Do you remember when we went to see Trainspotting when it first came out in 1996? We were a mere 20 years old and we went to see it at the Trocadero at the end of one of the best weekends of my life. I was living in Oxford at the time and I came to stay with you for the weekend in London. We spent the whole day drinking on Saturday with our friend Dan. The night ended with you & Dan bursting into the room I was sleeping in, singing and dancing to the Macarena and collapsing on my bed. Most people would’ve found this hugely irritating and would’ve barked at you both to piss off and leave them to sleep. But no, I just found this highly amusing, hugged you both, waved you off as you exited (still mid-Macarena) and I fell back to sleep with a smile on my face. Then on Sunday we spent the day at Notting Hill Carnival. I know traditionally people are meant to scoff at the carnival, but I genuinely had one of the best days of my life roaming the streets of Notting Hill, fast becoming friends with people we’d never met before whilst dancing to jungle and drum ‘n’ bass with them. I remember the three of us hugging and drinking on the ground late in the evening and me thinking that I couldn’t possibly be happier. The next day, on the bank holiday before I got the bus home, we spontaneously decided to go to the cinema and watch Trainspotting. This film that so many people had been raving about. At the end of the film, I remember the two of us being in some kind of stunned silence. I remember my heart beating so hard. At the time, I don’t think I could’ve loved a film more. We left the cinema gabbling over the top of each with excitement. Trainspotting had a huge impact on us. Then, I remember very sadly saying goodbye to you and to our weekend.
Well Stephen, Trainspotting 2 or T2 is out now in the cinema. I am filled with so much excitement about it and cannot wait to go and see it. I know sitting there and watching it, I will be thinking of you. I’ve heard people say that watching T2 made them feel very nostalgic. So, when I go to see T2 and considering the nostalgia that it will unearth, made me think of you again. It made me wonder how we could have lost contact. How could I lose contact with my friend that had such a huge influence on my life and who I am today. My friend that I shared so many ridiculously fun times with.
I can never truly fathom how two such close friends can lose contact, but every year we would both move house or in my case seemingly to a different city. The internet didn’t really exist then and not many people had mobile phones, so I guess it was much easier to lose contact with friends that you didn’t live near to. When we first stopped living near each other, I would always make my yearly phone call to your lovely Mum and we’d always have a friendly chat and she would give me your new number. However, I suppose over time, I was embarrassed to keep bothering her. I of course wish more than anything that I had. Every year since we lost contact, I would search the internet hoping to find you or some reference to you. How could someone who was so sociable and had so many friends not exist anywhere on the internet? I know it happens, some people just have no desire for social media, but for some reason it just didn’t sit easily with me that you were one of them.
Finally, this year coinciding with the release of T2 and my memories of you and us, I decided to do one final search for you. I was determined to make contact with you again. Out of all my friends that I have lost contact with over the years, you are the one I always regretted losing contact with the most. I searched for your Mum on Facebook, not with the idea of contacting her, but with the hope there would be some mention of you on her page. And there was.
My growing fear had been realised. I found out that you’re no longer here Stephen and your journey here had ended abruptly and cruelly.
I felt sick when I first read about you and what had happened. I went cold all over and then I was filled with so much sadness. An almost surprising, overwhelming sadness that someone could feel so much for someone that they hadn’t seen in so many years. I found out you died 7 years after I last saw you. It was almost too much.
I remember the last time I saw you. I was living in London then. In a flat in Shepherd’s Bush where my bedroom had no window, where the washing machine was in the bathroom and the fridge in the hallway. It was above the Central Line, so every time an underground train rumbled underneath the building, our whole flat would shake. Amazingly, I stopped noticing this after about a month of living there. You were working at the BBC, which at the time was round the corner on Wood Lane. After work, one day you came over for dinner. My connoisseur cooking skills were not all together extensive at the time and I made you the grand meal of pasta & pesto. As always, we washed it down with red wine and then you were promptly sick. You were so embarrassed and couldn’t stop apologising. Our evening ended earlier than what it normally would have done and after we said goodbye, I was left with a weird, unsettling feeling. I cannot tell you why. Maybe I was just concerned that you were so easily ill after a bit of wine and pasta. Maybe I was disappointed our evening didn’t carry the usual fun and excitement or maybe, just somehow, I knew it was to be the last time I’d see you.
But Stephen, all of my other memories of you are filled with nothing, but laughter, warmth and endless chatter. Do you remember when we spent New Years Eve at your uncle’s office just off of Regent Street? We drank all of the bottles of wine that were in the staff kitchen and we heroically left our loose change thinking it would cover the costs. Your uncle was not best pleased and we were stumped with a massive bill to pay between all of us. It was worth it though. We spent most of the evening on the rooftop, putting the world to rights, shouting at passersby and somehow not freezing. It must’ve been all of that expensive wine.
