Rob – An Appreciation

By Chris Evans

Rob was such a force of nature that even now it seems ridiculous to me that the world can be carrying on without him in it. Over the many years of our friendship my life was regularly enriched by his presence and his telephone calls and I until recently still had his voice on my answer phone, frail from the onset of his final illness but still keen to make contact, to check in.

Rob was a man of many enthusiasms, but if I had to pick two words to characterise him they would be irrepressible and incorrigible.

Irrepressible in the sense that he was warm, passionate and instinctive, and when he went off on one of his wilder flights of fantasy he often ended up being teased and even told off by more sober-minded friends like myself but never took offence and refused to be daunted.

Incorrigible in the sense that at heart he was beyond correction or reform – and indeed none us of really wanted to reform him in the slightest. He loved the crack – by which I mean any sort of engagement with others that would stimulate and provoke, even if he suffered temporary agonies of embarrassment afterwards by thinking that he had said or done something to cause unintended offence. In fact, you’d have to be made of stone to be offended by Rob – he was in so many respects an open book with no agenda other than to make a favourable impression on people.

In recent years (as Garry will explain in more detail in his tribute) Rob developed an enthusiasm for writing poetry – or peotry, as he called it. Fine writer though he was, it has to be said that his poems were of variable quality. But any stern criticism that I and others might make of them would only provoke him into firing off yet more verse and sending it off in our direction. It was getting a reaction that mattered most to him – the fizz of communication was like an electric current that constantly stimulated him. He had a mental life that was more intense than that of anyone else I know.

Rob had an affinity for the Celts, and one poem for which he expressed admiration was Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”.

This version is for Rob.

For Rob, after Dylan Thomas

You’ll not go gentle into that good night
But joke and jest till close of day
Engage, engage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right
Because your words have forked those lightnings they
Go bold and burnished into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, see how bright
Your visions danced in your green bay
Engage, engage against the dying of the light.

Wild man, who caught and sang the sun in flight
Your ancient woodland fancies may
Go safe and soaring into that good night.

Brave man, in death, you leave these sights
Your earth and stone and hollow ways
Engage, engage against the dying of the light.

But your lost loved ones here on this sad height
Curse, bless you now with fierce tears and say:
Too soon to go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.