Throughout his life Sam was often chiding me for following him about both literally and in terms of taste – music, art, country pubs and Golden Virginia. Sometimes, when looking back, I like to humour myself that I may have acted as some kind of mirror for Sam back in the days when his music taste was not so refined and Britney Spears was blu-tacked to his wall next to tickets from his third attendance of We Will Rock You. Watching me sing along to Freddie Mercury’s Barcelona duet with Opera singer Montserrat Caballé may have jolted his sense of reality in a way that, in later years, led him to Thomas Tallis (before Queen) for an insight into the beautiful.
In my defence, Sam had assigned himself as my teacher and mentor from an early age. From about the age of 5 or 6 (or at least before I was at school) Sam used to sit me down after church every Sunday and teach me the parable of the Good Samaritan, or how to spell Wednesday, or a simple, one-fingered tune on the piano. Although this only lasted a few months, I remember the lessons remarkably clearly. In later years he taught me how to hold a cricket bat properly and how to bowl, how to distinguish a Roundhead from a Cavalier, how gravity worked and how to cast a fishing rod, and how S Club 7 should be listened to under no circumstances and was henceforth banned from the house. So, with a teacher like this, it was hard not to want to know more and, perhaps, bring something of it to others. But Sam’s chiding taught me one of the most essential lessons of all: to learn is a great thing, but better to learn to be who you already are. So we, during our teenage years, began to grow apart in our music tastes, living patterns and philosophies but grew closer as kin through discussion, debate and simply being who we were together. I felt that this year past had been the beginning of a great friendship that always takes time to emerge in siblings and that, wherever I ended up, Sam would be somewhere nearby to remind me of who I had always been.
I remember Sam, last year, introducing me proudly as his ‘little sister’ to a friend with a delight that nearly (embarrassingly) brought me to tears and it is in this way that I will always think of my 6 foot 5, charming brother. The last words I received from him said: “Up in the Himalayas at the moment, very beautiful. Hope you’re managing to put in a last push before the end of this phase of education, it’s worth it. Learn from my mistakes child.” Despite Sam’s quintessential, playful humour in his last words of advice to his little sister, he could not help but be a teacher to me, and I have no doubt that is how it will always be.