I was both surprised, yet not surprised, when I read about all that my friend, Bill Fine, had done in his lifetime. Of his illustrious list of achievements, he would have added, with a gently mocking grin, “and that’s all.”
I first met Bill about twelve years ago when I was living in Oughterard and still married with three children. Wearing a pale pink wool blazer and soft-spoken, Bill was not a very typical American, nevertheless, in the midst of a lively dinner party, we soon found our way to each other. He entertained me with the story of how, as a young man, he had worked on the original Batman and Robin series. As each episode aired, the studio came by to add up the strips of film on the cutting room floor. By the time the first season ended, the show was a smashing success, but Bill and his partner owed the studio money for all the film they had “wasted.” They had to make the second season, just to pay for the first.
Not long afterwards, my children and I moved from Ireland to California. While I had returned to my native country, California was as new to me as it was to them, a feeble attempt at picking up the pieces of a failed marriage by going back to school.
We had been warned that all the food in California tasted like cilantro, a pungent herb that looks like parsley and whose seeds are commonly called coriander, and we had been told that southern California has only three seasons: smog, mud, and fire. Desperately optimistic, we looked forward to endless sunshine, already sorely missing the rain, smoky turf fires, long summer evenings and the call of the cuckoo, not to mention our friends whom we feared to never see again. With no possibility of ever going back, we did our best to adjust. We found that by putting a piece of cardboard underneath the sprinkler system at night, turning down the lights, and sitting near the window with a cup of hot tea we could almost believe we were back home in Ireland on a cool rainy evening.
I was delighted to learn that Bill and Kay were living in Beverly Hills and, with Kay’s permission, Bill and I soon became foul weather friends. There was an unusual amount of rain in Southern California that autumn. Whenever the sky grew dark, Bill and I met at a café for a cup of hot tea and a scone to talk about old times. As we reminisced, we were surprised to learn how many of the same people we knew. Even though Bill had lived in Oughterard twenty years before I got there, most of the same people were still there. We talked about so many things that autumn, about taking long walks in the bog, about gathering hazelnuts, about how much we loved our children and the rain. Bill mentioned that he had one of the first phone numbers in Oughterard. At the time, he was commuting back and forth between London and the west of Ireland. When he asked why his city friends never phoned him, they insisted they did, but on reaching the switchboard after 11 pm, were told that it was too late in the evening and Mr. Fine had gone to sleep.
Rest well, my friend Bill.