Peaches Geldof was captivating company, and like any tragic death, hers makes you cling all the more tenaciously to what you hold precious

Bob Geldof's statement that his family is “beyond pain” will have touched everyone

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I thought carefully about writing on the subject of Peaches Geldof. I don't want to be accused of grief tourism, a popular pursuit in this casually confessional age, and made accessible to all with the advent of social media. Unsurprisingly, Peaches has been trending on Twitter from the moment the news of her death was made public, with thousands of people she never met expressing feelings that, however genuinely held, can't fail to appear banal and superficial.

The journalist Ian Jack, one of the most astute commentators on the mores of our time coined a phrase to describe the public displays of emotion in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana: recreational grieving, he called it. I am not claiming kin with Peaches, and I'd only met her a handful of times. But I do find her death terribly affecting, because - as with all shocking incidents like this - it makes you cling ever more tenaciously to what you hold precious.

Peaches was a classmate of my daughter's at secondary school, and, until the rock'n'roll dream claimed the young Geldof, they were part of the same gang. She came to stay the weekend, and, even at the age of 14 or so, she was utterly captivating company. It didn't take a Freudian genius to foretell that all manner of trouble may lay in wait for this young girl, but Monday night's news was almost too terrible to comprehend.

Of course, my thoughts were with her father. I have had my moments with Bob, but I've always been pleased to see him, at parents' evenings or at social functions. Once, inexplicably, he attacked me in public during a speech he gave at the British Press Awards, accusing me of the excesses of tabloid journalism even though he knew full well that The Independent, of which I was then the editor, was in no way guilty of such crimes. He apologised shortly afterwards, and I quickly realised that my relationship with Bob was to be defined by occasional bouts of turbulence.

He is an impatient, irascible man who is not everyone's cup of tea. Yet, in virtually every argument I can think of, he is on the side of the angels. His statement yesterday that his family is “ beyond pain” will have touched anyone with a soul.

Peaches leaves behind close family - father, husband, sons, sisters - who must cope with the most deeply private of issues in the public gaze. Days, weeks, of speculation are bound to follow, as Peaches' catalogue of misjudged comments and misbehaviour are raked over. She was very much a creature of the modern world, so I suppose it's only natural that her passing gets the full multi-media treatment.

It's sometimes easy to forget, amid the Facebook posts and the RIP tweets, that this is a profound personal and individual tragedy. Someone's daughter, someone's mother, someone's sister, someone's wife. They must now all gather together to bury her. Those of us who had a brief acquaintance with Peaches can only guess what they are going through now, and it must be impossible to find comfort, save in the thought that maybe it's better to lead the life of a meteor than never to have reached for the stars.

Many of us are guilty of wanting to know every detail of a celebrity death, but we are not entitled to