Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Phil Lewin

It's fair to say that the death of my sister in March has cast a pall over this year. The pain from the loss of someone close never really goes away, but it does get easier to bear. However, it may be a while before I regain the spontaneous inspiration to post that I used to enjoy. Somehow this year hasn't been as funny as others. That happens, I guess.

And onwards...

Early in 1973, a skinny kid with an angry scar on his face & a funny accent was introduced to his new school and classmates. Among them was a guy with a permanent grin & an irrepressible wit, his name was Phil Lewin & he befriended me.

Phil would march between classes with a merry "Ta ra ra boomteyay, I'll take your pants away, and while you're standing there, I'll steal your underwear." or a version of John Denver's Country Road, into which various gynaecological terms had been seamlessly integrated.

I knew almost no-one, but Phil knew everyone. Like most conservative old schools, it had something of an underground bully culture, there were some kids you just steered clear of. Not Phil though, on spying one particularly feared hulk (who looked for all the world like the bully character in the Dennis the Menace cartoons), Phil would bellow "Duuuuh! MacPhee you moron!". For some reason MacPhee would merely curse & walk away.

I was only at that school for half a year or so, before my family moved into deepest Hutt Valley & I changed college. But as chance would have it, we moved to a place just around the corner from Phil's grandmother & so as the years passed, I'd often see him & other family members on their way to visit.

Later, we caught up at University, he was studying English Lit & French. He told me he took French because there were 300 in the class, of whom 296 were women, whilst the other 3 guys were gay.

A clever guy, he appeared on University Challenge, was a Rhodes Scholar, career diplomat and business lobbyist. I heard rumours that he was being urged to enter politics. He would have been a dream Wellington Central candidate.

It's been a few years since we last spoke, probably shortly after he returned from a posting in Moscow. I always figured we'd catch up one day again. I was wrong.

My sympathies go to his family, his wife & kids, his sister, and his mother. Mothers shouldn't have to farewell their children like that, but it happens.

So long Phil. You went far too soon.