It might have been the first time we met, it was dinner at his house, in total we were four and at one point he stood up behind his chair to tear into the Conservatives, party and supporters alike, before adding with a gesture in my direction “present company excepted”. I turned to my partner and remarked “Do you know, I think he’s beginning to warm to me!” Maybe, but it was certainly true to say I’d warmed to him.
We met many times, often talking politics, occasionally agreeing, always enjoying the sparring involved. Most recently was the Saturday after the election for one of the most enjoyable evenings I can remember.
The following Wednesday he died, and every sentence since is charged with unintended meaning. I'm sensible to the obvious truth that others will be hurting more, yet I will miss my new friend.
Julian Barnes wrote “the fact that someone is dead may mean that they are not alive, but doesn't mean that they do not exist”. Paul cared about the things that matter; there was a genuine concern for the disadvantaged, love for his family, compassion underneath an acerbic wit. That first night as we were leaving he said to his wife, and loud enough for all to hear “Make sure they’re gone”.
He can still make me smile.