Hassan was probably the best friend I've ever had, so I've dedicated this page to him. I'll be adding photos and recollections of his genius, sadly snuffed out aged 27.
I first met Hassan in the Chapel at Exeter University, sometime in our first year. He walked in with his old check overcoat, and his characteristic lilting walk, short, but with a big presence and charisma about him. I can't remember our first conversation (my memory for these things is terrible, and anyway, at the time it didn't have the significance it has now), but I think I remember wanting to talk to him. Anyway, we got on very well, very quickly. He joined the music group in the chapel, and I soon discovered just how phenomenally good a guitarist he was. We then started jamming together and developed a wonderful musical chemistry. I was only just beginning to improvise, and it was through our music that my improvisation skills rapidly improved. I also discovered his fearsome intellect, which never seemed to be dimmed by the copious quantities of alcohol he managed to consume, along with me! I remember we once performed together at a student music festival after about 6 pints. He played perfectly of course, despite the fact that his lowest string was accidentally tuned to D - he naturally compensated! Not sure about my playing, it's all a bit of a haze!
We had wonderful conversations at all hours, and our friendship deepened rapidly. It's not often that heterosexual men can tell each other that they love each other, but we could, without embarrassment. Male friendship is so important and can be such a joy, but many men miss out on it, especially in British culture. My late godfather, Leslie Peyton, was such a friend for my father, but tragically died when I was 5, and he, I think was 36. They used to go on walking holidays together. It was made all the more remarkable by the fact that my Dad does not often have such close friends, and probably hasn't since Leslie died. His daughter Rebecca, the same age as me, suffered further loss five years ago when her sister Kate Peyton, a BBC journalist based in South Africa was shot dead when on an ill advised job in Mogadishu (ill advised in that the BBC should not have sent her there then). Follow the Vital Digression link on my homepage to see how Rebecca has transformed her grief into the most amazing one woman show.
Anyway, let's return to Hassan. He became my closest friend and inspiration. University is an intense hotbed where relationships can prosper very quickly (and fade fast too, as I found with several girlfriends). It was this way with Hassan - we seemed to have so much in common, though there was much about him that was very different to me. He was born in Croydon to an English mother and a Mauritian father, of Indian origin. He therefore could like several minorities that get picked on, and suffered awful racism at times, even by old school "friends" in Grantham, where he spent most of his childhood. The fact he could speak English better than his tormentors, and was, strictly speaking, as British as them, didn't make any difference.
His first degree (of 3) was German. In his third year he was supposed to spend a year in Germany, but unfortunately, due to a very small but vocal minority, he suffered too much abuse and had to return after six weeks.The only positive I suppose was that I got to spend more time with him! He missed out on a first by a couple of percent! He then went on to do a Masters in Linguistics at Essex University, followed by a PhD at Edinburgh University.
These are some of the bare facts, but there is so much more to say - I shall return with more another time.
Update: 16th September 2012
I've noticed that there have been a lot of visits to this page, which is really great. I'd love to know who you are and to talk to you about him. It is now just over 13 years since his death, and still I think about him virtually every day. I'm so different to the person he knew, and yet I am the same. I have had children that he never saw, and they growing up fast. I have had 10 years experience as a Music Therapist, in a wide variety of settings. He would be really interested in that I'm sure, as Music was such a passion for him, and like me, I suspect it was where he felt most happy, most fully himself, most able to communicate his soul to others. He was the most verbally eloquent person I have met, but this paled into insignificance next to the power of his music. It's not just his technical prowess, impressive though that was. There are plenty of technically brilliant guitarists who leave me cold, but not Hassan. Every note, every change of tone was full of emotional communication whether it be joy, anger, or deepest despair. The guitar became part of him, not an instrument. There seemed no gap between his intended communication and what came out of the guitar. Those of us that are less gifted can be frustrated that the music we hear in our head doesn't come out of our instrument - our clumsy fingers get in the way. This never seemed to be the case with Hassan, it just flowed straight out, much as one imagines it did for Mozart, in his case straight from soul to head to piano to page.
So, I miss him like crazy, but am thankful that, for ten years, he was such an important part of my life, and that he allowed me into his life. I can't wait to catch up with him in heaven. But I am down here, and need to make the most of my talents, as he did while he could. It is sad that I have lost contact with his wonderful mother Patricia. I think most of his best qualities came from her, but I only met his father once, briefly. Hassan had a difficult relationship with his father and rarely saw him after his parents split. His mother was the central, most important person in his life, and if I miss him, God knows how she must grieve, even now. If you ever read this Patricia, please contact me so that, through you, Hassan may come alive for me once more.