It is never good when a phone conversation starts with “I’m afraid I have got some bad news”. I was walking around
BHS When I got the call from my friend John.
He told me that Rick had died in the night. I wondered who he meant, mentally checking off people called that…. “I mean Recardo…..”
I don’t really remember anything else about that conversation, I just sat down on one of the display pedastals for about 20 minutes.
Rik can’t be dead, he is too young, too healthy, too full of life, I thought, this must be a mistake, John must have got it wrong. I tried to ignore the horrible feeling in my stomach. When John called back a bit later I was just hoping he was calling to tell me it was a mistake…. even though I knew really that wasn’t going to happen.
I’ve been numb for days. I can’t process this awful news. I just need to write about my friend, who I love, and who I now have to say good bye to.
I met Rik around the turn of the Millennium when he first started working at the Seymour Arms. I liked him instantly. He was a bit nervous at first behind the bar, and even though I was getting the same order all night I don’t think I paid the same price once. Something I’d later learn was “Classic Rik”. I didn’t matter though he was cool, and fun, and nice.
We became really close friends a couple of years later when we decided to form a new Sunday league football team out of the Seymour, called, at the time “Greenbank Wanderers” as the old Seymour team had disbanded owing the local league a load of money…. I’m not sure our terrible subterfuge actually fooled the league but Rik, with his customary charm, sweet talked the league into letting us in.
The years spent working so closely with Rik to (very badly) run the football team were great. I got to know a wonderful person. He was warm, funny, with a really big heart. He had a laugh that seemed out of place on such a small man, and he used it liberally. It was always really hard not be smiling whenever you were in Rik’s company. He always made me, and anyone he was around feel good.
And the thing with Rik is he was just so nice. Everyone I ever knew who had met him, and from reading the Facebook tributes hundreds of people I didn’t know too, just felt instantly that he was nice. One of the nicest people you could ever meet is one of the trite, clichéd sayings. But in Rik’s case it was true.
Rik was so decent, so optimistic. Even when stuff was tough for him he approached things with a smile. He did tough jobs, working with people who needed help and Rik always saw this as a mission, even when it was frustrating to him he did these things and did them well. He would never put it like this because it wasn’t the way he spoke, but he tried hard, all the time I knew him, to in some way make the world a better place, and to help others. I can’t really guess how many lives he touched, and made better, over the course of his life. So many though.
When I phoned Rik when I was down about something he always had an amazing ability to make me feel better, often after just seconds of talking. He exuded good vibes, put people at ease. I was always amazed at Rik’s ability to make so many friends, so often.
The truth is Rik was in many ways the kind of bloke I wish I was, the kind I try to pretend to be in public. But for Rik this all came natural, he wasn’t trying or pretending…. It was just him.
Not to say Rik was perfect, everyone is flawed. Time keeping, concentrating, organisation, the truth is we are not going to remember Rik for excelling in these areas. But Rik even managed to somehow make his flaws endearing. The amount of time I have spent waiting at tube stations, in bars, at restaurants for Rik’s to arrive at, tapping my watch or phone in frustration. I could never stay mad at him when he did arrive though.
I fondly remember a match when we were all sat around wondering where the bleeding heck the opposition were. I remember grilling Rik half a dozen times about where we were playing. Rik was adamant the match was taking place at Staddi. Eventually the manager of the other team showed up, I asked Rik one last time if we were in the right place as I got ready to have a pop at the other manager. He piped up with “Didn’t you get the new fixture list sent out last week?”
Twenty heads all turned to look at Rik but we all knew the answer, as Rik sheepishly admitted he hadn’t checked it and missed the change of venue!
Rik, the contradictory guy who could hit a sublime cover drive for four off a decent ball, then later that over absently wonder up the wicket and get stumped.
I still, to this day, whenever watching football and someone skies a shot miles over from a few yards our scream “Ricky”…. That is going to hurt next time it happens….
