Alex Nightingale, son of music DJ Annie Nightingale, and owner of EC1 Music Agency in London, England, has spent the last ten years bottling up his emotions.
Sam Archer was on holiday in Khao Lak, one of the worst hit areas in Thailand, with her husband Patrice and baby Ruby Rose. I recently went to interview Alex, where he opened up about Sam and the friendship they shared. Even though he lost someone over ten years ago, the love and respect he continues to hold for his friend was evident in the way he described her character.
Alex first met Sam back in 1994 during the football world cup and quickly became friends with her and her friends: Sarah and Jess. “The lethal trio” according to Alex. He recalls their first meeting: “Sam hated football, her friend punched me in the mouth within the first two hours, and the police were called. Fact”. An amusing statement, considering the pair then went on to develop a strong friendship.
They would spend their days partying at festivals including Glastonbury, planning trips, attending gigs, weekends of wine tasting. Sam coined the nickname for Alex, “Grumpy old git”, which Alex still holds dear to his heart. Sam had a deep love for her friends, fashion, travelling, and her boxer dog, Lucian.
“She was a talented, beautiful and genuine person, always putting smiles upon her friend’s faces. You always knew where you stood with her.
“My god, if she wasn’t happy you’d know about it. The arguments we had were legendary,” Alex said with a smile on his face.
“She had a way with people. She even managed to get her way backstage to a bull fight (which she loathed). She just said “Je suis avec la bull” to security, and bang, they let her in. That was just her style. I’ll never meet anyone else like her.”
Sam was a hard-working girl, which quickly became evident when she became a model booker. Sam was a close friend of Kate Moss, and she became Kate’s fashion agent when she moved to Paris.
“Sam lived life to the maximum. But when it came to work, she knew how to switch it on. She was loyal. Successful. And intelligent.”
Sam would spend her days chilling out in Café Noir, one of her favourite bars, where Lucian would always have his own seat.
In 2000, Sam married Patrice. They had beautiful baby, Ruby Rose. After the disaster, Patrice and Alex spent weeks in Khao Lak searching for Sam and Ruby.
In 2005, the family founded a charity, samandruby.com, and asked for donations to help children in the areas devastated by the tsunami, to rebuild schools and sponsor teachers.
One of the many reasons Alex is doing this is “because [he] wants to find some sort of closure”.
Alex came across the Home & Life Phang Nga Foundation where he instantly connected with the children and the volunteers. Happily, the Sam & Ruby charity allowed Alex to raise funds on their behalf for the orphanage. He took the initiative and contacted various friends and acquaintances in the music industry who kindly donated items to help the charity.
Sam was actually the agent of John Squire’s (The Stone Roses) wife, Sophie. Alex emailed John to see if he could create some art for the Sam & Ruby charity. John created this extraordinary image, which was privately sold and the funds were donated to the charity.
Following his recent visit, which had a positvely profound effect on him, he sent a short email to the founder of the orphanage, Mr Bhudit (Root) Maneejak. He asked one question, “Please tell me one significant item that would enhance the children’s quality of life?” They responded within five minutes stating a reading library would be their wish.
On January 28, I went along with Alex who presented sufficient funds to build “The Sam And Ruby Library”, named by the families request. It is set to open early June. The library has already received computers from the charity. Local children, not attached to the orphanage will also have access to the library.
The children were all so sunny, warm, friendly and immediately greeted us when we walked in. I could see why Alex connected to them. It was clear how much Alex, and others, have helped the children. Their positive energy left me lost for words.
“The Sam & Ruby Library will inspire creativity, positivity, laughter and love. It will become a beautiful tribute to Sam & Ruby”, Alex explained.
Alex said the looks on the kid’s faces and how much the charity has helped them and many others, has made this project fulfilling.
After the tsunami, Root helped many homeless and parentless kids. He eventually set up the orphanage in 2007, and locals from all across the Nahmkan village came to volunteer. Many sponsors have helped along the way, including Alex, and have worked together to help the children and enhance their lives where possible. Even the hotel staff at Sala Hotel have been so helpful, and generously donated rice.
“The library will be open, with lots of light in the room. The first part of the project will hopefully be completed by the end of March.
“Everyone is really happy when Alex comes and visits. He’s so funny and makes everyone laugh. He said he would help and he really has. Everything we do is for the children. It’s their home.”
By the end of last week, Alex had sent further funds to Home & Life which will now enable the library to be completely funded by the funds raised on behalf of the charity.
“I feel like this whole journey has been fulfilling. Obviously the first reason was to raise funds for deserving causes, but the second purpose of my trip was to go back to the temple in Takua Pa where I witnessed scenes that you cannot imagine.
“I’ve been back to Thailand many times, but something inside me this time just told me to do it. But in all those times that I have visited, and even driven past that temple, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face walking under the red gates into the temple.
"I shut my eyes, counted to 10 and I walked under the gates. At the time, it really shook me up.
"Now, I feel better for doing it.
“I’ve rarely been able to discuss it with anybody. Often, it’s easier to talk to people I don’t know about it.
“This trip has made me a happier person. I mean you could see from the look on my face at the orphanage.
“At the end of it all, I just feel proud that I knew her. We had some amazing times together. And, when I think of Sam, she always makes me smile”.