It is the same for each of us. At different times, people come into our lives and make a major impact on us. This chapter is all about one such person who has been part of my life for some time.
This week I found out that my very good friend Richard passed away. As only one or two of you met Richard, you are probably thinking, “oh, that is too bad, but why are you telling me?” The reason is that because he wasn't part of your life, you have missed out on meeting someone very special.
I first met Richard when I accepted a position with one of those big global consultancies. I was brought in to head their Leadership Development efforts, and Richard, I had been told, was one of the key internal people. Within a week or so, I had asked that everyone in my department be brought together so I could tell them who I was and what my plans were for our departmental future. After the day-long meeting was over, Richard sat with me in some little outdoor café and told me that he thought the meeting went well, but that he thought he would be leaving the company. I wasn’t too happy at that news, and spent quite a bit of time trying to convince him to stay. He did, and the several years I spent at that company were pretty great. This was largely to do with the fact that we did some pretty good work there trying to get the senior guys to change their behaviours. We were yelled at quite a few times; the sure indicator that you are making an impact. Even after we had both left that company, we stayed in weekly contact. Richard was one of those special friends that, even though you may not see each other on a regular basis, when you are together or even when you are on the phone, it seemed like we just picked up the last conversation where we left it off.
Having said that, anyone who would have seen the email traffic that buzzed between our respective machines would have been confused beyond belief. An email might begin with “Dear Keith” and end with “Love, Mick.” The pairings were wonderful: Jerry and Dean, Butch and Sundance, Bella and Boris, Wilma and Fred, Cisco and Pancho, and Dickie and Liz. Of course, then there were those that really challenged me to greater response heights, as Richard was educated in proper English schools, and I was…well, certainly not educated in proper English schools. We would communicate about damn near everything, from the state of the government at home (in the UK), to which E-type Jaguar would be a better investment, to the rather dire state of management in most companies, to how Christine Keeler was doing. Not much was beyond the scope of our conversations.
For the past year, I was very lucky to have been able to actually see Richard on a monthly basis. I have a client who had asked me to develop a curriculum for them, and then deliver it. My first thought was to ask Richard to do it with me. Working together again after our common experience with that (allegedly proper) consultancy was a high priority for both of us, and when the opportunity came up, I rang Richard immediately. It was during one of these sessions that Richard explained to the assembled group, just before they were released for a coffee break, that for the two of us, “coffee” is code for Come Outside For Fag Exhaling Exercise. I had known for a long time that Richard’s doctors were not all that keen on his smoking, and we used to talk about that too. But his response to my concerns was that he was too old for many other vices, so what the hell.
Richard had four real loves. His wife Annette, and his two daughters. Nothing else did, or could, come close to his love for them. Having said that, a while ago, he did buy a Royal Enfield motorcycle. His initial description of her to me verged on the edge of soft-core pornography as he described her soft-flowing lines and the throbbing feeling....okay, well, you get the picture I hope. When I heard the news that he had passed away, my first thought was that I hoped that he was on his motorcycle, raising all sorts of mayhem on the winding Tuscan roads near their house in Italy, or buzzing through Comano saying 'ciao' to anyone walking past. But even though that wasn’t the case, when I was speaking to his daughter Rose, she said that she was sure he was doing just that someplace above us right now. I am sure he is.
One last thing, just so you can "know" Richard a little bit. This is something he sent me once, describing what it was like for him in school.
As a youth, first day of autumn term at school and we had a new teacher filling in the register. This was a boys grammar school and she was a female in her twenties (a great rarety in those days). She duely went round the room asking names and religion (as a C of E school everyone had to attend morning assembly with prayers so anyone not C of E was catered for separately). I think as she went round the room there may have been a couple of Catholics and a Jewish boy, the rest being solidly Anglican. When it was my turn I gave my name and said "The old religion". She looked up and smiled. "Catholic?" "No, Druid" I said. First day of term, first detention.
I last heard from Richard just before he and Annette went to Italy a few days ago. He said he was so looking forward to the trip, and then we went to to solve many of the world's problems. I will miss my friend very much.
the road to Richard and Annette's Tuscan retreat
back in my smoking days, at their house
Richard, about to impart wisdom
the Pros from Dover, in San Terenzo
allways going against the flow....and loving it
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, James B. Rieley