If it’s 20 years since I graduated, it’s also 10 years since I my best friend died.
10 years to the day in fact.
While I always intended for this blog about my day job to make the odd reference to the people and things that had been an influence over the years, no one or no thing had an effect on me quite as much as the life and death of Danny Walker.
And, in a daft way, he has always cropped up in my work.
If anyone has ever been on the receiving end of one of my presentations they may have seen his name. For ‘Danny Walker’ has been my stand-in ‘sample name’ on stuff like business cards and sample letters since I was at college.
When I first had cause to put dummy monikers on visuals, it amused me no end to give Danny stupid job titles and be the imagined recipient of various letters and direct mail pieces, but what started as a childish mickey-take at North Lindsey became a nice reminder of home once I moved to Coventry. By the time I had a proper job it was just something I did. Not as comedy as ‘Joe Bloggs’ or as jarring as ‘Mr A Sample’, for me ‘Dan’, ‘Daniel’, or ‘Danny Walker’ has that everyman ring to it whatever the application.
Now he’s no longer around, it’s just a private tip of the hat that I’m sure no-one else even notices.
Well, at least it used to be private.
Anyway, here we are in a picture taken by a Japanese tourist…
We first met at big school when we were 11. Then we went to the same Technical College – him studying Leisure and Recreation, me doing Art and Design. We did the same Saturday job in the kitchens at Scunthorpe Leisure Centre, then took those washing-up skills to the USA, where we became catering assistants at Camp Chi in Wisconsin for a whole summer. Danny was the best man at my wedding and I was penciled in to return the favour.
I could write pages about our misadventures at home and abroad, and maybe one day I will. Until then, these pictures will have to tell a bit of the story…
He was the funniest, warmest and down-to-earthest, person I’ve ever known, though as I progressed from ‘bloody art student’ to know-it-all graduate, Danny could always be guaranteed to temper my more pretentious behaviour.
Ever ready with a glint in his eye and some piss for my chips.
Six months or so into my first proper job I went home for a visit, dragging with me a hastily assembled portfolio full of the business-to-business brochures and housing ads that formed the bulk of my early work. I can remember the following conversation so clearly, not only because of the truth of it, but also because it tickled me hugely…
There’s never any doubt that he didn’t respect that I’d ‘got out of Scunthorpe’ and was making a career out of something I loved. Danny went on to become a much-loved PE teacher at a school for kids with special needs and was due to leave the town for a new job down south when he suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.
On Good Friday 2002 I sat with him in intensive care, by Easter Sunday he was gone.
I was completely honoured, some days later, to stand and speak at his funeral service, and can honestly say I have never been scared of a client presentation since.
And, I finally got to put his name on something for real.