Bad news visits well in the dark before the dawn when a message from another time zone interrupts the sleeplessness. It was from a name I didn’t immediately recognise:
‘Hi Tony, I’m not sure if you remember me but I visited you in the UK with John a few years ago. I just wanted you to know that John passed away Friday night. I thought you needed to know.’
It was from John Bacot’s former girlfriend and travelling companion, Christine. I saw John then – a tanned, jovial face and wide American smile which brought lines by his eyes. I felt a wave of sadness that I’d never again hear that Carolina drawl and deep chuckle. John was all-American, a product of West Point. And it showed. A gentleman, his modesty facing down any mention of the Bronze Star he was awarded in Iraq.
We’d met on an adventure, our friendship born on the streets of Pamplona among the crowds of Hemingway’s fiesta, forged in the thrills of bull-running and tempered by the sheer joy of living in the moment.
And how we bonded. I remembered the warm afternoon when we left the wine-soaked streets behind us and walked to the bus station where I waved him off for his long trip back to the US. John had gone, I remained, but my fiesta had ended.
A few months later I was thrilled, when, on a tour of Europe, he stopped by with Christine. Their glamorous cultural tour - Prague to Paris - ending at my cottage in a small village on the Kent Downs. We relived our bull-running, toasted our friendship and I conducted a whistle-stop tour of London for them.
After that were occasional conversations via wifi connections; his gentle humour always at the forefront. He was selling up his business, planning to retire, share a place with Christine. Then a heart scare and he gave up smoking.
There were promises of trips to America from me – postponed by Covid. He spoke of Chris and him coming to see Sal and I. We looked forward to it, to raising a glass to further adventures, possibly a return to Pamplona.
Farewell and ‘suerte’ dearest John. Run well, my friend.