Writing his I’m filled with love, but also overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with sadness that I’m not going to see him again. Overwhelmed I’ll never hear him say “Maaaaate” in the exaggerated way of his. Overwhelmed I’ll never hear his laugh again. Overwhelmed with anger at the unfairness.
I can’t believe I’m never going to get to see Rik as a doting father, and that the first time I meet Eva will be when I say goodbye to Rik. Gutted that I’m not going to get to gently josh him as he bursts with pride and enthusiasm about the stuff his kids have got up too.
How will this kind, and wonderful, and gentle man not get a chance to be the amazing, perfect, dad I know he would have been? Rik was made for this, it is so cruel that it cannot happen.
Every time I think about what has been taken away from Rik, and particularly from Rachel and Eva. Everything he could have done. I get so angry, so upset, so bitter. It isn’t fair.
But then the same voice keeps popping up in my head, Rik’s, and I realise that reacting like this isn’t right. Rik would not have been bitter, or morose, or wallowing in self pity. He wasn’t like that at all. I keep thinking that however hard, I am not doing his memory right by allowing that to be how I’m thinking.
So I want to think positively about him, about my friend, and remember him right. It’s hard when you are so full of loss and grief.
I want to look back at more smiles, and more laughs, and more good times than anyone could reasonably expect in a 16 year friendship. Even if it still isn’t enough…..
I want to think about the wonderful, inspirational, decent, brilliant man who bought me, and everyone else, nothing but joy in our lives.
I want to think that Rik is always going to be with me, that he hasn’t, and won’t ever, really go away as long as I remember him this way.
I want to say
“Recardo Cassius McDowell I will always love you, you are one of the best friends I could ever hope to have had. I’m going to miss you for the rest of my life. Thanks for every minute of your life that you shared with me.”
Goodbye Rik, you are amazing.
Regular readers may remember that I pledged that in 2014 I was going to go and see a lot more live stuff, at least every other month. And so far I have been keeping that up.
Earlier in the month Miss Tokyo and I went to a “different” show, a live performance of “Slap Talk” an interesting live show based on the way boxers promote their shows which was quite funny, and not really like anything I had seen before. I was also supposed to go to the theatre but annoyingly had to cancel due to a near death experience after I had contracted a terrible strain of bubonic, Ebola infused, mega tonsillitis (Hypochondriac? Moi? Geddout o’ town!).
On Friday just gone I went to see Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip at the Anson Rooms in Bristol. It was an interesting gig (I might blog about it separately) but one of the things I got to thinking about was the way bars are run at gigs an events.
I’ll be honest the principle thing I was thinking is what an utter ball ache it is trying to buy a drink at a gig (TBF this is true of plays, comedy shows, even at Football matches) most of the time. One of the things which regularly pisses me off about live music venues (or anywhere really) and also bemused my brother and his ex who were at the gig with me is why it’s always such a pain in the proverbial?
So twice my brother said “I’m going out and I may be some time” (or maybe something about the bar) and embarked on a desperate mission to the bar to get a round in. Unlike Oates he did manage to return (though he seemed pretty dishevelled) but on both occasions he had given up after queuing for ages and making no progress. The moral of the story is the Anson Rooms clearly had nay enough bar stuff on, and you need to be prepared when trying to reach the South Pole (Not sure if these two things are really linked!)
Surely, surely, as well as pissing off the punters this can’t actually work for the venue? I mean they presumably want to make “cash money money” out of the gig and if people are waiting too long to buy drinks, or even leaving the bar out of frustration that can’t add up for the venue?
I’m no business man, but I am pretty sure that lesson 101 in basic business is make it as easy as possible for customers to give you their readies. Feels to me like most live music venues are more like Bernard Black in the way they treat us customers!
I decided that I reckoned I could work this out with some mathematics, this therefore is utterly scientific and indisputable fact. And it is definitely not based on back of a fag packets dodgy assumptions or anything. No siree bob!
