For a friend

2008-03-06

I’ve known Ade Wolfson for about 16 years now. In that time, he has been a good friend, a good colleague and a source of endless humour. Last week, he died. The facts of his death are a matter of public record: he killed himself, shortly after being charged with committing a sex act in front of a child. As I think about these facts again, that I have turned over in my mind many times, they still seem as strange and bizarre as the first time.

I met Ade while at University (or just shortly after). We worked together for a small charity, looking after children, providing them with a holiday, when they were unlikely to get another. Neither of us did this work out a sense of do-gooderism. For myself, I never really liked children that much, but I enjoyed the domesticity of running a holiday, as well as the sense of commonality of a bunch of young adults, struggling well outside of their experience to provide these holidays. Ade was much the same, except for the bit about not liking the children. He was a natural: he could settle the homesick, enthuse the recalcitrant, calm a pyscho-nutter. His story-telling was legendary within a year. It was no surprise when he became a school-teacher; anything else would have been a crime against his talents.

As we moved further away from University, we kept in touch, initially through the charity, and later for ourselves. We spoke infrequently but regularly. We both started to display a touch of Homer Simpsonness in our appearance, but other than that we had little in common. Being a school-teacher provided Ade with a gold-lined rut; he loved what he was doing, but worried that it would speed him toward middle age in his twenties. For myself, the insecurity and lack of responsibility of a contract research scientist threatened to keep me as an eighteen year old in my thirties. We spoke about this at times; other favorite topics were the state of his plumbing and Harry Potter; Ade had introduced me to Harry around book 3, while I was living in London. Over the next few years, we completed a post-modern analysis of the plot ahead of publication — for the record, he guessed about Dumbledore, while I got Sirius.

We saw each other rarely. I think the last time was nearly 5 years ago. He lived in south London; I consider the capital to be less habitable than Mars. We tried to hook up a few other times, but it didn’t happen. I am left with a memory of him, a kind, wonderful man, with a great laugh and an overgrown beard which he had, in reality, long shaved-off.

His death is a tragedy and distressing to many of us who knew him. That such a straight-forward man should die in such melodrama is unfitting to say the least. That he chose not to defend himself, as I am sure that he could, that he could not find the support from all those who loved him, is painful to us all. But since I heard of his death on Saturday, I have also thought much of the time in his presence, of the stories we were part of, and the friends that we were. I’ve enjoyed re-living these memories more than I can say.

Adrian Wolfson, RIP.

Originally published on my old blog site.