I met Bob Turner when I edited Common Ground Magazine a couple of decades ago. He was our “distributor” which meant he drove around in a series of doubtful vans and dispatched his swampers to drop off the magazines at dozens of locations in Vancouver. When I met him I was out for a smoke which, Bob being Bob, was a good thing. He joined me, in a beaten up leather jacket looking like he’d rolled out of bed an hour before, and we enjoyed the first of, perhaps, 1000 cigarettes together.
Somehow he became my friend. And the friend and useful uncle to my elder son Simon.
He died two days ago.
There are dozens of stories I can tell about Bob. My youngest son Max is hearing the more respectable ones now. But there are two which stand out.
Years ago, Susan and I took Simon and went to stay on Galiano Island. I invited Bob. He arrived with a fold out trailer and his van and several bottles of rum. Alex Jones played late into the night. Susan was pregnant with my second son Sam but it was early. So, one morning, I suggested a short hike – I thought – to Coons Bay at the top of the island. Bob was game. So was Susan and so was a delightful German girl who, in a moment of absent mindedness, I had invited as well. Blonde and healthy she was ready to climb alps. Susan, not so much, Bob, not at all. We’d reached the quarter way point where there was a steep bit where you had to pull yourself up on a rope. It had begun raining. Quite hard. Bob looked at Susan and announced, “The Currie forced march ends here.”
As he finished his sentence, gunshots began ringing out. (Long story, not actually at us.) We scampered. As we retreated Bob looked at our German companion, “Of course you know, as the youngest member of our party, we eat you first.” Deadpan.
Susan has loved him from that day to this.
We’d circle round and connect year after year. Bob was very much involved with my elder son Simon who was not living with me and leading what Anthony Powell would describe as a very rackety life. He gave Simon a job as his swamper, which lasted on and off for four years, and sat in his van smoking at the kid and giving him no bullshit advice whether Simon wanted it or not.
Once in a while, Bob would email or, more often call. We’d talk business and then we’d roll around to Simon. Much discussion. But, ultimately, given what Simon the teenager was up to, Bob said something very wise – as he usually did: “There are just two things to worry about, he gets killed or he kills someone. If he makes it to twenty he’s good. The rest is bullshit and can get fixed.”
Simon made it to 20. He had many fathers but I suspect that the father who got him from 16 to 20 without being killed or killing someone else was Bob. Kind, patient, no bullshit Bob saved my son when I couldn’t.
I am so grateful to the man. And I will miss him. So will a lot of people in a variety of worlds where Bob felt at home. We’ll all miss him.