So here find my equation that proves that music gig venues should almost certainly be employing more staff during gigs.
So in this equation:-
A = Average profit made per order
O = The number of orders per hour
P= Hourly wage rate of each staff member
T= T, NI and other overheads per hour of employer
$$ = Is the venue making money from extra staff yay or nay and how much
The average music venue I go to charges pretty premium prices for drinks, regularly pushing four quid for a 330ml bottle of lager or a shot with mixer. I’m going to assume an average order of two drinks per punter, and three quid profit per serving (I reckon this is conservative.).
I’m going to say that one punter can be served every six minutes. Meaning; for the purposes of my sums, 10 orders per hour. Again I reckon this is possibly on the careful cautious side.
So in this I’m going to assume that most venues are paying minimum wage (6.31). And I am going to add 25% for tax, insurance and overheads (1.57).
So based on my “back of a fag packet” calculations I reckon the venue would be making a not insignificant extra profit at the bar per hour with each member of staff at the bar whilst it is busy. Still leaves a reasonable amount of scope for profit to be less, fewer orders per hour and better wages p/h or more overheads and still represent a profit to the venue. And the corollary would be that also entirely possible to serve more drinks per hour with a higher profit margin and make more money.
Now clearly this equation would have diminishing returns if too many extra staff were employed, if staff sitting around doing nothing then no profit per hour. But usually at these sorts of gigs , I’m waiting ages between drinks because of stupid queuing times. I can’t be the only one who finds this irritating?
I’d imagine there is a degree to which venues would be wary because there are times (say in run up to main act) where the bar is busier than others, and that hiring someone for the night means commitment to pay them all night, which is fair. But there must be some scope for the work up to main event getting paid on a shorter, with free entry to main event type deal (like the Workers Beer Company, or Charities at festivals) that would appeal. Particularly I’d say, in a student union venue, like the Anson Rooms. And if you are making 22 quid an hour and only paying minimum wage a few busy hours is more than going to pay for a couple of quieter ones at the end.
On top of the extra wedge for the venue I’d say there must be a reputational thing here too. It is frustrating not being able to get a drink at a hot and sweaty music venue. That’s the kind of thing that would put me off going to that particular place again in the future. (As it happens in the Anson rooms it was the ludicrously terrible sound quality/mixing that did this but I’ll probably touch on that in a subsequent blogpost.). Knowing as well as a good gig, the bar is run properly at a particular place must have some cachet for punters? Surely?
So then what do folks think? Have I just Victor Meldrew-ed it up to the Maxx, showing my age and grumpiness? Or is there something in this? Should music venues (and theatres, etc) make sure they have some redundancy at the bar to ensure a better night and more fun for the attendees (and maybe make some more wedge)? Or is this all pie in the sky thinking?
And a bit of Pip and DLS if you don’t know them:-
So obviously I had made a helluva lot of noise about #GetRalphADate at the end of last year, lots of blogs, lots of tweeting and that. And to be honest I have been pretty quiet of late. A fair few people have been asking me “why?” and “what’s going on?” etc etc; so I probably ought to write something rather than just rudely ignoring the questions….
I think I flagged up in an earlier blog that quite possibly me conducting “dating business” in the public sphere on twitter in front of loads of people might not be entirely to every potential dates tastes (apparently not everyone is a vainglorious attention seeking extrovert). And lo it came to pass. When I was arranging to go on a date with Miss Tokyo (decided to move away from the letter pseudonym!) She made it clear she wasn’t too keen on me detailing blow by blow accounts of the process on the public internet. And whilst I don’t have a great deal of recent experience on dating prior to GRAD I am aware of the rudiments of when to “shut up” hence my recent wee bit of radio silence.
But things have moved along a bit and Miss Tokyo is now happy for me to post a little bit of an update, and in truth I am rather keen to write this as well.
