Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Times obituary, Saturday February 12th, 2011

Eddie Fowlie - a eulogy

Eddie took a very pragmatic view about life, including the afterlife, which he didn’t believe in. But should there be an afterlife - and not even Eddie could have planned for such an eventuality - there’s every chance God will be quaking in his espadrilles at the thought of Eddie’s arrival.
At this very moment Eddie is probably directing the Great Architect in the Sky on how to organise, arrange and anticipate every eventuality. No doubt, he’ll also be questioning St Peter’s ability to run the show. But in the end, God will have been grateful for Eddie’s advice, of that I’m in no doubt.
Eddie will be up to the task at hand, of course. He was well used to working around larger than life figures – he did work with David Lean on five films, after all.
I remember the first time I met Eddie more than six years ago. I was going to interview him for a local newspaper and we arranged to meet at the El Dorado Hotel which he had built many years before. He shuffled through the lobby towards me and I could tell straight away that he was not really looking forward to being interviewed. He perked up a bit when I suggested taking a photo of him.
But then he enquired what camera I had.
When I told him it was a digital Kodak his face dropped. He let me know in no uncertain terms that no self-respecting professional would be seen dead with such a shoddy piece of equipment. I thought I’d change tack and suggested taking a photo of him standing by the balcony of his home.
Bad move.
His eyes popped out, as though I’d instructed him to strip down to his shorts and do a tap dance on the table. With a withering look he said dismissively: “Ooh no. No reporter ever comes to my house”. Believe it or not, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Eddie was an intensely private man. He was also described as irascible, bloody-minded, awkward and downright rude. But that’s not the Eddie I got to know.
I’m deeply grateful and fortunate that my first, rather superficial encounter with him, was not my last. Not least because he was one of the most remarkable men I’ve ever met.
He was a shining example of the self-made man, driven by the conviction that if you’re determined enough, work sufficiently hard and have a special gift - like Eddie had - life is for the taking. For someone trying to write his life-story I often found it hard to unravel his innermost thoughts, but that was because he never stopped long enough to dwell on such trivial matters as the meaning of life. He was in too much of a hurry problem-solving. Like all remarkable men, tomorrow could not come soon enough.
Yet, it’s often those people who appear the most emotionally resilient and the least sentimental who make the most moving and poignant statements. The last time he phoned me about eight weeks ago he was in fine mood; lucid and utterly at peace with himself. I would like to think that he chose that day to tie-up all the loose ends with those people who were close to him. It’s only when I put the phone down that I realised he was saying goodbye.
It was typical of the man to plan everything to the last detail. My wife Susana noted this about Eddie too, and said he probably chose to slip away on a Saturday so that the funeral could be held on a Sunday, as if to say: “No-one is going to miss a bloody day’s work because of me.”
I will miss him and his mischievous sense of humour. I’m proud to have played some role in keeping his memory alive. If only we’d had more time to do more. He told me recently he had so many more stories to tell that he had enough material for a second book. Unfortunately, the old bugger kept it all to himself. It was also typical of Eddie to have the last word.
I hope wherever Eddie is now, he is doing what he always wanted to do: giving free rein to his imagination and, who knows, maybe even embarking on some great new film.