I first met John while walking around Bury checking out a job as the one I was working on was coming to an end. He was working on the front entrance of a Witherspoons and was machining some material. I got talking to him and it was through him that I started on a bar refurb in Wigan some 3 months later, where I actually got to know him.
This was the job I mentioned previously where I also came across Jimmy, (see “Have You Heard of Jesus?”) the born-again Christian, getaway driver. Its a long story.
I became firm friends with John who is an absolute gentleman. He’s some 30 something years older than I am, always neat and tidy, dapper even, and looks fantastic for his age. He’s a very quiet, private person, with very dry humour. Tends to speak only when he feels its something worth saying.
So if you want someone to keep a secret, Johns your man.
Brew time tends to be a set routine of john with his pre-set snacks, the small-but-often diet. Very particular. Brings his sliced tomatoes in a separate container, then adds them to his sandwhiches because,
“They make the bloody bread soggy!”
He’s old school, that pre-war generation with the stoic outlook. And none of the ridiculous Political Correctness that is so often applied to everything these days.
“Why can’t I call it a Blackboard?? Political what now?? It black and its a board!! Talking bloody nonsense!!!”
He wears glasses that he tends to look down his nose through, so there can be a pause as he gives a measured looked at something before answering a question. Unless I’ve wound him up enough to bite.
“Something on your chin John..”
“Be something on your bloody nose if you carry on..” the reply will be whipped back.
And, he has magnificent eyebrow, ear and nose hair that can only come with age, (or wisdom as john likes to think). The barber trims the lot every time he goes for his hair cut. I often imagine the barber with Johns head between his knees, sheering..
I love Johns company. I can relate to where he grew up, as I came from the same original area which only began to change a few years after my Mum and Dad moved, with me in tow, a few miles away from it. In those days, none of the old houses had hot running water. I still remember my own Grandad telling me of Friday night bath nights at Harpurhey Baths, an old Victorian swimming pool with beautiful tiling through-out, though sadly long gone. You went there after a week of making do, stripping down, using boiled up water in the sink, a flannel and a bar of soap.
There were individual changing booths poolside, with a 3/4 wooden door on each. Above, a balcony ran the perimeter of the pool and up here were compartments with baths in. In those days a man came along with a big spanner, loosened a nut at the end of the tub to release the hot water. When he felt it was full enough, he would tighten it to stop you using more than your quota. Then, in you popped had your bath and were good for another week.
Talking to John about these things was like catching up to a piece of the past. Things I had been told about on my grandfathers knee. Not so much good old times because they weren’t. They were hard for all concerned. But a greater sense of community existed. You knew everyone shared the same hardships.
But as I got to know John, he eventually became Jonny Moonshine.
A much better name.
John travels as much and as frequently as possible. All over the world. Loves his holidays. And now he’s retired he tries hard to maintain his 78 year old playboy lifestyle and has recently discovered cruises.He treats it like its his own enormous private yaght. Also, he’s the only person I know who navigates via pub names. And if you were to get directions off him, sign posts would invariably be pubs scattered along the route. This may give the wrong impression. Please, don’t get me wrong John isn’t a drunkard or any such thing.
However he does appreciate a good pint and a good pub. And that’s a vastly different thing.
And one thing he could tell you about is a good pint and which pub he had it in, probably looking off into the distance and smacking his lips as he does..
A couple before his Tea always adds to his appetite he says. Again this is a routine long established and long may it continue says I!
The name Moonshine came about after he visited Tennessee, in USA. The night before flying home, after some hesitant consultations with some local’s, (beer probably had something to do with it too,) John arranged to meet, in the middle of nowhere, 2 shadowy gentlemen, bearing Clay pots. Within which was the real deal Tennessee Moonshine. After paying these kindly gentlemen for their succor, he made his way back to his Motel to show Joan his wife, the beautiful pots and what lay inside. She in no uncertain words, explained to john that trying to board a plane with such obvious containers was likely to lead to johns rapid incarceration, and introduction to American Justice.
So, he decided to buy a couple of lemonade bottles, which he duly emptied and,(with regret it must be said) transferred the contents of the splendid clay pots into said bottles. As the moonshine was crystal clear it was a foolproof plan.
Then, as panic and imagination set in, he decided that the best course of action was, to drink as much as was humanely possible prior to flying. Just in case it was discovered and confiscated en route through the airport. As it happened, he literally sailed through customs. Though at one point, thought he had gone blind due to the moonshine but finally calmed down when he realized he had rested his glasses on his head.
He only managed to actually board the flight with Joan shoring him up on the steps. Once in his seat he slept like one in a coma. Snored like a chainsaw across the Atlantic, and only came to, and regained the use of his legs, and eyes, as wheels touched down in Manchester.
Not long after I bought him a hip flask which, he would bring with him on a night out. Offering “snifters”.
And I can confirm, my legs and lips ceased to work for periods, but there isn’t much else I could tell you, because that whole period is a black hole in my memory.
But then things had a habit of happening to Mr. Moonshine when he had a drink.
It was a similar story when his son “passed” out as a police officer and john went to attend the ceremony. Having watched all the awards, the shiny new uniforms marching up and down, and tasting some of the beverages available, it was a disappointment when the day was forced to end prematurely when it started to rain. Torrentially. And it made for a quick exit for the car.
On entering the venue, there was a central island that you drove around to enter a car park, then walked back around it to the venue entrance, through the building to the parade ground. So when the rain began to fall in volume, John decided that the best and quickest way to the car was via straight over the central island. And, he charged from the doors and onwards over the island, head down at speed.
What he didn’t realize was that the core of the island, was a pond.
He was knee deep before he could stop and he only managed to do that when momentum was reigned in by weeds in the water. His forward movement ended abruptly by diving head first into the pond.
Unfortunately, I can only wish I had been there for that one. Because I would have paid good money to have witnessed it in person.
Another time, he decided he was having family round for a BBQ. which, he wheeled out and held in his garden. It was of course a roaring success. Upon completion, John, having had a few, packed Joan off to bed with,
“I’ll just tidy things away.”
Which he promptly did.
A couple of hours later they were woken, (or Joan was, John was comatose), by a Police officer and Fireman who had been alerted by a neighbour, of all the smoke gradually issuing from Johns house. Joan was whisked from the house in her nighty, whilst an officer risked life and limb by hazarding the stairs to rouse John.
John promptly refused to leave unless dressed, which, it has to be said he did rather smartly. Leaving some minutes later looking very debonair, if glassy eyed, in a 3 piece suit and shiny shoes..(He may have even shaved.)
This in some comparison to Joan, breathing through an oxygen mask, who by this time in an effort to protect her modesty was dressed in a neighbours Donkey jacket, which finished 4″ up her arms, and a pair of size 10 trainers, that flapped on her feet every time she took a step..
It so turned out that John when clearing away, had “cleared away” the still smouldering BBQ back under the stairs where it was normally kept. This eventually set fire to them and was responsible for Coco the Clown and James bond walking into casualty.
I don’t think Coco has ever forgotten.
But I have to say, I still thoroughly enjoy this wonderful mans company and see him regularly.
A fantastic once-in-a-lifetime gentleman.
My friend Jonny Moonshine…