“I’m sad to say that Colin passed away earlier today. You will know in your own way what a unique and special human being he was and how he cared for each and every one of his friends. He put up a brave fight until the end and slipped away without pain or discomfort.”
- Stephen Lawrence, Close Friend, 28th June 2018
“If ever I were to be asked what is the best advice to pass on, it would be to make your hobby your job or at the very least enjoy what you do, because wealth isn’t always measured by the size of your bank account.”
- Colin Butts, 11th December 2017
I have written several obituaries. It is never an easy job, but due to my own friendship with Colin I was prepared for this to be tougher still. However, as it turns out that has not been the case at all.
At a practical level Colin’s prolific written output allows me to present much of what needs to be said in his own words, and there would be few writers arrogant enough to claim they could be bettered. But also at an emotional level, the process has given as many laughs as tears. In preparation I downloaded the message thread between Colin and I, which amounted to an astonishing 235,603 words. For sure there have been moments in reading that have cut me to the quick. One example was an incidental mention of having had a bad bout of the hiccups, something he later attests to be the moment the cancer became evident. But also so many fond memories rekindled, so many of which cannot possibly be shared. For me, the compilation of information and tributes contained has been a cathartic process.
Despite the extent of our correspondence, I would not wish to claim to be any more than a bit player in terms of Colin’s close friendships and relationships. There are those closest to Colin for whom the term friend seems inadequate. Stephen Lawrence seems to fulfil all and more of the criteria most of us would give to family.
Colin charged me with writing an obituary, telling me “it better be a #@~*ing good one”, and it is with those close friends in mind I hope to do it justice.
It will not be brief, “I expect an 8 page pull-out” he said, and I expect many reading this can see the smile on his face as he said it, but regardless, one of the things we had in common was a love of language – never use a hundred words when a thousand will do.
Some of Colin’s most memorable public posts are included and they can run to what some would consider a short story. But this is not written with a view to maximising the Social Media engagement of 20 second attention spans. Having worked closely with Colin on the obituary of Giles Sawney, I am confident it is the obituary he would have wanted.
We will start at the beginning, and end at the end, with a good smattering of tributes and quotes along the way. I have tried to select tributes that best reflect the many, many, more that have been posted than could ever be included here. All text in quotes not otherwise attributed are Colin’s own words, unedited, as it should be.
- Written and Compiled by Nick Gibbs, Editor
- Contributions by Mickey McMonagle, Stan Farrow, and many other people and places I’ve grabbed bits from in the last couple of days.
New Cross, South East London
“I was a prolific reader as a child. I was brought up in New Cross and they had a library there where every time you read a book you’d get an apple on your reading tree. Once you had ten apples you’d get a tree. I had about 20 trees and the closest to me had 2 as I recall.”
Born on the 11th September 1959, Colin’s childhood years were spent in New Cross, South East London.
Despite what he described as a tough working class upbringing, Colin gained entry to Wilson’s grammar school, requiring a 3 hour round trip commute across London to Wallington. One eventful journey stood out in his memory.
“Waddon Tube Station was the scene of my showdown with Heath Clark. He thought we were Grammar school wankers but didn’t account for half a dozen of us bringing a bit of New Cross & Peckham to the suburbs. We done ’em! Weirdly, as naff as it is now reading that back there’s still a lairy 15 year old in me puffing his chest out at the memory.”
Colin’s mother Violet suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis. She died aged just 57, which Colin described as being ‘released from her pain’.
“When I was an infant I remember a teacher asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to find a cure for rheumatoid arthritis. I didn’t know many 3 syllable words at that age. I knew those 2 though. I knew because with the directness only small children have, I’d asked my mum why her hands were such a funny shape? Why she had to ask me to help undo jars? Why she had to walk down the stairs one at a time with her back against the wall? Rheum-a-toid arth-ri-tis. I never understood the incredible pain she was in on a daily basis. I never realised the courage it took to simply go shopping, in the days when the nearest co-op was over a mile away. I never appreciated how hard it was for her to accomplish everyday things most take for granted.”
Colin’s father Joe died in 1985. Joe fought in the 2nd world war, being one of those evacuated from Dunkirk and seeing a lot of action elsewhere between 1939 and 1945. Colin later reflected that he wished he had paid more attention to his father’s wartime account.
There was an undeniable tinge of sadness or regret whenever Colin talked of his parents. In 2016 he tried, unsuccessfully, to locate his natural mother, though he always referred to Violet unequivocally as ‘Mum’.
