In memoriam: AA Gill

Author: PAT NOURSE
Photography: Tara Fisher

Dear Adrian,

This is going to make you squirm, but now is as good a time as any to say it: I want to thank you for your many kindnesses over the years we've worked together. It's a pretty distant remove, this - a 15-minute talk once a month down a satellite link from the other side of the world - but I feel like I've gotten to know you over these 12 years and it's been a pleasure. Taking copy down the phone is something I could've readily handed over to a junior, but to have done that would've been to have missed out on this curious friendship, and plenty more besides.

Taking your words and committing them to the page has sometimes given me a contact high, an intimation of what it must be like to have your command of style and cadence. I fully intend to steal your lines about your musical taste being so broad it could barely be called taste at all, and St John being the restaurant we might've had if George Orwell had married Elizabeth David. I've definitely already claimed the bit about needing to be the Pope to get a fax in Italy ("and even God can't get broadband"). Even the simple-seeming construction of lists becomes lustrous in your hands; you do markets with particular brilliance - frozen tuna laying like unexploded bombs steaming at dawn at Tsukiji, the honey, beeswax and figs of country France.

The simple process of looking up all the damned references in the column has opened my eyes to the existence of Kaliningrad and Nuuk, to the thrill of the Palio in Siena and A Memoir of the Lady Ana de Osorio, Countess of Chinchon and Vice-Queen of Peru (AD 1629-39) with a Plea for the Correct Spelling of the Chinchona Genus.

In the time we've spent walking the streets of Soho together or Sydney, I've savoured your occasionally bizarre sartorial flourishes (the heavy silver "A" you wore hanging from a chain around your neck, Flavor Flav-style, to dinner at Locatelli springs to mind here), your reliably gruesome attempts at an Australian accent, and your utterly unapologetic and world-class name-dropping. (My all-time favourite: George MacDonald Fraser.)

You've made the business of writing unfailingly excellent copy, month in, month out, seem so effortless.

You've brought substance to the line that I tell the interns about the real professionals in this business being the easiest and most pleasant to deal with.

Years before we'd ever spoken, I was floored by the gap you left on the page - ( ) - in your Sunday Times review of Acclaim!, the restaurant at the Millennium Dome, "for you and I to wave our palms at heaven and speechlessly make like a goldfish", and it makes me smile again to think of it.

When Anthea invited me to join the staff here at "Aussie Tucker Walkabout" way back in the primordial mists of 2004 (I was a happy freelancer at the time) it was her fervour for signing you as a columnist that made me think it might be a party I'd like to join.

How many gentle gâteaux enthusiasts and unwary strokers of heirloom vegetables leafing through these innocuous-seeming pages have had their world view quietly shaken by your brazen satires, your elegant japes, the startling breadth of your references and your insistence that syphilis was invented in Italy?

You have been the tarantula on the angel cake, the salt in the cocoa.

The version of this magazine that I have been part of would have been much less interesting, its horizons narrower, without your voice and your wit, and so too would the past 12 years I've spent working here.

For all that and so much more, I want to say thanks.

In Here and There, a book that collected some of your columns from the magazine, you wrote that these essays shared in the middle of the night from thousands of miles away had become "a pleasure to write" and "a source of pride and happy memory", and in that shared experience we can find some small solace.

Perhaps it's fitting, if I am here as an amanuensis of sorts, that my last words should be yours:

"The pleasure of the craft of journalism is that you start to work for money, but end up working with friends."

Your friend,
Pat

Adrian Anthony Gill, journalist, born 28 June 1954; died 10 December 2016.

Related: AA Gill's first-ever column for Gourmet Traveller.







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