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.


meltwater avatar

Wow. Best wishes to those who knew Oggie, or those who have lost people in similar ways.

Steve avatar

Life’s horrible like that.

Chris Evans avatar

I very worthy cause. Remembering friends who have died in this way is a bitter sweet memory.
Can I recommend A support site for friends and relatives of those who have committed suicide

Paul Malpass avatar

my wife is a samaritan. il bid

Kevvy Wilch avatar

God bless Oggie. Lovely words Liz. x

Charlie avatar

I’ve been a life-long sufferer of depression and, unfortunately, have attempted suicide a few times myself. Thankfully, I’ve not been successful in those attempts and I’m finally getting the help I need now such that I hope and pray that I won’t get to that place again where I make another attempt.

All that to say that I can appreciate the demons that we sometimes face, despite the outward appearances. And I am VERY thankful for groups like The Samaritans and others based here in the USA. Thank you very much for choosing them as your charity Eben. I pray that it will help save lives and keep others from the pain that suicide (and suicide attempts) causes for family and friends…

liz avatar

I’m very glad you’ve found a safe place that can help – thanks so much for the thoughtful comment.

AndyD avatar

I think most people will be touched in their life by the suicide of friends or family. A very worthy cause!

Benjol avatar

I think that Chris Lightfoot is the only person who I’ve discovered ‘posthumously’ on the web, and wished I’d ‘met’ him earlier. So, you don’t need me to tell you that you were lucky to know him.

liz avatar

We think about that a lot. I don’t think you get to meet more than one Oggie in a lifetime.

edwinj85 avatar

I’m not sure what to say other than I am so sorry for your and the world’s loss. RIP Oggie, I wish I had had the chance to know you.

Matt avatar

Thanks Liz, an amazing post. I was reading this in Dublin airport and completely zoned out, transfixed by this tribute. I suddenly remembered I was in an airport about to take an aircraft to Poland. I made a note to visit Oggie’s website when I got back. Funnily enough, flying is on his list of ‘things which suck!’

video liam avatar

Having lost someone, very close to me for the same reason, I thank you for your choice of cause. Bless.

Peter Stevens avatar

You should probably include a warning that parts of Oggies website are not child friendly in that they contain swear words and are frequently highly offensive to members of political parties who surprisingly frequently sent legal threats demanding the immediate removal of the site.

To take an example of a disgruntled reader from our archive we once received this (no spelling mistakes added).

‘Please remove this web site, I find this website/user highly offensive and abusive the use of foul language
is disgusting and degrading. the use of the word **** is not exceptable from any ISP and I will be reporting this abuse to the relevant authorities including the police. If you allow this abuse to continue you will be  in violation of internationional law’

The response we sent which Oggie thoroughly approved of was,

‘It should have be clear from the title and content of the article that
Mr Lightfoot is an unhinged lunatic capable of wielding extreme
profanity in his web log, so the response you received can hardly have
been unexpected.’

liz avatar

I believe that English Democrats guy whom Oggie so satisfyingly tied up in semantic knots back in the day is *still* carrying on his campaign against him in various spots online, the fact that Oggie hasn’t been around in six years notwithstanding.

Peter Stevens avatar

Whilst his blog contained numerous excellent graphs he sadly never drew the one of number of legal threats by political party.

Tom avatar

It’s sad to lose a friend. My sympathies.

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