A Personal Dedication to Dr. Geoffrey Vernon Davis or, a Socialite Gentleman Scholar, Cosmopolitan Workaholic, Connoisseur of Fine Books, Films, Wines, Beers, and Spirits

By Walker, Hamish; Senior, Michael | Cross / Cultures, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

A Personal Dedication to Dr. Geoffrey Vernon Davis or, a Socialite Gentleman Scholar, Cosmopolitan Workaholic, Connoisseur of Fine Books, Films, Wines, Beers, and Spirits


Walker, Hamish, Senior, Michael, Cross / Cultures


The Mists of Time ...

Well, when Ingrid first broached the subject ofwanting w to celebrate the occasion of Geoff s 65th and retirement with a festschrift, or, as Hancock would say in the vernacular, a liber amicorum, our initial reaction was to say, yes, of course, we would want to take advantage of this double celebration to pay tribute to an old (aren't we all these days?), dear, and generous friend. But then Ingrid went and put a bit of a damper on things by saying that contributions were usually of a somewhat more academic or 'wissenschaftliche' nature, which, as things stand, put us in our place right at the bottom of the list of potential scholarly contributors, so that when Ingrid eventually put out her call for papers (the 65th was long gone), we really felt we'd been put on the mailing list as a courtesy and that, in our case at least, a few pints and a pie with Geoff down the pub would have been a more suitable way of celebrating the occasion. But, scraping the bottom of the barrel, Ingrid must have changed her mind and decided we would, after all, be permitted to pay our own small tribute. So, here goes. . . .

When and where we all met for the first time is beyond recollection, lost in the shrouds of history. It was, therefore, presumably in some pub in Aachen, and the most likely candidate would be the one we frequented most - Runi's (God bless her, she must be responsible for having ruined many a young liver).

Bringing Culture to the Heathens....

Or, maybe it was at the English film club - Geoff must have got that going back in the very early 1970s - does anyone still run it, care about it, or even remember it in these days of video on demand? But it was a unique institution, probably still cherished in the thoughts of hundreds of ex-students when they recall their student days and one of Geoff s early victories achieved, presumably, after numerous battles with the RWTH authorities and for which we owe him a debt of gratitude. For many it was the highlight of a week of tedium, misery, and occasional moments of study.

Or could it have been, God forbid, in the Anglistik Institute? At the ? H or in some greasy Greek restaurant? Who knows, who cares. After all, it was nearly four decades ago and friendships formed in youthful years last longer. Or was it just the clinginess of ex-pats huddling together in hostile climes?

First Steps to Recognition. . .

So there we all were, back in the early 1970s, with Geoff revelling in the lap of luxury, sharing an apartment (well, Geoff always maintained it was just sharing) with the beautiful Fiseni twins in salubrious Burtscheid, the upmarket, posh, spa area of Aachen, and then, taken unawares - FAME. Geoff, crack of dawn, 7.45 a.m., interviewed by WDR radio on the subject of his mate Richard Booth, successful purveyor of second-hand books, owner of a Rolls and room for a whole herd of ponies, lord and uncrowned king of Hayon-Wye. Geoff s first public statement to the world, heard by millions! Ah, if only we'd known in advance and been up early enough. But, it was a first encounter with UD I.

And then there was the Spoken Word! Peter Pirn and Billy Ball, central characters of one of the first English textbooks for the German 'Hauptschule', were revamped when language labs came into fashion (and let's hope those monotonous, uninspiring old machines have long disappeared again). The publishers asked us to speak the texts for the first P.P. & B.B. tapes. So, wet and wintry weekends were spent in the teacher training college studio recording mind-bogglingly stultifying sentences in every tense imaginable, past, present, and future, conditional, simple, and continuous, just to earn a few bob on the side and further our already established careers of boring as many students and pupils to tears in as short a time as possible.

Journeys to the Heart of Europe. . .

And then there were more interesting and engaging events, like the trips 'abroad'. …

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