The New Ways Kenya Bike Ride 2006. Photo by Stuart Glass

I was going to write about something completely different today but I had news this morning that Stuart, an old friend, had died and it seemed inappropriate to write about anything else.

I have of course been musing on friendship anyway as it’s a major theme of my book but the friendships in the book are of the ‘childhood and rest of life’ variety and I only met Stuart in my 40s when we kept bumping into each other at the squash club (not on court; I couldn’t aspire to his standard) and in the local church. We discovered that we were in the same industry and met up from time to time. Stuart was a headhunter and I became a candidate for one of his assignments – a successful one, which propelled me out of the comfortable rut I was in and gave me some interesting new challenges and some great people to work with.

Stuart was a keen mountain biker and ran a number of charity bike events, with the result that we cycled both off road and on road in Kenya for New Ways, a charity we both supported which focusses on sub Saharan Africa, especially Turkana ( ). When I agreed to do the first ride I’d not really ridden a bike for 30 years but, with his encouragement, his organisation of training rides, his advice and his friendship I managed a week of tough riding in the heat of the African sun. For Stuart was an encourager, the sort of cyclist who will shoot up the tough hills and then come back down to encourage the laggards. And encouraging, mentoring and networking remained his focus until illness took over.

We had some good times, drank a lot of coffee together, reminisced and planned. We continued to do so in the early stages of his Alzheimers, when he seems to show much bravery and a sense of humour in the face of what he knew must follow.

Sadly, he is now gone but I will always remember his encouragement, his humour and his friendship. And his courage. And not least, the importance of friendship.

Tony Earnshaw

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