It’s a friend’s funeral today.
Today it’s the funeral of our old friend Guy Kewney.
Guy was a famous writer in the field of technology, and he is mourned not only by his wife and family but by many colleagues and readers too. But the fact that he was a bigwig in his industry and knew a slew of celebs meant diddlysquat to me personally.
We met when I became production editor on his magazine, back in about 1989 or 90. He was technically the editor in chief, but had zero interest in actually running a paper or managing people, preferring to remain a hack, nosing around for truffles. He’d been on holiday during my first week, but he strolled in, all bald, beard and sandals in week two and said: "From your air of general authority, I’m guessing you’re the new production editor".
His desk was next to mine and for the next couple of years I tortured him every day with my chain smoking (which he hated passionately) and he got his revenge by making comments on every single thing I ever wore, once asking me as I trundled about the place if I actually had legs or only wheels.
He was, at heart, a total sweetie. When I got together with my (now) DH, he was very supportive at a time when disapprobation rained down on us from virtually everywhere else. One of the most unjudgmental people you could ever meet, he was a loyal friend, and he once told me I was the best production editor he’d ever met, which meant a great deal to me, especially at a place like VNU – a godawful company if ever there was one.
He also had an idea I might like to become the news or features editor but in this he was much mistaken, as I couldn’t have cared less about IT, but at least he took me to lunch at L’Esgargot to get me out of the office (as a production editor, I didn’t get away from my desk much…).
Guy was always late with his beautifully written copy but never gave a stuff what I did to it – handing it over with total professionalism and then forgetting all about it and going on to the next article – probably (on our time) for another newspaper entirely.
He lived in a world so filled with paper that, when visiting him, the DH could barely find any floor space in his home office and had to pick his way like stepping stones on the odd bits of carpet that were visible. His friends swore that, one day, his skycrapers of ephemera would all collapse, leaving him buried somewhere underneath, along with the pile of dead technology he had managed to kill as soon as he came into contact with it. His work desk was surrounded by dead computers, with Guy somewhere in the middle, tapping away madly (something he continued to do under the table when seated in restaurants, recording entire conversations near-verbatim but out of sight).
When Guy left VNU for Ziff, we lost touch rather, though I always knew what he was doing as we still worked in the same field. But I bumped into him later when freelancing at St Katharine’s Dock, and he insisted on seeing me onto my bus safely in the dark, chatting about his daughters, who were growing up apace, and his wife, whom he positively adored. His last communication with me was to write something nice on LinkedIn, and the one before that was to run my picture through a ‘prettifying filter’ and then send it back saying it hadn’t altered anything because I was too pretty to start with. This is not a compliment one receives often after the age of 40, so I took it with thanks.
During his last illness, he was preternaturally calm about not surviving to old age and his dignity in the face of his imminent death was positively inspirational to anyone who read his blog on the subject. In his last post on March 29, he described himself as content, with a sense of fading purpose, reducing energy, and withdrawal. He said he might have a couple of months of gentle recovery before the end, or a couple of weeks, with "fade to grey" as the final script directive. "Either way," he said, "I know my place ("bottom of page 94, sir!") and neither script is worrying me. Heck, I may even have a surprise!".
Sadly, he didn’t even get those two weeks, dying just 10 days later at only 63, but thank God, he was able to die peacefully at home, surrounded by his family. Although Steve and I had been expecting the news, when it came, we were both more gutted than we could possibly have imagined.
We can’t be at his funeral in England today, but this morning we bought a medlar tree and will be planting it in his honour, where I hope it will grow and flourish as reminder of him. And we’ll be thinking of his family and friends this afternoon as they make their way to Islington Cemetery.