‘Everybody’s friend’

Jethro Dykes remembers his brother, Arsenal fan, wit and extrovert, but most of all a good companion

The first thing I wrote about my brother Jonathan after he died was about which James Bond actor he preferred. For him it was Sean Connery, but he was also a fan of Roger Moore. It is strange they have somehow managed to outlive him. This would have consoled him and let him console us, now that he’s gone. Jonathan and I spent many hours watching Bond.

When we were younger we played football, soldiers, that famously nerdy game Dungeons and Dragons and tennis. He never forgot our legendary battles on the tennis court. We were both base-liners but in fact we spent much time in mid-court, in no man’s land. We were sure that our games were more exciting than Wimbledon because our rallies went on so much longer. They were gruelling battles and he always won. Being older, he made sure of that.

 Sometimes my brother and I were susceptible to depression – the “Black Dog” Jonathan described it after coining the phrase from Winston Churchill. We pitied ourselves for leading a paltry existence. Neither of us did, we simply lacked confidence at times.

Jonathan was a difficult one to pin down, because socially he empathised with my own gaucheness. He knew what I was feeling and yet at the same time he managed to be entirely extroverted. He told me he had a quiet side but I never saw it. His chatter was unending and he was an asset socially. No matter who he was with, there were no pauses for breath. At school, he was very popular, and interestingly he looked down on the lads in his year. They were dull, overly sporty and only possessed a superficial cool.

Arsenal was his obsession. It was something I shared with him when I was younger but even then my enthusiasm could never reach his level. When I was aged 15, I went with Jonathan and an acquaintance of his to see them play. They talked about Arsenal the whole day and nothing else. Jonathan found it amusing, despite being a fanatic himself, that his friend simply could not talk about anything else. Jonathan could always look at something from the outside and have a joke, if necessary.

Jonathan was everybody’s friend. His skills were then, as a politician, at their sharpest. I did not follow his career. I knew that he was uncomfortable as a barrister. He eventually ended up at the Confederation of British Industry. I was impressed when his girlfriend, having heard one of his speeches, said just how good it was.

My own relationship with Jonathan centred for many years on his wit. Often we found it impossible to be serious. If not jokes, then it was catchphrases. If not catchphrases, then quoting films. His mastery of inflection and even body language was sublime. I always thought he should have been an actor. We were never able to open up to each other. If we were ever serious, it was about politics. Feelings were anathema to Jonathan. He was too English.

Jethro Dykes uses mental health services and is a writer


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