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A dear friend, Benny Puigrefagut

Benny Puigrefagut

Benny (New Year 2012)

Benny Puigrefagut
born 15 June 1941 in Barcelona
died 28 September 2012 in London.



Benny was born in Barcelona, the 15th of June 1941, a true Gemini.

He left Spain with his parents, when he was 6 years old. He lived in Buenos Aires, Córdoba(Argentina), Brazil, Venezuela, New York, Sweden, England, Andorra...

He married Victoria Mur, the 6th of July, 1995, when they had been together for more than 10 years.

Her words:
"I miss him terribly, you know. He was my mentor, my lover, my companion, my wonderful chef, my expert in IT and above all I admired his sense of humour and his bright mind. He flattered me till the end with compliments and told me how much he loved me. I had the enormous privilege of having him for nearly 30 years."

On June 1, 2011, Benny wrote an article on his blog "A view from my London window":

Just another Sunday dinner chez Jim


I met Jim when I was living in Stockholm. Or, rather, that was when I first got in touch with him, since I didn't meet him in person at the time. A friend of mine had lent me a rather big book, full of pictures and descriptions of some rather wild carrying-ons at an Amsterdam festival and, having read and enjoyed it from cover to cover, I decided to write to the person who seemed to have organized it, a certain Jim Haynes. Being the nice person that he is, he answered my letter and we proceeded to develop a curious, long distance, postal friendship.

One or two years later I moved to Marbella, in Spain, and decided that it was time to meet Jim in person. I phoned him and he invited me to stay at his atelier for as long as I wanted to.

I arrived there on a Saturday and found Jim to be as friendly and warm in person as he was when writing letters. The atelier was a great place, full of books, videos and, of course, people. I was told that I could sleep in an upstairs room, which had a balcony from where I had an excellent view of all the activity downstairs. And there was a lot of activity, because a whole army of voluntary helpers was busily preparing the food for next day's dinner (Jim's Sunday dinners have between 60 and 80 guests, which means a lot of food). I pretended to help, took walks, got to meet some of the people who lived in the house or were passing through it - you're never sure at Jim's, as people arrive just to say "hello" and may still be there two weeks later - and enjoyed Jim's company.

Sunday evening arrived and the house looked perfect: lots of pots with yummy smelling food, lines of trays with assorted salads, desserts carefully tucked away, glasses, water, wine and beer outside, in a little corner under the stairs, freshly cut French bread, paper dishes and napkins. And then people started arriving: an American college professor fresh from a tour of lectures in Africa, a Finnish girl who sold cell phones, several French couples, assorted young backpackers of both sexes who had, somehow, heard about Jim's dinner, an eccentric (and lovely) Russian lady of indeterminate age, who had lived in Paris forever and was holding court outside, on the steps, while smoking a cigarette in a long holder (you can't smoke at Jim's dinners, except outside. He's not part of the manic antismoking brigade, but 80 people smoking in a single room would make London's old peasouper fogs pale in comparison) and a zillion other people of every colour, shape, age and nationality. Jim welcomed them, handed them forms to fill in, if this was their first visit, and introduced them to everybody. Once in a while, he would pounce on people who seemed to be a bit lost, in a corner, and would introduce to others that he considered a suitable match.

Food got served and eaten, names and addresses exchanged, conversations held and romances begun. Being a people person and terribly curious, I felt I had been let loose in paradise: I kept meeting people, chatting about all kinds of subjects, hugging good looking girls and having a hell of a good time. The sound track was amazing, as I could hear six or seven languages being spoken at the same time, laughter, shouts of "who wants seconds?" and the general hum of a successful party.

Slowly, the whole thing began to wind down, people began to leave, paper dishes were put in garbage bags and pots and cutlery were washed and put away. Leftovers were stored in several fridges, guaranteeing a very nice lunch the following day. Jim and I sat down and exchanged impressions about the guests and the food. I had three or four names of interesting people - all women, for some strange reason - who had offered to meet me for drinks or go to a concert or do any of the million things one does when visiting Paris.

Finally, I said good-night to Jim and went up to my room: a large mattress on the floor looked terribly inviting and it didn't take me long to undress, lie down and start falling asleep. Other people in the house were getting ready for bed, as well: some in the basement, others in sleeping bags on the living room floor. Suddenly, Jim's voice: "Benny? Sorry to bother you, but two unexpected visitors have arrived and they don't have any other place to sleep. Downstairs is full and you're alone in this room..." I suppose I moaned in silence, since I had enjoyed having a room all to myself, but there was nothing I could do but accept the newcomers. Jim stood to one side and two young girls came into the room: "Benny, these are Birgitta and Pia, from Stockholm. Birgitta and Pia, this is Benny, who is kind enough to let you share his room. And he speaks Swedish". Suddenly, sharing my room didn't feel like such a bad idea. Birgitta and Pia were staggeringly good looking, in a typically unselfconscious Swedish way. I began to get up and muttered something about making room for their sleeping bags. The girls looked at each other and one of them, quite shyly, said "We don't want to bother you. That is a big mattress and if you don't mind, we can just share it with you".

I almost heard celestial voices singing "Hallelujah!" right then, as I realized that the universe can be an OK place, after all. And modesty forbids me from continuing this tale (in addition to which, the Travellers Companion Series, which would have been the natural place for such a story, no longer exists) but in a single instant I came to understand why Hemingway said that Paris is a moveable feast. In spades. At least in Jim's house.

I ended up spending a week there.

Jim's dinners? Go, and may the force be with you.

Benny Puigrefagut
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Benny Puigrefagut 1941 - 2012

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