Friday, October 17, 2008

Farewell, my friend

It was, what, about 3 weeks before I started college. The (now defunct) company who were offering me a significant beer token contribution invited me to a week long session with the other students they were using to subsidize the liquor industry. A week down in Bristol at a 'management center', learning some of the non-technical skills we'd need for out careers as Engineers, like not embarassing ourselves eating five course meals, and gracefully accepting copious amounts of free alcohol. Of course, we had to sit through the requisite time management bollocks, and gratuitously embarass ourselves doing presentations to each other, as well. I didn't have a lot in common with many of them, but there were a couple that it somehow just clicked with. I think it was pretty much the first night that Pete & I clicked. He was another Pete, but seemed somehow more worldly and wiser than he had any right to be at 18. And probably the most well read person I'd ever met. But I think his charm, if it could be called such, was that he obviously didn't give a shit what anyone thought about him. Somehow I've never had that. We talked 'til 5am every night, except the one that we didn't stop. A belated apology to the people in Poland, Madagascar and the Vatican that we woke up at 3am BST.

He, and the other members of our computational cabal, were one of the invariants of college life for me. Looking back on it, the six of us were bound by a mutual late adolescence, and that weird geek magnetism that unfortunately repels all others :-). He introduced me to writers I'd never heard of, and expanded my horizons in ways my English teacher (Sorry, Miss O'Keefe) never managed to. I remember talking long into the night, often only stopping when it was time for the first class of the morning, long late-night hacking sessions in the terminal room, and lots of stories that I don't remember happening (those nights when we excelled at our role as intermediary between our sponsors and the brewing industry).

After college, we went our separate ways. Not 18 months later, I was living in Germany, never to really return to the UK. Somehow, I kept that support network, knowing that I could write anything to Pete and the others. I moved back briefly, reconnected a little, then moved on. A brief stint back in Paris in '02 was the last time I saw them in person. Seeing them through the filter of past experiences made it seem like little had changed. But now I realize how wrong that perception was.

It was a shock, today, to hear of his passing away this week. I googled him on a whim, and discovered a whole life I didn't know. A whole person that I never knew. It's been almost 15 years since we were in regular contact, I guess, so it shouldn't surprise me. The Pete I knew wouldn't have wanted a big fuss. Maybe the Pete I didn't know would have. I'll never know.

As HST once said (someone Pete introduced me to), 'When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro'. The Pete Fenelon that I knew was a pro. Farewell, my friend. The world will be a shinier, rounder, neater place without you. I hate it already.