Memories of a hero
Jonny was a hero to all of us. He was a big guy in every sense, he lit up
a room with his cheeky smile, his eyes twinkled and we all respected him.
We would all call on him to help us out and he would find himself at our doors
for friendly advice from time to time. It made me smile after a night out
and maybe a scuffle he would always be a bit sheepish with Tanya especially.
He was always full of energy and he had a gift with the ladies so we were
all a little envious of his little black book. He only had two sets of clothes,
either fire brigade black or the timeless white t-shirt blue jeans combo.
He loved his cars and had a couple of Peugeots, a couple of Novas and a couple
of Corollas always being given attention to and extras bolted on. His knowledge
of cars helped us all out and especially Trigger who needed advice on where
to fill his radiator water. He also had a Suzuki GSX600 which we all wanted
to chain saw up as the speed temptation was always there. He was a good eater
too as Penny found at Homeleigh when he ordered two breakfasts.
The first time I saw Jonny, was on a shout on the road between Ladycross and
the Countryman pub. He was a passenger in Simon's car, a yellow Nova I think
it was, and they had skidded on a bend straight into a telephone wire pole
which split and came between them. I was new to the brigade so this must have
been the winter of 1997. We cut Jonny and Simon out and they were taken off
in an ambulance and I remember Mark Hutchings being there and Barry Jordan.
Next time we were together we were stood in a line in the Dragon Leisure Centre
in Bodmin ready for the bleep test as part of whole time recruitment. It was
his first time so he stayed next to me like a shadow especially in the early
slow rounds and we congratulated each other on finishing, but it was to no
avail as we both eventually failed on the application form. We would eventually
try again for the whole time again in 2001 which we did together helping each
other out along the way with application forms and interview techniques and
this time I got through but it was with muted celebration as I was gutted
that JVB didn't receive the same good news. But hell, he was determined and
went through the process twice more and we again helped him as we could with
information and encouragement and I will never forget the feeling we had when
the good news finally came through during a meal at Trethorne. Part 1 of our
5year plan to get back on the same fire engine was complete. Then extra good
news, he landed Orange shift so that meant a whole lot of time off together
to waste on the golf course.
under Southgate arch.
We were both in the Bakers Arms after a drill night as we were still in uniforms
when the alerters started, we were as usual like lightning out of the door
and both made the decision to go the Madford Lane way. I sprinted under the
arch where the cars go through and was turning up the hill when Jonny t-boned
me from under the pedestrian arch. We rolled right across the road and were
lying on the tarmac outside the hardware centre. JVB was first to his feet
and shouted are you ok? I mumbled I think so and he ran off. By the time we
got to the old fire station I had blood and grazes all over. Another time
about 10 firemen were in the little café next to the station after
a long barn fire and were about to tuck into breakfast when the bells went
down again. Chairs and tables flew in the room and somehow from being the
furthest in the corner he made it onto the engine and from then it was obvious
when he used to always take an outside seat so he could be first to the door
wherever we were to. We were all in the back room of the White Hart once for
Walter Downing's party when the beepers went off so we again dashed across
the polished floor of the hall. I skidded on my knees under a table of buffet
and we both were met by a jammed corridor containing Sam Logg and two Ham
brothers. Between us they were forced back and quite rightly a little annoyed
but screw it hey.
Most of his prangs had something to do with the alerter in his pocket. We
were all in the watch room once when we heard JVB had crashed his Toyota Corolla
(the first one) on St Thomas Road when we got there we could hardly believe
it the force of the impact had picked up a land rover defender and placed
it onto the pavement. He had been doing 29mph even though he had caught air
on St Thomas Bridge. Another time he rear ended a new Audi coming out of Pennygillam
Industrial Estate onto the round about. One time I came up from Western Road
and parked outside Tottles music shop, as I opened the door I heard a screech
of brakes and white smoke as his grey Nova anchored up stopping so that my
car hardly felt a rub as we were fused together. I reassured him with a big
smile as he covered his eyes with his hands.