“Weird – lived exactly half my life now with no mum & dad. A few friends have lost parents recently and I know you’ll have days when everything seems surreal & you just wanna curl up in a little ball & sob. You’ll be plagued with guilt for silly things – eventually you’ll even feel guilty for not feeling guilty! But that’s when you know you’re healing & that life does indeed go on. Then one day, you’ll struggle to remember their voice or their little nuances and that too will make you sad. But it’s just your dear old brain’s way of protecting you. Then every so often that same little mischievous grey organ will bless you with a dream that is so vivid that when you wake up, it’s as if they were in the room with you and everything comes flooding back. And the tears will come flooding back too but on those occasions you’ll welcome them cos whilst the pain is almost as raw as that day you got the phone call or were by their bedside, it reminds you who they were and more importantly, who you are.”
London Life – The Eighties
By the early eighties Colin was in the full throws of pursuing his musical ambitions. He started out playing keyboards in a band called White Rabbit, which he described to me as similar in style to XTC. A big break came and went within a week when he auditioned and was taken on as keyboard player for Squeeze following the departure of Jools Holland. Unfortunately, they then told him they had found someone with more experience, though Colin said he later found out it was really because the band thought he was ‘a bit gobby’.
Colin’s next musical project went on to support the Stray Cats, Lene Lovitch, Dr. Feelgood, and a then newly emerging band getting a lot of media attention by the name of U2.
“I didn’t want to be a just a keyboard player and I was writing my own songs, so I formed my own band called Hiss the Villain. It started as a 4 piece with me singing and I had the 1st Moog Liberator in the country – the keyboard you hang around your neck. It grew to a 12 piece with a 4-piece brass section. We had quite a few nearly-made-it stories, but whilst I was a decent songwriter, I had a shit voice. My ego was too big to get a proper singer, I thought that if Ian Dury and Suggs from Madness could do it, so could I!”
It was during this time Colin had his first holiday to Ibiza in 1983.
He says that until around 1984 he was totally convinced the band would crack the music scene, but back in the days when a record label contract was essential to progress, it never quite happened for them.
The death of his father Joe in 1985 resulted in Colin wanting to get away, and it was the suggestion of a friend that lead to his first holiday rep job for Twenty’s, and his eventual arrival in Ibiza.
From Ibiza to The Elephant & Castle
Colin returned to Ibiza for a month in 1986 and arrived in Ibiza for his first summer season in 1987. He had driven himself down from the U.K. in his red Triumph Herald convertible, and a break-down in France would come to feature in the first of his novels based upon his experiences as a holiday rep.
In 1988 he managed Gala Nights outside san Antonio, now more commonly known as home to the Zoo club, though back then it was a very different package holiday experience on offer.
But it was back in the UK in 1991 when he took over the notorious Health Club near the Elephant and castle in London that he says got him back into Clubbing and Music, referring to the mid 90s Happy Days UK Garage Sundays as ‘probably the best clubbing times I had’.
“At the Health Club I was responsible for Ministry of Sound & Girls FM after-parties, attended by Range Rover fated Essex Boys, fame and fortune destined party animals, and the great London unwashed. The place that helped give birth to the infamous Penge Parties, the place I wrote ‘Is Harry on the Boat’ and the place that could’ve so easily seen me in nick. Think I even trained there once or twice too. The Conditioning Club/Legends/The Health Club…I salute and curse you in equal measure.”
Is Harry On The Boat?
Despite a life of shady shenanigans, Colin found the time to write, publish and sell his first novel, Is Harry on the Boat. Taking its inspiration from his time as a holiday rep in Ibiza, it resonated with those who recognised the lifestyle, and became an aspirational manual to those who fancied a bit of it.
I recall telling Colin of an Ibiza tourist, who then became a worker and then resident, who had told me ‘Is harry on the Boat’ was entirely responsible for the direction her life had taken. She loved the book and said it had been passed around her university dorm until the pages were falling out.
In our private conversations Colin felt none of the need for the humility he would have displayed if he had responded to that comment on social media. He told me it was the very best of all feelings. Be it writing or music, knowing he had touched somebody with his work gave him a huge buzz. Reading the tributes in the past few days I have seen several that have accredited ‘Is Harry on the Boat’ with a life changing effect. However, getting the book published and out there was far from straightforward.
