I first met Tom in 1997 when we were both working for Single Homeless Project. I was an admin pleb and he was an area manager. I had to ring up the managers to get them to send in various paperwork, but he always produced his on time. He wrote with a fountain pen and, as a messy person, I admired his hand-writing. Despite his being a lot older than me (20 years), I quite fancied him and at one work Xmas party, we got drunk and the inevitable happened. We saw each other on and off for a while, but it didn't work out, not just because of the age difference but, in addition, he had a complicated home life. We became friends instead, meeting every so often for Thai food and beer. He was a heavy smoker and would make occasional attempts to quit, none of which lasted very long.
He left SHP in 2001 and a gang of us went to the Clapham Grand and did champagne and coke, like upper class wankers. He used his leaving speech to pontificate on how he had been right about many things. He was irascible, dogmatic, stubborn. He was kind, warm-hearted, funny. He was involved with radical politics; I went on a few Mayday actions with him (including standing outside Coutts handing out fake money). I remember his paranoia when a policeman said: "Nice to see you Mr D." When my friend was imprisoned after the EU demonstration-cum-riot in Gothenburg, he was the one I asked for advice. When Paul was released, we went to a squat party in Stoke Newington. Tom wore red leather trousers and took something or other and was flat out the whole night.
He was into music, he was one of the original people hanging out at the Rough Trade shop (at one point, he and Geoff Travis were the only men in a lesbian squat in Ladbroke Grove) and he came to a lot of Fosca gigs; he was always trying to suggest lyrics for the band. I helped him with some of his computer woes and he got me a freelance job creating a database. He used to buy me books for my birthday, some of which were crap, but he gave me Homage to Catalonia, which is my favourite Orwell, and introduced me to James Hawes, a literary pulp writer. In August, he lent me a book, Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, with instructions to return it as he wanted to lend it to someone else. I still haven't read it. He used to talk about being an old age traveller and I suppose I imagined him in Formentera, where had holidayed, writing his memoir. He had started it; the first line is: "I was 17 when my parents left home".
Since being 50 (and becoming a grandad) he had slowed down a bit, but still drank and smoked a lot. He was diagnosed with lung cancer last August. We went to a Palestinian restaurant in Holborn, where he told me. He was still smoking. I only saw him once again, about a month ago. He was hooked up to an oxygen machine and was quite weak. He died yesterday.
What are you supposed to do when someone dies? Make a playlist for them? There are songs that remind me of him: Tom by Mambo Taxi, Mulder and Scully by Catatonia, Century of Fakers by Belle and Sebastian (the line "he was an anarchist, he tried his best"). I felt desperately sorry for his son who rang to tell me - I assumed his children had split the task and he got the end of the alphabet. I don't think I, at the age of 24, could have rung my dad's friends to tell them about his death. Tom had two grand-children, one of whom is too young to have known him, which upsets me, because he was worth knowing.