This installment of my quest to talk to actual real life people is a bit of a special one.
Ten years ago I got married.
This was a lovely thing to happen and since it continues to be a lovely thing ten years later, Mandy and I felt a party was in order.
As an aside, the party was fantastic, thank you so much to everyone who attended. We had it at Eastbourne’s Tennis in the Park, Love All Cafe, catered by a friend whose hobby-cooking far outstrips most professional chefs.
Ten years ago we reformed my teenage school-band for a one-off reunion gig.
Ten years later we once again rocked the party with our lukewarm ineptness.
Mandy even joined in which made the whole thing much more apt and much more fun.
As is traditional with these things, we contacted everyone who attended the wedding and invited them along. As is also traditional, most people beyond a certain radius didn’t make it.
This happens. People are busy, travel is expensive, life gets in the way.
But apologies-for-nonattendance opens up avenues of communication which have dried up over the years. Not through any malice or falling out but just because sometimes the gentle ebb and flow of life takes us in different directions.
Andy and I (and a third chap, Jason, who’s now a regional manager for Cineworld) entered the movie industry at the same time: October 1992
Okay, so we were cinema ushers but it still counts. It fucking does!
Andy was studying to be a teacher. Jason was studying … um … something. Media? I had recently been thrown out of university for being tragically stupid.
The three of us became firm friends and have kept in increasingly sporadic touch ever since. Long after we left the cinema, Swansea and even Wales behind we continued to think of each other as friends.
But then there was that gentle parting of the ways. We’re still friends, we just somehow rarely find time for each other. I’m not 100% certain I’ve actually spoken to him since the wedding … but I must have done? Surely?
This is exactly what this whole #PhonePhill thing is about – making time to talk to people, old and new.
So we had a chat.
Andy remains one of my favourite people on the planet. He’s so relentlessly positive and cheerful and … nice. That sounds awful because we tend to associate those qualities with insipid … but Andy’s far from that.
He’s no pushover, he’s a rare gem, a genuinely wonderful person who’s also interesting and fun and all-round inspiring. Andy’s a primary school teacher and loves his job. His passion and enthusiasm for his kids is a lesson all in itself. He’s the epitome of a man who’s found his niche in life and loves it.
He’s a family man with boundless energy and affection for the people he loves … an affection which spills over into all other areas of his life. I don’t know if he actually realises how special this makes him. I don’t know if he forces himself to look for the positives in any given situation, but he certainly finds them.
Case in point: a few years before the wedding, Andy became seriously, life-threateningly ill. I’m not going to disclose his personal information online, but it was pretty grim. The treatment was even grimmer.
But he pulled through.
More amazing than that, as he completed every stage of his treatment he could be found online helping other people across the globe deal with their upcoming or ongoing treatment.
He doesn’t see this as a big deal, just something anyone would do in his position.
Since then, after beating the odds and fathering two more children, Andy’s discovered he’s got another serious, potentially life-threatening issue; and a mobility issue which although wouldn’t end his life, threatened to put an end to the kind of sport-filled life he loves.
This year he underwent a fairly major procedure to correct the mobility issue and will have to (at some point in the near future) have to undergo another one to cure the underlying life-threatening one.
Andy’s take on these three medical calamities? Any one of which would destroy most people?
“I’m so lucky really, because the top hospital in the country for the first problem is just down the road and the top guy for the mobility issue works in a different local hospital and I’ve been able to see the pre-eminent specialist for the other thing.”
I’ve always said that my affection for Superman stems not from his ability to fly or see through walls or punch through solid steel but for his innate humanity. To me, Superman’s greatest power is his ability to see the best in people, to expect them to aspire to better things and to assume the world is fundamentally a good place.
I find this an admirable, aspirational trait. One I try to copy. Every time I read a Superman comic, I head out into the world intent on believing the best of everyone … it never lasts long.
Andy has that skill. He has that outlook and it’s wonderful. He inspires me and I aspire to be more like him.
Chatting to him on Monday was wonderful, I hope it becomes a regular thing. I only wish we lived closer because I would love my daughter to have him to look up to.
So there you are #PhonePhill #3.
Who’s next? Who fancies a natter about stuff? Email me and we’ll work something out.