A chubby eleven-year-old boy sits on a bench at lunchtime in a playground. The school bully, eight-year-old Danny Adams, approaches and the older boy looks up with dread. Freckly-faced Danny scares him and Danny thrives on his fear. Grinning maliciously, Danny punches the boy directly in the face, giving him a bloody nose. The older boy silently gets up and walks to his bag to get some tissues. It’s 1986 and Damian’s decade of persecution has begun.
Overweight and with severe acne, Damian’s teenage years were unenviable. A sci-fi aficionado who eventually studied computing, he was a stereotypical nerd who could have been the inspiration for The Simpsons’ Comic-Book-Guy. A close family friend and a few years younger than him, I witnessed his unpopularity; distressed by the persecution he experienced, but there was little I could do to help. Relentlessly bullied and ostracised, he battled through.
At the bottom of the teen popularity ladder, he couldn’t fall any further. Interestingly, instead of this social leprosy crippling him, he decided to view it as a freedom. Though the constant ridicule was deeply upsetting, he was already condemned as an untouchable and therefore had no peers to impress. Liberated by this, he threw himself into pursuits he enjoyed (drama and other unconventional interests) with fervour, knowing he would be bullied no matter what he did.
In early adulthood Damian’s victimisation continued through a series of poor relationships, as emotionally unstable girls leant on his trustworthy, gentle and open-hearted nature. Frustratingly, each time he endured the relationship well past the reasonable point of tolerance. Abandoning eloquence for honesty, he was treated like crap and it pissed me off.
I’ve had a (platonic) soft spot for Damian for thirty years, however recently I’ve developed a real admiration for him. Through every difficult phase of his life, his attitude was remarkable; he didn’t just grit his teeth and bear the suffering – he smiled and radiated positive warmth. His kindness is ceaseless and his passion for, well everything, is truly inspiring. In 2011 he stayed with me in London. Already exhausted from a European tour, he didn’t stop for a second, pursuing his hobbies with awesome ferocity.
In London for four days, he:
- Went on the London Eye
- Visited Shakespeare’s Globe, where he tried desperately (& unsuccessfully) to be allowed on stage
- Underwent The Doctor Who Experience, where he flew the TARDIS
- Was strapped to a chair, had a hole drilled in his head and was bled from the wrists at the London Dungeon
- Wandered around the city searching for Monopoly board places
- Went to 221B Baker Street (the home of Sherlock Holmes) which he established is actually around 239 …
- Had his photo taken at King’s Cross station where the Harry Potter trolley is positioned at Platform 9 and ¾ (it was an oversight of JK Rowling’s that Paddington’s platforms 9 and 10 actually have train tracks between them …)
- Went to two musicals
- Eyed off a Dalek at the London Film museum
- Spent a fortune at Forbidden Planet, purchasing Doctor Who memorabilia, signed books, and a Dead Parrot (Monty Python, obviously …)
- Saw Big Ben, the changing of the guard, and fireworks on Guy Fawkes night
I’m ashamed to say that’s possibly more than I’ve done in the past year.
Damian’s addiction to sci-fi probably best illustrates his inherent nerdiness. He loves fantasy (preferably urban) and comedy by the likes of Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin and Neil Gaiman. He plays World of Warcraft, has a Murloc on his bookshelf , a DeLorean in his bedroom, owns 2000 DVDs and two 2-terabyte drives crammed with TV shows and movies.
From a caterpillar, Damian has become a brilliant butterfly. He says yes to anything and doesn’t waste a second of life. He loves acting and has been on the board of three different theatre companies. One of his life’s highs was directing a Terry Pratchett adaptation of Mort. His favourite performance role was Orin Scrivello (the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors). He’s written a novel and has been drawing comics since he was twelve. Oh and, having lived in Japan, he speaks Japanese.
Approaching forty, Damian’s soon to be married to a lovely, intelligent and attractive woman and I know it’s a cliché to say, but he really does deserve it. I’m grateful for him and proud to be his friend. The world needs more Damians.
It seems fitting to post this entry on Friday 13th, not only because Damian shares his name with the Antichrist from The Omen (albeit spelt differently), but because the timing of when I wrote it was peculiar. On Boxing Day, I stopped my dinner midway through because of an irresistible desire to write about Damian. It’s not uncommon for me to feel compelled to write, but it is uncommon to sacrifice food for it! An hour later this entry was complete and ready for public viewing later in the year – when Damian was actually engaged and after I’d obtained his permission for publishing (which, incidentally, I have). Damian phoned me from Melbourne on December 30th (I was in Fiji) to tell me his “big news”! He had got engaged at 9pm on Boxing Day … half an hour after I wrote this. I’m not a superstitious person, but I did find that quite a coincidence!