A catalogue of Paul's passions
Ok...I admit it. This is a cheat post. I am aware that I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. The new job is taking all my time. In addition to the boys, the cats, the house and everything else.
I usually spend a few hours late one night to gather my thoughts and feelings and write a post. I haven't had that luxury since I started the new job. So, I thought I'd use a few minutes tonight to think about Paul, his passions, his ideology, his wants and wishes, most of which were for the greater good.
I will never forget a few memorable moments from our early days together. Paul rented a small cottage in Bovingdon to be closer to Dixons office and he rented out his furnished house in Croydon. I went with him one day (think it was an inspection day) and he proudly showed me the bookcase full of books. on nature, environment, wildlife, ecology and conservation. Bearing in mind, I was a young 25 year old straight-outta-India girl, I found this collection of books rather odd. I'm not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps fiction plus posters of whoever was popular in the 90s.
A few weeks later, we went on our first holiday together - Cyprus. Our first night there, we were at a bar drinking copious amount of cocktails and Paul asked me 'What would you do if you won the lottery?'. I said that first I would buy my parents a big house and make sure they live comfortably for the rest of their lives and do the same for my sister and brother. Then I would buy myself a house and a fancy car. I was quite excited and animated (thanks to the Pina colada mainly) as I was putting into words for the first time, the dream I had growing up and studying hard.
Paul's quiet response to my excited speech was 'Is that it?'. I didn't have to think before answering this question. Yes, this is it. Most of my childhood, all I had wished was to grow up, get a well-paid job, buy a big house with loads of domestic help (it is a very Indian thing) and live comfortably. How naive was I?!
Then I fired the question back at him. What would YOU do if you won the lottery? I teased him and said, 'don't tell me, it is going to be world peace!!!'. He said it would be to protect the environment and the natural world. I distinctly remember thinking 'Bugger. I think this is going to be a very short relationship. He's going to dump me because he thinks I'm shallow 😂😂'. Another part of me thought 'nah...he's having me on. He wants to impress me'. Little did I know then that the Paul who was sat in front of me in this bar in a Cypriot town was the most genuine guy I had the privilege of meeting, falling in love with, marrying and having 2 beautiful boys with.
Paul's nickname at Dixons was Swampy (after the environmentalist who became famous for digging tunnels to protect the A30 bypass). Treehugger was another.
Before College Lake (https://www.bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves/college-lake) became slick and homogenous, it was a true nature reserve owned and managed by a gentleman called Graham Atkins with the help of a handful of passionate volunteers who all had a shared love of conservation. From 1997 to 2004 ish) Paul spent many weekends there maintaining the reserve, building fences and banks for the lakes, clearing the woods - anything that needed doing. What did I do? Well...if it was a Sunday, 2 sisters called Helen and Rita were there in the old barn (now replaced with an education centre) with their delicious homemade cakes and coffee. I sat in that barn most of the day with my Sunday Times, coffees and cakes.
Paul always felt that he fell into IT by accident. He took the job at the Met Police to fund his itchy feet. He had seen so much of the world by the time I'd met him and there was always a conservation / ecology angle wherever he travelled to. In Belize he spent 3 months doing conservation work with Coral Cay Conservation https://www.coralcay.org/our-work. He spent 3 more months in Galapagos islands on a similar project. When he spent 6 months backpacking across Africa and another 6 months backpacking across South America, it was to do with wildlife.
Paul always talked about wanting to quit IT and do something worthwhile, but he never could cut the bond and the financial security his job gave him. I had spent endless hours trying to persuade him that I will continue to work and he can quit and follow his dream. In the last 5 years or so, he was coming around to retiring at 55 and focus on buying a piece of land and converting it into a woodland.
He also dreamed about running an orphanage in Brazil. I never found out why Brazil, except he would say that there are a lot of poor kids there. I had started to convince him that perhaps he could look at India and I wouldn't mind supporting him in India, but Brazil was a step too far for me.
The more I'm writing I'm starting to remember just how selfless and visionary Paul was.
After the Buncefield blast in December 2005, Paul started to realise that much of the wildlife habitat in the surrounding area were damaged and the number of birds declined dramatically. It clearly affected him deeply. He decided to set up a business called 'Birdbox rental'. The idea behind this was that he would install and maintain bird boxes in and around Maylands industrial area close to the site of the blast and would charge the companies a nominal fee for the maintenance.
He spent £2k of his own money buying high end Schwegler bird boxes for this business. He thought that this will be a good and easy way for companies to gain 'green credentials', while helping the local bird population. The business never really took off as he wasn't good at selling the idea. He did approach the local newspaper who published the story. I will try and dig out the article and post it here someday. We still have some 50 odd boxes left in the garage. If anyone wants a bird box or two, just let me know. This is the time to put bird boxes up!
I will end this post with one last facet of Paul that I think people should know. He was a true recycling warrior! He was the first to start recycling coke cans and crisp packets at Dixons and probably at Howdens too. He encouraged everyone to do so. At home, we have always torn the plastic window from envelopes before recycling the envelope. He made us think constantly about what can be recycled and reused. After a night of drinking and takeaway curry, the last thing I would want is to wash the takeaway boxes before throwing them in the recycle bin. Sometimes I would sneak them in the bin which Paul will usually retrieve, reprimanding me for not doing the right thing and wash them. Even better than recycling was buying ethically or buying less plastic. He would always check the contents to see if the dishwasher or laundry tablet was individually wrapped or not. He would avoid buying the individually wrapped ones.
Conservation and ecology, nature, environment and wildlife - all of this was woven into the fabric of his being. Every breath he took, every step he took (Gawd....I am sounding like Sting), he thought about how to protect our precious environment.
I'm going to come all preachy here....If every single one of us could incorporate a small percentage of what Paul did into our daily lives - recycling, avoiding buying plastic, reusing where possible, then his life won't be a waste and I will be eternally grateful to you for continuing his legacy.