Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dead Man's Shoes

The phone rang persistently during dinner on Sunday, then my mobile. We have a tacit rule not to answer while we are eating, so afterwards, as Helen cleared away, I checked my messages. A text from a very old friend asked me very firmly to contact him that evening. It already sounded bad, so I called him immediately. He asked if I was at home and sitting down, and I knew at once that someone close to us both was either dead or in serious trouble.

Craig, who I've known since 1983, had been found dead in his home that day. The cause of death is as yet unknown, pending an autopsy. He was 42.

The worst of it is that he was between partners, living alone, and may have lain undiscovered for six days. It's the saddest kind of end I can imagine.

He's been in my thoughts ever since. My tear ducts seem to have healed up when I stopped drinking, so my main reaction has been a kind of extreme anxiety: I just start to hyperventilate and fret, and I couldn't settle down with Helen on Sunday night and just sat alone until I fell asleep in a chair before going to bed.

We'd had a fair few spats: he was gloriously melodramatic, and in 1994 when he was shunted from Doctor Who Magazine, so the editor could parachute me in in his place, I called him at home to express my regret at the circumstances. He gave me his unequivocal support and was subsequently very helpful whenever I called on him. Nevertheless, he revelled in his misfortune, and on recognising my voice on the phone that night, immediately made me squirm with the greeting "How does it feel to be wearing dead man's shoes?"

The last time I saw him was either this or last summer, when I spent most of an evening talking to him outside a pub full of Doctor Who fans. He was still relentlessly full of his own woes, but seemed more optimistic than in the past, and more concerned with an old mutual friend of similar vintage who he felt had let him down. My advice would have been "drop him", but that didn't seem to even be an option to Craig. He was every inch a people person.

I wonder, if he'd known he was only going to make it this far, whether he'd have been a bit more carefree. Instead, he had that crippling combination of maudlin introspection and grand hedonism. That he kept going, picking himself up, and carrying on, despite this, is a testament to a bullish inner energy, without which, he'd have been lost far earlier.

It's hard to be at work this week surrounded by people to whom this would mean nothing. It's not really the kind of experience you volunteer when colleagues ask how your weekend went. I understand the social need for funerals and memorials now more than ever before.

1 comment:

Graeme said...

It's funny, but my own immediate recollection of Craig involved you. I recounted it on DWIN's Doctor Who blog


And it's pretty much Craig as you described him.

It's been three months now and I still can't quite take in that he's gone.