Saturday, 5 March 2016

Randall Calvin

My very good friend Randall Calvin passed away just some days ago.

We arrived in Brussels around the same time - he just some months after me - and we quickly became good mates. He  worked with the Socialists teaching languages, I worked with the Eurosceptics.

Later he was to concentrate on citizen journalism, an activity which he based on social media, and which he was very good at.

From his apartment he once filmed the brutal beating of a young Arabic guy by a group of Brussels police officers. I won't go into details, but it was horrific. The resulting video went viral, and is now used as a training aid by Belgian police to illustrate how quickly things can go wrong.

He once interviewed me in the middle of a riot outside the European Parliament. To a backdrop of riot police, teargas, and sirens, I stood alongside a pyre of burning tractor tyres speculating about the future of European democracy. It was great fun!

But my favourite memory (although I probably shouldn't admit this) was inside the parliament, just before Christmas 2012.

An elderly priest from Rome was leading a group of Italian MEPs in prayer, when Randall made what I can best describe as an 'intervention'. He was a committed atheist, and was never shy about sharing his views in public. The resulting chaos is talked about fondly to this day.

As a result of another interesting discussion on religion, with a Sikh, he was to become, in his 30s, the first man I know to be banned from his local sweet shop. As a result he had to lurk on the corner, like a guilty schoolboy, asking people to go in and buy him cigarettes, which I found hilarious.

The last time I saw Randall, about 3 weeks ago, he was enthusiastic about a new role he had found, visiting an elderly British WW2 veteran who is now in a Brussels nursing home. I know the chap in question, Eric, as he was for many years the standard bearer for the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

Actually, our conversation took place on the exact spot where the picture of us at the beginning of this post was taken on November 11th 2013. The chap in photo on the wall behind us is our dear friend Glynne Davis, another WW2 veteran, who passed away a few years ago at the grand age of 99.

On the right is Randall in the Lebanon in 1989.

Randall could be a difficult person sometimes, and could become very emotional very quickly. But he was very much a part of my life for most of my time in Brussels so far.

I spent many hours with him, and his lovely wife Raquel, over the years.

Randall's funeral will be held at St. Patrick's Garrison, Galway, today. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

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