My Memory Boxes Need You

Colin lived a good life and I don’t believe he had many regrets. However, we did talk over the years about some that he did have and the most burning ones were not marrying earlier (!!!) and not having children before he did (double !!!). The other main regret he had though was losing touch with childhood friends. He spoke about this often. He had a very close friend in Kenya called Mark and all the best times he had in Nairobi seemed to involve Mark. Physical distance, time and Colin’s self-confessed laziness in keeping an address book seemed to have been the main factors in them losing touch. He also mentioned a few school friends from Oakham that he wished he knew as an adult but again he knew that he wasn’t great at making an effort so shrugged his shoulders but did little about sussing them out.
I met Colin when he was 28. I remember his address book and it is no wonder he had no idea how to find people. This scrappy pale blue book with leaves falling out all over the place was filled with scribbled numbers and first names in the wrong places alongside hurried random notes on motorway directions. So all in all I was never very surprised when he said he didn’t know where anyone from earlier years was and how to contact them. He admitted that the reason he was still so close to all his amazing university friends was not due to any hard work on his part but entirely down to a one-man wonder of keeping up the effort – Matthew Bowden. If it wasn’t for Matt I am not sure Colin would have any friends pre-dating 2001 (the year we met) aside from his best friend Ed.
I am sad for Colin that it has taken his death for me to meet any childhood friends that would no doubt have been quite formative in making the man I fell in love with. At his memorial service one of his fellow boarders from Oakham School came forward to me and gave me a glimpse of the Colin that turned up in England from Africa aged 11, bewildered and befuddled, and who turned into a popular school friend among his year. The ‘Colin’ this old friend, Liam, described sounded so similar to the man I knew. He was messy, funny and good to know. It made me smile on a difficult day and I am grateful to Liam for speaking to me.
Since then I have thought about his other friends that this lovely Liam alluded to and wondered if they also had stories of Colin from those days. I have been receiving so many lovely memorial cards from the service from people from Colin’s more recent life and as I read them I think gosh I wonder what stories I have lost with his death, stories that he won’t be able to reccount to his children as they go through their school days and find friendships for themselves. Then last night I picked up a Facebook message from another name from Colin’s past and it was as if he knew these regrets were passing through my head. Charles had heard of Colin’s death from Liam and it seems that some of Colin’s Oakham contemporaries have been sharing Colin stories on emails. Charles contacted me out of nowhere after hunting me out on Facebook and I am so grateful for this too. Imagine the coincidence. I am replying to his message as we speak and asking for as many anecdotes as those who knew the skinny boy from Kenya can muster. Photos too. I have one photo of Colin from school years and I can’t wait to see more. Are they the ones that called him ‘Something something putput chicken runner’? Can they remember the actual nickname I have so badly made up from a weak memory of it?
When someone dies often their stories die with them and I almost feel like holding an amnesty on tales of Colin so I have the richest of tapestries to share with Evie and Isla. So please anyone out there that is either holding fast onto that memorial card wanting to write the right thing or who didn’t come to Temple Church that day of his service because they weren’t able to or have only recently learnt of his death but want to write to me in a letter or a card but don’t know what to say, I say to you just write me a little story of the Colin I wouldn’t have known from that day I met him at 28 or the person who I didn’t see in our little day-to-day life. I don’t want to lose the history of those first years of Colin William Campbell and neither do I want to lose a privileged glimpse of the man he became. Photos welcome too.
Please note the comments you make on here don’t go public unless I physically publish them so feel free to message on the blog and I can keep them just for me if that is what you prefer and also I can reply with my mailing address.

4 Replies to “My Memory Boxes Need You”

  1. Hi Nicola,
    I have recently been in touch with Louise Hennessy, and she told me of your blog. Colin was right – you do have a book in you. You write so brilliantly, and what you say is so honest and touching. You should publish in time. I have thought of you all so often and send my love and support. You are fabulous and Colin would have been extremely proud of you.
    I thought you’d like to know that I have had a little boy, James, who is now 3 months old. Colin would have been so pleased because when I spoke to him about his being a parent (I didn’t let on that we were considering it!) he was so very enthusiastic and thought it the most important and special thing in the world.
    Do take care, and try to feel some comfort from the fact that you’re coping as well as anyone ever could.
    Love, Lisa Rice x

    1. Lisa, Congratulations on the birth of your boy. Col would have been ecstatic for you. Having been a bit reticent on the baby front he had become a big fan. He wanted the world to know how wonderful it was and now you know! Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot especially at this time in the year! Nicx

  2. I just discovered your blog today, and I know it’s a hideous cliche, but the honesty with which you write is inspiring. I am not a widow in the traditional sense, my husband had a catastrophic stroke at the age of 29, 6 years ago, and whilst we very nearly lost him we didnt. So there has been loss, although not in the stark physical sense which you experience every day, but that loss of the future you envisaged together, and that sense of how everything balances on a knife edge, one moment everything is normal and the next, well you know how that goes. I am not trying to say I know how it feels to lose my husband, and I really hope I am not being offensive just by posting this, I guess I just wanted to say that what you have written has moved me and that your strength will come from both your shared past and your future, that is your lovely babies. I guess finally I just wanted to say I am sorry for your loss.elliex

  3. Dear Lisa, I was very sorry to recently learn about Colin’s sad death. I read about it in an old OO magazine that my father had. I was a boarder at Chapmans in the year below Colin and remember him well. Two memories about him spring to mind: The first was that in those days we had one pay phone in the house which all the boys used to call home. Periodically Rod Smith the Housemaster would empty the phone of all the cash and would find lots of Kenyan coins which were the same size as 50p pieces but of a much lower monetary value. He always used to know where they had come from and it was a constant game of cat a mouse between him and Colin and a bit of a joke between them at the same time. The other is that in the house library there were a number of tables on which graffiti could be written – this encouraged people not to do it in other more inappropriate places. I remember once at the end of term Rod complained that some of the things that had been written were particularly distasteful and too personal and that he would leave some brushes and soapy water in the room for the writing to be scrubbed off as he expected that those people who considered themselves budding poets would remove their offensive material. He did not wish to know who had written it and did not ask. Colin and I and a couple of others spent an amusing half hour reading and removing everything that had been written. I remember Colin as being a very kind and gentle person who always had time for others, including me. I am sure that he is fondly remembered by many other Chapmanians.

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