A few posts ago, I mentioned that at some point during the early days of his illness, Llŷr bought me a Johnny Cash box-set called Unearthed – a collection of highlights and out-takes from his massively popular (and rightly so) American Recordings series.
Llŷr bought this for me as a thank-you for, as he put it, “making sure I’m still around.” As I mentioned when I last posted something from this box-set, I initially told him not to be so silly, that I couldn’t accept it, that all I had done was call an ambulance a couple of times.
But he insisted, and I’m not an absolute monster, so I accepted.
It’s probably one of my most prized possessions these days. Pretty much everyone that knew him will have a mix-tape or a mix-CD he lovingly, thoughtfully prepared for them; I have loads of those, but I also have this, and I shall never be parted from it.
I mention this now because on Sunday 27th January 2019, I got a phone call. I should, therefore, be posting this on Monday 27th January 2020 to mark the true anniversary, but here, on a Sunday morning, where it happened, seems more appropriate, especially given the choice of song.
On Saturday 26th January 2019, I met up with a few friends including Llŷr’s older sister, and my old flatmate, Hel, for a few beers. When I got there, it was obvious that something was going on, and as she paced up and down outside on the phone to her mother, Hel’s husband Neil explained to me that things were not looking good and that we should brace ourselves for the news we had been expecting for a long time.
At some point that evening, I got a text from Chad, a friend of mine and Llŷr’s, who I had met through Llŷr a couple of years earlier at Glastonbury. Chad lives way, way up North, and wanted to come down and visit – that, my friends, is an indicator of how wonderful Llŷr was and how similarly lovely people gravitated towards him.
Chad had sent a message to Llŷr’s father, Jeff, to see when would be conveniant for him to visit and was concerned that he hadn’t had a reply. This was most unlike Jeff. I filled Chad in on the situation, that the news wasn’t good, but that I would keep him updated.
This was my role, one I was proud to do; for most of the last few months of Llŷr’s life, I felt frustrated – as I think everyone who knew him did – that we couldn’t do more to help, that we were powerless to stop what was coming, or to shoulder the burden of what Llŷr’s family were going through.
And so this is how I helped, in the only way I could: by providing updates to Llŷr’s many friends so that his family didn’t have to.
The first time I met Jeff was a few years earlier, at their home in Brecon. Llŷr and I, along with our very good friend Colin, were driving to a friend’s wedding in Hay-on-Wye, and we called in partly to say hello, but mostly because Llŷr needed to borrow a shirt.
He introduced us on the doorstep, but his father misheard my name, and said “Hello Des, welcome, come on in.”
Llŷr found this hilarious, and would call me Des for a very long time afterwards.
Jeff and I have often laughed about this ever since, he even revealing that the first time he clapped eyes on me, a large bloke with a gruff voice and a shaved head, he worried about the type of people his son was mixing with.
And so it was that on the morning of Sunday 27th January 2019, I sent Jeff a text, telling him that he need not reply to Chad, as I had already done it.
Shortly afterwards, my phone rang.
It was Jeff.
There was a pause.
“Jez…” he said.
“This is the phone call, isn’t it?” I said.
The rest of that conversation is too personal to share. Suffice it to say, both of us were in tears through most of it.
Llŷr was a life-long Liverpool fan, and, I was sad when they won the Champions League last year, not just because they beat my team in the final, but because he hadn’t been around to witness it.
Moreover, he’s not going to see his team win the Premier League this year, as they surely will, for the first time in absolute yonks.
And so, this song, from that box-set he bought me, is the only song I can post today:
Miss you dude. Every day.