Twelve Pis of Christmas: Eben

Today’s the last day we’ll be listing a very limited pre-production Model A bundle for auction. We’re selecting charities to benefit from the money raised; today’s charity was actually both my and Eben’s first choice, but we couldn’t choose the same one for two auctions, so saved today’s for last. Today’s auction proceeds are going to The Samaritans.

In 2007, one of our very dearest friends, Chris Lightfoot (whom we all called Oggie, so he’ll be Oggie for the rest of this post) killed himself. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK, and what happened to Oggie still bewilders us; he had battled depression for all of his life, but we’ll never know why he did it. He and I had been at school, then later at Cambridge together, where we both met Eben around the same time. He was the cleverest of all of us; Oggie wasn’t famous, but he still merited a half-page obituary in the Times for the astonishing work he’d achieved in his 28 years. He was a founder of MySociety, the e-democracy charity, and…well, Oggie’s Wikipedia page can precis what he did there better than I can. His friends also kept his personal website online – it’s worth spending a little while there to get to know him better. Oggie’s worth knowing.

Oggie, punting in Grantchester Meadows. Ironing was not one of his many talents. Click to visit auction.

Oggie was a modern polymath. He had an innate talent as a social statistician; he was adept at politics. He was a superb coder; an exceptional writer; a mathematician and a funny, funny man. I saw him just before he died, and we were falling about laughing over some of the submissions to the new e-Petitions website (that’s the site that the UK government now uses) which he had built and had to moderate; we clinked glasses over someone’s petition to make Tony Blair take a bath in baked beans. And then he was gone.

There isn’t a single day that goes past when Eben and I don’t think and talk about him. Oggie: I use the silly giant pepper grinder you bought us for our wedding daily. I use your tools to check up on what my MP’s up to, to read Hansard and to host this website. I keep the books you left behind when you died in the bedroom. I wish you were here to enjoy Raspberry Pi with us. You’d have loved it. I miss you.

The Samaritans are there to offer emotional support to people who, like Oggie, are in deep distress. Their job is a hard and taxing one, and they rely entirely on volunteers. They save lives; please bid on this auction.