Hearing the very sad news about Amber has brought back many memories: of some great parties in Barcelona (especially the one she and Lizzie held to give away almost all their possessions to make a new start in Mexico); a beautiful trip up the coast from Copenhagen to the Louisiana art gallery; a long afternoon spent in the kitchenware section of Copenhagen’s best department store - the more my mind goes back, the more the memories there are, of Barcelona, Copenhagen, Stoke Newington, Brighton (I never got to Mexico for a visit unfortunately). I am still grateful for Amber’s generous help with my early attempts at word-processing - especially the Sunday night she saved my MA thesis the day before I was due to submit it!!! I have moved on a little bit since then but I will never forget driving in a panic across London with my lap top believing I had deleted everything to have Amber retrieve it with the touch of a button - and not a sign of amusement at my plight…
We lost contact a few years back and the news came to me quite late, and by chance, from a colleague who knew Amber at LSE. Amber has been in my mind vividly for days and the photos on here brought back to me her good nature and beauty, and - perhaps my most enduring image of Amber - just how much she meant to Lizzie.
I was shocked to hear about my unique name mates passing. I’ve followed your career upon googling our shared names and have become well aware of the lovely impact you have had across our tech savvy community. My thoughts are with you, and your family.
It’s taken me a while to put some thoughts down in writing about Amber. I think it’s because I can’t quite accept that someone so full of life is gone. I had 5 fantastic years working at LSE with some wonderful people, none more so than Amber. She was a joy to be around. I was looking forward to seeing her up here on her next visit to the university. I will miss her liveliness, her humour and her positive attitude to life. I don’t think she realised how much she affected people. She was a real star.
I was going to read a poem today by Lord Byron: “She Walks in Beauty”, which of course would have been very apt but Lizzie asked if I might share some personal thoughts instead. I am very pleased that she did.
I remember the day I first met Amber as if it were yesterday. She had that effect on people. It was a July day in the long hot summer of 2006. I had just joined LSE and was sat in my office in St Clements, a room since subsumed into a bigger space that my team now occupy.
I hadn’t met Amber during the interview process and I learned much later that she and Lizzie had been away on their honeymoon.
It was a little gone 9 o’clock in the morning and I had my office door open, as I usually did. I heard the distinctive clatter of high heels. This blur passed by, stopped, back-tracked a few paces and what I can only describe as a “ray of sunshine” popped her head around my door. “Hi, I’m Amber, User Services Manager. You must be Adrian”.
Needless to say, she was immaculately turned out in a grey trouser suit. I learned quickly that the coffee she held in one hand, the plastic cap already smudged with bright red lipstick, and the mobile device in the other - a clunky Nokia smartphone if I remember correctly - would come to define Amber.
We seemed to click straight away.
We shared a passion for decent coffee, although Amber was much more determined than me. I can remember many a conference or meeting that required an overnight stay. I would be up for breakfast and suffer that awful brown liquid that the hotel would pass off for coffee. Amber would be up and out, in search of the real McCoy. As the meeting was about to begin, she’d come bounding in, usually in her bright red coat, with two coffees in hand. First she used text me to see if I wanted one then she just took it as read.
We shared a passion for gizmos too, although she “out-smartphoned” me time and time again. I remember some early arguments about fruity devices. I had been a Mac user for years but she wasn’t that keen. But once the iPhone was out, she quickly became an Apple convert. It did take her a while though to admit she had gone the whole hog and bought a Mac for home!
Good food and drink was another thing we had in common but our tastes were somewhat at odds. Amber, a vegetarian, preferred beer and Miso soup. I usually drank wine and in her words, was a “carnivore”, apparently always choosing the biggest hunk of meat on the menu. She professed not to be able to cook at all (I’m not sure I quite believed her), but proudly announced that she’d made pancakes one day…!
We frequented many places, but one that fascinated me when Amber took me there first was the “Cellar Door” just around the corner from here. It fitted her perfectly. It was stylish, a cocktail bar with a huge mirror and bright red furnishings; quirky, a converted public convenience; and it came pre-installed with gizmos: the loo doors were transparent but automatically went opaque when the door was locked. The cocktails weren’t bad either! We ended up there a number of times and Lizzie, I’m sorry for all those texts that started out “Adrian and I are going for a quick drink” and ended up “I won’t be much longer, promise…” We soon realised that a problem shared was a problem halved and used each other as a sounding board.
There was one night when Amber introduced me to her local cinema. I say hers, as she owned her own seat. We’d started the evening with a drink or two and then made our way to Dalston. We dined in a Turkish restaurant where Amber explained we would shortly be joined by Gilbert and George, the artists, who ate there regular as clockwork.
The film was a Quentin Tarantino one: “Death Proof”. Despite Amber’s love of alternative cinema, I think I enjoyed it more than she did. Seeing the film again recently brought back fond memories, particularly the very cosmopolitan bar that we went to afterwards. I have no idea where it was, nor how I managed to get from Dalston to Paddington in time for the last train home…!
In fact, Amber always knew the best places to go, wherever in the world they might be. I remember when I first went to Barcelona. Amber gave me the run down on the best places to go. I wanted to learn a few words of Spanish, so she pointed me in the direction of an app for that… And then promptly confused the hell out of me by explaining that I would need a smattering of Catalan too. Last Autumn I went for a weekend in Brighton. I was woken early on Sunday with a text… “forget the hotel breakfast you need to go to Redroaster for the best coffee in town.” Not only was Amber a walking travel guide and encyclopaedia, I soon realised that she and Lizzie had actually lived in most of those places!
As we all know, Amber was a queen of social networking. She introduced me to Twitter. I still don’t know how she was so organised online and how she managed to process so much information. She seemed to know, and was in touch with, just about everyone; well, everyone that mattered. Yet despite this apparent über-organised outward appearance, she tried to convince me that it was all a façade. I never did believe it! She always had a better, more efficient way of doing something.
I could go on for hours and tell you about our respective experiences of two- and four-wheeled transport: Amber riding a scooter, her cycling trip in France, and how she learned again to drive which in turn led to her passion for classic cars; the sometimes heated debates we’d have on ethics and sustainability; shared stories about our respective mothers. I could tell you how she was seemingly late for everything (although I have to take some of the flak there, as despite packing her bag would always find time to talk to me when I dropped in).
My last conversation with Amber was the weekend she was allowed home from hospital. We video-conferenced using FaceTime on our iPhones. I remember thinking how much brighter she looked than when I had last seen her at work. Despite her illness, she was laughing and joking, as she always was. It’s a memory I will always treasure. Amber wasn’t just a close colleague, she was a good friend. I miss her terribly, as I know we all do. She would want us to move on now and enjoy ourselves.