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WINTER

16th January


were often coloured by a capacity to make the most terrible issues fun, while at the same time naming shameful historical injustices. His political style had a nod to Situationism, but also a humorous wink of comic genius. The Deptford Pirates project and his work around the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade are good examples of this combination. I don't think I really appreciated this during his lifetime, but it is a lasting memory now. Less the beach underneath the cobblestones, than a pirate's treasure buried somewhere underneath the tarmac of south London's A2 that passes by Goldsmiths and the road the links the city to the green hinterlands of Kent.

He was also a gentle person; it was part of his general openness to people and life's prospects. He was a living refusal of the urban maxim, "The world will make you hard". No, the world doesn't make us hard, it makes us soft, vulnerable and lays us bare to the steel structures of modern life and hatreds that are set hard in our city like concrete. Paul refused to live life in that way, he just refused to be hardened. He rode his bicycle and he was crushed by the juggernaut of metropolitan hardness.

Returning home after his memorial, a wonderful celebration of Paul's personality and his many qualities, my daughter asked, "What is wrong, Dad?" I said softly, turning away, unable to hide rheumy eyes, "You shouldn't survive your students, you shouldn't survive your students."

 


Not that Paul was ever a student of mine. Perhaps we studied some of the same questions and struggled together with similar problems. He should have taken my place. I know he would have found answers with more grace, style and humour. Those gifts have been stolen from us, along with the many other wonderful things that he would have inevitably scattered through our lives. We can cherish his example and his memory, but there is no gilding over the sadness of a talent, and a life, cut short so pointlessly.

"The opposite of to love is not to hate but to separate."
Berger, John (1991)

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