Al George, a well known climber and Mountain Guide, has recently died. Here, Dai Lampard remembers a little bit about the man who touched so many people.
Al George of 'The George Twins'© Mark Reeves
Al George was born at approximately 11.50pm on the 3rd September 1959. His brother Phil closely followed but didn't quite make it on the same day. Although this was probably carefully planned in the womb (in order for them to enjoy two birthdays instead of one) what they hadn't realised was the dates would separate them in their school years. Their father Len fought long and hard to ensure they stayed together and so began the association so well known to the climbing community as "The George Twins".
The fact that none of us could ever tell the difference between them was irrelevant and they would both revel in the fact that you'd mixed them up and only at the end of an evening let it be known you'd been talking to the wrong twin!
Everyone will remember the first time they met Al and Phil; effervescent and quick witted, they could never fail to impress - as Terry Taylor recounts when he first bumped into them in the Gouter Hut on Mont Blanc:
"Apart from the incessant banter, it was the methylated spirit spilling in waves from their leaking stove that caught my attention" says Terry. "I didn't have long to think about it before someone had lit a match and the Gouter Hut's life expectancy seemed to dramatically decrease". With Al and Phil running around like headless chickens it was Terry who came to the rescue and quashed the flames with his fleece. “Apart from saving us all a very long walk up the Blanc, this incident also signified the start of a lifelong friendship and Al and Phil's move towards a life in mountains."
Almost inseparable, the Twins moved from their home in South Wales and went to College in Bangor. In 1991 they came to Llanberis and moved into what was affectionately but quite correctly known as “The Hovel".
From this unsanitary and dingy abode they continued to climb and work in the area before obtaining their teaching qualifications and then deciding to pursue their International Guides qualification.
Although Al managed to pass his skiing a little before his brother, he resolutely remained determined not to collect his Carnet before Phil had finished his assessment: a tribute to the strength of the bond between them.
Al threw himself into his work and loved to embellish his teaching with humour. Those of you who have been through assessments with Al are sure to remember his natural capacity to enliven even the most trivial of facts. Unable to remember the Latin name of a particular plant species, Al would quickly assign it a more meaningful identity such as “Kate Moss" - obviously the "tall skinny one"
In 1998 Al had a blackout in a supermarket in Sallanches near Geneva in Switzerland. A brain tumour was eventually diagnosed and so began Al's long battle with the illness that finally took him from us.
Al George© Mark Reeves
Throughout his illness Al always managed to make light of his situation. He once told his consultant that the new tablets he'd just been given were much worse than the last lot and not doing anything:
"Are you sure you're taking them?"
said the consultant
"That's what I told you"
says Al "the others didn't float when you flushed them down the loo!"
Al continued to do a bit of guiding work and apart from admitting it felt a little odd to be popping a chemo tablet during an assessment, he held his own for a while. His brilliant idea of opening and naming Georgio's: the ice cream parlour in Llanberis gave him a renewed vigour as well as the opportunity to produce some weird and wonderful concoctions to seriously rival Mr Whippy and the ubiquitous 99 !
Al wasn't a person in power, he wasn't rich and famous and he certainly wasn't a fairytale princess like Diana!
Al was a nice guy - a real good “people person” but he had something else, something special. Al had got it right - he didn't sweat the small stuff. It was this zest for life coupled with his quick wit and affable manner that made him a magnet for human affections.
Al just got on with it -- he simply seized the day, and that is what he did every single day of his life - even towards the end he never complained, he never said he'd had enough and he just never let go because - let's face it - what we stand on and what we breathe is all we've got and it's how we share that with the people around us that matters.
Al had this one sussed years ago. Al gave us a gift: he not only showed us what we could do but how we could do it. We should take that gift and perhaps we should all try and use it.
Al might be going to a different place - that great Apelstrudelhorn in the sky - but I doubt it could be any better than the world he gave us all.
( Read more | 6 comments, 02 Jun 2009
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