I can’t remember when I first met Robert Lynch, other than that it was at work at some time in late 1995.
And it certainly wasn’t me who gave him the nickname ‘Lunch’, on account of his undoubted talents as a trencherman, but it was certainly a name which suited him (and does to this day).
We became firm friends, largely because it fell to us to run the company cricket team. We had very clearly defined roles. His was to organise the fixtures, score runs, take wickets, be the butt of my jokes and eat all of the tea. Mine was to organise the team, point a lot and stop him from eating all of the tea. On the whole it was an arrangement which worked.
(Cricket geeks may like to know that, over two seasons, he scored 241 runs at 18.54 and took 23 wickets at 9.35, but I digress)
Friendship goes further than this, though, and Robert has always been one of those people who will pretty much go anywhere for anyone, do anything for anyone and yet never expect anything in return for it. He is, in that respect, the legendarily elusive free Lunch. Over the years he has turned out for countless cricket and rugby teams to help out friends, let alone the other times that he has been around to lend a supportive ear or helping hand.
One of the true tests of friendship, though, is how well it endures down the years. If you can go for several years without seeing one another – which, for reasons which I will not go into here, Robert and I have done at times – and yet pick up again as if you have never been apart when you do meet, then that is a friendship you will have forever.
Tales about Robert are legendary, and the great thing about him is that he tells them against himself so willingly. So much so that, when I was lucky enough to be his best man a few years ago, I had trouble finding anything to say about him that he hadn’t said already. (On the other hand, he struggled to find anything to say about me when the roles were reversed, largely because I never do anything interesting.)
The three great loves of Robert’s life have always been food, rugby, and anything to do with his beloved Gloucestershire. His one man campaign to bring Jack Russell back into the England team was loud, if not at all successful. It did lead to three of us taking him to Lord’s one day and dressing him up as the famously bonkers Gloucestershire wicket-keeper, but even that got turned on its head when he was then interviewed by local television as if he was the great man.
In short, it has been a great fifteen years and I’m very pleased that I can take this opportunity to wish one of my very best friends a happy 42nd birthday.