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Opinion & Analysis

Don't forget to make time

Someone sent me a photo of Eric Shaw recently that plunged me into nostalgia.

In it, he is diving in Rosia Bay next to a small boy whose long locks are splayed out adrift in the ebb and flow of the tide. My son, taking his first diving lesson.

Years later, the boy, now a man, still treasures it as a magical moment.

Eric, who died last month after decades of frontline conservation and heritage work, was a good teacher.

Not just on how to dive safely and on nature, but on life in general. A mentor.

He used to joke that he was a terrible bore, and some people might agree. But I loved spending time with him and he enriched my life.

He was a people person, but he was never afraid to speak his mind. He was always generous with his time and friendship and could be funny and blunt in the same breath. It was refreshing.

The measure of the man was evident at his funeral. In a packed church, there were people from all walks of life, of all ages, who had come to pay their respects and remember their friend.

What better mark of a life well lived than that? Every person there carrying a little bit of his legacy.

In the online world, where during the Covid pandemic Eric garnered a healthy following of tens of thousands of people from around the globe, each eagerly awaiting his little Tik Tok gems delivered with typical panache on anything from marine life to the beauty of flowers, there was an outpouring of sadness at news of his death.

He had a certain manner, Eric. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, and if you were in his bad books, you wouldn’t forget it in a while. Mostly though, he was usually right, and above all, he was always fair.

He was the ‘go to’ for journalists like me on anything related to the environment. But it was in his dealings with people where the rich seams lay and where, if you watched and listened carefully, his perceptive insight into the human condition often rubbed off.

The last lesson Eric taught me was both accidental and bittersweet.

I failed him in the final years of his life, our friendship falling victim to the pressures of a relentless news cycle. Talk about getting my priorities wrong. I’d bump into him very occasionally and we always made a promise to have a drink some time. But we never did.

And now it’s too late and it fills with me regret. I’ll remember him always with a smile, passionate and full of energy. But I’ll always wish I’d been there more for him toward the end.

There’s nothing I can do to fix that now except be pragmatic and learn from it going forward, to always remember the importance of making time.

It’s a valuable lesson.

And as always with Eric, I like to think, or at least I hope, it made me just that little bit wiser.

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