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Great gift of common sense in a foolish world

In 2008, Aengus wrote a piece about a parking offence he committed in Dun Laoghaire. He described how the ticket he received for this parking offence had spoiled what would otherwise have been a happy day for him, having had a bet on Spain to win the final of the European Championship (which they did) and Fernando Torres to score the first goal (which he did).

Any national newspaper editor with a concern for his or her gravitas would probably not have written that piece, favouring perhaps a thoughtful essay on the situation in Darfur -- not because it would be any good, but because important people like to give the impression that they have risen above the trivia of clamping and betting on football, that they are instead musing on lofty matters such as the situation in Darfur, and writing editorials about it .

So that is what they do.

Aengus didn't do that stuff.

He could muse on such issues with the best of them, at the right time, but on a day when the final of the European Championship was being played, he knew that the genuinely serious people of this world were musing on one issue above all others. And anyway, he had the great gift of genuinely not caring what anyone thought of him.

He didn't feel the need to be showing how smart he was. He was comfortable in his own skin. And in his resolute refusal to abide by the conventions of bourgeois society, he was hilariously funny.

- was sitting in the Hot Press office one day in the late Eighties when I was told that there was a call for me from someone called Aengus Fanning, a man then unknown to me. He suggested that I apply for a job that was going in the Independent. Which I duly did. And after an interview at which I recall about 14 people in the room at various points, he didn't actually give me the job.

But he asked me to write articles for the paper regardless, which was roughly what the job entailed anyway.

Despite these apparently chaotic beginnings, this man still managed to convey to me the sense that he had the utmost confidence in anything that I might do -- so much so, that in editorial terms, he essentially left me alone from that moment until the present day, apart from sending me the odd hand-written note to say that he enjoyed some piece.

Though there was one occasion when I was in Mulligan's pub, and I got a call from him on the pay-phone, asking me if I could find slightly less lurid ways of insulting members of the pro-life movement. Some of them bought the paper, after all.

I think it was because Aengus was so secure in his own mind, so indifferent to the noise of the crowd, that he could impart that confidence.

We read much last week about how colourful and entertaining he was, how different he was.

But after all this time, I figure that the difference was mainly this: Aengus just had more basic common sense than most.

In a world of foolishness and pomposity, the man with all the common sense is bound to seem a bit different.

How strange at times the rest of us must have seemed to him, and how much we owe him, for everything.

Sunday Independent