Remembering Chris West
Along with everything else, there’s that deep sadness when you realise you’re never going to have a conversation with someone ever again. I learned the other day that Chris West, my old boss at UKCIP, died recently and I immediately thought of his humour, patience and enthusiasm. And of a short passage in Nancy Campbell’s The Library of Ice, which I’d read last month and where I’d rediscovered Chris in this perfect anecdote:
“At a climate conference in London a few weeks ago I paired up, during the one-minute speed-meeting session, with an amiable, bearded scientist, who told me that he’d held a piece of the Vostok ice core in the palm of his hand. Chris used up his whole minute describing the experience. ‘The thing is, it fizzed,’ he said. ‘It was melting with the warmth of my palm, and the air was under such pressure that it exploded out of its ice pockets. It fizzed,’ he repeated, ‘then it melted, and I just wiped it on my shirt.’ He passes his hand across the checked cotton covering his chest, an expression of mild bewilderment on his face as he relives his Keplerian encounter with a 20,000-year-old piece of ice.”
Chris had been a great presence at both these Weatherfronts events I organised for TippingPoint, helping us to cross arts-science boundaries, and Nancy told me how this encounter helped kickstart her book. Chris had a deep appreciation and wonder for all things icy — natural and inspiring in such a warm person. At another climate conference, in mid-winter Copenhagen, when I’d been out photographing early morning skylines, he asked had I seen the particular ice formation on the water? Sadly, I missed it. I still do. Also, his stories of transporting dead foxes across Oxford by motorbike, and many more.