Aged 13, and having recently moved to the West Midlands from Surrey, I was the new kid at school with a funny sounding accent and below average height. If adolescence wasn’t enough to be getting on with, this confounding and unsettling situation had to be dealt with as well.
Thankfully, help was at hand. Placed in form group 9H, I was sat next to a boy called James Dicks. James was already a well-known character in the school, largely thanks to some of his strange ideas. For example, convinced that we should have workbooks from previous school years to hand, he carried all his around in a tightly packed bag — and it weighed a ton!!
Yet from day one, James looked out for me. Nobody asked him to, he was just that sort of person: selfless, generous, and fair to a fault.
He had my back on numerous occasions. If a teacher gave me an undeserved detention, James would speak to them in private to make my case, and often succeeded in reversing their decision! If someone was mocking me, James would be there, fighting my corner. I probably took this for granted, and I’m not sure I ever said thank-you, at least not properly.
Back in Walsall after completing my degree, separate strands of my life began to intersect, with old school friends meeting those I’d made at work. Everyone loved James! Sure, he could be a little eccentric, but only because he enjoyed sharing his various passions with others, be they the wonders of chemistry — he was rightly proud of his doctorate — magic tricks, flying or Doctor Who.
Unfortunately, as I returned south, and James got married and started a family, we spoke less often, though he was always on hand to offer advice and support if needed. Conversations with James were always full of positivity. I think the last time we talked in any great detail was not long after he received his cancer diagnosis, but even then it seemed as if this particular type could be managed and controlled. Ultimately, it could not, and so the world is now a little unkinder as a result.
Rest in peace James, and thank-you. You’ll be sorely missed, and fondly remembered.