Media & Press Archive

After Life, by Geoffrey Davies

After Life is the name of the informal diary written by Geoffrey Davies after the death of his son Philip. It is a collection of scribbles, thoughts, poems and memories. ‘I remember the shock, for Pam in particular, of seeing Philip in a coffin. And how I worried about the coffin having a chipboard base. All chipboard really, I think. It takes time to have a really nice coffin made’

Arranged in chronological order over two years after Philip’s death, the diary captures the mix of blackness, love and confusion in the aftermath of a sudden death. The entries are often short, bleak and laced with pain: ‘I am so sad that the last time I saw Philip he seemed sad. He turned away rather quickly as we drove off. I sit at my desk. It’s lunchtime. I love you my boy. I love you. Tears well below my eyes.’

There is no purposeful design to the prose and so it does not flow, rather jumps, and certainly at times is a struggle to read. What it does achieve is the insight into the mind of the bereaved, – the dismissal of everyday life and surroundings, the self-indulgence, and yet still the steely determination to keep on going and eventually re-embrace normality. ‘I put the radio on in the car for the first time today and played French tapes. It was six weeks before we had turned on the kitchen radio again, twelve weeks before the television. It was about then that I remember our first joke, or at least our first humour, a rather feeble misunderstanding between ‘Pinewood’ and a ‘Pile of wood’. – – – Twenty three weeks now.’

There are also glimpses of the essence of life. At times captured in a way that is clear and focused, the understanding that you can enjoy at the centre of the storm: ‘During the night I felt very strongly that nothing matters so long as you are surrounded by love and I felt very peaceful. I remember: Philip in the tower at Laval – how tightly I held his wrist, Philip in the canoe on the Thames – how anxious I was, Philip at the end of the Ski Heil line giving a gentle push and over they went’

It is a diary that is simply an extract from the process of acceptance. ‘Pam received a letter shortly after Philip died from a woman who had suffered similarly some ten years previously. She told how, with time, grief may become less sharp but that ‘the sadness is always there, like a quiet companion’. With time I hope that this may be the case for Pam and I’

The diary is preceded by an introduction which charts a brief history of Philip’s life: ‘There were aspects of his personality that differed from those of his siblings. Unlike the others he showed little interest in team games, choosing to swim and sail instead. Since he had an aptitude but not a motivation we attributed this to a susceptibility to asthma and a disinclination to do what everyone else did. When first born he was very quiet and I upset my wife by calling him “plant”. But soon he was very active. As a three year old he might slip one’s hand and run ahead.’

The body of the diary is supported initially by a recollection of the immediate events following the discovery of his death and then by a number of recurring key themes during the two years covered by the diary; the trial and inquest, heroin and the cause of death, the interaction with Philip’s girlfriend and housemates, the University, the Police and the Media: ‘Mo told my daughter and wife when they called that she had used ecstasy and cocaine and had continued to take drugs after Philip died. She told me on the telephone, “I’ve taken drugs since I was seventeen. It’s done me no harm….it’s not some hideous thing. What we do is a generally accepted thing that does us no harm at all….it’s a very social thing. If you had taken drugs Mr. Davies, dare I suggest, you would understand”.’

‘Philip died sometime after midnight on Friday 17th March and before four o’clock, Saturday afternoon. His housemate John unsuccessfully telephoned Alex Johnson at 3.55am on the Saturday morning. He forgot to tell the police about this when he gave them his statement but on production of the phone bill explained that he thought ‘Phil was drunk and would have liked Alex there’. Another housemate Bryn called Alex, unsuccessfully, at 2.26pm on Saturday afternoon, ‘to see where everybody was’. Finally, at 4.06pm, he was successfully contacted by Mark and immediately came round to the house to be shown the body. Only then was an ambulance called, by the time it arrived Alex Johnson had already gone.’

‘When I first realised that Philip had died from drugs supplied by Johnson, I wondered if it was my duty to kill him. I looked at the knives in the kitchen drawer and considered how easily I could walk up behind him and kill him. Pamela said, “how will it help the rest of us if you are in prison”. Seeing Johnson in court, in one case sitting next to him in a small room, I was surprised how little animosity I felt. He looked like Philip.’

To find out more about After Life, please email or contact us at MuchLoved.

Read more about the diary entries here.