I feel bad

Some thoughts on the death of my friend and mentor Adam Banks

I feel bad. I feel bad because, while the internet has quite rightly filled up with tributes to our dear friend Adam Banks since the tragic news of his passing earlier this week, I’ve written nothing.

I feel bad because the reason I’ve written nothing is because I don’t really write any more, and I feel like that’s letting Adam down.

He was the reason I ever wrote. It sounds silly now, but he was a bit of a hero to me. I just read the lovely tribute by Chris Brennan at All Points North and it reminded me exactly of how I felt back in 1997. I was a recent graduate and under increasing pressure from my mum, I was desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life. So what better plan in those quaint old pre-internet days than to write a letter (yes, a letter) to the editor of my favourite magazine telling him how much I admired his publication and if there ever happened to be any work going, he might want to consider getting in touch. As with all the other increasingly desperate letters I wrote that summer, I never thought I’d get a response. But something obviously caught Adam’s attention – I’ll never know what; perhaps it was just fortuitous timing – and a few days later, I suddenly had a job in publishing.

That letter would completely change the course of my life. I went from being a part time research assistant, to the labs manager and eventually the news editor of the coolest magazine in the industry, at absolutely the coolest time to be in tech (There’s also the small matter of the fact that I wouldn’t have met my wife or had my four sons if I hadn’t got that job, but that’s a subject for another blog post.) I was proud every day of the team I was part of, the people I worked with, and the amazing product we produced. But that team, that environment, that feeling we all had; it was all down to Adam. MacUser was Adam. We just helped him to realise his vision.

I was always a little bit in awe of Adam. It sounds like an insult but I promise you it’s not: he always had an air of superiority about him. Not that he was arrogant or stuck up or anything like that. Quite the opposite. It’s just that he always seemed…better than the rest of us. Smarter. More knowledgeable. More talented. More grown up. I don’t know how he did it. He just always knew that little bit more than you about any given subject.

His desire for everything to always be that little bit better inspired me to be the best writer I could be. In that early part of my career, I always thought of myself as a writer, as someone who had been taught and nurtured by some of the best people in the business to express myself with the written word. But multiple unexpected turns on my career path since then mean that nowadays the only writing I do is in emails to exasperated customers explaining to them why their delivery is going to be late. Those damn customers have no idea of the thought, the care, the attention to grammatical detail that goes into every damn one of those emails.

So I feel bad that the ravages of time have left me scared to put finger to keyboard to express how I feel about the news of Adam’s passing.

I’ve only seen Adam a couple of times in the many years since we worked together. Once was a couple of years ago, at a mini-reunion of the old team. It amazed me how comfortable it felt, as if our last editorial meeting had been just a few days before, not almost 20 years ago. I’ve messaged Adam a few times since that day, talking about how eager I was to meet up again. I feel bad that if and when the next one happens, he won’t be there. How can you have a team meeting without the team leader?

The other time I saw Adam was at the funeral of another dearly missed colleague, Paul Nesbitt. That had been a wonderful opportunity for those of us who worked with him to come together and share memories. I feel bad that because of the shitty situation we find ourselves in in 2020, we are unlikely to have that opportunity for Adam.

Despite the infrequent face to face contact, Adam has been a constant throughout my adult life. His vociferous tweeting has been a reassuring anchor of sanity over the last few years. I feel bad that I’ll never see one of his pithy put downs again. His encyclopaedic knowledge of, well just about everything, has seen multiple email exchanges full of sage advice and wisdom over the years. I feel bad that I will never again be able to turn to Adam when Google isn’t good enough.

I feel bad that I don’t know how to end this blog post. I know that when Adam was teaching me about good writing, I would have known what I had to say to bring this to a close. But then perhaps that makes perfect sense – we’ve all been denied a suitable ending.

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