When Gerry fell down while walking back from the match I laughed out loud, because falling down was one of his tricks, but then he didn’t get up. Not at all: not ever. Gerry was a man who often played the fool and “Kept it light,” while others buckled under the weight of that self-induced chaos some of us call a life.
I remember him sitting up at the bar with me after one of his divorces singing. “Marriages, I’ve had a few, but then again, too many to remember” and I laughed with him, despite the mangled scanning of the lines, because he always refused to take life seriously: flippancy was his strength and weakness. Apart from me I think Drink and Gambling were his closest friends and we all know they make unreliable companions.
Still,nothing seemed to get him down. “Rough and smooth mate, rough and smooth” he used to say, and he took most of it in good part. I don’t mean the guy was without talent, far from it, but he didn’t take his gifts or circumstances seriously, or most of his jobs, or even his wives, one of whom was quite nice, but he was loyal me in his own way, and always willing to overlook his own failings, and some of mine. I remember him saying to me, “Never marry someone you like. It ruins a good friendship” and then he chuckled. Sometimes he might end up at my door after some self-organised cataclysm, bag in hand, saying, “Got any clean sheets mate” and I’d just open the door and let him in, because that’s what you do isn’t it?.
I’m not saying my wife Jean liked him because, quite frankly, she didn’t; especially after he made a drunken pass at her at my birthday party one year, and you know how these things can lead to awkwardness, but good news for some, he and I agreed to let that go. All in all, I admit his sense of moral geography among politely directed folk, was not what it might have been but he won’t be the last man with that difficulty
But to say he was merely a loose moraled individual is to paint too shallow a picture. Among the poor and homeless, among whom no acting was required, he discovered levels of compassion few of us connect to, and with his death, “Ladies and men of the street” as he called them, lost a gentleness of caring few have ever experienced. He was good with dogs, for many of us the final friendship in a disconnected world, and never passed a homeless guy without asking if he was alright, unless he was not alright himself, but then he knew what it was to be unfortunate and, among the dispossessed, the truculence and recklessness for which he was known, were replaced by astonishing sensibility.
I can’t say the church was packed by the “Respectable,” but, how they got to hear of it I cannot say, a significant number of the local destitute and their carers attended the buriel as well as myself. Owing to financial constraints there was no wake as such and it may not surprise you to know that Jean refused to go.
This is fiction by the way, and my last post before “The Man Who Missed The Boat” is published and, lets face it, that title could have been used for Gerry’s biography !