I first met William ‘Dinger’ Bell in Saudi Arabia in 2009. I was part of the MOD Saudi Arabia Project and, along with the rest of the team, had just moved to the recently opened BAE super-compound just outside Al-Khobar. There wasn’t much there to begin with, but it did have something the previous compound didn’t have – bars. Bars that sold alcohol. Real alcohol. And that’s where I met Dinger, sitting on a stool at the bar of the Causeway Club. He was ex-navy, a Scotsman, and he liked a drink. He was scruffy, a little overweight, balding on top and what hair he had was straggly and unkempt. I had no idea how old he was, but he did have one quality that made you look past the first impressions you may have had of him– he was funny. He had an innate sense of humour that was refreshingly infectious. He was always happy to see everybody he met and despite recovering from a wrecked marriage I honestly can’t think of a time when I didn’t see him with a smile on his face.
I remember him being overjoyed when he was invited to sit on the top table on one of the Burns’ Nights I’d organised, even more so when he was sat next to Dai, the British Trade Officer, who had a bottle of whisky concealed under the table, which he freely shared with Dinger.
Dinger seemed to be consigned to the role of the eternal singly, forever sat at the bar in his shorts and scruffy T-shirt. But that was before he met a striking Zulu woman called Regina Thusi. Within a couple of weeks of meeting Regina he’d had his hair cut. Gone were the scruffy T-shirts, replaced by smart collared shirts. He lost weight. He looked like a new man. He looked twenty years younger. Regina was good for him and over a short time it was obvious that he was totally in love with her as she was with him. She had seen something deeper in Dinger that other people may have missed.
They were still together when I left Saudi Arabia in 2014 but I followed his new life on Facebook as he and Regina travelled to her home in Africa and she to his home in the UK. It was clear to everyone who read their posts that they were deliriously happy with each other. They were a perfect couple, ideally suited to one another.
It is with great sadness, then, that I discovered this morning that Dinger has just passed away. I can only imagine how Regina must be feeling right now. The pain of losing her soulmate must be terrible and my heart goes out to her. She has lost a wonderful, generous and caring partner.
Even though I haven’t physically seen Dinger and Regina since I left Saudi in 2014, the news of the world losing such a lovely man is still a terrible shock.
May you rest in peace, my friend.