56: Rebecca ‘Becky’ Green – In Memorandum

April 2021

Becky Green has died.

The Gang

Becky and I were both members of the Durham University class of 1992-1995. She studied English. I, Physics. Our wide band of pals was initially brought together via the charisma and energy of our mutual friend, John Devlin. He ran a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) group, of which I was a member and to which Becky latterly attached herself.

John Devlin’s original D&D group consisted of me, Nick Jones, Jon Steer, Patrick van Beek, and Rob Scott. That gang quickly merged with the colourful characters who stalked Durham’s student bars – many of whom became lifelong friends. They included Adrian Hartley, Sid McLean, Steve Hartley, Sue Steer, Sally Frew, and Dave Wood.

This mob, to one extent or another, were plugged into the university’s lively and prominent live-role-playing society (Durham Treasure Trap, members of which would dress as wizards and goblins and have adventures in local woodland) with which, as the years rolled by, Becky became entwined. That wider fraternity included Simon Peace, Ian Macredie, Sam Clayton, Simon Greatrix, Rich Steed, and many others. They were an open and welcoming bunch, who drank heavily and knew a lot about science fiction.


My earliest memories of Becky are from 1993, down at the college bars, getting sloshed and having a merry old time. After First Year, Becky lived at an exceptionally friendly student digs in the Gilesgate suburb, known colloquially as The Lair (along with Sid McLean, Adrian Hartley, Nick Jones, Jon Steer, Rob Scott and others). The Lair was generally full of books, games, people, mischief, and laughter. It was never clean or orderly. The house once got burgled and it was hours before anyone noticed. During Third Year, Simon Peace and I lived down the road from that central hub of student frolicking.

In the cultural awakening that those university years constituted, for me, Becky was a key actor. She introduced me to John Keats (he was ‘Shakespeare reborn’ she once told me) and Guy Gavriel Kay (looking me in the eye, shaking one of his books, and demanding ‘read it, read it, read it’), who remains one of my favourite authors. Delicious memories include Dungeons & Dragons at The Lair (she played a sylvan elf warrior called Tomaso, I still have her character sheet), practice-sparring with rubber swords in her yard, gossiping at Regatta coffee shop (where John Devlin waited tables and the chocolate fudge cake was legend), and lots of drinking and giggling.

Bryan Adams had the summer of ’69. We had the summer of ’94, in Leeds, at the house of Helen Turner (my first girlfriend). Becky, Nick Jones, John Devlin, Sid McLean and others descended that August to sleep on sofas, eke-out money for food and coffee, and get outrageously drunk together every evening. We were young, foolhardy, and having a ball.

That New Year’s Eve of 1994, Becky hosted us at her parent’s beautiful townhouse in Notting Hill, west London. It was my first really big New Year’s Eve. We joined the crowds at Trafalgar Square, counted down to midnight, then partied at her pad.


In June 1997, the day I returned from my first big trip around Asia, I stayed at Becky’s Mum and Dad’s. The two of them knew how to look after a 23-year-old who had been wild roving outside the UK for 16 months. They were kind, caring, and provided sumptuous hospitality.

In the years that followed, my life settled in London, while Becky lived just outside Durham in Ushaw Moor. Housekeeping was never her strength. Staying at her house one day the kitchen was a state, so I embarked on a week’s worth of washing up – drying dishes lined-up all along the worktop. She was abashed. I insisted.

Barbara, her mother, was extraordinary. Like her daughter, she was fiercely clever, but gregarious and extraverted where Becky was introverted. I knew her father less well, but once began quizzing him on his (very successful) career – a conversation interrupted and never continued, leaving the feeling of a font of wisdom untapped. I later attended both her parents’ funerals out of respect.

Project Support

The final big impact Becky had on my life was around my book, The Jolly Pilgrim. Living in a shed writing for a year may have had a romantic elan, but at the time it was emotionally disorienting and strenuous, notably the first half. At my lowest ebb in November 2007, Becky, having reviewed the book plan and some early drafts, got on the phone to me with a gift: it’s a good plan and a good idea. Go for it. Have faith in yourself. You’ll be fine.

Fast forward three and a half years, the book launch is a night burned into my memory. Becky rocked up from Durham for the party. She bought 10 copies right there. The next day, she meandered north again, marketing the book to everyone she met and handing copies out. Thank you, Becky, you superstar.

That November, 2011, she took me to lunch in central London (with Sally Frew). It was her congratulations for what I’d done: an exquisite gesture, and an engrossing meal. We spoke mainly about the business she then owned – building mass affordable housing, something Becky cared greatly about. Her conversation that day was riveting, as usual. I learned a lot, as always.

Last Decade

That was the last time I saw her. In the decade since, I’ve been head-down in my own bubble, while she moved to South Africa. Our emails became fewer, although they were always warm and loving. Our last brief exchange was in 2019.

There are few people in this universe with whom I would rather discuss books, art or culture. I really enjoyed her company and could happily spend hours and days with her. I assumed there would be further crests in our relationship.

But she’s gone. First of the Durham 92-95 crowd to be whittled away. Lament, lament, lament.

John Keats had a thought that captures the transcendence of our brief, mortal lives. ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ Becky taught me that line. A paragon of animals, noble in reason and infinite in faculty. Born to flicker on this Earth, then be reabsorbed into the river of life.



Below are a couple of pictures from 1994, when we were at Durham University.

Becky Green and Sue Steer at Chad’s Ball, 1994


Dr Nick Jones, lecturer in Philosophy (left). Becky Green (right). Leeds, summer of 1994, having a ball.

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One Response to “56: Rebecca ‘Becky’ Green – In Memorandum”

  1. Ghazalee Bacht Says:

    In the summer of ’94, Becky and I rode the train down from Durham to join-up with the rest of the gang in Leeds. On our way down, we happened to sit across from an elderly Scottish lady who, for the duration of the train ride, insisted on conversing with me. The only snag was that I didn’t grasp diddly squat of her dialect.

    For all intents and purposes, the old lady could have been speaking to me in Klingon – it was that incomprehensible. Luckily, I had Becky by my side, and she had no trouble making out what the old lady was saying. She proceeded to conduct the entire conversation on my behalf. The only way I could figure out what was being discussed was to listen to Becky’s responses.

    As we got off at Leeds, I sincerely thanked Becky for handling the chit-chat with the Scotswoman and making it less awkward for me. Becky smiled and said, “I knew it was going to be a problem …”

    The moral of the story: not all Englishes are as lucid as American – there are times when one needs Becky at one’s side.

    Anyhow, I wish Becky a safe journey!

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