Eventually, one evening, after a short conversation which was largely one-sided, I took the plunge: "Look, why don't you come over to the Cocktail Bar and join us," referring to the group of friends who meet there often on a casual basis. Guinness in hand, he followed. He seemed very happy to be invited, and after that he often came to the Cocktail Bar, and his circle of friends became bigger very naturally. It says a lot about Colin that he waited to be asked. In the many conversations that followed Colin was respected for his wry humour, his unassuming way, and his depth of character.
Colin was a private man, and yet very patient with others with less self-control. I have seen him be far kinder to waifs and strays who push themselves on others than ever I could be. He had a way of listening to people in his private life, as he did professionally, with a wry detachment combined with human sympathy. His favourite refrain was "Absolutely," and he'd look at me and wink.
All his friends are devasted by Colin's death. We can't believe it. It seems untrue because we want it to be, and even now we half expect him to walk in in his suit and tie and ask in his West Coast way, "how's it goin'?"
Most of my friends are as old as I am, or older. Middle-aged at least. We have each others' home phone numbers in case one of us fails to show up for morning coffee. We are naturally closer to death, and one day we will hear the worst. But while Colin's youth is one of the reasons we miss him so badly, I believe that the real reason we feel the loss so much is that he was such a good friend to us; maybe, because he was so quiet andunassuming, we didn't realise when he was here how much of a friend he had become. Colin and I had become close friends without it being recognised. By us or others. I miss him for that, too, because I didn't have the chance to tell him.
These are not the last words to be said about Colin. We miss him. He will be remembered and talked about as long as good guys and friendship are fit topics for conversation. We love you Colin. Absolutely.
May 29th, 2000
5. Jun 2000 at 0:00