Four months on from his sudden and early death, we had the celebration of our friend Des’s life, on Saturday.
Four hours in his favourite pub, The Three Pigeons on Guildford High Street, with a 79 song playlist, dozens of photos from throughout his life, and 25 friends, from his school days to the past 5 years.
And no family.
Des was born to an unwed Irish mother who left her village in the West of Ireland, like so many in the 1950’s, and crossed the Irish Sea to have the baby. He was born in St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, on 23rd July 1956. Two days later the mother left without him and returned home.
Des was taken into Care. Then sent to a foster family. Then back into Care. And so, the cycle of his first 18 years began. He came home from his first term at boarding school, when he was 11, to find his foster family had moved. Somehow he lifted himself up and immersed himself in books and poetry and writing and music.
He left his final Children’s Home, Burbank in Woking, in 1974. He had spent 4 years there and had become close friends with another resident, Paolo Hewitt. They stayed firm friends for the rest of Des’s life. Paolo, two years Des’s junior, was captivated by this great looking kid who was bright, clever and could play guitar. And who loved music even more than Paolo did. Paolo told me on Saturday that Des’s gift to him back then was that he made him believe anything was possible.
Des came into my life in that summer of ’74. For the next five years we were joined at the hip. It was the most intense friendship of my life. He taught me about music and authors and writing and comedy. And he was intensely, intensely funny. Sharp, acerbic and belly-laugh funny he was like a magnet. You wanted to be his friend. I have spent hours in the past few months going through a few hundred photos. In every one that is at a party, in a pub or as a group, he is the centre of attention, your eye is simply drawn to this smiling, good looking kid.
Towards the end, when the grip of the alcohol became vice like, he became tough to be around. In March 2016, after a terrible lunch, full of aggression, laughs and slurring, I hugged him on the pavement outside The Three Pigeons, kissed him, and said goodbye. His mental health was affecting my mental health and the advice of my lovely wife and close friends had finally come to pass. I had to cut the cord.
The next time I saw him was 12th March 2018. He was in a hospital bed, completely yellow, 150 years old and delirious. He died two days later.
Since that time I have had a severe breakdown, finally asked for help from the NHS and am in the best therapy I have ever been in.
So, on Saturday, we said our farewell. Paolo came and we hugged. Paul, Des’s foster brother from the 1960’s came, and we hugged. The three of us have become such close friends in the past four months, meeting for regular dinners in Notting Hill, to talk bollocks and to discuss the two loves of our lives – Tottenham Hotspur FC and Des Hurrion.
Somehow, out of one of the most traumatic periods, I am getting help and have made two new friends who will be with me for life. That’s a pretty good gift for my friend to have left me.
Happy 62nd Birthday, old friend xx