A little place on the internet to remember my uncle, Colin Barnfather.
Colin was an avid gym bunny at LA Fitness in Derby for many years. Some of his friends from the gym have shared their memories of him.
First, I want to say how very sorry I am that you have lost your very special Uncle. Please pass my deepest sympathies to your Mum as well. I have a brother who I'm very close to and nearly lost in his twenties, but he was fortunate and he has gone on to live many more years.
Being a studio instructor is an odd job in that I probably saw Colin for two hours every Tuesday evening, month in month out, for several years… maybe ten… and he always told me when he would be away on a break (I don't think he was ever away because of ill health). I only once met up with him socially, and that was at the end of this June when I retired from teaching those two classes. So my anecdotes about Colin are from a professional angle and whilst I haven't seen him for three months, to know he won't be there any more is hard. He has been on my mind 24/7 since I heard he was missing.
Imagine Colin, upright (oh yes), lean, looking every inch a fit person, always there in the same spot at the back of the Body Pump class on Tuesday evenings. He always had a look of intention on his face, smiled frequently, laughed (loudly) occasionally, and always sang every word of the tracks as he worked out! He was always totally engaged with what he was doing and often made loud comments across the room if invited (and sometimes when he wasn't!) He liked a bit of fun, and if I asked the class to dress up for a special reason like the final session before Christmas, he did it in style… I'm hoping someone can give you a picture of him in full Santa outfit which he once wore to the very hot and sweaty end of the class, including hat!
He always then stayed for the next class, called Body Balance which is a combination of disciplines like yoga and t'ai chi. Although slow, it's a very challenging class in places, particularly the part aimed at working the abdominals. I'll never forget everyone moaning and groaning when they were working their abdominals, except Colin, who after the class quietly told me he couldn't really feel the abdominal work and how could he make it harder – he liked a challenge! I used to light scented candles at the end while everyone enjoyed relaxing. Bless him, Colin brought me a pack of lovely scented candles out of the blue one week. Not many class members did that in the fifteen years I taught Body Balance.
I've attached the picture of the Tuesday evening Body Pumpers (I'm not on it) that the class gave me so I could recall the wonderful years I enjoyed teaching them all. Look who's right in the middle! It's exactly how I will remember Colin – always there, smiling, and very much part of the class. May he rest in peace.
Colin used to come to all my classes for the ten years since I started teaching at LA Fitness in Derby. Here are a few things that I’ll always remember about Colin and wanted to share.
Col was never scared to give anything ago: any class no matter how hard, Colin was always top of the list. Colin always liked to stand in the same spot for his classes and use the same spin bike in every spin class. We both used to wear heart rate monitors, and we’d compete and compare our heart rates, calories burnt and we’d even compare sweat puddles at the end of the class! Lol. Mentally, Col was very strong and always pushed his body to the limit where fitness was concerned.
Whenever we did fancy dress classes Colin would always dress up – even if he was the only man in the room wearing pink – he didn’t care. Colin was a real gentleman, he would be the first to offer up his stretch mat to anyone that hadn’t got one.
Colin used to make me laugh. If I was teaching a class and got part of the routine wrong, Colin would always know (which used to annoy me sometimes to be honest, lol). I would look at him, and he would look at me, and he’d give me that cheeky grin as if to say “I know you’ve done it wrong!”
I have so many fond memories of Colin.
I really hope he didn’t suffer at all, it really upsets me to think that he might have.
Colin will be missed by so many people.
I can’t really remember the first time I met Colin. I think I really got to know him when we were both part of the select (and slightly bonkers) group of people who would do Body Pump at 6.40am on a Tuesday morning. Exercising at that early time definitely brings you all together, and we would sit around after before going to work. At this time I worked in Derby and (believe it or not) attended almost as many classes as Colin. Spinning, Body Pump and then Body Attack. I love Body Attack and totally enjoyed the friendly competition that Colin and I had on the front row. No matter how tired I was from work I could not let Colin catch me up in the Superman move and we would challenge each other to do more press-ups on our toes, or whatever the latest challenging move was. Colin being fitter than me and invariably won, but it was a very friendly competition.
When I started to instruct Colin was a smiling supportive face as I made the transition from participant to instructor. As well as supporting instructors he was incredibly supportive to people in classes whatever their level of fitness.
Our friendship however extended outside of the gym. We had our annual ‘Colin’ walk. Now the principle of the ‘Colin’ walk was to walk to a pub, have some dinner and then walk back. Now for most people this would be a short walk to the pub and a short walk back. Not the ‘Colin’ walk. I think on one occasion we did twelve miles in total (this is after work). When pregnant with my twins Colin proposed a shorter (four mile) walk, however in the end I needed to tell Colin that we maybe should just go for a meal (as I could barely move). As the true gentleman he accepted this revision to the plan. This year we had a very eventful walk, which at one stage resulted in us dragging a double buggy (containing two little girls) up and over a meadow!
Colin was also my greatest crumble seller. I make and sell crumbles for Children In Need. Colin thought this was a great idea and became a great seller, selling to everyone he knew (regularly selling up to eighty crumbles). Not content with just selling, Colin would stew loads of fruit and freeze it, as I would try and use as much donated fruit as possible. This was amazing.
I feel sad and shocked at the loss of Colin. I will miss his energy and enthusiasm for classes, walks and crumbles, amongst other things. He will definitely not be forgotten, particularly in classes and I hope to remember his enthusiasm when I am teaching or participating.