I was out with Karen in town for the 2002 World cup England game and we were
shit faced. I remember being about to stumble into the Westgate when we saw
Jonny's Nova pull into the station. As I got to his empty car I wanted to
show Karen his Batman starter where instead of a key it was wired so you had
to open the cigarette lighter and push a big red button. Vrooom, it started
and I was revving like hell. He, from the toilet heard this and came running
out thinking someone was stealing it only to find me at the wheel, worse for
wear. He asked what was up and before I could answer I had to dash around
the back and throw my guts up before coolly going back to greet him.
This was another personal favourite of the big man and we should have been
doing this for his 26th birthday. He worked as a Saturday job down at the
tactical assault place when he was younger and to us that meant he was an
expert. We went there for many birthdays, stag dos and once with the fire
brigade on a drill night. Andy Reeves let us down there in dim to failing
light and he had night sights on his semi automatic. We could always rely
on Jonny, Trigger and Penny to be neck deep in the river with guns above their
heads in pursuit of a mangy old flag. I remember his cheeky face as they handed
him the task of passing someone else a hi-viz jacket to wear with him in the
woods and as he came towards me grinning I knew I was in the shit. The best
memory of paint ball with him was when, he was for some violation of the rules,
facing a 10 man firing squad. He gave the bird in defiance only to have his
ring finger accurately shot.
in St Austell
Trigger and myself were travelling with JVB in his green 306 to Mevagissey
so I could buy a cheap summer wetsuit like his. We got to St Austell (where
he worked!) and he was darting down side streets to miss traffic lights and
stuff. Then he showed us the best short cut of all, we were not far short
of Truro before we mentioned that we took the wrong road off the roundabout.
Well funny, singing James Blunt at the top of our voices.
We were all chuffed to see Jonny finally land the job he so desperately wanted,
we had to make it to his pass out. Our day started for Penny, Trigger and
myself catching a bus that made an emotional journey to Plymouth via every
hamlet in East Cornwall. From there it was only right for a quick pint in
Witherspoons, ah no it was quite wrong. We were sat in the window with lagers
whilst mums took their kids past on the way to school. During the day we popped
forward and back a number of times to the Lord Louis pub between drills and
waited in anticipation for his RTA drill that some foolish person had tasked
him with the job of 'lightly' crashing the car in the demonstration. We saw
him broadside as he entered the drill arena and wallop. Good demo. This day
ended up somehow in Destiny's, no doubt dancing like he was feeding the chickens
via his local bar for his time in training school, Temptations.
Jonny like most of us, liked to occasionally use the odd profanity. But when
he was telling a story or a joke that would become much more frequent. The
F word could be the noun, verb and adjective all in one sentence. Tanya and
I often wondered if he accidentally swore in a brigade interview. The time
that sticks in our mind was when he wanted to tell a joke to Penny and I but
it had the C word in the punch-line and Bradley's radar ears were also in
the room. Penny urged him to tell the joke but mime the naughty word, good
plan. Problem is he couldn't manage this and blurted out the bad word but
fortunately Bradley was silent. Later that day whilst discussing the issue
of the rude joke Penny used a much milder swear word that Bradley not only
heard but shouted out a couple of times, he was gutted but it was a bit funny.
The lobster. Oh dear. After another day of spear fishing into a crab pot he
had a beautiful lobster. He was told by somebody that as to not crack the
shell he had to bring it slowly to the boil. We could hardly believe it, the
poor thing must have thought it was having a bath until it got hotter and
hotter. He wondered why it made such a fuss, mmm I wonder.
I loved going to watch the Castles on days when football was cancelled. Me
and Trigger used to use what we christened 'Dutch Taxi' this was a 4pack each
from Tesco that if we walked along the fields to Lower Bamham then along the
road were just enough to make it to the club. Jonny was usually on the wing
wearing the number 11 of one of his heroes, Ben Cohen. He had massive upper
body and long thin legs. We all knew he had speed because of our races to
the station but sometimes with people watching him he tried so hard to raise
his game it back fired with an adverse affect. We still cheered every tackle
or run he or Penny made. I travelled down to Camborne to see him play for
the fire brigade in the black and gold of Cornwall this was great for him
as it amalgamated two things that made him very proud.
