Sunday, 17 July 2011

Last Thursday

Last Thursday was, for many of us, a day like no other. Together with old friends and work colleagues, we paid our last respects to Professor Tony Atkinson. Tim and I had both worked for Tony, myself only a year, Tim – quite a few more than that. We knew it was going to be a well attended affair, but hadn't quite prepared ourselves for just how many people were there. On the way over, Tim and I tried to predict who we hoped would be there, and who maybe wouldn't. During the time that Tim worked for Tony he said that he didn't ever once recall Tony loosing his temper.

Tony had a great many friends and acquintances, and during the service as various individuals who knew him well stood up and spoke about Tony I began to realise just how little I knew – for example I didn't know he was a Queen fan. In a bizarre way the eulogies are a part of any funeral service I enjoy, especially if that someone is as colourful a character as Tony was. To say that he let the grass grow under his feet would definitely do him an injustice – he was a true trail blazer.

For many of us, it was a reunion quite unlike no other – old friendships from a good 20+ years ago renewed, gaps in our knowledge filled (for me this was particularly true and I have Mike H to thank for that one), quite a few faces forgotten dragged out of reluctant memory banks. I don't recall when we all started drifting apart, it seemed to happen gradually over the years as we left to pursue new avenues and achieve our destinies – so it was good to spend those few hours together again and recapture the closeness and friendships.

Typical of the team Tony had 25 years ago, we were the last ones standing whilst others around us left and went back to their own lives. There was a kind of reluctance to finish what had been a perfect day and hasty arrangements were made to adjourn to the Wyndham Arms in Salisbury. Tim and I declined – we needed to get home for Antonia (Elise was staying at a friends overnight), and I was beginning to feel the usual fatigue begin to set in. Basically, I needed my bed!

So, who was there that we hadn't seen in a few too many years? Roger H, Rigger, Ray, Dave S, Bob and Jean, Dave C, Roy, Paul, Nigel, Mike H, Sue, Zain, Alex, Helen, Melanie, Meg – these are just a few out of the so many, too many to mention! There were lots of hugs, lots of laughter, and a few tears. There were stories of great success, bought about by words of wisdom and encouragement from Tony. I think to me the one who made the greatest impact was Alex – if my memory is correct when we worked together Alex was a laboratory assistant, but on encouragement from Tony she went to University, got her degree closely followed by her PhD. As a result of that encouragement, Alex has had quite frankly an amazing career and has travelled the world many times over. For us it was especially good to catch up with Dave C – we haven't seen him since before Antonia was born, he was our Best Man when Tim and I married over 25 years ago.

A few people I recall from those days who were not there, for whatever reason that was – Sarah, Karen, Eric, Steve, Iqbail and a few others whose names I have forgotten!

To quote an e-mail received yesterday from Zain with which I whole heartedly agree:

"It's a strange thing to say but I actually enjoyed (!) the day and the fact that it was such a great send off for a truely lovely guy. I can only guess that Tony would have been hugely chuffed to know how much of an impact he had made on so many of us."

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