Just a few weeks ago we found out that my uncle, Colin was missing. In itself this didn’t seem unusual. We often had no idea where he was – our only clue a postcard in an indecipherable scribble from a distant corner of the earth. Sometimes we knew he’d gone there, sometimes we received the postcard weeks after he returned and promptly vanished again. He was an extraordinarily well travelled man, led by his sense of adventure everywhere from Alaska to Timbuctoo, from China to Egypt. Colin was in half of the Arab Springs countries weeks before the revolutions (so close that we wondered if he might in fact be a spy…), evaded natural disasters and the horrors of airport terminals around the world. And finally, to Scotland. It seems absurd that his exploring should end so close to home.
We, Marilyn and I, first noted Colin’s absence the previous Friday. We would always see him on the last Friday of the month, eating something vast and reading a book at The Glee Club in Nottingham. One of our friends tried to contact him because he’d pre-booked his ticket but hadn’t collected it. I vaguely remembered that he was off walking; I figured I’d text him later. My phone died, I didn’t get round to it; life gets in the way. Almost a week later, on Thursday he didn’t arrive for work at Rolls Royce, the police were contacted and the search began.
Those four days after Colin being declared missing are unique in my experience. We don’t always know where everyone is (discounting the NSA of course), and Colin is the person I’d worry least about. But Colin went missing up in the Scottish Highlands and it became serious and frightening. Mum and Mike spent several days with the Inverness police who, with the Lochaber and Kintail Mountain Rescue teams, the Search And Rescue Dogs Association and helicopters from RAF Lossiemouth scoured the huge and beautiful wilderness. On Sunday they found him, but he wouldn’t be coming home. It seems he fell from a ridge and likely died on impact. That was at least five days earlier, so Colin had been dead since before we thought him missing.
I only had one uncle, and he was an enigmatic, funny, interesting guy. I find it hard to say at what point he became a major feature in my life. When I was much younger, probably as far back as I can remember, Colin was a quiet smiling dark presence and a moustache. Ah the moustache! He was probably the first person I’d seen or knew who had a moustache. I recall being fascinated and slightly scared of it. I don’t think he really knew what to do with us when we were very little (my brother, sister and I), other than be there at family occasions, smile and be slightly gruff. I find myself the same with my nieces. I remember him being in the lead when we walked around Kirby Lonsdale on family holidays and being startled by his explosive laugh.
It wasn’t until I was older that I began to know Col, and find out what we had in common (besides fine eyebrows, and later a moustache). Books: science fiction and fantasy gave us something to talk about – he introduced me to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and began a much-loved tradition of exchanging fantastic fiction for birthdays and Christmas (I suppose I’ll be keeping the ones I got him for Christmas this year).
It’s strange but wonderful to know someone since childhood but to only become friends in adulthood. For Colin and I that only really happened once I’d left university, after Nanna had passed away, leaving Colin and my Mum alone. So the family drew closer, bringing in to it new people, like Liz’s other half – Steve, my partner Marilyn and later Tim’s wife Susie and Mum’s husband Mike. The dynamic shifted somehow and especially for Marilyn and I, with Colin we found a certain kinship in humour and attitude. That is to say: somewhat cynical, often sarcastic (and often frowned upon) – we made each other laugh. The three of us seemed to naturally slide into the pen for the darker sheep of the family (I was happy to whisk the mantle from my brother, once he turned all respectable). For reasons that remain unclear to any of us, people felt they should just leave their kids with us at weddings and parties. It might have been because we all gravitated towards the toys and colouring pencils, but a trio less likely to take good care of your children would be hard to find… we’d wander off in search of the bar.
Colin became a regular facet of my life when we started doing monthly improv comedy shows in Nottingham. To both of our surprises he was there almost every month. It is immensely satisfying to make your family laugh, and his distinctive laugh made me laugh too whenever I heard it. After the show we used to spend hours breaking down the set and Colin was always there helping and chatting. More recently we’ve gone straight to the bar for hours of conversation and silliness. I hadn’t realised for just how long and how deeply embedded Colin had become in that monthly event – not only for me and Marilyn, but for the rest of MissImp.
It’s also been very personally rewarding to have that support.
At times I worried that he was lonely – he was a single man living on his own in a, what’s a generous way to put this… untidy house. It sounded like a lonely life. Except it wasn’t: Colin was never defined so narrowly, we should judge Colin by his actions and the people he affected. And he did a lot. I didn’t know he used to drive an XR2i (dangerously), play bridge, hold patents, wear fancy dress at the gym, support several charities, accidentally slay kangaroos or be known as Flight Lieutenant Barnfather. It wasn’t just us who looked forward to seeing him, there was everybody else he saw at work, with the air cadets and in his insane fitness regime. We never see all of a person, just those parts of them that lie in our shared experiences.
In these past few weeks we have heard from so many people who loved Col just as much as we did and saw him even more often. I’m delighted (which is entirely the wrong word, but I don’t know what to use instead) to find that he affected so many people, made so many people happy with his cheerful, generous personality, that he was loved so widely for being exactly the person I loved.
We will all miss Colin. I will miss Colin. I want to thank you, Colin, for being yourself – it’s what I liked about you. That has always been inspirational to me – you can fit in without giving up anything you hold dear; it’s something worth knowing.