“I wasn’t one of those authors fortunate enough to have an agent falling over themselves to take me on, nor to find a publisher who thought I had a best seller. Anyone who knows me will understand that I am not prone to over self-confidence – quite the opposite in fact. Yet on this occasion I knew I was right and they were wrong. I’ve still got the letter that I rather uncharacteristically wrote to the boss of Orion Publishing, telling him I thought it would sell over 100,000 copies given the right shelf space.
“The reason? It was set in Ibiza. I knew my market. The time was right.
“So I had to self-publish. I formed my own publishing company (Tuesday Morning Publishing) even though I knew nothing about the industry, which was actually a good thing because if I had I would never have embarked on that route.
“I made out we were a bigger company than just a one man band, adopted a pseudonym when ringing up wholesalers etc. complete with a disguised, posh voice and did everything from designing the cover to unloading the lorry to invoicing the book shops etc.
“After a year or so I’d sold 20,000 copies and it was only later I discovered the average 1st novel sells 5-10,000 through major publishers. Where it was given decent shelf space it did well – it was number 1 in Books Etc.’s Canary Wharf shop for about 3 weeks. Not bad when at the time over 2,000 books a week were being published.
“After that I did get a book deal and it did sell over 100,000 copies. Then a 15 year old girl read it, gave it to her film producer mum telling her it should be a film and a year later it was made over here and after the film spawned a TV series that ran for 2 seasons. The then 15 year old Lily Allen knows how grateful I’ll always be for her showing it to film producer mum Alison Owen and whilst Is Harry on the Boat? had many faults, it attained a cult status and all those involved (many of whom are still friends) all agreed it was a unique, special experience and some lifelong friendships were made.”
Colin’s encounter with Lily Allen is a story all in itself. I interviewed him in 2014 after Lily’s performance at Ibiza Rocks. He told me of their first meeting, his view of her as someone very special, and their recording session. You can read that full interview below.
From around the same time, an interview with Colin on TV.
Ibiza Move, Year 2000
Throughout the nineties Colin continued in music production, mainly UK Garage but also delving into house. His best known production was a remix of Sweet Dreams in 2000, the same year he decided to make a big change and move to Ibiza for good.
Plastik opened in 2002. Initially it came about because he needed somewhere as a permanent base for his recording studio. There was a record shop in San Antonio called Plastic Fantastic, which Toni Oneto and his wife Rebecca were partners in. Colin asked if he could put his studio out the back and they decided to put a little bar there to service the studio. The bar proved such a success that within a couple of years the record shop and studio ceased trading. It changed its name to Plastik and was considered a pioneering San Antonio bar.
Over to Stan Farrow, the then Mixmag man on Ibiza, for an insight to the Colin of early Plastik years. “My knowledge of Colin started with Plastik, which was a record shop mainly with a little bar at the back and a studio – which I’m pretty sure is where Colin and Alex Ellenger did their version of ‘Club Tropicana’.
“They soon decided that the bar was the best earner so went with that. He was always out in those days, knew every glamour model on the planet and dispensed advice and piss-taking equally.
“I saw him mainly at Kasbah which was owned at the time by one of his best friends, Giles Sawney who also recently passed away. He would sit there with Giles putting the world to rights before heading on somewhere and holding court for the ladies.
“He was a great piano player and a surprisingly nimble table tennis player…battered me on many occasions.”
By now Colin had been joined by his partner and friend Andy Matthews, who was taking care of the bar side of the business with Colin’s attentions turning to script writing – and according to Stan and local folklore, many other diversions too. Dermot Condon joined Plastik and Colin was always at pains to highlight Dermot’s importance and loyalty to the business.
Andy Matthews: “I pr’d outside Koppas from 97 and met him then..I was at the top of my pr game and he would come and see me for beers birds etc?. It was then he asked me if I fancied a change and he’d been offered a place and that he wanted to do it with me. Dermot was the best DJ in West End and a good pal working downstairs in Nightlife with Alex Ellenger. …so became a solid team and brilliant wing man ??”
Plastik went from strength to strength and in 2007 they moved from San Antonio’s West End to a much bigger venue at their current location opposite the landmark Egg roundabout.
Is Harry Still On The Boat? and A Bus Could Run You Over
In whatever time he found for writing, Colin was in part mentored by Paul Abbott, creator of Shameless. As well as film Colin also did some TV, including writing six episodes for the final series of Sky One’s football-based drama: Dream Team.
