I first met Sarah in the late 1990s, when the spirit of camaraderie that pervaded the Observer would spill down the slope of Ray Street behind the office to the Coach & Horses pub, where staff gathered. We became friends, and subsequently worked together at the Observer Review. Later, the TV editor, Mike Bradley, and I had the idea (prompted by Sarah) of getting her in to work on the section we ran together.
Her instincts about the appointment proved correct, as she displayed a compendious knowledge of all the big American serials and everyone in them, months before anyone had seen or even heard of them here. In fact, Sarah’s knowledge seemed boundless – she knew more about books than anyone I know, and a great deal about sport, current affairs and music. Someone might be looking for 1,400 words on a subject; they could ask Sarah at two in the afternoon and the words would be there by six, peppered with original insight and free of faults. I always knew, if she was standing in on TV, that her work would be impeccable.
Sarah could also be formidable – sometimes unintentionally. Once, when my aunt and uncle had come for a flying visit on press day, I took them to the pub for a glass of wine, planning to return to work half an hour later. Sarah walked in and after I introduced her, she asked whether this, that or the other had been sorted out and had I remembered the cutout for page 21, and were the other pages sent? I explained that it was fine, I would be back upstairs shortly. She went to talk to some friends and my uncle leant over and asked in awe: “Is that your boss?” “No,” I replied. “She works for me!”
Above all, Sarah was a great friend. She looked after me and gave me sound advice, and we had great fun together. It was an honour to DJ at her and Kris’s wedding.
One of the happiest holidays I’ve had was a trip to visit Sarah and her family when they had moved to New York. Ruby was two or three and Oisín a baby. I have great memories of that week – becoming “The Ogre” for the kids; a late-night rendition of Tangled Up in Blue (in a basement down the stairs, naturally) with Montague Street just around the corner; Sarah and I chasing Ruby around at the beach as she waved a piece of battered fish at a sky wheeling with gigantic gulls. Sarah and Kris showed me their New York, from the local restaurants and delis to Dylan Thomas’s old haunts, the Shoot the Freak sideshow on the Coney Island boardwalk and the Spurs supporters’ pub – by chance yards away from their apartment in Brooklyn.
Sarah was wonderful, and I will miss her terribly. I keep thinking of things to say to her, and now I can’t.
Friends and family of Sarah Hughes have created a crowdfunding website hoping to raise £10,000 to set up a charitable trust in her memory. Those wishing to donate should visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sarahhughestrust