I could have sworn I just left this party.
I’ve spent the past two weeks carrying my Moleskine around with me jotting down notes for this occasion, trying to work out what on earth to say about Barry, and it isn’t out of a lack of things to say about him, but instead out of not even knowing where to start. So you can probably expect this to be very disjointed and muddled. Picture the scene right now as I type this out: sat at the breakfast bar in the office at 2 in the morning, where Barry and I have spent the better part of the past 3 years either sharing a chippy dinner in the evening, sometimes with Sonic if he was still around the office at that hour, or handing over our respective shift’s work in the morning over a cup of tea as the office fills up with people giving us bewildered looks, as if to wonder if we ever left the breakfast bar the night before.
Part of me is expecting him to walk in through the door, sit down in front of me, and say something like “You know this speech you’ve been working on? Well I’ve been giving it some thought, and I might just have the angle you’re looking for”, as was so often the case. Whether it was the drainage in my garden, the slow loading times of my computer, or an annoying “donk donk donk” sound coming from my car, as if I’d left something down the back, he was never short of an idea or two, and would come back days later if he thought of something.
That said, his advise on this rambling of mine would probably be “make sure it has nothing to do with trumpets.”
But I digress… his nature was to always have helping his friends on his mind. If there was something that needed doing, and he could do it, it was done. Expecting nothing in return, more than maybe a pint of Guinness. One such occasion was when he popped round with his mother Heather, who was down to visit from Cheshire, and he spent the afternoon up the ladder clearing out our gutters which were leaking on to the flue of our boiler. Had that been the extent of his work one could be pardoned to think this was the sort of thing anyone would do, except that he then went on to clear out the ones round the front and the neighbour’s ones too, pulled out some gutter seals that he’d gone specifically to B&Q to buy for us, and fixed join that was broken.
Barry was involved with our house from day 1. He took time out to inspect it with my wife when we were looking into buying it, bought tools for me (because, in his words, “you’re not a real man until you have your own socket set”, which at the time I didn’t) to get some of the jobs done, most of which he has given us extensive advice on, and has blessed us with his visits for a cup of tea many an evening after work, or brought round his bike to work on it in the back garden. He is part of our family. Every picture that we had of the future, he’s there. It’s impossible to take a step at home or at work without stumbling across something that reminds us of him.
Another example of his countless instances of planning ahead and helping us out was when he booked time off of work toward the end of last year, just before I had time booked off around the time Silvia, my daughter, was due to be born. He did it so that if she decided to arrive early there was someone to hand to either get my wife to the hospital, or take over from me at work so I could rush her there. He did draw the line at taking her into the maternity ward though, since he didn’t want to take away my husband’s prerogative of having every bone in my hand snapped by my wife during the birth. One of the things that hit me most the night after he died, and still does, was the thought that Uncle Barry isn’t going to be here to play with Silvia and watch her grow up, or help me scare off her prospect boyfriends in years to come.
And yet you wouldn’t have seen this friendship coming from our first meeting. I had just joined the company, and was working a weekend in a relatively empty office trying to fix some documents on Tom’s Mac, I was confronted with a stern reprimand from an at that time unknown co-worker for using someone else’s equipment and using a NOC power supply that Kamran had loaned to me, and told “not to do it again or he’d have to take it up with my manager, and why was Tom asking me to do this in the first place, ra ra ra”, before storming back to the NOC, his socks kicking up a dust-storm behind him. I can’t think of any time since when we’ve ever had a confrontation. Quite the contrary, in fact. I joined the NOC not long after that under his command as his engineer, and Catman can vouch for the fact that a year later, when offered a new position, I was reluctant to take the offer because I so enjoyed working with Barry as a team, both through the good times when we would watch video after video on YouTube about new military weapons, James Bond films, or episodes of Mock the Week, and the fire-fights when even though the system was falling to pieces around us we were able to coordinate who was handling what task and get the job done and dusted quickly without having to ask the other if any particular aspect of the incident was in hand. Even if it happens to be a lost pidgeon flying into the office.
I suspect that I will never lose the impulse when I see a funny picture on icanhascheezburger to pull up my e-mail and send him a copy, or the surprise at someone else taking over my shift in the morning instead of him.
As I read back over this I realise that there are so many more things that I could write about him, so many thoughts for which I don’t have words, and yet even if I did I still wouldn’t be able to do justice to the man that he is. What annoys me most though is that I am writing about him on this occasion, and not on some date in the future like his wedding so I could have a chance to take the piss out of him in a way fitting to all the amusement that one of my past blunders in the NOC provided him over the years. I can see him sitting at the back of this room now, biting his knuckles grinning, stifling a laugh as he stamps his foot at the memory of 138,000 rows updating in MySQL instead of a dozen, due to me fat-fingering an UPDATE with the wrong WHERE statements. Determined to not let me live that one down, and not let me get him back either.
Spoken at Barry’s Memorial Service on the 18th of May, 2010.