Colin mentored other writers including Ronnie Thompson and together they wrote award winning short STAINED for East Midlands Film Council, which led to the prison based feature, SCREWED.
Hedonism had little detrimental effect on Colin’s creative output. He published two further novels, ‘Is Harry Still on the Boat?’ in 2003, and ‘A Bus Could Run You Over’ a year later in 2004.
Colin would later confide that he was never happy with the construct of the first Harry books. He felt that they lacked some of the creative writing techniques that he had developed by the time of writing ‘A Bus Could Run You Over’, which he considered by far his best work.
By 2011, Colin had completed a screenplay based upon his third and favourite novel, A Bus Could Run You Over. The script was taken up by Fulwell 73 Productions and released as the film The White Island in 2016. Filming took place in both the UK and Ibiza, and the film was made for a reported £1,000,000 budget. The cast includes Lyndon Ogbourne, Billy Zane, Billy Boyd, Joel Dommett and Daren Day, with a cameo by DJ Carl Cox, playing himself.
“Since A Bus Could Run You Over was released in 2004 I always wanted it to reach the audience I felt it deserved. The answer was to get it made into a film.
“Yet again, unlike authors who are fortunate enough to (usually deservedly) get their works optioned, I’ve had to once more go the DIY route. I did it with the book, I used to do the white label, DIY route when I was producing records and let’s face it, I’ve been doing DIY sex for years. So in a way, doing it with the film is probably only to be expected.
“If I’m honest it would be nice just once for me not to have to prove I’m right and have someone have the faith in me not to have to go through this but there’s an argument it’s part of the fun I guess. So, I’ve been prodding wealthy friends for a few years now to try and get the money together, which is quite a bit more than I needed to get 1,000 books printed! This year though I’ve been on a total fucking mission because rather like with the Is Harry novel, I know the time is right and I know I’m right about just how well the film will do.
“It’s set in Ibiza. I know my market. Zeitgeist.
“Due to the Ibiza season there are only certain times you can film. The deadline for me to raise the money for getting it filmed this summer and not go through this all over again in 2016 was yesterday. Although the money was pledged I didn’t have the signatures and as of yesterday afternoon I thought I’d failed.
“And then it all came good.
“It would be indiscreet to list the investors, but Tony Truman has been hugely instrumental in helping and I’d kiss his big bald head if it didn’t feel a little narcissistic doing so.
“Therefore, barring any major hiccups that make me end up with severe egg on my face, I can now very, very proudly announce that A BUS COULD RUN YOU OVER is being made, filming to start in Ibiza on September 28th.
“Fuck, that felt good.
“More details will follow regarding cast, need for extras etc. etc. but I’ve waited a long time to be able to write this so if you’re still reading, sorry to have rambled but equally, if you’re a proper friend, you’ll know how much it means. Yes, I’ve done other films and stuff on TV but this project is the one that’s always been special to me and I can’t wait to see it on screen and to share the story with you.
We featured the making of White Island in the Ibizan – and in a purely coincidental, but none the less apt, piece of page layout, had him staring at a scantily clad girl on the opposite page written by his friend Amanda O’Riordan.
The Big C
On the 25th of April 2016, Colin made a public post that many people will remember. In a very Colin-esque strategy to reach ‘the people who can be bothered to read that far’, he starts with some misdirection, and even in the face of such a gloomy subject, manages to inject plenty of humour along the way.
“I’ve been getting feedback that people on our lovely island of Ibiza have been enquiring after my state of health, mainly those who haven’t seen me for a while. I gave up drinking 3 years ago, changed my relationship with food and am in the best shape since I was a teenager, having hit my 13stone (83kgs) target weight. That’s 30kgs (about 5 stone) less than I was 7 years ago.
“So, the answer to “Is Colin ill?” with regards to being triggered by my slimmed down appearance, is an emphatic, “No!”
“In fact, the most accurate answer possible would be, “No, he has never looked better and he’s actually surprised there isn’t a bigger queue of women beating a path to his bedroom door, so amazed are they at how fit he’s currently looking.”
“However, my fitness program has been somewhat undermined by the totally unexpected, out of the blue discovery just over 2 months ago that I seem to have rather inconveniently acquired terminal, stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has metastasised to the liver, which as cancers go, is pretty much the daddy. Prognosis is 12 months although I was told that without treatment I’d be lucky to make three. Yeah, I know… Anyway, numbers shmumbers.
