That day will have to wait, my friend

You walked in to our back room office with your big smile and gentle, friendly way – a refreshing thing in Current Affairs. “Hey Jo, I’m Jay.”

It was a warm September day that we ventured out to find Birch Grove, ex-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s family home. No firm address and no appointment, we casually thought it would work. And to everyone’s surprise, it actually did. We found it, got let in and managed to leave our number with the groundsman who passed it on to the owner. But looking back, this wasn’t the only success of the day, for it was on this trip that I found a friend, one of the best friends I’ll ever have.

I had only known you a couple of weeks, but our friendship started here. On this car ride we spoke openly about life, death, family and friendship. There was an air of melancholy about you. You had lost both your parents recently and somehow the rawness gave an easy rain check to small talk. That theme followed in the nine years to come – no surface chat, just real stuff. But we did have a lot of fun.

Boy, you liked to talk! And so did I. Our conversations joyfully wove from fun to serious and then back to fun again. You also loved to shop – you had a great eye for good design and would choose beautiful independent shops that we could visit. Naturally these were interspersed with many a tea stop for philosophical chatting. It sounds rather pompous, but we weren’t. We were just two friends who liked to watch films, go dancing in Old Street and talk a lot about all sorts. A lot. I remember your playful nature and your huge, distinctive laugh – everyone warmed to you and your generous spirit meant we’d make friends easily wherever we went.

We often spoke about work and relationships with partners, friends and family. One of the things I loved most about you was that you always looked at things from the other person’s perspective and accepted the darker side of the human condition. Sometimes it was vicariously frustrating, but forgiveness came easily to you.

In the early days of our friendship we discussed how you liked the freelance lifestyle and despite being in your mid thirties, had no desire to settle down. A couple of things changed this and became key turning points in your life. You committed to two particular events with both feet in. I saw this first with your decision to go to America to volunteer on Obama’s campaign – we had discussed the pros and cons of you going for a while and once decided, you rented out your home, gave up your freelance radio and tv work and you went with all your heart. This excitement was followed again when you met your wife to be, Olivia. I had never seen you so passionate, pulling out all the stops possible. You took romance to a whole other level and it was clear to see that you had found someone very special who you fitted with.

I think those two life events were epiphanies for you to some extent. I remember you telling me how once you had made your mind up to commit, you felt as if everything suddenly opened up for you and more great opportunities followed. I think that is always true, but there was a lot of special Jay magic and boldness that went into that momentum.

One of the things I am most grateful for was your openness about how you felt about our friendship. I look back at emails now and smile when I read you saying how much you appreciated it and treasured it. Such openness is not something that comes easy to most and it was such a beautiful quality of yours.

I remember you saying once, during a particularly difficult time, that one day, when we’re very old, sitting in our rocking chairs, we will look back and laugh. That day will have to wait, my friend, but I believe it will come in time. Right now, you’re just one step ahead on the journey.

Jo Wade