A Portrait of Pals

By J Whelan 17 March 2023

The water looked deep and inviting as we sat staring at the flowing waterfall with our bloodshot eyes. We had been there for over four hours now and how time had flown. The whole gang was there reminiscing all our exploits of the past. It had been a few years since we had all met up, on this occasion we had been at the funeral of a dear friend and decided to re-live our youth and return to a spot of our past where many a happy night was spent drinking and laughing around the fire, with the occasional fight thrown in for good measure. We had returned to our own special place “THE FALLS”.

We were a bunch of scallywags, who were brought up in and around the local council estates throughout our small mining village, where if you were lucky your parents worked for a living or unlucky they lived off the state, we never had much money, but we were happy and we made our own fun. A great bunch of guys, who like all others, had some fantastic stories to tell about one another and some even better ones about ourselves as we moved on through our journey of life.

Now Jimmy Lorenzo he is the real charmer of all the guys. He’s always seen himself as a bit of a Jack Palance type of guy, you know, a ladies man, but if truth be told he’d be better off pulling pints than birds.
We were in London on this occasion when he and I decided to go out on the town after work (with our bricklaying gear on). As we sat in bar after bar getting more and more inebriated by the minute we decided it was time to hit our local and give the ladies a little taste of our charm. (We could hardly understand each other by this time). We sat at the bar nonchalantly giving signals to each other deciding it was time for us to make our way to the Grand Piano which was situated right in the middle of a raised platform on the dance floor. We proceeded to hush the adoring crowds that had gathered to hear us and meandered off into a somewhat incoherent rant of Dean Martins “Little Ole Wine Drinker”, which amazingly had a great effect on Lorenzo’s pulling power in that public house for the rest of his career in London. After our gratuitous standing ovation like two cowboys we proceeded to return to our perch when all of a sudden the wheels fell off our wagon and crash bang, there was I head smashed off the bar foot rail with blood pouring from me with Jimmy Lorenzo lying on top of me still singing. After a little TLC from a couple of lady friends we continued drinking into the wee small hours of the morning….

Dusty (RIP) was an introverted type of character who never liked anyone getting too close to him, for reasons only he will ever know. He was a very generous guy who would have given his all to help you, even if he had nothing.
I could go on and on about this guy but this is one story that really sticks in my mind.
We were only young around seventeen at the time, he had always been the type of a Jack the lad character with a bit of this and a bit of that and always had cash. He had just procured a large cash windfall and decided he wanted a car. Here am I sitting in the house this day, when a horn blasts outside and gracing the pavement with its presence was BIG GUS (cars pet name). A 3.5 litre vintage Rover Coupe fully equipped with leather interior, cocktail cabinet the lot. My eyes lit up (it’s a council estate we lived in). So there we were cruising around our little town in this working mans Rolls Royce that was possibly better equipped than some of the houses our neighbours lived in, with our Buckfast, Eldorado and anything alcoholic that would fit into that cocktail cabinet. Time stood still that day for us when Dusty departed this mortal soil. But life goes on……….

Oh now we have Reggie the complete opposite of the latter who would talk the ears off Dumbo and return to sell him a hearing aid? An in your face very opinionated type of guy, but very lovable character.
This is a great story as it involved quite a few of the boys to set it up, we had been out and about doing our usual Saturday drinking starting in Maxwells on to Teddy’s and on this day we decided to venture across the river to one of the more affluent public houses Angels, and as it was a fine sunny day to have ourselves a little go at these things they called a beer garden. Our town had never seen the likes. After another long tiresome slog on the beer we decided it was time for a party, so off we set to Eddie’s bachelor pad with drinks a plenty. We were all rather inebriated by this time and as time went on some started drifting off to sleep. Reggie having being the first one to have a little nap was therefore to be the first to face the consequences of whatever dreaded deed was in store from the cunning “Prankster Police”, so lying there on the sofa with his flowing locks of black hair and six inch quiff he was a prime target for the scissor brigade. (I cannot name names here as it was collective prank and to this day still frustrates and angers Reggie when we mention it.) So out came the kitchen scissors and off came the quiff, which was then placed strategically upon his head. Upon awakening we heard the screams and I could not think to mention the language that was used and to our own hilarity he had to trim the rest of it to look presentable as we had another big day of entertainment ahead of us and nothing would have stopped him from attending that…….

