Tom Hutchinson’s Speech
In Memory of Mat Thoppil
Julie, thank you so much for asking me to say a few words in memory of Mat. What an awful bombshell Friday evening was. Mat was in his prime and it’s such a tragedy. I know that amongst all of the sadness on this difficult day you want us to celebrate Mat’s life.
There are special people in the world, but mat was truly special. You married a wonderful person and I know he loved you to bits. I knew mat through medical school and Samsonians, but it is in the last four years that Emma and I got to know Julie so well.
It all began in Australia, after some great times spent with Jimmy Green and Kirsty in Melbourne, we set off on our road trip with Mat and Julie through the outback.. Mat, as only Mat could, had bought the “A Team” van – black with garish stripesdown the side. He kitted it out with all the latest camping gear, chef”s knives and his lucky Newcastle United souvenirs. We followed hopelessly ill equipped in our Nissan Pulsar with no air-con. That was the best holiday we ever had and we have so many happy memories. We were so pleased when you and Mat moved over to Perth and we virtually lived in each others houses for a year.
Mat had such a passion for life: he had an infectious enthusiasm and was such fun to be around.
The Perth lifestyle was ideally suited to Mat and he was able to throw himself into his favorite pastimes. He had a love of good food and wine. Whenever we went round he was in his element experimenting with making breads, pasta, curries and opening good wines. He was the ideal dinner party guest – not only did he provide the entertainment; he also came round and cooked the food! I stopped feeling guilty after the second occasion because he just loved playing host.
Recipes didn’t always go to plan….Mat befriended an elderly Italian lady who owned the deli across the road. She showed him the olive trees on their road and told him to pick them in the middle of the night with nobody watching. Mat picked hundreds of the olives and prepared them in a big vat nurturing them lovingly for several weeks following a traditional Sicilian recipe. Tasting day came round with great excitement……Mat, they were truly awful but we all thought this was hilarious!
Perth is a city for water sports and Mat was itching to try sailing, surfing and kite-boarding – the major hurdle was that Mat couldn’t swim. One weekend we drove to a busy beach North of Perth and I tried to teach Mat to swim. I don’t know what we must have looked like, me desperately holding Mat around his midriff with arms and legs flying everywhere. Typically of Mat he did learn to be comfortable in the water and before we knew it he had bought a snorkel, flippers, body board, mask – Mat never did anything by halves!
Mat was such a peoples person, he was a natural with all age groups and people responded to his enthusiasm. One of the most amazing qualities that I think only a lucky few possess was his ability to laugh out loud, spontaneously and from the heart. We have a video of our Australian adventures complete with cameraman Mat chuckling away in the background!
He was such great company. He was the king of fancy dress and that was just his usual clothes. Only Mat could carry off wearing bright yellow trainers with vivid blue tracky dacs. We invited Mat and Julie to a friend’s Rubix Cube party – you know the sort, start off in multicoloured fancy dress with the aim to be dressed in one colour at the end of the night. Mat and Julie threw themselves into this. Mat was like a magnet, by the end of the night everyone wanted to chat to him.
Julie, Mat has always had great qualities but he wouldn’t have had such confidence and such a sense of fun without you. You completed him and as a couple you have been such an inspiration to Emma and myself. Mat will be sorely missed at our wedding and we are pleased that on our last night out as a foursome Mat helped choose our wedding menu. I know it was all silly talk but on our last taxi home together we talked about how we would move up to Newcastle and how our children would grow up with yours – it’s all such a shame.
I am sure you will take great comfort from the number of people who are here today to remember Mat. He touched a lot of peoples lives.
Finally, Mat wrote in his will he wanted any celebration of his life to be at St. James’ Park, his second home. He will be so proud of you for pulling this off.
To the memory of Mat, a fantastic friend and inspiration to everybody, let’s make it a day to remember.