If you’re lucky in life you’ll meet a few people who’ll blow your mind, who you’ll inexplicably and immediately think the world of, and even though you may not have known them all that long, they simply warm the cockles of your heart.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2009 at 34 and was told that I’d be getting the full-works, 6 months chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. I made the decision to get strong, eat well and stay active throughout my treatment; it worked, some of the time, if you discount the vast quantities of donuts (damn steroids!!!).
One of my nearest and dearest had just arranged to take a Pilates class that a mate of her Dad’s was starting up from a studio in his garden, so the timing was bang on. It was Tuesday night, I donned my tracksuit and popped my beanie hat over my already bald head and drove to the house. There were to be three of us in the class, two very good old friends and me, so fortunately none of that awkward “getting to know you” stuff…. In fact it was cackles of laughter and a whole lot of bitching about roll-downs from session one. As I was ushered up the path along the side of the house toward the studio, Jack, Steve’s (my new pilates teacher) 11-year-old son, accosted us. Jack is quite a character, blunt and to the point, I found his honest manner refreshing…
Question 1. What’s your name?
Question 2. What’s under your hat?
I whip off my beanie and show off my newly bald head… he doesn’t bat an eyelash or even stop for breath.
Question 3. Have you got any pets?
That was it, I already had a soft spot for Jack before I’d even met his Dad.
The studio was designed with much love, under-floor heating and soft wood paneled walls, a huge mirror covering one whole side and patio doors looking out to the beautiful garden, the calming waft of scented candles and music, and not your standard yoga/pilates chill out stuff … we got reggae, country, jazz, even a little rock, requests were taken, mostly over-ruled, but taken all the same. The classes became the highlight of my week, sounds silly I know, but when your in the middle of a chemo induced fog and don’t get out much, an hour of stretching out battered, aching limbs and laughing with friends ranks right up there with donuts and N.C.I.S marathons.
Not only were we made to feel at home in the studio, Steve had a way of making you feel like part of the family, he talked like you’d known each other forever somehow. After a few weeks of classes I knew all about Jack and Farida, his wife, their lovely home, how proud he was of them both and all they had achieved as a family. I knew about Tom, his son from his previous relationship and how rewarding Steve found his boys success in life. We’d talk about his passion for music and the club nights he put on with his much loved business partner Dean… I’d love how he’d physically puff up with pride when talking about all that was dear to him.
A close friend of Steve’s told me that she always felt that although they had been friends for many years, that she learnt something new whenever they spent time together, and I couldn’t of put it any better. I’d leave those classes with a list as long as your arm of events to attend, music and new artists to discover, we’d not only learn about Pilates and the benefits to our health, but about the best pubs in London for music, the finest oyster bar on the Kent coast and the most beautiful hotels and restaurants in Ibiza… He’d regale stories of playing in bands as a kid, running record labels during the explosion of dance music in the 80’s and 90’s, and share his passionate love of London, its history, fashions and culture.
He talked, lots, but also had a gift for listening. He asked questions and showed a genuine interest in the answers, he remembered what you’d talked about the previous week and got excited about your ideas and plans as well as sharing his own. Steve supported me enthusiastically with my small home run business, my cancer treatment, my love of music and even did the most amazing DJ set at my wedding.
Our little Pilates gang changed a bit over the six years that Steve taught me, but fun and laughter were always an integral part of class. As I went through one lot of treatment, recovery, a break, and then a load more, with some extra shitty surgical muscle and bone crap thrown in for good measure, my mat was always reserved, even when I couldn’t drag myself to class. Steve kept in touch while I was out of action and when I made my return, took it upon himself to speak with my hospital physio to plan a course of action to get me back up and dancing at the Studio 45 club nights as quickly as possible. I felt incredible support, not only from my close friends and family but from Steve too.
I always knew from day one that Steve was one of the special ones, a bit of a legend, feisty and out-spoken with strong opinions and happy to voice them, and then in equal measure soft and caring with an exceptional moral compass and a rare generosity. It’s not often in life that you meet people that have such a profound effect on your world. I hope everyone reading this, those that didn’t know this Stephen, are lucky enough to have their own “Steve” in their lives.
Rest in Peace you lovely man!!