“I thought I could get away with keeping it quiet for a lot longer because I’m bald and let’s face it, most bald blokes of a certain age and weight who’s complexion is more Celtic than swarthy look like they’ve got cancer anyway. Plus I’ve started to go clean-shaven, which hasn’t helped. However, the Ibiza rumour mill is in full force and on this occasion, whilst the reasoning is wrong, the conclusion I’m afraid to say is annoyingly correct.
“I’ve managed to get on to a Harley Street trial and I’ve been going back for two days a week for the last 6 weeks and as you would expect, have done loads of my own research, so please spare me all the usual alkaline diet, cannabis oil etc. links, however well-intended: I am well-read.
“The only time I seem to get a bit emotional is when I tell people close to me and I’ve only done that a dozen or so times but now I’m getting a few too many tilted heads with looks of concern, random and unexpected offers of help with getting my villa ready for summer and the biggest giveaway of all, people laughing at my jokes too long who usually wouldn’t have even got them.
“There are plenty of you who are good friends I should have told so please don’t be pissed off with me for not telling you personally. It’s hard. I spend a fair bit of time on facebook but usually it’s taking the piss, winding people up or thinking I’m the funniest fucker on God’s/Allah’s/My Little Pony’s earth.
“It’s rare I post personal shit but it’s getting to the stage where if acquaintances know, then I have to tell my friends. I can’t go through the wrench of doing that over and over again so the quickest way to get it out there, quash the rumours and just move the fuck on, is like this. Plus when you’re hit with a disease you initially think you’ve no control over, it’s nice to snatch a little of that control back.
“All I want for now is to have the strength, courage and dignity to face this. Yes, the inner Peckham in me has always loved a fight, be it injustice, stupidity or anyone smaller than me with no MMA training. My head is in a great place for the most part and for me, that is the most important thing of all.
“The main reason I’ve sat on it for this long is because I don’t want to feel like a victim and trust me, there is nothing more guaranteed to make you feel ill than people looking at you like you are, so, business as normal please.”
White Island Premiere
The confirmation of cancer came as a shock to many of us. In terms of our own relationship, and figuring it would be as tedious as it was negative to have to constantly update your medical situation as a precursor to any human contact, I said I would wait for his lead if he ever wished to discuss it. From that point forward our correspondence remained largely as if there were no health issues in play, other than at the juncture of a major development of his condition, or when he did want to talk about a particular affecting issue.
One such occasion was prior to the public premiere of White Island at Pikes. This would be the first time he had been in the public gaze since announcing his cancer, and he was worried about how to handle it. It may surprise some people how the Colin on the outside – confident, witty and gregarious, was very different to the inner self – a much more reflective and self-aware man, as keen to be judged on his true merits as he was to jump to the defence of other people’s.
Colin handled the situation superbly. His speech opened with a cancer joke that gained the collective relaxation everybody sought, and his closing commitment to many more birthdays to come will have minimised the head tilting concern he was so averse to.
I cannot figure how to embed that speech, but you can see it here https://www.facebook.com/piers.dupoy/videos/10161025207665497/
Colin was aware of the film’s limitations due to what is in movie making terms a tiny budget, but the film was received very positively among Ibiza’s islanders, something very important to him.
The film had one particularly poignant moment, a scene on the cliff tops overlooking Es Vedra between Connor and his past mentor Leo, where they discuss Leo’s terminal illness includes the line “I didn’t live like this to die like that”. It brought a good few lumps to throats.
Below our review of the film and opening gala screening at pikes.
Hasta Luego Ibiza
Colin felt his healthcare needs would be better catered for in the U.K. On the 7th of June 2016 he left Ibiza, and gave a parting message describing his Ibiza journey and feelings on how the Island had changed in his 30 year association. ·
“It is with heavy but healthy heart, problematic pancreas, lesioned liver and sombrero’d (ish) Shar Pei, that today I indefinitely head back to the UK for what at the very least, will be my first full London summer since 1999.
“From initially visiting Ibiza in 1983, to working here in those magical years of 87 & 88, to visiting friends all through the beautifully naive nineties, to vowing to never come back in 1999, to moving over to Ibiza the very next summer with my 56 channel desk recording studio and seeing the remix we did of Sweet Dreams explode, to getting Is Harry on the Boat? made into a film that same year, to finding that studio a more permanent home in a record shop called Plastic Fantastic, to thinking it would be good to have a cool little bar there in 2002 and that eventually evolving into Plastik, to buying a villa here in 2007 so my winters were spent here too, to eventually getting A Bus Could Run You Over made last year… So much seems to have happened yet it all seems like yesterday.
