Moving to Australia sixteen years ago, I inevitably lost touch with many of my old friends from Old Blighty. Recently, I’ve discovered a few of them doing rather well for themselves in jobs for which I would have hacked off my left arm with a blunt razor. We may have lost touch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of them often and am not immensely proud to see their success. After all, they’re all listed on IMDB and have Wikipedia entries and I’m listed… nowhere.
Matthew Sweet (Wikipedia entry :: IMDB entry) was the best man at my wedding way back in 1992, but that was after he’d already put in a strong decade as best friend. We published Doctor Who fanzines from our front rooms, traveled to conventions together and both encouraged the writing bug in each other.
Matthew went on to Oxford and now holds a Doctorate in Wilkie Collins, which makes my common-or-garden media degree seem feeble in comparison. He was always the brains of our outfit, as you might guess.
Over the years, I’d heard of some of his work for the BBC and occasionally I’ve managed to track down a program of his. He has a number of television programs on the history of film to fill his impressive bio and has also penned the accompanying books, such as Shepperton Babylon. He’s now landed himself a regular high-profile gig as the presenter of Radio 4′s The Film Programme. Thankfully, the internet means I can get The Film Programme here in Australia through a podcast, but the experience of hearing my old school chum on Radio 4 isn’t wearing off.
Another old friend never ceases to pop up when I least expect it. Dean Yurke (IMDB entry) and I hung around together during our first year at Bournemouth University — what was then called Dorset Institute. Sounds more like a place to lock up the certifiable — and in the case of Dean and myself that might have been appropriate. We were the less conventional, putting it politely, guys in the class and therefore became great friends. Of course, a few months later, all the other students were becoming less conventional, so we became cool again. Dean now pops up in the credits of some of the biggest films around; Indiana Jones, Iron Man, all three Star Wars prequels. You see, Dean now works for Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas’ special effects company built out of the proceeds of the first Star Wars. Back when we were both students, we had to choose which path we wanted to take out of three choices; television, radio and computer animation. I punted for radio — an industry that was, and is, hardly booming. Dean plumped for computer animation and excelled. Last I heard, he’s now married to the same girl he dated at Uni, and they live in the States with two children.
And then there’s Alan. Alan Barnes (Wikipedia entry :: IMDB entry) was in the year below me at Uni in the same media course. We were both Doctor Who fans and avid readers of 2000AD. I stayed in touch with Alan for a little while after university, but, as with Matthew and Dean, eventually lost touch. Therefore, it was with great surprise (and more than a hint of jealousy) that I discovered Alan writing for Judge Dredd Megazine and editing Doctor Who Magazine. He’s written a large number of audio adventures for Big Finish and last year penned the Doctor Who animated adventure The Infinite Quest, out now on DVD. Since then, he’s moved on to become a reputable media writer and occasionally pops up on TV or on the special features of DVDs to discuss the cultural impact of Sherlock Holmes or something.
Alan is now commissioning editor for Big Finish, the company that produces audio adventures of Doctor Who for release on CD. I was ecstatic to discover a couple of years ago that Matthew had written a play for the series, The Year of the Pig. Two good friends of mine from different stages of my life, who never met through me, coming together on a project. I wonder if they ever realised they had my friendship in common.
Yes, I have known some incredibly talented people in my time. Each of them were very, very good friends to me and I am incredibly happy to see what each of them have gone on to achieve. I listen to Matthew’s radio shows, watch Dean’s movies and call Shelley into the room whenever Alan pops up on a DVD. If you guys ever read this, know that I’m raising a glass to your success. Love your work.