There were times before when we both still lived in Oxfordshire, where we used to go clubbing with Dan. We’d go to United Kingdom and Trade in London. Trade didn’t open until 3am, so we would have to find ways to cheaply fill the time before going. We’d hop from gay bar to gay bar in Soho until our money would almost run out. We would then trawl the streets of Clerkenwell desperately trying to come up with ideas. Then we heard the sound of loud music. We followed it to a courtyard area that resembled Fagin’s haunt in Oliver Twist, we had to balance walking across planks of wood and found this house where the loud music was coming out of, that had its front doors missing . Naturally, we went inside. The downstairs was completely empty, so we climbed up the precarious looking stairs. Upstairs in full swing was a large house party with DJs, a free bar and free food. I remember, you and I helping ourselves to cake and wine and giggling like school children (we practically almost were still) as we danced to the music. Do you remember that guy who came up to us and asked if we wanted a piece of “Miles’s Birthday cake”, to which you not-so-cleverly replied “who the fuck is Miles?”. This guy looked at us sternly and said “you’ve gate-crashed this party, haven’t you?”. “No” I said “ok yeah, but can I go to the loo before you kick us out?”. To which he shrugged and said it made no difference to him and walked off. We ended up staying at the party until after it ended, chatting to Miles and his friends. They were all lawyers and some of them had clubbed together to buy the house and were in the middle of renovating it. Somehow, between the two of us, we managed to persuade the straightest people in London to come to Trade with us. Trade stayed opened until about 10am, but by 7am I started to flag. I remember going to the toilet and the next thing I know, you and some other random guy were climbing over the toilet cubicle wall that I was in. You started shaking and shouting at me. God, I’m so sorry. I must’ve given you a fright. You clearly thought I’d collapsed when in fact, I had just popped into the toilet for a quick power nap. This is it, though, Stephen. We always looked after each other.
One of my most ridiculous memories of us was when one day we couldn’t be bothered to go to college where we were doing our A-levels, so of course we quite reasonably decided to hitch hike into London for the day instead. We had about 50p between us and we bought a loaf of bread as some kind of pathetic lunch, sat in Soho square and ate it (and fed what we couldn’t manage to the pigeons), quickly ran around Hamleys like a couple of manic 8 year olds high on E numbers and promptly hitch hiked back home to Oxfordshire.
There wasn’t just the silly memories of us as hedonistic teenagers though. There were the more profound and poignant memories. Memories that shaped us and in particular shaped you.
I remember feeling honoured that I was one of the first people you came out to.
I remember on that rooftop in London on New Year’s Eve you telling me that your Father was seriously ill.
I remember finding out the news he had passed and nervously phoning you in tears to console you. In your typical fashion Stephen, you were more concerned with making me feel at ease and as always you were full of that trademark positive attitude of yours.
You taught me so much. You don’t know this, but you did. You taught me to think positively, you taught me not to judge others, you made me reach a little deeper with my thoughts, but most of all you made me grab life by the horns. If you were to have a catch phrase, it would have been “Fuck it”. Your humour, your intelligence, your warmth- I will never forget. The impact you had on my life is immeasurable.
I also remember our plans to travel around America together. We worked the whole route out and we both started saving, but like so many things life got in the way and we never made it. Except, some years later I did. I travelled the routes we wanted to take with my now husband. I’m so sad you never met him. I got together with him a year after we last saw each other. I have no doubt the two of you would have got along. I’m almost certain you would have been the best of friends.
I now wonder what happened to you that your life ended the way it did. I feel sad not just for the fact that you are no longer here, but also for the way you left. Your final time here must have been unthinkable. Was your illness short-lived or had you been suffering for years? Even when I knew you? I’m so, so sorry, Stephen.
As I write this, I am somehow filled simultaneously with both an immense amount of sadness, but equally with happiness. The happiness is there because every memory I have of you is so wonderful. We had so much fun. Too much fun maybe. Every memory of you is filled with so much laughter. I was so lucky to have you as my friend.
I hope you realise just how much you were loved and not just by me. My heart goes out to your Mum, your brother and Dan who you were so close to. It has been so painful finding out what happened to you. Maybe it would have been best off, if I hadn’t. Finding this out has reminded me of everything you gave me though, which was so much. I am richer because of you. Until we meet again my beautiful friend.
As an endnote, I am sadly only too aware how this article may affect some people. With a heavy heart I list the following statistics. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. That’s 76% of all suicides that are male. The biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK is suicide. That said, the suicide rate for women is currently at it’s highest since 2005. Reach out to someone, anyone if you are affected by this or reach out and talk to someone who you think might be.
The following numbers may be of help to some people:
Samaritans: 116 123 0r email firstname.lastname@example.org
Calm: 0800 58 58 58 or their anonymous web chat service: http://www.thecalmzone.net/get-help
Mind: 0300 123 3393