Goodbye, Jono

My friend Jono is going away. I’d sorta-kinda been involved in the Linux community before 2000, when I moved to the Midlands, but my participation was rather sporadic. I was running Linux — had been since university in ‘96 — but I’d hardly ever managed to make it to a LUG meet or talk on mailing lists. When I came over here, to the armpit of the world that is the greater Birmingham area, I thought to myself: let’s give this LUG thing a try. The closest one to me, technically, is South Birmingham LUG, but then as now they’re pretty unresponsive (as I write this their website’s down, for example). Wolverhampton, a place I’d only ever heard about on the telly, was the next closest, and so along I went. Meets in pubs; there were only a few people there, and one of them was Jono. (Wave, those of you who were around back then! — fizz, pinkoi, Ranulph*, Jon Farmer, the elusive Sparkes.) For a while, he used to drive me back to Stourbridge after the meetings so I didn’t have to leave on the 10.30pm bus, before the pub closed. When someone stole my Sharp Zaurus out of my hand in Wolverhampton, he was the one I called. Came and looked after me, too, despite me reeling somewhat. At the first and last Wolves LUG meeting in my house (in Stourbridge, which is not Wolverhampton), we set up LugRadio. There’ve always been four people on the team, from day one right up until we ended the show this summer, but the two who were there at the beginning and the end were Jono and me. It’s taken us to America, around the UK, to conferences, into the ears of two million people*, and onto stages and off again. Was a wild ride. The feeling of walking out on stage and having hundreds of people cheer makes every drug you can think of slink away with its tail between its legs. We did that. I remember going out for a Chinese meal, wives and girlfriends in tow, and the two of us being genuinely unable to stop laughing at the idea of someone with the name James Hilchin who told a lot of lies. Could not stop. One of those moments where your sides are hurting and your eyes are watering and you’re trying hard to breathe and you can’t get it together and it wasn’t even that funny. It’s moments like that that make the world go round. If it’s not happening to you then you don’t have good enough friends. He’s got a Ctrl key from an old keyboard, and every now and again he’ll re-discover it in a drawer or under a plate of Chinese food or balanced on top of the tumble dryer, and he’ll turn to someone and hand them the key and say, “I think you need to take control.” Now the next stage begins: Jono’s off to America. It’s pretty exciting, to be honest. I’m rather envious of him — not particularly of being in America per se: I want to be near my daughter, and, well, the Americans ship people off to Syria and waterboard them* — but being able to grasp the nettle with both hands. I grasped a nettle once when I was a kid and I couldn’t even clench a fist for two weeks. It seems to work for him, though. Americans: you don’t know what’s gonna hit you. When I split up with my wife I ended up living in his house for three months. Barely charged me any rent, either. On the other hand, have you tried living in a house without a fridge? It’s not as easy as it looks, especially if you drink a lot of tea and have to make it with frigging horrible powdered milk that floats in big lumps like the Titanic’s iceberg in your PG Tips. I could probably stand to not go through that again, given the choice. George Bernard Shaw, unless it was Chesterton or someone like that, said that a man’s friends argue with him but leave him as he is. I’ve lost count of the number of people who think that Jono and I can’t stand one another because of the volume of the arguments. We’ll argue about anything. It’s really hugely enjoyable, although not everyone sees it that way. In fact, pretty much no-one sees it that way, which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Not that mature, but, well, there it is. There’s a certain thread of immaturity running through the whole of the last five years when Bacon and I have been together, I ought to note. In The League of Gentlemen (in the first episode, I think), there’s a scene (pretty famous scene, which is on YouTube like everything else) where a bewildered policeman stumbles into the local shop to search for a missing child. Tubbs, the proprietor, tells Edward (her husband) that “he’s looking for a boy”, and Edward responds with “Poofter, eh?” Since then, every time without exception either of us rings the other, which is pretty much every day, that’s the line we open with. I don’t even think he likes the show very much. We changed it at one point to “Poofter, B?”, but that wore out when I tried out “Poofter, ℵ” (that’s an aleph! First character of the Hebrew alphabet!) and then neither knew what the next letter was. I suppose this is what Wikipedia is for, but that’d spoil the fun, you know it would. I’ve lost track of all the crises and trials and tribulations we’ve helped one another through. To be honest, there’s probably more going on in the free software world in San Francisco than there is in the UK anyway. There’s certainly more going on in SF than in Wolverhampton. It all makes a tolerable amount of sense: a new chapter, still young and still have the opportunity to do it. I don’t think anyone lies there on their deathbed and says, well, I wish I’d seen less stuff and spent more time at the office. Jono’s repeatedly told me that San Francisco is the birthplace of thrash metal, like I could give two tugs of a dead dog’s dick. It’s the exuberance I like: he’s really excited about this, even though no-one he speaks to cares, because he’ll be in a place where his heroes walked. If I have a hero, he’d be it, I think. Fly well, mate.

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