Helen Lianos

I have been putting off writing up my thoughts about Ian since Kathy told me about this website, because I want what I say to be clever, eloquent and articulate – the way he was. But I’m not, so I am just going to bumble in, blurting out thoughts as they occur to me.


I first met Ian when we worked together at Friends of the Earth — in the late 1990s or early 2000s? Typically of a lot of people who worked at FoE, I was there for many years, and I can’t remember exactly which overlapped with Ian. We first got to know each other hanging out in the bike shed, because it was the designated smoking area in those bad old days (I bet nobody reading this thought it was because Ian was a cyclist!). We struck up a friendship that continued long after we both moved on to other jobs. We got into a pattern of meeting for a big boozy lunch followed by a film or exhibition. I’ve just gone through my credit card records and waxed nostalgic reading the names of the many, many restaurants next to which I’ve noted “lunch with Ian”. The last one (oh, God, the last one) was at a rather odd place called Blacklock in Soho, after which we went to see the David Copperfied film, which I suggested and which delighted him (somewhat to his surprise, I recall). The one before that was the Brasserie Blanc on the South Bank, after which we went to an exhibition at the Hayward (Bridget Riley). So many good meals, good films, good art, good culture over the years in his company. The Cork & Bottle in Leicester Square, Brasserie Zedel off Piccadilly Circus, Ognisko in South Kensington. Exhibitions at the V&A, the Royal Academy, the British Museum.
I can’t believe this is the end of these outings. I feel bereft.

When I heard the awful news (thank you, Roger Higman, for thinking to let me know), I called my daughters, who are now fully grown but who both regaled me with happy funny memories of outings with Ian, both when they were small and more recently. My daughter Chloe said “Remember, when we met up with him after the Women’s March, we went shopping in Old Compton Street and he bought me some whiskey and some fancy coffee”. Oh yes, that whiskey shop was often fortuitously on the route between the restaurant and the cinema or vice versa…

And to whom shall I turn for political wisdom now that I don’t have Ian to explain it all to me? I used to save up questions for him about the mad shit I was hearing on the news or reading about in the papers. Lately, I have to say, he took to shrugging and saying “who the hell knows” rather than making the confident predictions I remember being more frequent in the past.

Understandably.

I never met Ian’s family but I feel like I know all of you, because he talked about you all the time, so fondly. Stories about the nieces and nephews were lunchtime entertainment: not making fun of you, I hasten to add: he talked about all of you with genuine affection, interest and pride.
Oh, and antique markets and fairs: he would invite me to go along with him to those sometimes, with a focus on Christmas presents for nieces and nephews. Alfie’s on Church Street off Lisson Grove, for example.

And music, of course, music. He would pull out his iPod and hand me the headphones and play his latest esoteric discovery or some piece particularly relevant to our conversation. I think he despaired of my lack of musical sophistication, but forgave me for it.

My life has been hugely enriched by knowing Ian. I will miss him so much that it hurts. I’m just going to leave it here, although I know I’ll think of things I left out and will have wished I’d included.