Barnaby Joyce remembers Tim Fischer - who died on Thursday aged 73 - as a man whose obsession with detail made him both fascinating and baffling.
When he visited Fischer in the Vatican, Fischer's conversation was about the local trains, which he discussed in minute detail. That, and the nuances of Vatican politics, "who's who in the zoo".
Flying over outback NSW, Fischer relayed in enthusiastic detail the names of settlements they passed over, "telling us every damn town he could see out the window". His knowledge of Catholicism was "spectacular", he talked endlessly about his wish to see World War One leader Sir John Monash promoted to field marshal, and he noticed detail to the extent that he was the only person to pick out a factual error (to do with Roosevelt's new deal) in Joyce's book. But in the end "everything was about trains".
He had a mind like a trap, full of wildly obscure facts and peculiar detail, as Joyce remembers, a man who "would talk to you as if it was the most exciting thing that had happened to him that day".
He also had sage advice and didn't need to be prompted to share it.
"You would get advice from him whether you wanted it or not, but it was always with the best intentions at heart. It was not judgmental, it was clinical and practical."
In the difficult days of his marriage breakdown in 2017, Fischer told Joyce to remember his duty, and that "unfortunately, the personal flows over into the public and you've got to be aware of that, don't cause too much damage to the party, know when it's time to resign", Joyce recalls.
While Joyce and Fischer did not overlap in Parliament, Joyce says he knew him well before he entered parliament - meeting him when Fischer and Ian Sinclair were in a tussle for the leadership - and staying in close contact since, including when Joyce became Nationals leader.
Howard would never have got where he was without Tim Fischer, he was ballast.Barnaby Joyce
"When I first approached him, long before I was in politics, I asked to have a conversation. He said come with me. I'm walking this way. That was emblematic of his life. I'm not dismissive. I'm busy."
Joyce casts Fischer as the archetypal National Party leader, strong and independent, "not ingratiating himself" and prepared to share advice, but also not disruptive and prepared to work as part of the Coalition team.
"Howard would never have got where he was without Tim Fischer, he was ballast," Joyce says.
Fischer took "the high road and the hard road", guided by "is it right, is it wrong", including on the gun buyback, where Joyce says a lesser person would have folded.
And he "debunked the myth that your first impression was the best".
"In this instance your first impression was probably way off the mark. Whether in boardrooms or walking the street, he used his hat to create a sense of familiarity, not aloofness. It was almost a sign to say come and talk to me if you want to."
Joyce says he regrets not having more contact with Fischer in recent months. He left a message for him on Wednesday but it was never returned.
Another former leader John Anderson also recalls Mr Fischer as always on the go.
"Tim was not known as two-minute Tim for nothing; he was always on the move," Mr Anderson said.
Mr Fischer didn't offer him advice when he took over as leader - perhaps Mr Anderson says, because they had worked so closely for seven years there was no need.
When Mr Anderson became leader, "it was staccato Tim - "over to you"."
Mr Anderson remembers him for generosity of spirit and for courage - in Vietnam, in politics on issues such as guns, and over 10 years while he was unwell.
"He didn't give or take offence and that was one of the most remarkable qualities about him," Mr Anderson said. "It was something that I think people could learn from. Even when people were being very unreasonable and even personal he would not respond at the level of the personal."
While Mr Anderson remembers Mr Fischer with as much admiration as anyone, he does point to a possible party misstep in the 1990s. As trade minister, Mr Fischer was out of the country frequently and in Canberra Mr Anderson was tied up with the expenditure review committee. It left a vacuum in Queensland, which was in bad drought, unhappy about the gun laws, and aggrieved by the Mabo High Court decision, into which One Nation was able to step.