While squandering some precious time at the computer keyboard yesterday morning I was struck by one of those “I wonder what happened to X” moments. The X in this case was a former colleague and friend from around 1982.
When I changed my work base from London to Plymouth at around that time I first worked for what turned out to be a traditional, hierarchical accounting firm (hadn’t come across like that at the interview. Never trust an interview!). In hindsight they offered a useful interlude during which I could learn about the area before moving on to something much better; at the time it was a bit painful recognising their ‘going nowhere’ nature. But my time there was made tolerable by the company of one or two interesting and entertaining colleagues.
One, who joined a short while after I did, was Joe Marffy. Joe seemed quiet at first, but I soon found out more about him after spending some time with him away from the office. He was about four years younger than I but with a totally different background. Joe’s parents were Hungarian and had emigrated to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) after the second world war. They became farmers and it was there that Joe grew up. Unsurprisingly, he had a good stock of stories about the people and animals of his region and of attending school in Harare. Later he had been conscripted into the Rhodesian army to take part in the Rhodesian Bush War; needless to say there were tales to be told about that part of his life too, some humorous but all too many not.
The location of our office in Plymouth was difficult for parking unless you were prepared to pay. Joe wasn’t. He solved the problem by leaving his car each day on the double yellow lines outside. His theory was that as there was a police station opposite, the traffic wardens would assume the car was owned by a police officer and leave it alone. Sure enough, he was never given a ticket. Typical Joe.
He once said to us “if you only travel to one place, go to Victoria Falls“. He doesn’t know this but we took his advice. He was right: well worth the journey.
Like me, my friend was not satisfied with life with that firm and he soon moved out of the accounting profession and out of the area. After that I lost touch with him (common in those pre-internet days), hence my search yesterday.
I found him on Linked-in: he was a director of a financial services company. Unfortunately I also found an obituary for him. It seems that Joe died of a heart attack in November 2011; he would have been around 54 years old. There was an online guest book (now archived) where people could leave their thoughts about him; many were from former school friends. “Joe was mischief personified” said one (true). “Remembered fondly by the class of ’75 for wit and wisdom, humour and intellect and a memory unmatched” was another. There was mention of a school reunion he had attended months before he died.
I wish I’d had another chance to share a beer with him too.