I've met Tom on a few occasions, both on his brief visits to London while working abroad, and since his relocation here recently due to his wife's ill-health. He is immensely likeable, softly-spoken and of a calm and astute nature.
Within hours of the Stony Stratford event to protest an outdoor ban being mooted, Tom - a lifelong non-smoker - contacted me and generously offered transport there and back. What's more, he refused any contribution to the cost of petrol, spoke of his 'responsibility' to get me there on time, and even insisted on buying the first drink on arrival. As gents go, he is in the top drawer.
He is also a committed family man with an acute sense of care for others. A short anecdote arising from the correspondence surrounding the trip to Stony Stratford illustrates this.
I had received a polite, but anxious, e-mail from a bride-to-be whose wedding was scheduled for the day of our event in the town. Having already suffered a few setbacks to her long-booked plans including a forced change of venue and issues with suppliers, she had read about our protest at AboutMyArea/MK11 and had been in tears at the thought of it ruining her big day. I had reassured her by return that it would be a good-natured affair and entirely peaceful. In a warm reply, she expressed her relief, wished us all the best of luck and said that if she saw us, she would give us a wave from the nearby Cock Hotel when she left for the church.
On recounting this to Tom as we drove up the M1 in driving rain, his very first thoughts were about how sad he was that she should have such terrible weather for a July wedding, before talking with evident affection about his own marriage ceremony 31 years ago, and the pride he derives from the daughters he can now boast as a result.
As such, although he was restrained when mentioning his wife's illness - the sole reason he relocated back to this country in recent months - he will doubtless be deeply hurting tonight.
Considering my own position as a newly-wed, I can't imagine what would console in such circumstances, but would like to offer the oft-quoted words of Canon Henry Scott-Holland.
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!RIP Mrs Paine. My thoughts are with you tonight, and with your devoted husband and family.