At 6:20 last Wednesday evening, my wonderful brother-in-law, Nick ‘Ringo’ Southall, lost his battle with lung cancer. I consider it a great privilege to have been at the hospital at the time, and to have been able to say all those things that we all might wish too, faced with such dreadful circumstances. Had I not been present, I know I would still be struggling to believe it. Death and Nick never really went hand-in-hand; he was always too full of life.
Many of you know that I am a budding author. What many of you might not know, however, is that it was only through Nick’s persistence and help over a weekend visit, that I began my blog and launched my professional self onto social media. “Here’s the deal, La. You’re a writer – a blog seems like a natural fit to me.” It was also Nick who picked me up – like he did so many people – when I had my novel appraised by another author and the feedback was mediocre. “…That must be a bit gutting for you, but fuck em, always remember that EMI knocked The Beatles.”
I clearly remember the first time I spoke to Nick about my book. We were at an after-show in the bar of Wembley’s Hilton. The place was packed with the kind of muso’s and wanker hanger-on’s synonymous with such a gig. Despite working on the tour, I felt uncomfortable. In those situations, I always did. Nick took the seat next to me, and I began telling him about my book. In spite of the other drinkers – ones I thought Nick might consider far more fascinating – Nick stayed by my side, asking questions and being genuinely intrigued. I had only previously experienced that level of interest from my mum and Mr Mac, and it was totally unexpected. Not that I craved it, but Nick made my barmy day-dreaming, and my ambition, feel valid.
That was the man. That was Nick. Tributes to him on social media are still pouring in. Having spoken to dear friends of both Nibs and Nick over the previous few months and again at the hospital last week, the same sentiment, the same lasting impression, is repeated over. Nick made time for everyone. He was interested in, and remembered, what was important. His opinions were formed on knowledge and research, and not on hearsay. He was a man of great moral integrity, with the compassion to still accept that everyone makes mistakes and deserves another chance. Political, religious, and musical differences were only ever seen as an excuse to debate, never to dismiss. And he never judged anyone on anything but his own experience of them… Like so many others, I have been on the receiving end of the strength and kindness underpinning Nick’s personality. Like so many others, it’s that strength and kindness that I’m going to miss so much.
We will celebrate Nick’s life at some point over the course of the next few weeks, and I expect the venue to be packed to the rafters. But as we enter, one by one, and look around us, we might all be surprised by the eclectic mix of individuals who have come to say good-bye – and perhaps under different circumstances, to some extent, we might all be guilty of judging one another on face value.
But one of the greatest sayings I have ever heard – a compass I believe Nick steered his life by – is ‘to not look for the differences, but the similarities.’ So, I hope, on that day of celebration, when the one thing similar to us all is our love of Nick, we look a little deeper, and discover what it was about each of us that Nick loved enough to call us ‘friend.’
And at the end of the day, I hope we take that ethos home.
And out of great love and respect for Nick, we spend the rest of our forevers spreading that amazing ‘Ringo Resolve’ across the rest of the world.
With love, Big-Bro. Xxx