Jonny had a competitive streak like no other and it was obvious in everything
he did, brigade, sport and even eating. His rivalry with Penny was the most
obvious especially as they joined the retained together, were the same age
and played for the same rugby team. There was always 2way banter with that
pair even when Penny sprained his ankle outside the Liberal Club or when Jonny
was dump tackled by a gentleman in his late 60s. The rivalry came to a head
one night in the White Hart, Penny had drank some vinegar so Jonny had to
down the whole thing. To top it all off, Penny then tried to snort a condom
through his nose and out his mouth which to his credit he managed but only
after a Loz style gagging fit and the rest of us feeling queasy.
Another time when myself and Trigger were in Bude in the Jacuzzi we were having
a game of holding our breath and we ended up like Red Mick. This turned into
a competition so when Jonny was under water we legged it which wound him right
up. This one of many times we went pampering, a few times we went to Woodford
Bridge for a swim and sauna, and we can't forget that he had a sun bed in
his parents house hat he fell asleep on and was a gorgeous shade of purple
for a bit.
I will certainly never forget riding in a wave next to Jonny on his mini mal
and shaking his hand mid ride. It made both our days and we were talking about
it at work for days. He was doing really well at stand up surfing and I really
enjoyed forcing myself out of bed to go with Dick Wilson and him at 5 in the
morning just to prove to him that I could. On one occasion we had the most
civilised tea party ever. Trigger and Jonny constructed a make shift coffee
table of a plastic box with a body board on top covered with a towel. Trigger
then picked some lovely weeds to set things off so we could really enjoy the
luke-warm tea, then back to the Pie Stop café for some real food.
A great day, that was not so well organised. By the time we had transport
to Bodmin and three bikes with air in their tyres it was mid afternoon but
hell to it we were on our way, that was until our first beer stop at the Borough
Arms which was about half a mile from where we set off. We were going to fill
Penny's camel back with Bacardi Breezer until we worked out how much it would
cost. When we were on our way again, I for some reason did a little bunny
hop, and of course the competitive streak between Penny and Jonny did not
fail to amuse as the next 7 miles the passers by were given a free bike stunt
show by three adults trying to perform stunts that included standing on seats
and crossbars, bunny hops, skids, side saddle and a whole range of funny crap.
Landkey FC at home. After beating them 4-0 in the league they came for vengeance.
I was well chuffed as I was stand in captain for the day and he came to cheer
us on. To add to this rare occasion I scored which is just as seldom an event.
We were winning the game but they were winning the physical battle and at
the start of the 2nd half my knee was kicked and I twisted it on landing.
I was then subbed and hobbled around to Jonny who was shouting for us with
gusto. The funniest but most cringing part was his on going 'war of words'
with the Landkey manager, he was revelling in it and as we won the game he
rubbed it in as far as it would go but light hearted enough for a wry smile
from the losing boss.
Three times I have been hit by a flying golf ball, three times coming from
JVBs clubs. The original and best was on the first tee at Trethorne off the
winter mats and a bunch of beady eyes from the club house. Jonny took his
usual crouching stance and I was looking directly down his 3iron shaft. As
he struck it with a shank that defied the laws of physics the ball came at
my nose literally a metre away. I had just enough time to duck as the ball
skimmed off my baseball cap that was rarely worn and over into the driving
range. Another time on the 6th hole he was traditionally in the trees near
the 17th and I was walking ahead (yes my fault this time) and I was gesturing
a hello to a crusty old player with a disapproving look in his eye coming
towards me. I heard his strike and then another strike onto my bag that went
straight through me with the ball going on past. As I was being so closely
watched by the old gentleman I did not react or break stride just smiled as
I could hear Jonnys nervous guilty laugh followed by many not needed apologies.
