When I was growing up, I had a lot of ‘Uncles’. Now, I’m not saying my mum slept around: she didn’t (as far as I know), but our house was always full of people who liked to drink….often at the expense of a new suit. I’m not blaming them: I like to drink, too….but I tend to stop if I begin to fill my trousers before I can get to the toilet.
Anyway….our house was always full of men who I naturally thought were my ‘Uncles’. One of these men was a super friendly guy my mum and nan called ‘Legover Jack’. Now, being a small boy I was obviously curious as to how Legover Jack had got his name. One night, in the old Iron Juke public house that used to stand at the junction of Bellevue Road and the Plains of Waterloo, I asked the landlord – Johnny Giles – why he had such a strange nickname. Giles winked at me and said:
‘He likes to drink. A lot. An awful lot. The rhyme goes: Legover Jack, Legover Jack, takes three steps forward and four steps back.’
Naturally, I believed this….although it later became obvious that Legover Jack was a ladies man with so many notches on his bedpost that it was a small miracle he could still sleep on the thing without it collapsing.
But, anyway……I’m five or six years old, and Legover Jack always does the same thing when he sees me. He comes up to me, bends down, whispers ‘What’s going on behind here?’ and then suddenly pulls a pound coin from behind my ear.
It was incredible, and I loved it…..and not just because I was always a quid richer when I saw him.
It was MAGIC. Real magic.
Legover Jack did something even more incredible when he saw me in the town.
I would be walking along with mum or nan, he would spot me across the street and he would shout ‘Where’s the WABBIT?’ Then he would get down on his haunches, poke two fingers over his head like a rabbit and jump – squatting the whole time – four about four or five reps on the spot.
When I was six, this was just…..BRILLIANT. I used to really, really look forward to seeing him….but it carried on.
I remember walking down the town with a small group of friends when I was nearly eighteen and being absolutely chilled to the bone when I heard the cry. It literally came from nowhere, and I practically s*it myself.
‘WHERE’S THE WABBIT?’
All three of my friends immediately shot glances across the road as Jack – now well into his sixties – crouched low to the ground and squat-jumped across the street with a maniacal grin. Two of them actually ran off, but my best friend at the time – a girl I quite fancied – stood her ground and simply grabbed my arm as Jack sprang up, snatched hold of my neck, whispered in my ear and produced the coin between his fingers.
I was absolutely speechless, and I remember just standing there with the pound in my hand, shaking like a leaf.
As Jack bounded off in the direction of the nearest pub, I looked down at the coin and couldn’t quite believe the event was still happening. The most incredible thing, though, was the fact that when Jack whispered in my ear, this time, he didn’t say ‘what’s going on behind here?’
He said: ‘Have you sh***ed her yet?’
Rest in Peace, Legover. Wherever you are, I hope you’re on top.