The above photo was taken at my leaving party before I left the UK to go travelling. It’s not a perfect photo – my eyes are closed and there are some notable people missing but it still makes me smile to remember that night as it was the last time I got to see all my friends together. People often ask me if I miss the UK and if I’ve thought of going back and my answer is always the same: “I only miss my friends”.
When you travel 8,000 miles away from home it’s inevitable that you’ll miss out on some important occasions – I’ve missed out on weddings, babies being born and countless birthdays, nights out and fun times. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be faced with the loss of one of my oldest friends so early in our lives.
Today is the funeral of my friend Andy (or Boxit as I and many others knew him best) – he’s the one on the far right. Next to him is his girlfriend Sue. A couple of weeks ago I’d been ill in bed all day and hadn’t logged onto my computer. When I finally did that afternoon and pulled up Facebook, I had two messages from my friends saying that Boxit had been killed earlier that day in a motorbike accident.
I still think even now my brain hasn’t properly processed this information – it’s easy to almost pretend that nothing has changed when he was so far away and our only contact was online but today is the day all my friends back home will be saying goodbye and I can’t be with them.
So instead I wanted to do a little tribute here for Boxit who was always a wonderful friend to me and is part of many happy memories from my youth. We’ve been friends since we were 16 when we used to hang out at college – Boxit, Neil and Roy (middle of photo) were in a band together and I’d go and watch the practices, often sitting on a windowsill behind Boxit. He was the drummer and my position was precarious as sometimes a drumstick would fly away in his enthusiasm. Usually he’d gradually speed up through the course of a song so that Neil and Roy were sweating trying to keep up by the end.
We all had a lot of fun back in those days, before we’d started jobs and settled down. Digging around my old computer archives I found an old website we made for a “2 week party” that was at my house while my mum was on holiday (you can stop reading now mum!). We had so many laughs during those 2 weeks that I didn’t want it to end. I’m contemplating uploading that website now so anyone who was there can have a laugh (and you can see what websites looked like in 1998!)
Later, Neil and Boxit were my first flatmates – we lived together in a tiny upper flat in Gosforth. Me and Neil would catch the bus or walk over the town moor to uni and Boxit would go to work and then we’d all meet up again in the evening back at home. So much craziness went on in that flat – I remember getting so drunk on rum that I couldn’t find the door out of my room and was bashing on the wall for someone to let me out. One night Neil and Boxit went out with Roy and Ben and came back with an American rock band (Karma to Burn), who they invited to stay overnight. Our tiny flat was full of sweaty men and Neil was sick on the bass player.
After staying in the flat for a year we moved into a bigger house (that we called Boozle) with more friends and the fun continued.
Boxit was a guy of few words – I can’t say I ever had any deep and meaningful conversations with him – but he had a huge heart and was generous with hugs. When I was upset over some drama in my life and literally crying on his shoulder, he’d tell me there was no point in being sad so “just be happy!” – he really loved life and made the most of it.
While I hadn’t spent much time with him in recent years due to us all growing up and settling down (and me moving to Bali obviously), we still stayed in touch and he continued to be a positive influence on my life. Only a year or so ago he saved my crashed hard disk full of important files and photos by telling me to put it in the freezer over night.
So Boxit will be missed – deeply, sadly and forever by everyone close to him but especially his partner Sue who is expecting his baby girl in December. It’s a tragedy that he’ll never get to meet his daughter but his little girl, Eliza will get to know her daddy through the happy memories of others.
When I was looking through photos after I got the news that he died, I realise in every photo he looks just the same – wild hair, wide eyes and crazy smile and this is how I see him when I close my eyes, in boots and black jeans, just the same as when we were 16. I’ll be saying a prayer and raising a glass today to my old friend – goodbye, wherever you are x