It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
So says Shakespeare in Cymbeline (Act IV, Scene 2). That's all well and good - part of one of my favourite passages from any Shakespeare play, discovered through a beautiful song in the Stephen Sondheim musical The Frogs - but sometimes the idea that 'death will come when it will come' is an extremely troubling, heartbreaking and infuriating one.
I'm talking, of course, about the achingly premature and frighteningly sudden death of Andrew Reeves. Much has been written, blogged, tweeted and Facebooked about Andrew by others who knew him much better and write much more eloquently than I do (Mark Pack over at LDV being one of many that really touched me). It's a testament to the affection and regard in which he was held and something which he clearly would've really appreciated, especially the fact that for a few hours on Friday he was a Top Trend in the UK on Twitter.
I first met Andrew at the Norwich North by election. He was due to arrive mid way through the day and I distinctly remember everyone, even the most hardened and long serving staffers, being genuinely excited that he was coming. It had been decided that he was going to spend his spell in NN working front of house, a job that his particular brand of down to earth warmth and unflapability (clearly not a word, but it just fits) was perfectly suited for. For reasons best known to someone else, I was sent to join him. The two of us were starting our front of house 'shift' just as the blue letter stuffing/sorting job had arrived. Anyone who's run an election of any sort knows how prone to stress and disaster this is and I was apprehensive at best about taking it on with someone I'd never met before.
I really needn't have been. Working with Andrew that weekend was an absolute joy. At the time I was seriously considering whether I was really up to working for the party, and whether I wanted to. By the end of the weekend I had been convinced - in typical gentle, warm, non-hectoring style - that I was and I did. I took a massive confidence boost from that campaign and so much of that was down to realising that people as well qualified to judge as Andrew thought that I knew what I was doing. It's probably down in no small part to his encouragement (at NN and since; I'll never forget the congratulatory bear hug I got after getting my current job) that I'm still working for the party now. Whether that's a good thing for the party is for someone else to say, but it certainly is a good thing for me.
The last time I saw Andrew was back on the by election campaign trail in Oldham East and Saddleworth. Once again there was a sense of excitement around his arrival, just for the day this time I seem to remember, which given the general hard slog of a campaign in the middle of an excruciatingly cold January was quite something! We didn't get much chance to speak but he did come over to say hello and to mock me for having as my desktop wallpaper a photo of Anton Du Beke swinging Ann Widdecombe around by her ankles on Strictly. We'd enjoyed some spirited Twitter banter on the subject of Widdy's continued presence on Strictly during the series and he was amused that I was still keeping the faith even after the series had ended. He told me that he worried about my taste in men and headed off to deliver some leaflets.
The fact that that's the last thing he'll ever say to me is the thing more than anything else I'm struggling to comprehend. How can there be another by election without a visit from Andrew Reeves? Or another conference? It's all too strange, and sad, to take in yet.
So I suppose what this post is supposed to say more than anything else is thank you. Thank you for the encouragement and advice. Thank you for always knowing what to say about my many and varied relationship crises (and on a related note thank you for not telling anyone who The Bloke is even though I know you knew). Thank you for the gentle, and occasionally not so gentle, mocking and spirited debates about stuff that really didn't matter - the best type of debate I find.
And my god I'm going to miss you.