“When I started my relationship with Ibiza she was a lot more innocent, like a naturally beautiful young girl not fully aware of the effect she has on people.
“I leave her having grown into a far more sophisticated, hard-nosed businesswoman.
“I leave her constantly trying to deny all the things that drew me and so many others to her in the 1st place – now she wants to be taken seriously. It’s all about the businesswoman and she is trying to deny her past, deny her initial appeal as though that innocence shames her.
“She is super successful – rich beyond her wildest dreams – but I leave her even more nepotistic, greedy, spoilt, knowing what she doesn’t want but half clueless as to what she does want, particularly for San Antonio, a massive part of her initial appeal that she now looks down at like a gangrenous toe that she’d rather amputate than cure.
“God/Allah/My Little Pony willing I am intending to come back but inept and short-sighted politicians may well make me think twice.
“Maybe I’d be more tempted to return if they brought back stocks to every village so that any “agent” asking stupid fees and prices for seasonal or long term property rental could be locked in them and have rotten fruit thrown at them. Or rocks.
“Also stick in the planners who defy logic to order the most disruptive road works at the worst times. Feel free to add any other stock victims below.
“I could rant for hours but would rather end on a positive note by thanking all my Ibiza friends who have rallied around and supported me, be they still living on this frustratingly magnetic island or elsewhere in the world but who know that our deep connection is rooted in this island.
“Adios seems inappropriate so hasta luego Ibiza.
“Have a good summer everyone xxx”
Colin’s cancer was originally diagnosed as being Stage 4, inoperable and terminal. Without treatment the prognosis was that he would have been dead before he returned to the U.K. With treatment the average prognosis was 5-8 months, 12-18 months at a push.
In these circumstances there was little prospect of a straightforward future, but as matters materialised Colin’s cancer was not the only challenge to face him.
There followed two major operations, in March and August of 2017. Colin launched a fund-raising appeal for treatment unavailable on the NHS. He had some doubts as to whether it was an appropriate thing to do but was overwhelmed by the generosity of response.
It is fair to say the positive public profile of always being in good shape was not an accurate reflection of his health, which followed a see-saw of progression and relapse.
Colin’s long-term friend and Ibiza brother-in-arms, Giles Sawney, was also in the UK having fallen victim to lung cancer. Unsurprisingly they had formed a new bond of support and Colin had moved to Broadstairs to be with his friend. Unfortunately, Giles had a sudden and rapid decline and died on July 19th 2017.
Giles’ passing seemed to have a particularly strong effect on Colin in terms of legacy. He felt Giles’ path had fallen from its previous elevated position and took it upon himself to try and ensure his friend’s memory gained the acknowledgement and respect it merited.
I worked closely with Colin at this time in compiling an obituary for Giles. He worked so hard to complete it, when frankly he was off his tits on meds most of the time, and should probably have been focussing on himself. It was a very important thing for him, and I totally get why.
We shared some discussion of the fear of mortality and injustice of an early demise during these weeks that will remain with me always. At this point in writing this text I have no shame in saying I am shedding a tear.
On August 5th 2017 and within a matter of weeks of Giles’ passing, Colin demonstrated what was to me at least, the greatest expression of pure and exposed pain I had seen in him throughout the entire period of his cancer. His beloved Sharpei, Chani, had died.
“I never wanted a dog. As a kid I couldn’t watch Lassie cos I was scared something would happen to her – the fact that it was a weekly show should have been a clue that she’d be alright but there was just something about dogs even then. When I was waiting for a bus to go school on the busy Queen’s Road I’d run to the next stop and be late for school if I saw a dog off its lead cos I was scared I’d see it get run over. Issues.
“When I was 19 and the family dog died I remember that pain and never wanted another dog and never thought I’d have one.
“And then circumstance led to this beautiful Sharpei coming into my life. Initially, knowing my issues, it was only gonna be temporary. But by the time I found somewhere for her to go I’d already fallen in love with her. I was worried about the pain of losing her in the future but giving her to someone else was gonna be losing her, so I made what for me was a huge decision and kept her.
