I last saw Phil Barnes at my first wedding, on 1st July, 2000. That's just over five years ago. Before that I think we'd only met up once in 8 years, since Fil went to teach in Hong Kong and married his lovely wife Teresa.
Fil and Teresa had a lovely son, named Aleks, who must be 5 or 6 now. I've never met him.
This evening I had a phone call from a good friend to tell me that Phil died in a car accident, in Hong Kong, in March or April this year. His friends in the UK are only just beginning to get the news now, as Teresa had brought his address book over for his parents to go through...
Phil Barnes was one of the very few people in this world who could always make me laugh. I've attached a few pictures of him here as a sort of inadequate memorial. The black & white one was taken in 1990 when Phil, myself and our housemate, Frank, spent an afternoon dressing as our heroes, villains, or imaginary superheroes - I took some pictures of the results. I'm not entirely sure what Phil's doing here - but at one point he was dressed as Captain Underpantsonhishead. We were all in our mid-20s and we weren't drunk or doing drugs - that's just the sort of insanity that Phil got off on.
At University, he was the driving force behind writing our own insane version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
He was one of the best drummers I've ever seen. Not many amateurs can replicate the work of Neil Peart. Phil could. He could also play the piano, deliberately badly (Les Dawson style) with his trousers round his ankles.
He was one of the kindest, cleverest and funniest people it has been my pleasure to know.
I always assumed that, one day soon, we would meet up for a few pints, to talk about the old days, laugh like drains, and that I would introduce Kathleen to him and she would know what a wonderful person he was.
But now I know that this will never happen and this makes me sadder than I have been in a very long time.
Fil, I'll miss you, mate. I hope I kept your letters somewhere... Memories of you are already fading fast and I'll need reminding what a special person you were.