So anyhow shortly after new year I had arranged to meet Miss Tokyo for a date, went pretty well (though I’m beginning to think bringing up what one would do in an “Alive plane crash scenario” probably not the best first date conversation piece!) and we ended up getting chucked out of the coffee shop because they wanted to close and we had been there for hours and not realised how much time had passed.
I took this as a “good sign” and tried to build up the courage to ask her out again (much harder IRL than on twitter I have discovered) and unfortunately instead of coming across as some super suave guy, the kinda cat Richard Gere would have played in an early 90s movie, I instead morphed into Jeremy Freedman (aka Squeaky Voiced Teen from the Simpsons) and promptly fluffed my lines rather spectacularly.
Luckily though it seems I had done enough right on the night and Miss Tokyo was prepared to forgive my ham-fisted terribleness and gave me another chance (I suspect I have been given a rather wide degree of latitude and a feline number of lives here)! Though I was warned that in future I wouldn’t get another “free dice roll” by text on the “asking out front”! Phew, it had felt like I had dodged a bullet there!
Now I wasn’t entirely sure on the rules here, insofar as GRAD was concerned? Donna had said “Three Dates in 6 Months” so I was now wondering would a second date with Miss Tokyo, on top of my one date with Miss X mean that “Jobs a good un”? And if it didn’t then what was I to do if super keen on Miss Tokyo and that keenness reciprocated? Not sure most (any?) girls would be cool with me saying:-
“Hey sweetie! Even though things are going well between us I just need to go out on one more date with another girl to satisfy an internet campaign.”
So, at end of date “número dos” Miss Tokyo was happy to agree to go on a third date with me, yaya! Though I discovered that doing a fist pump and a five minute victory dance at the news, in public, is not considered good form, can spoil a romantic moment, and seriously jeopardise prospects of future dates….. Who knew?) Apparently I seemed rather too smug to pull off “Charmingly kooky”
So I think the decision was made. As far as I was concerned it was three dates in six months and three dates had happened. Once it was clear that Miss Tokyo was keen on continuing I had absolutely no interest in dating anyone else, so I’m counting GRAD done, dusted and entirely successful! I think I owe Donna a pint, or a bottle, or whatever poison is her current fancy (tries to hide existence of fancy Port bottles from Donna…..)
As it happens a fair few more have happened and gone pretty well, so I am now “seeing” Miss Tokyo. And all it took was an international media campaign, if only I known it was so simple. And although it is early days and I shan’t chicken count (Well I’m a dreamer and inveterate chicken counter really, just pretending not to be in order to not seem “too keen”!) it does rather seem that #GetRalphADate #GotRalphAGirl !
Fair to say I’m delighted! I am somewhat punching above my weight; Miss Tokyo is independent, intelligent, and an absolute smokin’ hottie (though annoyingly she is better than I am at chess…. Harrumph! Though I’m not such a bad loser that this constitutes a deal breaker 😉 ) . So I’m really hoping that she doesn’t have a WTF moment and realise she has made a terrible mistake. I guess I’ll just have to try to be extra specially charming and amazing, I’m planning to use my legendary and world renowned modesty to achieve this.
So I obviously won’t really be blogging about this stuff directly much, not really appropriate and frankly I don’t want to jinx things. I suspect though that I will want to blog on some of the things I have been getting up to (which has been difficult when trying to maintain radio silence on blogging front). So there might be the odd oblique reference to things.
So I reckon this constitutes a pretty “happy ending” to the whole #GetRalphADate thing, whatever happens between Miss Tokyo and I (and I’m hopeful of good things!). And although she wishes to maintain anonymity she did ask me to include a quick quote in this blog:-
“Ralph is the most amazing guy ever! A real Dreamboat”
Whaddya mean that isn’t what you said?!?!?! Ok… So I might have made that one up 😉 Bona Fida Miss Tokyo quote is:-
“*Blows raspberries* That is for all others who thought they’d get a date with Ralph. You are now well and truly ‘out of the game’. ”
I reckon that means she is hopeful of good things too! 😀