Vague ramblings

Coming home, losing touch and the penalty of missing

Posted in Life, Musing, Personal by Ian Cundell on 11 July, 2018

Paul Kirwan was one of my circle of chums when I was at LSE, a garrulous and quick-witted son of Essex, a Billericay boy through-and-through.

Chuck that first reaction away – Paul was all the good bits of “Essex boy” without the whole “dodgy wide boy” crap. Don’t get me wrong: some of us learned the hard way not to play him at pool for money, but he was cheerful, witty and generally fun to be around. He was also the best assembler of a three-Rizla spliff I ever met.

I’ve been thinking about him a fair bit since England earned a place in the  World Cup semi-final

It wasn’t just the fun and games. During my Masters exams I was having my usual stress-fuelled existential crisis, such that some kind soul thought I was a suicide risk. I wasn’t, but I was feeling a strong urge to chuck it in. As I leant on the balcony of Carr Saunders Hall’s cafeteria – a makeshift study space – Paul wandered over and asked what was up and I said I felt like jacking it in. “Well that would be bloody silly after coming all this way,” he said and slapped me on the shoulder before heading back to his own revision. It was just the kick up the arse I needed at just the right moment,

So it was no surprise that, come Italia ’90, when the important England matches were on we ended up at his flat just off Russell Square, which he shared with his girlfriend (and future wife) Julie. We thoroughly enjoyed his delighted phone call to his Irish dad when  England won and The Republic didn’t. It went right to the fateful semi-final against West Germany. When Chris Waddle’s penalty ballooned over the German goal Paul took it harder than any of us (and we were all pretty gutted). Yet it is a treasured memory of the bit “when Lineker scored” from the song.

Time moved on and it was no surprise that Paul got offers from all of the big six (as then was) accountancy firms and before too long he had moved to Boston. We kept in touch for a little while, but this was the days when even email was in its infancy and a lost contact list meant we lost touch. As with many of that cohort, the four winds took us where they would.

But that semi-final has been a bittersweet memory of the pain of defeat and pride in performance for 28 years.

Twenty eight years.

It’s also nearly ten years since Paul died. I only found out about six months after, by chance, doing a bit of random “I wonder what they’re up to” Googling. His obit was the only place he showed up  – other than as a listed partner on some Deloitte report or other – and it wasn’t until I saw the photo that I was prepared to accept it was the right Paul. I don’t know what happened – he was prone to black moods, but also fond of an ‘occasional’ kebab or burger – and a letter to Julie was unanswered. I didn’t really expected a response after all these years, but I couldn’t just let it pass.

Since I have other friends in Boston, I had simply assumed that sooner or later we would catch up. But the next time kept getting put back to next year, then the next.

Fuck me, 42 is no age.

So, come the final whistle this evening, win or lose, give some thought to the pals you haven’t seen for a while, and maybe check in to find out what they thought of the match.

Because Paul would have bloody loved it.


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