I am extremely sad to have just learned the news about a dear friend of mine Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. So I would like to write about my joyful experiences with her and how she enriched my life with her gift of friendship…
I found Tara to be one of the most inspiring people that I have ever known. She was kind, thoughtful, dependable and genuine. She was also no-nonsense and did not suffer fools gladly – and there were many fools in London in the early 90s I can say.
I first met Tara near the Royal Albert Hall, and my words to her were “I really like your eyebrows, can I ask where you had them done?”, to which she smiled, eyes sparkling and said “I’ll tell you over coffee.” Thankfully the cafe accepted credit cards as I don’t carry cash and we were in our early 20s without a care in the world. I didn’t know who she was even after she introduced herself but that was due to my own naïvety.
One of the things we often spoke about was our connection with Sherborne School – she had attended the Girls School whilst I had attended the Preparatory School when I was around 8yrs old. And my New York projects always fascinated her especially the Robo-Trading ones (Algorithmic as it is now known).
[Someone had previously told me Tara was an ‘IT’ girl and I even remember correcting that person telling them “it’s pronounced I.T. not ‘it”. I had initially thought that she was a ‘woman getting into a man’s domain in information security – duh! :)]
I have to say the education and self-discipline that I received at Sherborne is why I am who I am now, although I used to cry every few weeks because I was a ‘softie’ then and branded a ‘swot’. One of the teachers Miss Fiona Coake was very critical of my lack of ability in Mathematics so I turned it around in later years and ended up being a genius in Cryptographics. Roger Priaulx who was top of my class, knows what I was like and even remembers one of my birthday parties in Yeovil. Charles Boulton was another solid performer in my class and also on the sportsfield.
Talented and Immaculately Attired
Tara had phenomenal stamina. I usually ended up drinking bottles of vodka to try and keep up with that which she was taking (which was not alcohol). I tried it once and I was sick despite the dulcet tones of her piano, and for days afterwards.
The all-night partying with Tara’s friends is how my drinking started – that was the baptism of fire. It then became Brian Harvey/Danniella Westbrook/Patsy Palmer and their circles of friends, Terry Christian and his friends, and even Peter Stringfellow and his friends.
And throw my struggle with IT projects involving weaponised software into the mix and that is how I ended up becoming a heavy drinker, thankfully only from 1993 to 1998.
I always thought that the press never portrayed Tara properly and it often made me wonder what she really felt inside when she read about herself. Definitely an altruist I would say as well as mischievous whenever possible. The press would only write about her skiing trips, as if she was some ditzy airhead as opposed to an accomplished pianist who genuinely cared about humanity. Our conversations were intellectually stimulating as well as hilarious.
Tara had an excellent sense of fashion and helped me improve my wardrobe considerably. She also gave me so many words of wisdom and practical advice from time to time. It was rare to find someone ‘who had that inner strength and who genuinely did not care about the opinion of fools.’
I then became acquainted with many of her circles such as James Goldsmith, his daughter Jemima, Helena Christensen, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen – I really cleaned up myself up after UCL Medical School and must look for the photos which would be at home in the UK somewhere.
The last time I spoke to Tara was around late 1996 or early 1997 when I discussed my latest escapade with her. I present it here as my tribute to her and partying hard…
I had been socialising with my friend Cindy Ireland, a Manager at Regus and she dared me to drink a pint of vodka ‘down in one’ near our office at 75 Cannon Street. I actually think it was 10 December 1996 from memory and I was 24yrs old. It was around 9pm.
A hush descended over the pub and I dutifully drank the pint of vodka down in one, in about 20 seconds in fact!
Cindy was impressed of course, as well as everyone in the pub and I recall the cheering. Mark Dixon, the founder of Regus had his office right next to mine and as it happened and I was always complaining to him when the phone system went down. I think he may have been there at the time too. Mark was a solid guy and had real vision.
I had then taken a taxi to a pub in South Ken and met up with some mutual socialite friends and actually I felt absolutely fine, albeit initially. However suddenly the vodka hit my brain so I quickly went outside to some railings next to the road and vomited – I felt better almost immediately thankfully.
That was until some massive 7ft tall biker guy started shouting, pointing at me and coming towards me. I was unsure why until one of the girls told me that I had been sick all over his expensive Harley-Davidson – it had been parked next to the aforementioned railing!!
And to make matters worse, since my vomit was from vodka rather than beer it looked like his Harley had been sprayed with quick-drying concrete!
I was so sure I was about to die in my Armani suit but thought at least I would look good in the coffin! The biker approached me and swung his fist at me, but missed – luckily I have a brown face and it was night 🙂
From God knows where I gave him a right hook and it caught him upwards on his nose – there was a sickening crack and almost immediately cerebrospinal fluid began leaking out of his nose! ‘Cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone’ flashed for a few seconds across my mind as I recalled my Anatomy lectures.
In fact I hit him so hard that I broke two of the knuckles on my right hand splitting the skin completely. A friend grabbed some ice from her drink to put on my hand which was now about the size of a football. I jumped into the first black cab I saw to get me home to Colindale – my early departure was annoying as there was a Sloane Ranger that I had wanted to chat up.
I was sick again in the cab and ended up having to pay GBP 100 to the cabbie via my Access card – it was the fine that they charged. And there were bits of carrots present – that was weird as I don’t even eat carrots!
Welcome to My World
When I told subsequently told Tara what had happened she laughed and said “Welcome to my world, but you know where you went wrong Joe, you should have taken the Harley for a spin BEFORE you threw up all over it.. and whatever happened to the biker?” I responded “I didn’t stay to find out but I reckon you’ll be hearing about Asians in flash suits being beaten up by a gang of Hells Angels, on CrimeWatch!”
Regrettably I lost touch with Tara due to my own work pressures. But as I am typing this post I see the scars on my right hand that remind me of the last time I heard her beautiful voice and the way we just used to laugh at absolutely anything and everything.
Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was truly a talented woman and one who will be missed greatly by many…