RIP, Andy, old mate

It is always the way. You prepare and plan and get ready to start a new book, and always, without fail, at the last minute another blasted editor’s commentary, copyedit or proof materialises. I have three books to write this year, and I’m dead keen to get started. But last week a copyedit came and I’m working my way through it.


Screenshot 2016-02-08 11.34.40The last week has been particularly hard, and not because of work alone. My oldest friend from university days, Andy Setchell, died after a heroic struggle with cancer.
I can remember Setch from my first interview at City University. I was a cocky brat in those days. Dressed in my best (only) suit, I arrived at the university interview with the arrogance that my A levels justified. I sat in a fairly large room with various others. One I noticed in particular. He was tall, plump, and had hair that looked to me to be nearly vertical. He wore baseball shoes, jeans, and a bum-freezer jacket in a kind of tartan denim. I had no idea how close he and I would grow.
Andy (aka Big Boy) was a larger than life character. He was the first to throw himself into university life, ending up in charge of entertainments so that he could get himself known in the music industry. He helped bring a number of great acts to play. And he had a terrifying capacity for beers and wine. I blame many hangovers on trying to match him.

After he gained a degree (which somehow I failed to do!) in Actuarial Science, Setch moved on to greater things, working in a number of advertising agencies, first as an account manager, then as a planner. He travelled the world with the different clients, once calling me from Singapore on a stop-over. I asked where he was going, and he told me he’d been to Australia. He had a client meeting. He flew in, held the meeting, slept in his hotel room for an evening, and caught the next flight back. In Singapore he was stuck between two jet lags and trying to work out which time-zone his body thought it was in!

He married Mandy just before I married my wife, and I can still remember the look on his face when my wife-to-be and I asked him to be our best man. He was initially delighted. Then I explained that we wanted an entirely non-religious ceremony, and being best man meant being the celebrant, and his smile became somewhat glassy. However, being a good sport as always, he agreed and did a superb job.

I vividly remember when I was starting to write professionally. Many times he would call and invite himself down with Mandy, and when they arrived there was always a Red Cross parcel. He knew how hard up my wife and I were, so he invariably brought a case of wine with him. The case would be depleted after our meal, but there was always enough to tide me over until the next visit.

Screenshot 2016-02-08 11.50.37Andy lived for children. He adored kids, and some of my fondest memories include the times I’d go to Andy and Mandy’s house with my two. The little devils would be spoiled to utter distraction. Andy would take us to his local parks and entertain them with his radio controlled boat (it sank), to the water park, or the recreation ground. With the passing of every new year he would invite us to his house and hold a Christmas feast (thanks to Mandy’s cooking skills) before presenting the children with gifts. The spare room was decorated with jungle, wild animals, and bunk beds suitable for children. There were toys, children’s books, games of all kinds; outside there were suitable diversions: water pistols, rifles and cannons.

Entertaining children aside, Andy wasn’t the most energetic fellow generally. Once he came on a walk with me over the moors – it did not help that the hound stood on his foot and almost crippled him, but it was a very slow Dartmoor ramble rather than the extensive march we had intended. He was incapable of cycling; he had never learned how to balance on a bike. The worst thing I can say about him was, he had an entirely irrational dislike of folk music and Morris dancing! Still, I’d forgive him that. He had enough good points.

Andy was a fiercely determined bloke. He had a brilliantly incisive mind, and when he set it to achieving something, he invariably succeeded. Realising one year that his levels of fitness left something to be desired, he started swimming. He participated soon afterwards in a “swimathon” to raise money for charity, and covered what seemed to this indolent author a huge distance. I’ve enough muscle power to survive two, perhaps three lengths. Andy did many times that. Last year, after two years of chemo, radio therapy and many operations, he phoned me to say he’d just completed thirty-five lengths at his local swimming pool. I can still remember the pride in his voice. He was so pleased, and he was desperately keen to take part in another swimathon in March this year to raise more money for his favourite charities. Sadly for all of us, he won’t be making that.

Andy Setchell helped keep my sanity when I was started out as a writer. He was always there to discuss problems, always loyal and generous. He was a guy who could be trusted and relied upon.

My sympathy to Mandy, his widow, his mother, and his brothers Alan and David.

All his family and friends will miss him enormously.

18 Responses to “RIP, Andy, old mate”
  1. I’m very sorry to hear you lost such a good friend. From your great description he sounds like the best of friends and someone who will be missed by many.


  2. How very sad. My heart goes out to you and Andy’s family. I have lost too many friends and well before their time.


  3. Ben Kane says:

    A lovely obituary to a true friend. Sorry for your loss, Mike, and my condolences to Andy’s family.


  4. My deepest sympathies to you all. But what a fine and beautiful tribute to someone who was clearly one of the best, and a great friend. I’m so sorry.


  5. What a great tribute, must have been wonderful to have such a good friend,sorry that you have to miss him now.


  6. drtombell1 says:

    Sad day Mike. There is no richer brew than the memories of old friendship. As they say ….we all die twice. The second time only when those who loved have gone too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reading this in tears. My daughter’s godfather and a huge postiive and joyous presence in our lives. I echo and endorse and admire everything Mike’s written. I wish I would be seeing you for happier reasons on the 22nd x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dgkaye says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve walked in those shoes. May you find solace in your great memories. :)


  9. Joel says:

    Hi Michael, we don’t know each other however I found out only yesterday that Andy has passed away and afterwards found your obituary from a search. I knew Andy through his market research work with the car industry and was aware he was very ill. Whilst I enjoyed his ability to mix work with pleasure your writings have shared with me much more about the man himself. I am sorry that you have lost a dear friend and hope that he receives a fitting send off today.


    • Hi, Joel. Andy had a great send off. His coffin (plastered in pictures of his golf course) entered to the sounds of Harry Potter, and left to the sound of Star Wars. He would have liked that. Then the old codgers who knew him at college all had a good get-together afterwards, which was fun. He’d have enjoyed it if he could have been there! Thanks for your comments about my books, too. It’s good to know that they give pleasure!


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