The last time I saw Warren—or Norm, as he was widely and affectionately known—he was standing in the middle of the road by Deanshanger roundabout with a big grin on his face. An enormous HGV was in the process of towing his car out of the bushes after he’d taken the roundabout a little too fast and skidded onto the verge. Warren, irrepressible as ever, shouted words of encouragement to the driver while I watched on in bemusement, and once the car was back out on the road he tapped me for all the cash I had on me in order to tip the driver of the HGV. After that, we drove over to Central Milton Keynes, where we spent the next hour wandering around the shopping centre trying to find a store that sold remote control cars. Even at thirty-five years old, this was a fairly typical day in Warren’s company.
It’s strange for me to be back in Buckingham, again, having spent many happy years at school here, and then heading off into the Big Wide World… before returning to teach here, going off again, and returning once more. It’s strange because it’s so familiar. Everything’s pretty much the same as it was—except for one thing, that is. Or rather, one person.
There’s a big part of me that will always associate Buckingham with Warren. The anecdote I just shared was typical, because—and I think this is something with which everyone here will be able to identify—Warren brought an element of unpredictability to almost everything we did together. With Warren, it was always an adventure. He’d often invite me over, and sometimes he’d have something planned, sometimes not. It didn’t matter. Most of the time, I went along just to see what the hell might happen.
For example, if he wanted to play tennis—a sport he could play half-arsed, with a cigarette in his hand, and still thrash me—we couldn’t just go and play tennis. No, with Warren, we had to either sneak into the courts up at our old school, or trick someone into telling us the code down at Chandos. Or, say he had an errand to run—like pay some money into the bank—he couldn’t just nip in and out. No. He would always end up having a bit of banter with the cashier, making a bizarre comment that freaked them out, or, if it happened to be an attractive young woman serving, try to chat her up.
I mention these things not to paint him in a bad light, or embarrass his mum—I think by now that’s virtually impossible. On the contrary; this was Warren—the Warren I knew and loved. The Warren we all knew and loved.
It might sound like a bit of a stretch to some people here, but I often thought of Warren a bit like a rock star that missed his calling (which is funny, because as far as I remember, he had terrible taste in music). But like a rock star, Warren had that dangerously magnetic edge to him; he was a larger than life character who made everyday experiences way more fun than they might otherwise be.
I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss him, but I want Lynne, and Russell, and everyone else here to know that I’m truly thankful to have known him, and to have shared with him those experiences, as well as many, many others.
Finally, I just wanted to add that I was in the pub with Chris and Ed a couple of weeks ago, and we were discussing all the things we might now get away with, justifying our actions under the pretext of: “It’s what Norm would have wanted.” I won’t tell you what some of those activities entailed, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that this—all of this, with all of these people in attendance—is very much what Norm would have wanted.”
Posted in memory of Warren Garnett, 29.12.1977 – 2.11.2013