A personal tribute to John Stokdykby
With a big gap in the middle, Philip Fisher knew AccountingWEB editor at large John Stokdyk for close to half a century and as many happy memories.
Every AccountingWEB subscriber and contributor owes a great deal to John Stokdyk, even if some don’t realise that fact.
Without him, the site would not be the same and it would certainly be far less entertaining.
My first contact with John came many, many years ago, since we were at school together, although he was a few years older.
While I had always been aware of his American accent, which seemed odd for somebody bred and educated in Hampstead, it was only on reading the recent tribute that I learned of his early childhood in California, which explains a lot.
There was then a long gap until just before the end of the millennium, by which time I was writing occasional tax articles for AccountingWEB and John arrived on the scene.
Transformed my life
Without wishing to disparage members of editorial staff in the dim and distant past, John almost literally transformed my life.
Not only was he willing to countenance odd opinion pieces about the world of accountancy but also encourage me to spread my wings far wider. I recall that when we met to scope out a prospective regular column, I explained that my goal was to emulate Bernard Levin: the erstwhile, erudite columnist and theatre critic for The Times. John didn’t bat an eyelid and our partnership was up and running.
Nothing seemed to faze him. Who in their right mind would accept an accountant’s suggestion to become an accounting website’s resident theatre reviewer? That is the kind of offer that John Stokdyk would not turn down.
Though I no longer write about theatre for AccountingWEB, reporting on the Edinburgh Festival and major London openings for a year or two projected me into a full-time second career as a theatre critic with more mainstream publications, a subsidiary life that has often been almost as much fun as advising clients on their tax affairs.
Enthusiasm for tech
Similarly, somewhere along the line, John and I started talking about our enthusiasm for technology and, lo and behold, I had free rein to test out all kinds of gadgets, though this could sometimes prove costly.
A decade or so ago, John commissioned me to review an upmarket piece of hi-fi equipment during a listening session that he attended with barely concealed enthusiasm as befits a musician; a persona given away by John’s casual appearance, which would never have passed muster in the average accountant’s office.
I ended up buying a highly impressive but costly system which has given me years of pleasure. John clearly enjoyed the chance to try out not only a couple of relatively affordable systems but even a £300,000 top of the range audio set-up, without feeling any temptation to buy.
Over the years, John often fed me topics and issues to explore on AccountingWEB, which are frequently challenging but almost always enjoyable. He also masterminded many Budget chat sessions that often bubbled over into political debate and constantly encouraged me to write columns that were jazzy and laid-back, only ever becoming a little critical if I came over too much like an accountant.
He also boosted my ego immensely by promoting my case as Born Dull?! Accountant of the Year, an accolade that was richly deserved and unfairly stolen – not that I’m bitter.
Memories of John
When it came to the politics, he seemed to share my disbelief at countries that could elect Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, reminding me that I had written a scare story about this prospect several years before it came about.
We didn’t meet or talk that often but every occasion was an occasion. Whether we were enjoying Thai food in West Hampstead or the best on offer at St Pancras Station, the chatter was never less than amusing, while serious business requirements also somehow fitted in around the food and the fun.
It is always difficult to lose somebody, even if you didn’t like them that much. But that is not the case here and I have no doubt that everyone paying tribute after John’s premature passing will expound on how much they will miss a truly lovable and unique personality.