Warning: there shall be swearing in this memorial, as the man being remembered was not afraid of swearing.
Robin Lilley was my friend.
Robin was a holder of definite opinions, and was not easily swayed. It is to my great fortune that he decided that I was worth getting to know thirteen years ago, on my second visit to my new local bar, in my new neighbourhood, new city, new country.
The first afternoon we met, we played pool. He lost. He decided to challenge me at darts. He lost. He laughed and bought me a beer. We retired to his customary spot at the bar by the megatouch games machine, and he cleaned my clock at any number of trivia and pattern recognition games, but found me interesting enough to keep chatting with into the evening. An American with an English mother, he understood what I was talking about in the days before I learned to alter my Scottish slang in the face of polite incomprehension. Robin truly became a bridge for me into the United States, and into my first community in the states. His generosity of spirit to me that day, of walking up to me, saying “Hi” and being welcoming, has never really been repaid. Thank you, Robin, for inviting me to be your friend. I shared my first Christmas in America with Robin, the two of us and a fourteen pound turkey. He complimented my roast parsnips, happy to get a taste of the old country. He became my first and best friend in America, for which I will be eternally grateful.
When he heard of my desire to write, he told me of his idea for a novel in which his everyman hero would go through many trials, and each chapter would end with a new disaster and the phrase, “Ah, shit.” His was a wit rich in curiosity, irony and sarcasm, of flipping the stone to see what was underneath, and when discovering something unpleasant, finding humour in it rather than recoiling. I loved his ability to look at the grim and find humour, or the way his passion over an issue would flash into something that would look like anger to those who did not know him, and as he rose to a crescendo of irritation, he would flip the idea on its head, make it seem ridiculous, shrug and laugh it and his irritation clean away. That made him a charming bastard. His clever curiosity could surprise and amuse in equal measure.
He was a creative soul (an orc figurine he painted watches me type right now) and a musician to his core. When we first met he was not playing regularly, and in a sense I did not truly meet him until he was. On the drummer’s stool, he became whole, and his restlessness abated. Before or after he played he might complain, he might find fault in his performance, or others’, or a song’s strengths and weaknesses, but when he played, he was present, for himself and his band-mates. As time went by, he perhaps came more and more to resemble Charlie Watts, lean and playing with an economy forced on him by his diabetes, no flourishes, just the rat-a-tat-tat of punk rock delivery, crisp and clear. When I last saw him play, it was in the set up and performance that he was happiest, even and especially during the interludes when his band-mates took centre stage. When he played he was calm and appreciated the music he participated in making. The rest of the time he was full of piss and vinegar, but when he played he was a musician, and he loved his work. That is how I will best remember him.
Robin, my dear friend, I will miss you terribly. You were goofy and stubborn, a generous perfectionist, cynical with a mile wide romantic streak. You didn’t hide that as well as you thought! I would end this with, “Ah, shit,” as it would give you a laugh, but instead I’ll end it as you ended your phone calls in the last few years: Love you man.