Andrea works at the Family Pub. She’s in her early 20’s, quite pretty, friendly and – most importantly – speaks English……ish.

I’ve been struggling with getting any work done. I need to finish my piece on Nicosia, get the photos edited and, post the whole lot onto my site. I’m struggling for two reasons. First, I’m still feeling pretty intimidated by the whole process, especially the tech part of editing and uploading. Second, my crappy hotel room is cold and really, really not conducive to getting anything done.

So, I’m sitting outside the Family Pub, having yet another coffee and yet another cigarette. Andrea comes out and, partly to solve this thorny issue of getting this work DONE and, partly to get some kind of human contact (I knew that this was going to be a lonely existence but damn!), I ask her if she knows of anywhere where people can go to work. Somewhere that’s warm and with free Wi-Fi. Preferably. Somewhere like a library or something.

She tells me of a place called Mediatheque de Calais on Rue du Pont Lettin (yeah, it’s a library…….I think), she even rushes off to get pen and paper so that she can write it all down for me.

While all of this is going on, I notice a guy standing a couple of tables away, he’s almost out of the outdoor smoking area and onto the pavement proper. Did I notice him before? How long has been there?

“Excuse me,” he says, “I couldn’t help but eavesdrop.”

“Oh WOW! You’re English.”

“Uhm well………” and he does that hand wiggle thing that universally means ‘sort of’.

I can’t remember the exact details of how the conversation progressed. I remember him saying that Andrea was a nice person and that the Family Pub had free Wi-Fi, but the details of that first introduction are a bit blurred. Maybe I was focused too much on trying to figure him out. He was wearing ubiquitous black skinny jeans, a black utilitarian/military style jacket (that didn’t look nowhere near warm enough) and, a black tea-cosy hat. He’s got dreadlocks going all the way down to the small of his back. He has that haunted look of someone who has seen and experienced too much in his relatively young life. But he also looks like somebody who is searching for something. Maybe he’s searching for meaning or purpose. Maybe he’s searching for identity and a sense of belonging. Maybe he’s searching for a way to make the world a better place. Maybe I’m reading too much into a guy that I’ve only just met.

And it’s this part (the bit about wanting to make the world a better place) of our conversation which had my full attention. Geoff tells me that he’s stuck in Calais because he’s been having all kinds of car trouble (he’s waiting for a fuel pump or something to be delivered). He spends a lot of time here and in Dunkirk because…………he is a volunteer helping migrants and refugees. He does everything from delivering firewood and sleeping bags to, taking people who have been fatally wounded to hospital. He tells me the harrowing story of a conflict between two groups of Ethiopians.

An Ethiopian from one group had hit a guy from the other group. Later that night they, the group to which the guy who had been hit belonged, attacked the section of the refugee camp where the other group were staying. Word had got around about the impending attack so most of them had gone into hiding. However, the stabbing victim didn’t know, hadn’t heard, whatever, and was asleep in his tent. I seem to recall that Geoff told me that he had seen this guy earlier and that he was unwell. Anyway, he was asleep and totally defenceless. He was stabbed a number of times in the body and once on the top of his head.

The CRS came. Tear gas cannisters were fired. Ambulances arrived but paramedics were prevented, by the police, from entering the camp site. But Geoff went in. He found the stabbing victim and tried to help him. Geoff didn’t realise that he had been stabbed in the head. He thought that he’d been cudgelled with something. Geoff also didn’t realise that the guy had been stabbed in the lung. It must have been pandemonium in that camp site. Fighting Ethiopians. Police trying to bring some level of control. Tear gas. Darkness. How could Geoff make any kind of assessment about the victims’ wounds. But he did realise that the CPR he was administering wasn’t working and that he was losing him. So, Geoff picked the guy up and carried him to his van. The police tried to stop him but, when they saw the condition of the victim, they waved him through. Apparently, they then started to let the paramedics go into the camp site.

Geoff drove for an hour to the nearest hospital.

The Ethiopian man died.

The police arrived at the hospital. Geoff spent the next few hours at a police station giving a statement.

I like Geoff. I really hope that I get the chance to know him better before I leave Calais.