I met Daniel through Toby Reiner some years ago and we became good friends. Last summer I travelled with Daniel, Toby and Sam for two weeks around Spain and France, from Seville through to Paris, which was one of the most memorable trips I've ever had, and one that I know Daniel enjoyed very much.
Daniel was quite quiet in large prohibitive crowds, but it was when we went out in smaller groups and particularly when the two of us shared a room for several days at Sete, in the south of France, as we travelled last summer that I really got to know him, and I came to regard him as one of the funniest and warmest-hearted guys I've ever met. If I may share a few experiences with you, I'd be enormously grateful. Despite being at the funeral, I always struggle to 'open up' in person, and I'm better on paper, if you see what I mean.
One Friday night in Barcelona last summer particularly sticks in my mind, when Daniel and I went out into town alone, because Toby and Sam had other plans. We went to an Irish bar in the city centre and met a group of people, with whom we got chatting. Now I'd always considered myself to be the big talker, and Daniel was the quiet one, so I naturally assumed I'd be leading the conversation. Plus, of course, Daniel didn't drink alcohol, so stuck firmly to the lemonades. But what delighted me about that night is that Daniel absolutely ran the show. He was funny, witty and sharp. His slightly nervous and very English wit and selfdeprecation left them all in absolute raptures. He had them in the palm of his hand, and I recall the girl we met particularly took a shine to him. I'd never seen Daniel like that before he'd really come out of his shell. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings of our entire trip.
Another incident sticks in my mind. We'd just had dinner at a town called Cape d'Agde in the south of France, having picked up our second hire car a couple of hours before from Perpignan (we took different hirecars in Spain and France). Now Sam and myself had done all the driving in Spain, so in France it was Daniel and Toby's turn. Daniel always slated his own driving skills in a blackhumoured way so typical of him. But upon getting behind the wheel of our Renault Scenic in a suburban street in Cape d'Agde for the first time, he came out with the immortal line: "I've never driven on the right before except in England." It was great. Typical Daniel. Undoubtedly, he was pretty nervous behind the wheel, but he still wanted to have a go, and in the end he did a great job. We all appreciated his selfdeprecation and distinctive sense of humour so much. It made us laugh.
During the course of the trip, Daniel became increasingly comfortable in what was an intense social situation, and he really started to shine. His company during those long car journeys through Spain and France, and during those memorable meals we all had in places like Seville, Alicante, Barcelona, Valencia, Sete, Avignon and Dijon, was absolutely brilliant. From my point of view, getting to know the real Daniel Sacks was one of the most enjoyable aspects of our holiday. Despite Toby leaving the country to study in San Francisco, Daniel and I stayed in touch.
The last time I met up with Daniel was three weeks ago, when he, Sam and I went for a Sunday lunch in West Hampstead. We ate at The Gallery pub, and then moved on to a coffee/cake shop nearby. Dan talked to me about the marathon he'd run relatively recently, he also talked about his work, and he mentioned that he planned to see Toby in America this month. It was a very pleasant lunch, and last week we exchanged emails and intended to meet up again soon.
My feelings upon hearing of Daniel's death are impossible to describe. My instant reaction was that life is dreadfully unjust. Daniel, who I'd come to know in our relatively brief friendship, was one of the most thoughtful people I've ever met, and the least deserving of his fate. As my exgirlfriend said, having met him for the first time at my birthday party last June, he was her favourite out of all of my friends, because there was a lot more to him than met the eye. He didn't always blurt out everything in his head, in contrast to some of my friends and I, who are often too quick to open our mouths before engaging our brains. He always thought about things intensely before saying them.
I could write for pages on end because I have so much to say, but I must cut short here otherwise this will be far too long. Thank you so much for reading a few of my thoughts at this extremely traumatic time I only wish they were a little more coordinated.
David Byers, November 2005