“I hadn’t cried in 30 years since my dad died and I’d barely grieved then. Then one day I found myself walking through a little forest in Ibiza with her and something totally unexpected happened. I noticed the way she was looking at me – total loyalty and unconditional love. Suddenly, my long since redundant tear ducts started working again just at the thought of the day I might lose this precious little girl. And they worked plenty times more over the next 4 years for the same reason. I’ve told plenty of other people that they shouldn’t get emotional at things that haven’t happened, but this was my emotional Achilles heel, losing Chani and stupid though it sounds, I couldn’t help it. Now I realise that was probably one of her lessons, getting me to stop being an emotional desert.
“The day I have been dreading for so long came yesterday evening, around 8pm, when Chani passed away. Thankfully my friend of nearly 40 years standing, Dave Thomas was with me.
“She was such a special dog. Everyone naturally says that about their dog I know but loads of you met her and there was like an old soul behind those eyes and to me she felt like a true soul mate.
“I almost lost her at Easter – 3 vets told me to put her down. But with the help of some amazing people I met on a Sharpei health group, I pulled her back from the brink and since then have been giving her a subcutaneous drip twice a day to flush her kidneys and it gave her a reprieve. Amongst a host of other things to prolong her life.
“That hour a day I spent laying with her, with the drip in her side, became very special. It bonded me with her even more intensely. She knew I’d saved her life but what she probably didn’t know was that in a way she’s saved mine too.
“They say a dog comes into your life for a reason and I have learned so much from her in the last 4 years. I would have never been able to open up like this for example, not even to my closest friends, never mind on this forum. Too scared of ridicule or showing vulnerability. I couldn’t even say the word love. Serious. I learnt responsibility and how it’s OK to be attached emotionally, amongst a host of other things from that wonderful, giving little dog.
“And now my little princess has gone. I wasn’t gonna write anything cos I know I write too much and I never write anything unless I’ve gone over it a dozen times so to just blurt out like this feels a bit weird. But I went to bed and I couldn’t sleep, and writing has always been a way of me clearing my head. I just usually don’t share it and delete it in the morning. But fuck it. If a grown man getting this upset over a dog makes you snigger, delete me as a friend.
“Chani, I loved you so much and you are gonna leave a massive hole in my life. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for sparing me having to make the decision at the end. Thank you for your unconditional love and loyalty.
“Man, I am gonna miss you so much. I am fucking hurting. It’s times like this I wish I was religious, so I’d see that little tail wag again or kiss that velvety little nose just one more time. Love you girl.
“RIP princess xxx”
Club Ibiza vs Gut Feeling
Colin had announced back in 2013 that he had started work on a re-write of ‘Is harry on the Boat’. Aimed at the American market and with the working title of ‘Club Ibiza’, it was soon after Chani’s death that he sent me what will always be the cherished possession of the first five chapters of his new book.
Utter filth. And I say that with the greatest of affection and appreciation. I loved the book, though now knowing Colin as I did, found it hard not to read it as him in the role of main protagonist, and when it came to the filthiest of the filth, that was a pretty odd feeling.
Despite my liking the fact that I could lay claim to some input to at least one character and some plot development, I had to say that I was surprised it was the book he was writing. Baring in mind I had only got to know Colin in recent years and not at his hedonistic height, it didn’t seem very ‘him’.
Colin had also started to outline an autobiography and was having some difficulty deciding which of the two projects to run with. We talked about it at length. In August he went public with having started his new autobiography ‘Gut Feeling’.
Colin described his motivation in writing the book as being similar to ‘Is harry on the Boat’ in that it was a book he “had to write”.
Again privileged to be on his panel of proof-readers, we had quite an exchange as the book developed. On 30th of October, having read the first 68 cancer focussed pages, I responded to him that I was amazed how he could make it feel so upbeat. It should, even under the best of circumstances, be pretty depressing stuff. But not a bit of it. Colin’s injection of often quite inappropriate humour and despite-all-odds positive outlook create a feelgood read that defies logic.
On the 8th of May 2018 Colin announced that he had finished the book. I have to say that the announcement worried me.
On the 7th of June Colin made this public post.
“Two years ago today I bid farewell to that magical island. Can’t believe I still haven’t bid farewell to this magical life but here I am, just about hanging in there after being written off a few times. I’ve lost Chani and Giles but I’ve rediscovered why Stephen Lawrence is my best mate, not just cos of his caring nature but he actually is one funny fucker. Not as funny as me though…”
On the 28th of June Colin died.
As conceded at the outset, I am not in anything of a position where I can claim to be one of Colin’s closest friends, but I cannot consider this text complete without reference to friendship.
