As is the way with news these days, be it international, national or personal, I heard about the death of Danny Fullbrook via Twitter.
We were never mates, by any stretch of the imagination, and I daresay if the tables were turned and my number had come up he would have said: “Who’s died? Richard McComb? Hang on, yeah. Oh, him. Blimey.”
In fact, the time I spent in Danny’s colourful company probably amounted to little more than 12 hours, stretched over a few years, the vast majority of which were spent in a car on the M6.
Danny was a football writer with the then Birmingham Evening Mail and I was the news editor with the Mail’s sister newspaper, the Birmingham Post.
We enjoyed the traditional sparring that took place between News and Sport. News comprised the clever ones who could write and Sport featured hobbies.
We covered murders, corruption and scandal. Sport hacks put their feet up and watched men kick a ball about.
But it was that shared love of men kicking a ball that caused our paths to cross. Danny and I shared a car with Rob Bishop, then football correspondent for the Post, to watch Villa away at Manchester United.
I tagged along as the “quotes man” – and fulfilled a lifelong ambition of going to Old Trafford.
(Yes, I am a United fan. Yes, I was brought up in Kent. Yes, isn’t it shocking I hadn’t been to the Theatre of Dreams before. And yes, Danny ribbed me with these and all the other jibes. Incidentally, I started following United when I was about four and they never really won much. So ner-ner-ner-ner-ner. Which I think is what I also said to Danny.)
Now seeing your football idols play in the flesh for the first time, on their revered home ground, takes some beating.
I can still remember seeing the grass for the first time and being amazed at how green it was. And the game? I couldn’t really tell you much (anything) about it. I couldn’t tell you the score even, although I’m pretty sure United won.
That’s because my overriding memory of the first time I saw Manchester United play is the foghorn voice and uproarious laughter of one D Fullbrook Esq. After all these years, and it’s probably 15 or more, I can still hear it.
So I wasn’t surprised when I read on Twitter and Facebook the comments of friends and colleagues who knew Danny far better than I did.
Some, indeed, called him Foghorn. Others called him Fearless. And from the hours we spent laughing in the back of Rob’s car, it seems to me that both nicknames encapsulate something of the man. Some people just exude warmth. They can’t help themselves. Danny was one of them.
There is, though, another reason why his death struck home. He was younger than me, but only by a few years, and he died from cancer.
He is the third former colleague/acquaintance I have worked alongside to be killed by the disease in the past six months.
There is a common theme, too – all the members of this trio were men, aged in their early 40s, two of them dying of skin cancer. (I don’t know what form of cancer killed Danny.) All of these men were cherished, loved fathers.
Coincidentally, I met the wife of one of these man last week.
Dave Hodgson, the former marketing director of Marketing Birmingham, died in Dubai on New Year’s Eve 2011.
He had been diagnosed with melanoma as he took up his dream job at the world famous Meydan racecourse.