Those seven words were incredibly difficult to type, and don’t even seem real less than 5 days on. But over the past few years my chum Andy always said such nice things about my blog that he deserves some words, no matter how hard they are to commit to the keyboard.
It’s actually the second time I’ve had to do it this week. My job meant that it came down me to send the confirmation email that he had passed away to managers and then the whole building we work in. I couldn’t do it at first. The words were written, but I didn’t have the heart to send it – it would be me making it official. Then I took a breath, and actually realised it was my honour to do something on his behalf. And besides, he’d have done it for me – and done it bloody well.
When someone dies, you learn a lot about them from the reaction of people. Me? I always thought Andy Baker was smart, loyal, friendly and funny. So to read and hear dozens and dozens of similar sentiments, you know you’ve lost someone truly special. Honestly, if you can see his Facebook page you’ll take 2 hours to read the messages. That’s an hour for the words, and an hour to dry your eyes. Truly, he was well loved.
Someone once said “Don’t focus on how someone died…focus on how they lived.” Andy would have liked that, principally because it was from a film about Bruce Lee and one day at work he turned up bleary eyed and said to me, with a wink, “Didn’t get to bed until late, Enter the Dragon was on so I had to stay up”.
Everyone has their own memories of how he lived, and looking back over the last few years there were plenty for me to choose from.
Like the time he was too busy at work to notice that the card he’d been passed to sign was for someone who was leaving – and as a result he was the only person to sign said card with ‘Happy Birthday’. I remember breaking the news to him, and laughing together until we could hardly breathe.
At work, we talked about films all the time, and no matter what movie we were discussing, it always came back to a conversation about films shot in Rotherham and Sheffield, and how cinema could always be improved by adding in Sean Bean. And while he was a proud Yorkshireman, Andy was always the first to make soft southerners like me feel at home.
He was also a model professional. Always conscious of the people who worked for him, or the people he represented, and trying to make sure that whatever he had to communicate or do, it was the right thing. If you needed support, he always had your back.
And when he needed to, he got passionate. I’ll never sit in Meeting Room 6 at work again without remembering the time he nearly came to blows there in a particularly heated exchange with a colleague. Andy was in the right, and the guy had pushed his buttons, but it was so funny to watch him get more and more frustrated. We laughed long and hard after the event, Andy particularly proud to hear how red his face had got. It’s rare you see people stick up for what they believe in. But he did.
Outside of work he was just as much fun. If you ever saw him out he invariably had a pint in his hand, and normally because he’d just bought the first round and it was a drink he was handing to you.
And then there was the karaoke. Andy had practiced for weeks, keeping his song choice confidential until we were safely locked in the private karaoke booth. A few drinks for courage and he got up to sing Firework by Katy Perry. My word. It really wasn’t very good. It was a brave choice, but his tuneful Northern male voice just couldn’t hit the required female American pitch.
Andy knew it, and what could have been embarrassing just turned to laughter half-way through, as he mock-raged at the lyrics (“these aren’t the right ones, I’m sure”) and his performance ended up more spoken word than song. Never have a seen a room of people laughing together so much, and it was Andy laughing the hardest.
When he eventually handed back the mic, tears of joy in his eyes, and sat down next to me he swigged a Budweiser and said “I think I over-reached myself there." In reality, he could belt out a tune, his follow-up of Common People and an Arctic Monkeys medley (“I need to stick to Northern accents” he told us) were superb, but his destruction of Katy Perry will stay with me forever.
I’m sure different people have their own favourite memories, probably better, but that karaoke night will always sum him up to me - always giving something a try, always putting his heart and soul into it, and always doing it with a smile.
I’ll never see that smile again, or hear that South Yorkshire voice, but, like all who knew him, I’ll never forget them. And if we keep remembering someone, no matter how hard it might be at times, they’ll always be with us.
Thank you for being who you were Andy. I hope you’d have approved of this blog one final time.