I heard the shocking news last week that one of my oldest friends — Richard Edwards — had died suddenly of a stroke. He was just 54 and a picture of health.
I met Richard in 1988 when we were both PhD students at Cambridge. He had got the second-highest First in English in his year and was thought to have a brilliant academic career ahead of him, but as the year wore on it became clear that neither of us were particularly attracted to the scholarly life. Instead of dragging ourselves off to the library every day to ‘do the reading’, we would sit in his room drinking wine, making each other laugh and luxuriating in our mutual dissipation.
He taught me the word acedia, which refers to the ‘deadly sin’ of sloth, but in his telling it also meant the sheer pleasure of wantonly squandering your gifts. We had both felt weighed down by the need to please our parents and our teachers and decided to give ourselves a year off. At least, I thought we had. At the end of that academic year I’d achieved precisely nothing, but Richard, while appearing to do no work, had secured an MPhil.
He did a law conversion course, followed by a pupillage, and was called to the bar in 1993. He had a successful career as a barrister, acting for a number of claimants in high-profile cases in the art world, and was described as ‘simply masterful in court’ in the Legal 500. He became a QC in 2016.
Richard was one of five old friends I met up with every year for a boys’ Christmas lunch.