This past week the world lost a beautiful person: Hanna Yusuf. I lost a friend. The BBC a talented young journalist with oceans of potential.
As writers our job is to find the right words, but the truth is that sometimes – like now - there are none of adequate justice. Instead, what I can do is bring light to Hanna as I knew her. A dedication, an appreciation, and a recognition of her spirit as I knew it.
We worked directly together on the UK desk. It was immediately clear that she was a great writer, with a strong passion for original reporting. But we were drawn together as friends by music, culture and travel – a shared outlook, even if some of our life experiences had been very different.
When I moved teams, we kept in touch – never as much as either of us would have liked due to life and its obstacles – but when we did meet, for food with friends or celebrations, the gatherings were always full of life, her infectious passion, and excitement at future plans.
Then one day last December, having finally given in to her demands that I take a holiday, she told me I should visit her in Paris, where she was staying. “It’ll be great fun! I’ll plan everything,” she said. And for some crazy reason I did. I spontaneously booked the Eurostar.
When I arrived, she had indeed planned everything. She took me to Le Procope – the oldest café in Paris.. As paintings of great philosophers hung on the walls, we talked life, hopes, dreams, while she mocked my table manners. “You know you have to close the menu before they’ll take your order?” she whispered. I didn’t, but she smiled, and made me order frogs legs as a forfeit. In her words “we’ve got to live like real Parisians today”.
Then she whisked me off to a museum, the back streets, and, finally, a great music bar she’d heard about. It was breathless. Determined. And a lovely day. We were having so much fun that I almost missed the return train. Being multilingual, her ability to demand (and I mean DEMAND), a wheelchair accessible taxi to the station, saved the day.
I last saw Hanna only a fortnight ago. We finally managed to get together for lunch after saying how much we missed each other. “We must start an album club”, she said. “Each person picks an album and then we go to their house and listen to it. Would you do it with me?”.
I promised I would. She wanted to bring people together. Her last messages after our lunch demanded I did. I guess I should start that club. First album for you, Hanna.