“What you need is some direction. Some purpose. I can tell you haven’t found it yet. You look lost.”
The old man helping me stick plasters all over my knee was trying to give me life advice.
“I fucking hope not, seeing as I’m at the bottom of a mountain in the pissing rain” I said.
“Ah, you think I’m crazy”
“No. I think you’re pissed”
I bumped into him at the bottom of Mount Cook. I tripped up like a toddler and cut my knee and he was helping to patch me up. He was drinking whisky at 10am, out of a cut crystal glass and a decanter, wearing a top hat and a cravat, while sat on top of a rock in the rain.
It was like the Mad Hatters tea party, but with booze.
“I could be Jesus for all you know” He said with a wicked grin.
“You’re not Jesus”
“How do you know?”
“Because Jesus would have offered me a drink before now.”
It turned out that his name was Geoff, he was 79 and he had spent the past 40 years travelling the world and living out of a tent. And drinking whiskey. Lots and lots of whisky.
And as I sat there crying about my knee and how crap my life was, he started trying to dole out words of inspiration.
“What is it you want to do with your life?” he asked
“Seriously, what’s up? I am good at reading people”
“Seriously, shut up. I work in criminal mental health, reading people is my fucking job”
“Do you want to wear my top hat?”
“Have you got nits?”
“Do I look like I have nits?”
“Well, yes, to be fair.”
“Do you want to come and have a drink in my favourite cave?”
“Fucking hell, are you a serial killer?”
“You tell me, you’re the criminal expert.”
We spent the rest of the day getting pissed in a cave while he told me about all the places he’d been to and I told him dirty jokes.
We did Monty Python impressions and he said I was the nicest person he’d ever met and that if he were 50 years younger, he’d be marching me off down the registry office and marrying me that afternoon.
I told him that if he were 50 years younger, I’d probably take him up on it.
Geoff turned out to be a wonderful person and we kept in touch for years. He didn’t do the Internet so we wrote to each other and spoke on the phone.
The last time I spoke to him two weeks ago he said he wasn’t feeling well, but was “trying to laugh and drink through it”.
He was back in Ireland, in an old people’s home where they were kind enough to let him spend the summer months in his tent in the garden instead of keeping him in his room.
He told me so many things over the 9 years that I knew him. He told not to get married, not to stop writing, not to stop travelling, not to listen to anything but my gut and not to keep taking shit from people. I should have listened to him, but I never did.
When I told him that I dyed my bright pink he was the only person to say, “I bet you look ravishing” rather than call me a twat like everyone else did, and when I found out I was having a baby girl he said he knew she would be a “beautiful little shite of a handful like her mother”.
And today I found out that he died last week aged 88.
His son sent me a letter to tell me.
He was buried in his top hat with a bottle of Jack Daniels at his side in a cemetery in Sligo. I am going to miss him terribly because I could really do with him telling me what to do now and this time, I’d bloody listen.