It's been said that no man in his last hours ever wished he'd spent more time at the office but Paul Reynolds might have been the exception. He had been through a lot but being a Scot he put it into labour. Watching him work so hard was difficult for his loved ones but engaged in a task he was as happy as a sandboy. He liked complex problems, the big picture and silly little distractions. He was always willing to suffer fools because he believed in giving people second chances. He'd been given a few himself: picked himself up, dusted himself off, got to work. I always admired that about him.
I met Paul when he was reading for publishers, writing reviews, living on the slope in Parnell. He read my first (unpublished) novel and recommended my second; as a broadcaster, he gave me my first good review. When I first connected to the internet in 1994(? - squealing modem, etc) he was, ridiculously, the first person to email me. (He contacted me - I had no idea how to work the thing.) We met for coffee in Vulcan Lane and talked about novels and drinking and London and music. Since then we've had a lot of coffees and dinners and conversations, and I worked with him for a time, and I did a lot of happy listening. Paul liked to tell long, rambling stories daisy-chained together one after the other and then, just at the point where they were about to go off completely, reel them back by in saying, '...And this is the punchline.' Because of all the places he'd been to in the meantime, the punchline was never as good.
When I was back in town last year I stayed at his apartment, minded the cat and attempted to work the mind numbingly complex PC / web TV set up he'd basically strung together for the sole purpose of streaming The Archers. There was also whiskey in the cabinet, he noted, and the Bourne trilogy on DVD, and would I please help myself to both. What I liked about Paul was that he was a fan of Derrida and Patrick O'Brian. On one birthday when I clumsily gifted him a John le Carré title which he already had in his bookcase he replied without irony, 'One can never have too many.' He was always giving me things to read and ideas I never would have thought of. His opinion meant more to me than almost anyone's.
I knew things had not been good over for him over the last while and I was braced for bad news. Now it's here it's only just sinking in. Now I don't know who I'll turn to next time when I have an irrational complaint and need someone to say agreeably, 'Well, this is true.' People die and things change but sometimes you wish they didn't, or at least that they would hold back and the world would stop turning just for a while. But that would mean that there was no longer work to be done. Paul was clever and funny and moody and brisk, and he left early. He had things to do.