A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a trip that a few friends and I had taken to Campbeltown to see an ailing friend. I referred to the fact that he hadn’t been too well recently.
That actually was a bit of an understatement.
He was terminally ill.
He knew that his chances of seeing out 2012 were remote indeed. Sadly the call came sooner than any of his family or friends had anticipated and I got the sad news that Alastair passed away early yesterday morning.
I first got to “know” him when he was a contributor to the fantastic “fanzine” The Absolute Game in the late 1980s. For those too young to know about these far off, pre-internet, simpler times, fanzines were underground publications produced independently of mainstream publishers and would invariably be based on music or football.
TAG was about Scottish football and was a breath of fresh air. Reading the irreverent yet highly articulate views expressed was the perfect antidote to the mainstream output of the monotonous, mediocre musings of aged hacks and ex pros which had hitherto been the stock in trade of sports radio and newspapers.
The influence of TAG and the like can still be detected in radio shows such as Off the Ball and the many websites and internet forums that have sprung up over the years.
With the advent of the Internet, sadly TAG folded. Alastair later recounted that one of the contributors had been Christopher Brookmyre. “He came in one day and announced that he was going to write a novel” Al recalled. “We all just laughed”.
Alastair later employed his writing talents on a blog called Alastair’s Heart Monitor. It was set up to keep family and friends informed of Al’s progress after life-saving heart surgery a few years ago. Later though as he recovered, it became a tremendous outlet for his creative talents. He wrote about music, football, politics, legal affairs and much more. It was on an internet search for something that I discovered the Heart Monitor and rediscovered the writer I knew from The Absolute Game.
Having recovered from his heart surgery, Alastair then resumed his legal career (the writing had always just been a hobby). An appointment to a senior position in the legal establishment meant that he felt unable to publish his sometimes radical and left field views on a blog with public access.
Thus he took the decision to make The Heart Monitor private. At the time he could only do this to include 35 readers. I was privileged to be one of these readers. The blog somehow became a community as readers, free of any wider public scrutiny could let their hair down a wee bit when commenting on posts. As many of Al’s friends were in the legal profession there were many very funny and poignant tales to be told.
Alastair then began to feel unwell again and a visit to the doctor revealed that another vital organ, his lungs, were the source of his fatigue and breathlessness. There were tests and more tests. There were trips to Glasgow and to Newcastle to assess his suitability for a transplant. Earlier this year Al received the cruellest of news that his physical state meant that in the opinion of the doctors he would not survive an operation.
This was when he was given the news that there was nothing more the medical profession could do and that the best they could offer was an oxygen bottle and the advice to make himself as comfortable as possible.
He was typically stoic and philosophical about the news and continued blogging right up until a few days ago when he posted a final “Bob on Sunday” piece. It was a weekly ritual of the Heart Monitor to feature a Bob Dylan track, often a rarity or a bootleg, on a Sunday.
I wonder if he perhaps had an inkling of what was going to happen. The very last words he typed on his blog were “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”
Although the Heart Monitor remains private, Alastair did publish some of his old articles from TAG on another, public blog for a while. It is well worth the trip here to read some of those, particularly if you have even a passing interest in the fitba’
The Heart Monitor introduced me to new friends I would never otherwise have known and was the inspiration for me to start this blog. Occasionally Alastair would link to an article I’d written or ask if he could pinch a bit or piece. This was praise indeed from the master of the art.
You were an articulate,intelligent,caring and very funny man.
Everyone who knew you will feel a gap in their lives now that you are no longer here.