In the summer of 1974 Des walked into the tiny bar of the Clavadel Hotel in Guildford, England. And into my life.
He has been my friend for 44 years.
We hit it off immediately. Music, the passion for records, the love of lyrics, the mindblowing musicians of the ’70’s, we loved it all. We spent hours and hours poring over record sleeves and lyric sheets, soaking in the names of the players, the instruments, the words. We laughed. We drank. We laughed some more.
When I had my worst breakdown, in 1994, we spoke for hours and hours. When he rang me from a railway bridge in 2012, I called the police and drove across London, and got him down. When he asked me for money, I gave it to him. When I asked him for help, he held me.
On Sunday night, my brother called to tell me that Des was in hospital. On Monday morning I was on the doorstep of the hospital, bleary eyed, exhausted. They let me see him. He was yellow, haggard, thin, old.
He had no idea I was there.
Years ago, he sent me a list of people to be contacted ‘in the event.’
I spent the rest of Monday making 28 phone calls, full of tears and pain and agony.
On Tuesday my estranged brother sent me a text to say he was sitting with Des, holding his wizened hand, crying.
At 6.43 am on Wednesday my phone rang.
“It’s the Royal Surrey County Hospital.”
“I’m afraid that Desmond has passed away.”
(He was never called Desmond unless he was in trouble. Even to the end.)
“Okay. Thank you.”
You know all of those gut-wrenching phone calls? Yep, I had to make them all again.
Since then it has been hospital, registery office, funeral directors, bureaucrats, forms, phone calls and tears.
Lots of tears.
I am sitting on my sofa, shattered, shaking and so, so sad. I am 61 years old and I have never been so tired in my whole life.
My beautiful friend has gone.
Here is his favourite performance of his favourite song. I will make sure it is played as the coffin is carried out.