Within the near quarter of a million words we exchanged, Colin and I would discuss everything and everyone, usually in the early hours. From day to day banter, bitchin’ and brainwaves, to heavier stuff on theology, morality and politics. I will miss that a lot. An awful lot.
Ibiza politics and regulations would come up often, and I hope it won’t upset anyone too much when I say that reading back through our correspondence, Colin’s repeated use of the term ‘midget cunts’ was one that brought a smile every time. Ditto ‘Guetta’.
We would also often jump to the message thread to lampoon the social media posts and practices of some of those in our joint radar, where playing the game meant we couldn’t publicly. In that respect we were a couple of right little two-faced bitches, but in doing so put a lot of trust in each other, and both enjoyed the release valve from the sycophantic aspects of the world we live in. We would also give each other a kind of holy communion absolution from our own sins in that respect.
But it was in his random acts of kindness that the real Colin shone through. I remember on one occasion I had been on the end of a bit of a lambasting by some of Ibiza’s political radicals because of a comment I made about not bothering to translate a complicated Catalan press release on some public road-works. Must have been the end of a hard week during the loss-making winter editions and I was having a moan about the number of hours I was working for no money, what was the point, etc etc.
A few days later, after I had forgotten all about it, Colin posted on facebook a piece about cleaning out a cupboard and having come across an old edition of the Ibiza Sun, and how it had improved hugely since I took over as editor. He was often supportive of the newspaper, publicly and privately, but this went well above the norm.
I knew there was never any cupboard cleaning discovery of an old issue, I’m sure of that, it was just Colin doing what he does. He obviously felt I needed a bit of a pep, so he gave it. But it wasn’t only the action of doing so, the thing I have no doubt will be known to those nearest and dearest to Colin, is that he did so as a totally selfless act. He did not want anything back from me, he wasn’t counting this favour in any tally to be repaid at a future date, it was just the type of kindness he did.
I do hope that I have selected enough of the right tributes that this generosity of character will come through loud and clear. If not, I have failed in my job, because it is the single most important aspect of who Colin was that I needed to convey.
In one other way, I do know I have failed before I have even published. This text has taken many hours to compile. Since Colin’s death on Thursday other tributes have been shared and in the context of our 20 second attention span, all my experience of the way these things work says that being so late to the game with what is an over 10,000 word obituary will result in limited attention. This only concerns me as I know it concerned Colin a great deal when he was writing the obituary for Giles.
I can only now say again what I said to him at the time. It doesn’t matter. Those who you want to reach, will come looking. Those who care will read it, those who do not care, do not matter. It will be here, and stand the test of time, as you wanted and as I promised.
If Colin were still here there would then be a momentary pause before he challenged me as that statement being a load of new age bollocks, I’d concede it was, he’d compliment me on it being well written, I’d admit to over-thinking some particular part of the construction, and we’d then go off at a tangent about some other thing – but we’d both know the sentiment was true. God, I will miss that.
Colin leaves behind him what humankind has yearned for since pre-history. He leaves his books and films as a permanent testimony to his existence, his life.
But is it that which is really his greatest legacy? In thinking through this obituary, I had planned a really smart ending here. A brilliant and insightful summation I thought. Genius, Colin would be proud. But guess what? As I discovered working through his public posts Colin had of course already made exactly the point I wanted to in April 2016, and worded it so well I could have been here all night unable to better it.
So for the final word, as it should be, over to Colin.
“When you first hear you’re probably gonna expire before your credit card you try and find meaning and purpose in a world that’s suddenly more surreal than a night in Sunny Ramzan’s dressing-up room at Pike’s. The word that keeps nudging its way into your consciousness is “legacy”. What was my legacy, other than 3 semi-pornographic novels and a bit of celluloid?
“What your comments have made me realise is that a large part of legacy is the effect and impact one has on the lives of others. It is knowing that you have helped change someone’s life for the better, made them look at something in a different way, given them confidence or self-belief, thrown an idea at them to run with, opened a door for them that’s speeded up their own potential, given them something unconditionally, without an invoice…
“It is knowing that as a result, every so often in the future, there will be a conversation with a positive and hopefully fondly reflective sentence that includes something like, “there was this guy called Colin Butts…” Let me tell you, the comfort that has given me and the sense of purpose was both huge and unexpected.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own;
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Poem Posted by Colin Butts on 11th May 2018
Colin Butts, 11th September 1959 to 28th June 2018
Rest In Peace