Landing On Water

I still think ‘Landing On Water’ is Neil Young’s worst album, despite James’s many attempts to convince me otherwise. I’m listening to it now, as I attempt to commit to the page some thoughts about my sadly and prematurely departed friend. It’s a really crap record. I can’t help but think that James was winding me up. After all, it wouldn’t be the only time.

Neil Young and his vast and varied output was one of the constant themes of our frequent and often lengthy discussions, as was politics, art, books, cooking and the world at large. We mused, conjectured, theorised, challenged, laughed, lamented and argued and I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.

I was due to visit James in his Wixams flat on Friday 22nd December. I was going to drop off 5 litres of Greek extra virgin olive oil and some vinyl, two things that formed the core of our friendship; food and music.

I texted him the night before to check it was still OK for me to drop round and I was a little perplexed that I hadn’t had a reply. James always replied to text messages.

Then, around noon on the 22nd, I received a call from a shocked Mark Grainger to say that James had been found earlier that morning. Suddenly, my world got smaller and darker.

I first met James soon after he joined Evolving Media. It seems like a million years ago, but in fact it was little more than 10 years. It was our mutual appreciation of Neil Young’s music that got us talking and that’s where our friendship started.

Funny, opinionated, irreverent, humane, friendly, creative, literate, argumentative, fiercely intelligent, hard-working, political and often politically incorrect, James was never far from being at the centre of things. He simply couldn’t be ignored. A bit like Neil, in many ways.

As time passed he proved himself to be a loyal and steadfast friend, irrespective of circumstances. I greatly valued our friendship.

I often was surprised that someone of relatively tender years (certainly when compared to an old bugger like me) could have such nuanced and deep views. He was very well-read and had listened to more music than most people twice his age. Woe betide anyone who underestimated his intelligence and his intellect.

Of course, James drove me mad at times and I bet I am in the vast majority when I say so. But I suspect I’ll also be in the vast majority when I say that none of that mattered, because a bit of irritation from time to time is a very small price to pay for the riches of knowing and being a friend of that singular, vibrant, interesting man, James Bunker.

I’ll miss our conversations. They were an important and satisfying part of the rhythm of my week. They helped to reset things for me and, hopefully, for him too.

My world has got smaller and darker. I really miss him, but James will live on in my memory and, I’m sure, in those of all that were lucky enough to know him. And, every time I hear a Neil Young song, my first thought will be of my dear friend.

Martin Scovell, Sunday 7th January 2018


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