So I am a pretty poor choice to write something about Guy Kewney, who passed away earlier today my time and in the early hours UK time.
I have never worked alongside Guy. I have never edited him or been edited by him. In fact, I think I have never written for the same publication as him at the same time; this despite us both working in the same small field in the same city in the same country for more than 10 years.
The reason that I feel a terrible compulsion to write whatever I will write below is that I have been wracked by tears three times in the past six months because of Guy’s illness. First when I heard about it (much later than most friends since I was in the US and constantly busy); second, when I heard the chemo hadn’t worked; and third when it sunk in just a few hours ago that it was done, that Guy had really departed and I would never see or speak to him again.
I have seen the webpage set up by friends of Guy’s to run through their reminiscences of him. I loved reading it because it confirmed what I already knew about this man: that he was a journalist of the highest order. Straight, honest, firm, determined, unswayed, resolute, smart, funny, intelligent, often brilliant. But, sadly, none of these memories firmly adhered to mine.
Yes, Guy was often late with his copy. But I know this complaint because of editors I recommended him to that then complained to me. And I learnt second-hand that he would drive PR people crazy; not because of unreasonable demands (as the poorest journalists do) but because he would not accept their accepted lines (read: bullshit) and keep pushing for actual information.
The Guy I knew was the father of Lucy, the husband of Mary and the owner of Edgar (was it Edgar?) the white Scottish Terrier that I looked after for a week in his house.
Sapna – my wife of a few months – has been trying to figure out why I have been so strongly affected by Guy’s illness. I still don’t have an answer. But I do know – and I have seen – that many, many others have been similarly affected.
The truth is that Guy Kewney was a remarkable, wonderful, intelligent man. That he chose journalism was lucky for journalism. That he chose IT journalism was lucky for IT journalists.
I remember finding out that Guy was actually the father of my good friend Lucy Sherriff. Really? I asked whoever it was that told me. I then said to Lucy: I can’t believe you never told me that Guy was your Dad. I remember then discussing why on earth he wore sandals even in the middle of winter in London. And Lucy despaired before telling me more of her upbringing and the London scene, and I admired both of them even more.
Here’s some more memories: organic vegetables arriving Chez Kewney in a polystyrene box. Smelt wonderful when they were opened. Navigating the upstairs floors carefully and then taking 30 minutes to get down them because of the fascinating books pilled up on the side of the stairs that you just had to dip into. Sitting in the lounge with some kind of heating on, talking about everything and nothing with Guy; the whole Abu Hamza issue and talking about how everyone had seen something building up but had not been sure what to do about it. And I recall going for a long stroll around the park nearby the Kewney house with Guy and talking about a whole bunch of stuff before retiring for a good cup of tea before I had to head off to Oxford.
All of these things are snatches. They are, under review, pretty unremarkable. And yet when I heard that Guy was ill, and dying, these memories became intense and seering reflections; and hugely precious. I failed when flying through London in 2009 on the way to a conference to pay Guy a visit: I meant to, but I had little time and everyone I was meeting was in West, rather than East London. At the time I regretted it; now I regret it ever more. I failed again last Christmas – but the US authorities wouldn’t let me out and back in again and I wanted to make sure I could see my future wife. How I regret not having grabbed a few more hours exchange with Guy.
I can’t find more to say about the fact that this man has gone. It feels too terrible; and reflecting on it somehow makes life too disposable – why this man? I have known Lucy, Guy’s daughter, for many years and I can almost feel her pain now from thousands of miles away. I wish I had better reflections on life and death but many more eloquent writers have been there before me and performed far greater feats of empathy and explanation.
All I know is that this man, Guy Kewney, was one of the most remarkable I have ever met. Not the most accomplished; certainly not the most famous; but without a shadow of a doubt the most human, and the most inspiring. We can never expect to become famous or powerful or rich but if we hold true to ourselves for our lives we might hope to garner as much respect and admiration as this man.
God bless you Guy and may you live on forever.