Friday, May 13, 2022

Gentleman John

 He is a quiet sort, Mum's neighbour. A sturdy man with a soldier's gait. One day I pruned the bushes on her driveway and the only good it did was to expose Gentleman John's majestic marijuana growing on the other side of the fence. For the next month, Mum had to see it every time she did the dishes. We all knew he was a good gardener but this was next level.

I'd be chopping her wood and he'd stop by the asbestos fence and say gidday. He'd strung up a dead crow on the apricot tree. There's a riot of dendrophilic orchids bouncing out of a dead marri stump too.

When I worked in the cafe, he came in for a daily coffee and paper and rang his son every Saturday morning. Because he was partially deaf, John was a shouter. The whole cafe was filled with people trying really hard not to eavesdrop. A blow by blow rendition of every show he's seen on TV that week. Every Saturday. Yes, this an obituary.

He was a Vietnam vet who 'never left a man behind', according to another ex-SAS local. When I asked about why he pulled his socks over his trouser legs, he said 'condoms while sleeping too, my friend, those leeches get in any way they can', and who in the depths of his worst PTSD sleeplessness, would walk around town with a backpack full of bricks, checking locks, securing the stations. Once he'd done his nightly round, he could sleep.

I really liked John. He was a cool guy. Two weeks ago he died of Covid and I went to his memorial today. He didn't want any fanfare. From what he said to Mum, he was ready to go. Apart from his pulled-up socks, I liked his hat best of all, how he always called me 'friend', gently, and how he drove through town, looking straight ahead.


  1. He sounds like a bloke I would like to have known.

  2. People like him have stripped it all down to the basics. Traffic police do not frighten them.

  3. Very sad that he died of COVID. We don't hear much about that any more.