Remembering John: Celebrating Friendship


Today our dear friend John Stubbs was laid to rest in Wales, where he had spent much of his life.  He was laid in a woodland setting, beside the last of his beloved black Labradors, Boris, and with space beside him for Sue, his adored wife… one day.    Very sadly and with much regret, we could not be there physically today, but we were very much there in spirit, and tonight, in time tandem with the celebrations of his life in the UK, we held our own remembrance celebration, on the beach in Patnem.

I had known John for 30 years, Bob for longer….  We all met at a BSAC Instructor Training event in Estartit, Spain, in September 1989.  A fortnight that changed a lot of lives one way or the other.  I heard John before I ever saw him, over a fence that separated our holiday cottages.  He was waxing lyrical about something, as was his way, and over the next fortnight, we bonded over gin martinis (he made a devastating martini), theatre, classic cinema, music, diving, travel.  Others will tell about his groundbreaking work in establishing scientific rigor in our diving procedures, the establishment of the de facto standards of gas quality for diving.  I knew him as a wonderful instructor, a totally fair and humane examiner and a generous passer of knowledge in every sphere.  Over the years, we learned so much from him: wine; art; architecture; William Morris and Arts and Crafts; music; Welsh socialism; Drake and the search for his coffin; the Panama Canal……  his lifelong quest for knowledge and his interest in the world never abated.  One of our last exchanges was a discussion about the Battle of the Little Bighorn (he knew Bob and I were visiting the battlefield in 2019) and he sent me a link to a documentary he recommended on the subject.    He was difficult to photograph because he was never still.  Hands wafting about as he explained some esoteric subject…. lightning brain moving on to the next point……

He leaves a massive hole in our lives and tonight we sat down by the sea as the sun tracked down in a brilliant sunset and watched our slideshow of happy memories with John, listened to the music he chose for his farewell, toasted his spirit in ice cold g&ts.  It ought to have been fine wine, or martinis but sadly neither were available at the requisite quality.  It would have been very wrong to toast his memory with inferior wine….   We cried a lot… we laughed too.  We held hands and thanked John for all the good times and the staunch friendship and most of all for just being the force of nature that he was.  All the more remarkable because he had literally no idea of how much he meant to so many and how utterly exceptional he was.  No idea at all….

We still can’t believe we will never be in his company again but find comfort in the words of William Wordsworth (another enlightenment from John)

“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.”