I first met David in Ipswich, when I was at the art school there and he was a visiting lecturer. I remember hanging over the balcony overlooking the octagon and chewing the fat, putting the world to rights. I was about 27 at the time, David was about 18 years older than me, and wiser, I loved listening to his ideas. Later, I came to Norwich and he also came and taught on my course there. After I graduated, we would bump into him, here there. And bit by bit I got to know him and love him.
The last time I saw him was in May, on his birthday but at a party at a friend's house. He was as usual, chipper, talkative, full of ideas, thoughts and opinions but not in an arrogant or selfish way. I have to confess, I did think that he looked older all of a sudden, but he was talking about how he had had fantastic treatment by the NHS five years previously when he had a heart condition. There was no real indication fo the illness that was about to knock him down.
His wife Galina was with him, and we all had a really good chat. I am glad I have that recent memory because the next thing I heard, a few weeks later, was that he had died after collapsing in France at a jazz festival. Not immediately - he was brought home and diagnosed with inoperable cancer apparently. I didn't see him in hospital, but I believe many of his friends did and that he was pragmatic about his forthcoming death.
David was such a distinctive character that one of the hardest things is that I can still picture him in so many situations, and I can picture him in a hospital bed, coming to terms with that kind of news, and making preparations for his last few days on earth. Apparently, one of his desires was for his funeral service to be held in Norwich Cathedral, where had, some years ago, carved two full-size stone figures for the West Door - of St Benedict and of Julian of Norwich.
And so it was, that today, his funeral service was held at the cathedral with full regalia, and even though he was not a religious man, it was very fitting just for the value of recognition. The nave was full of well-wishers - artists, musicians, friends, family - all people that respected him and will miss him. As the choir sang, I imagined him leaning over the balcony behind the organ saying 'that's bloody amazing' and loving the fact that so many people were listening along with him. He would have had a laugh at many of the things that were said about him, he would have enjoyed the sociable after-party. He should have been there and I wished that he was.
I will miss him on a personal level but I also feel sad that a skill and talent such as he has is gone forever. As a young man, he was apprenticed to David Kindersley where he learnt the craft of letter-cutting and sign-writing. After a few years, he developed his own distinctive style using brush strokes to map out letters. He studied middle eastern and ancient letterforms and translated them into flowing words. His work is to be seen all over Norwich but also in many places further afield. He could be seen carting great lumps of stone around his garden workshop right up until the last few weeks of his life.
When he was commissioned to carve the sculptures for the cathedral by the Dean of Norwich at the time, Stephen Platten, he told me that he was s**t scared at the idea and tried to refuse the work. He had never carved a full figure before. But the Dean insisted and so David thought that if he was going to do it, he must do a good job. He went and stayed in a Benedictine Monastery in France for three weeks to research St Benedict - well that is what he told me anyway - it might have just been a good holiday in France. But whatever, the results were amazing and I am so pleased that they are there as it leaves such a remarkable legacy for his life.
He was also a well-known musician, professional for part of his life but recently playing just for the sheer pleasure. I feel that he should be honoured for the city in some way and I hope that one of the artist groups that he belonged to (Norwich 20 Group and Norfolk Contemporary Arts Society) will organise some kind of retrospective in his honour.
David, we will miss you, but in the word of Julian of Norwich 'All shall be well' RIP my friend.