A friend of mine died on Friday, entirely out of the blue. He was someone I'd got to know online, and then in person, from about 2002. I heard the news on Saturday when another friend called me from Poland, this being the nature of internet message board friendships, to tell me that Mathew had died. We don't quite know exactly what happened yet, but there are strong signs that it was DVT, undiagnosed on his last trip to hospital with acute leg pains only a few weeks ago. He was only 35 years old.
I am struggling to comprehend the reality of this, because it makes no sense. Just now, when I signed in to messenger, I automatically checked to see if he was online. I can't really focus on anything properly right now.
We had been close at one time, then less so in the last few years, for various reasons. In truth, many of his close friends - many much closer than I - had fallen out with him at one time or another. Mathew was a man of extraordinary integrity, to the point of rigidity, and it didn't make him easy going. But it did make him rigorously honest. He was also creative, funny and gifted with a boundless and innate sense of silliness. He had enormous generosity of spirit and was always happy to dedicate his time and effort to other people. His great twin passions were film and music, and I think everyone who knew him had been swept along into discovering some new band or film as a result of his enthusiasm. I have happy memories of going to see Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters with him at a small gig in Islington; of going to paint plates and mugs together; of having morning coffee and cake and walking in Kensington Gardens to see the Peter Pan statue. He loved mocking up film posters, and turned a photo of me in a ball dress into a poster for an imaginary Federico Fellini movie (starring yours truly alongside Adriano Celentano and Marcello Mastroianni).
Though I know it's a universal sentiment in the face of sudden death, I always assumed that there would be a lot of time to sort things out, to talk, and I regret now not having made more effort in the last few years to resolve the distance that had grown up between us. There's not much I can say here. But once, when I was sad, you sent me a picture of Potato Frog to cheer me up. So here he is now again for you, to say goodbye.