I loved playing golf with Jonny as he improved like no other, in the early
days all he wanted to do was drive the buggy, then as he got into it more
and more with new clubs and talk of lessons he proved to be very good, occasionally
'smoking us'. I remember being on the 8th tee many times willing his ball
to clear the lake because of the jubilant smile when it did. Penny also had
a close call with Jonny too, thinning a chip straight at him and he pulled
a Matrix/Naseem Hamed style swerve to avoid a black eye.
He used the station for all sorts, showering, car maintenance, meeting place,
anything. He once used the Hurst Combi-tool to cut stricken maiden out of
hand cuffs, wonder why it took him so long to release her? We also remember
watching while he was adjusting his brakes on his red Nova, I kept him chatting
while Trigger rolled his wheel up Dunheved Road and hid it. Jonny also returned
to the station once to find a 70kg dummy sat in it with his tunic on smoking
Every night out during the weekend seemed to turn out the same way. Even if
we were at another party like a fire brigade dance or football club presentation
there would be an expected early exit to oasis for JVB. Often the next day
we would see a sheepish Jonny on the door step as he would recall the events
usually admitting he should have stayed in town, what a waste of money, same
old faces but hey next time would be no different. He has been known to get
a ride on top of or clinging to the rear door of the minibus that shuttles
oasis goers to the shed.
Jonny loved karaoke and if we were in the liberal club, Bell Inn or anywhere
with a mic. he would have a go. Always persuading me to sing what he always
called the jungle book song with him, this was a favourite of mine from my
Widemouth manor days (The Tokens-The lion sleeps tonight) and he would 'wee
a wumba way' along to it. On our nights in town they nearly all had a set
format that started with lager and over enthusiastic table Fussball where
we would play him only to see orange streaks of a ball flying into the goals
with enough force to almost smash the ply wood . I could tell if he was serious
by the veins in his arms and the focus in his eyes. I am not sure now as when
I played others it did not happen but when JVB and me played it was nearly
always a 5all draw followed by his demand of a rematch. Problem is if we were
going to another pub this would now have to be the Bakers so a rematch could
Food was a must at the end of the night so the chicken house was a regular
stop and while his mighty burger was being constructed we would have a draw
off of an animal for 'Chemical Ali' to judge, we still do a draw off but the
animals theme has been retired with him.
We were checking out the tattoo parlour in Looe for a touch up. He wanted
a change of outer image and wanted barbed wire to become a tribal band only
to almost arrange the ordeal while England were playing a world cup match.
We soon put a stop to that and on exiting the place we went for fish n chips.
We were cowering from a flock of swooping shite hawks when JVB launched his
entire chip tray sky ward and we all legged it across the car park from a
screaming mass of feathers and beaks.
I always smile now when I hear a 'Jonny song'. This was anything with a hi
tempo house beat (for his shagz side) or a soft romantic fist clencher usually
a film sound track. Here is a few to list; Scooter Logical song, Flip n Fill
Shooting star, DJ Sammy Heaven, any James Blunt, James Morrison, Goo-goo dolls
iris, soundtrack coyote ugly, top gun, young guns. I especially remember when
he said to Trigger and I listen to this then this will impress you, only to
follow it up with Travis and a groan of disappointment. All these bad taste
songs are among our favourites now mate.
He was so happy to finally own a house and that was all too obvious with the
way he kept it. We teased him a bit when he was picking out soft furnishings
and matching them with accessories like candles. We are not sure how he got
onto the housing list but I believe he made a persuasive case with the kind
list lady. He was so chuffed with it, he changed his mind three times on the
height of his down stairs towel rail. On the night of his house warming it
was looking awesome (even with an air compresser in the attic-handy). He had
spent all day accurately slicing carrots and lining up prawns into lettuce
leaves it was so well presented it was a pity to eat it and 'cos we are blokes
we of course called him gay. He showed us his best mans speech that he was
nervous but looking forward to and it was great. That evening Penny, Kate,
Andy, Kerry, Tan and I played games and drank a toast to how he had got things
pretty sorted for himself, and we were all very proud of him. This was the
very last time I saw my mate and he was sparkling. It was all Gravy!