It seems that hardly an issue of FAB appears without carrying an obituary for one of our much-loved personalities from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson. Often it is hard to come to terms with. When it’s a friend and colleague it becomes personal and more difficult to comprehend. On 10th February 2014 we heard the sad news that Anthony Barnes had passed away just 57 years old.
Tony had been a member of Fanderson for a number of years and was always keen to support the club. I got to know him and Tony Freeman through numerous visits to memorabilia and toy fairs as well as club events. Back in 2007 he was offered and accepted the role of Sales Assistant. I could think of no-one more suited to the position. So for the past seven years, ‘Big Tone’ as he was affectionately known had tirelessly been packaging our merchandise orders and trooping off to the Post Office with the goods in all weathers. Every now and then I’d visit him with yet more stock, there was always time for a cuppa and a chat. He could talk the hind legs of a donkey but he always had an ear to listen and often gave sound advice. We’ve lost a colleague but more importantly a mate.
He had many friends but none more so than Tony Freeman or ‘Little Tone’ who can best continue with his personal view of what Tony Barnes meant to him.
Stephen Brown, Fanderson Sales Administrator
My Mate Barnesey – A Personal Journey
By Tony Freeman (‘Little Tone’)
I first met Barnesey at the beginning of the nineties. For me, they were hard times. I had just moved house, I had lost my job and there was no money coming in.
One day, I returned from job hunting to find a card from the postman about a parcel that was too big to leave and was at the sorting office. So the following day I drove to town to pick up the parcel. It was huge, I had no idea what it was and bundled it into the boot. I tore into it there and then – curious to see what was inside. It was all three seasons of original Star Trek on video. I had won a magazine competition which I had entered some months previous. After all the recent hard luck I felt elated as that eight year old child re-emerged in me. So excited in fact that I drove the car to see a buddy of mine called Paul. He owned a video store, was a movie buff and a great lover of the original Star Trek. I struggled into the shop with this huge parcel and laid it in front of him. His eyes lit up and promptly picked up the phone “Hi, it’s me. Have you got five minutes to pop round?” he said, “Ok” was the reply.
A short while later, a big bear of a man walked into the shop, it was Tony. After introductions, he stared longingly at the parcel. So between us, we removed the 40 videos from the box and lined them up on the shop counter, stood back and bathed in their glory. And that was how it started, Tony being generous in nature then opened up his heart and his home to me.
It turned out we had lots in common from Star Trek to Gerry Anderson, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, and that meant we had lots to talk about. We also had the same passion for model making and figure painting and he would tell me stories of his visits to Woolworths to buy Airfix kits when he was young. He tried hard to introduce me to war gaming but I never took to that but marvelled at his painted miniatures.
During those early years Tony and I helped a friend, Brian, out on his stall at a local toy fair. We even put a few of our built and painted model pieces on display and we sold them. That went well and so we started to take a stand at various fairs and called ourselves TNT Hobbies. People seemed to like us and what we did and so for over a decade we displayed and sold many, many pieces whilst filling the rest of the stall with no longer wanted treasures from our collections. Half the time though, Tony would be meeting and talking to people whilst I tried to serve the customers!
I would generally build the models whilst Tony would bring the piece alive with his skill as a master painter.
Did we make much money? Not really. We usually spent more than half of what we made on more merchandise that we had seen at the fair. We would quite often sell pieces from our collection at a local car boot fair until one day we were badly rained on, destroying huge portions of our stuff. Tony vowed he would never stand again at another car boot after that.
I carried on and despite what he said Tony did too in a way, as on many occasions he would still come and visit me. He would come armed with coffee and bacon butties from the nearby tuck wagon and would stay for hours with me and just talk. He’d keep me company. He was like that.
Tony created the TNT website, all his own work, to display the vast collection of photos we’d amassed of the models we had built. He wanted to inspire people to try and do the same. We often took a tired old model kit and some bits and bobs and tried to turn it into a kind of art I guess. Most of all, through TNT he wanted to show how cool it was to be a geek, regardless of age. We started to visit a vast amount of memorabilia fairs as well as various exhibitions and conventions and through all of these made a staggering amount of new friends.
We were known as Big Tone and Little Tone or T’n’T. It seemed like we were joined at the hip for a while as we were seen everywhere together. Sometimes we might be overwhelming at times, a force of nature, with our enthusiasm for all things geeky. With his bear-like presence he was never afraid to say hello and welcome you into his life. We saw each other quite often during those years constantly meeting up or telephoning each other. I could often hear Christine in the background of a call going “Have you two finished yet? I want to make a call” or “Are we paying for this call?”. Tony could talk for England and I guess when I was with him, so could I. They were good times.
Sadly TNT hobbies faded away during the early 2000s with the ease of Ebay selling, and more professional organisations creating pre-painted models and figurines. But we continued to attend toy fairs and such like, still buying those elusive treasures.
During those later years he would divide his time between his duties as President of the Gaming Club Network and as despatch co-ordinator for Fanderson. Many a time I would drive him to the post office with sacks full of parcels. He didn’t need a full time job, he already had two! Sometimes he would moan about this or that to do with the clubs and I would say “Well pack it in then” to which he replied “Don’t be daft”. He loved it you see, there was no ego, he never bragged, he just loved being part of it and helping out.
During these past few years it’s sometimes been hard to tie him down with me on shift work and his duties between the clubs, especially the GCN which would have him travelling far and wide around the country. But nevertheless we would always set aside every other Friday morning when I was on afters to get together at his place and have a chat. He’d get the kettle on and I would fetch the bacon butties from the local bakery. We talked about most things, some good, some bad: you could, it was easy with him. Recently we had even started to talk about our own mortality and that, given our age, perhaps it was time to start winding down the collections. Which would then be followed with “Have you seen this new figure that’s coming out?” or “Look what’s out on Blu-ray next week. We’ve got to have that!” We had started to plan which shows we were going to this year, Brit Sci-Fi, Andercon, Small Space, Cosford , Alpha 2014 and many more. We were trying to figure out how we were going to fund them and, more importantly, how we were going to tell the wives!
You never stayed melancholy in Tony’s presence, he would always pick you up and dust you down, remind you to never give up or to never grow up. He proved that you don’t need to be a scholar, a celebrity or a politician to make a difference to people’s lives. Just an open heart and a generous soul.
Now I look back on that day all those years ago in Paul’s shop as those three Star Trekkers bathed in video glory and realise that sadly I’m now the last man standing as Paul too was tragically taken from us at an early age. But what I do realise though is that I won more than some videos that day. More importantly I won a new friend, a soul mate, a brother – my mate Barnesey.
Safe journey my dear friend, I’ll see you again one day. It might be a while but when I find you, get the kettle on. I’m sure we’ll have lots more tales to tell………..
No, I won’t forget the bacon butties.