No Heaven or hell, no wondrous place to walk into the light, no pearly gates or puffy white clouds or even fire and brimstone. He’d tell you this over a pint at the end of the day or, better yet, with his size 14 feet up on the edge of a table that held a bottle of reasonable scotch and a pair of half-filled glasses.And you and he would talk about many things: the Great Void; foreign policy; motorcycles, of course.

You’d go to bed and never realize that while you knew more about his beliefs and your own, you didn’t really know where these ideas had come from – what formed them in his life.

Rob’s gone now, killed in a motorcycle crash, dead in the blink of an eye.

Whether he’s looking down on us or not we’ll never know, not in this life at least.

But picture him on the chair opposite, looking at you with that cheeky grin or maybe that good-natured little smirk, silent now for someone else to hold the air. It’s time to tell his story.* Rob was born 49 years ago in Harrogate, a Yorkshire town, at – if you can believe it – Number 24, Cold Bath Road.

Donald remarried and his new wife wanted nothing to do with the children; when Rob was 16, his father moved away to the south, leaving his kids to fend for themselves even more.

Soon after, Rob inherited £5,000 from his grandfather and used the money to travel to Australia.

He spent the better part of a year there, 17 years old and on his own, staying with distant relatives and new friends, and it gave him the itch to see more of the world.

“And his house was tall, tall like him, it went on and on up.” That’s Courtney talking, Courtney Hay, remembering her 6-feet-4 partner and the father of their children, Cate, 8, and Chloe, 7. His mother, Janet, a social worker, died from breast cancer when Rob was only six years old and he pretty much ran amok with his brother Michael, or Mitchy, and his sister Sarah, who were three and five years older.

Their father Donald, a property adjudicator, would drop them off at a rented cottage in the summer and leave them to themselves all day.