I have not forgotten about Noodles who incidentally has too many nicknames to mention. A very smooth character that walks with that swagger that has a little grace yet cheekiness about it. A dapper chap as the gentry would say and very straight laced, well that was up until this fateful day.

Noodles had not long arrived in the Smoke and began working the hod with the rest of the guys but decided enough is enough and had to move on to pastures new. Now you are talking a guy who was living with a millionaire’s daughter in very salubrious area in Bromley in Kent and bringing cucumber sandwiches to work while we were pot licking with cheese. Anyway he lands a new job with large men’s clothes retailer as a manager. Everything is going great guns until one day in walks Dusty (remember him) with of couple of cockney geezers, they get talking and acquainted and one thing leads to another it turns out that these guys are a couple of grifters who are friends of the shady Dusty. The question is does Noodles accept their offer or go home to millionaire’s row looking like Tyson’s punch bag? Well to cut a very long story short in the end everything turned out great and I believe everyone was a winner as his shop sales went through the roof, he got manager of the month, the guys were kitted out for virtually nothing and for every dodgy credit card that was declined at the shop after it was maxed out Noodles got a £50 reward. Result…………

Fred and Bob well, this has to be done as a double act as one could out do another with character, charisma, cheek, petulance and last but not least madness. I think this defines these guys’ characters.
This unfortunately is another London story but sums these two guys up. After getting a knock on my door about 5pm one Friday evening only to be confronted by two friends who could pass for Laurel and Hardy anytime as they proceeded to tell me all about their journey down from Glasgow to Ashford and crashing the car because they were arguing, not because they were drunk and they couldn’t see. Well after “TELLING” me they were staying for a few days, we set out on yet another drunken escapade to our local hostelries, every barman got a little character assassination in the true Fred and Bob style (shut it ya dick). We ended up in our local Chinese where everything comes with peas (I was defined by my Chinese friend as the without the peas man). Anyway one of the local hard men was in there terrorising everyone just for the sake of it. He starts going around everyone asking what team they supported and everyone supported Arsenal or Spurs etc. until Bob pipes up and ask the hard man. What team do you support? The hard man replies “PALACE”, Bob replies, what “BUCKINGHAM”. The whole place fell about laughing and the little hard man left with his head hanging low, he had been out witted and out smarted by Fred and Bob in true Blantyre style…….

As a collective bunch of guys we all lived in the same rented house during a period in our life, well let’s just say there was a lot of UB40 and Bob Marley going on and life was very herbal and loads of free love.
We would all sit in the front lounge slightly worse for wear and as we had lost the remote control for the TV we would cut cards to see who was turning the TV over (it was actually quicker to turn the TV over as it was a longer walk to cut the cards. It was a principle thing). This particular evening the world cup was on so it was game after game and we were preparing dinner etc. Studs decided to go for a bath and Jimmy Lorenzo (remember him) decided to put the fryer on and the crispy pancakes under the grill for our dinner. We all sat down to watch Ireland play and chill out with a couple of herbal cigarettes. “What about the dinner?” Boney said. We smelled the aroma of burning plastic over the pungent herbal smell and all rushed to the kitchen to find it ablaze, we were running around in a stoned sort of frenzy, looking for buckets, pots anything to put water in, to put the blaze out. Studs who was lying in the bath in another planet was subject to attack from five crazy guys with basin, bowls anything that could hold water, taking water out of his bath to douse the flames in the kitchen only for him to say “What’s Happening Man”. When all the smoke and flames had dispersed the cooker had all but melted, the kitchen was black with smoke and was not habitable, so we decided to paint the hall to keep the landlord sweet, keep the kitchen door closed for the remainder of our tenancy (one month) and buy a microwave for the living room. We still never found that remote control and we thought it better just to moonlight the day before our lease was up and forfeit our deposit. We had some strange funny times……

Then there was the was the night when Nolly, The Colonel and Big Archie were out partaking in a bit of fishing with a rather large carry oot into the early hours of the morning. Packing up the fishing gear they decided they needed more drink and as the pubs were closed they decided it was Archie’s house for more drink. As the evening progressed the Colonel feared it was time to go home, so off he set, but as Nolly lived in Hellhouse he was carefully put up on the camp bed in Archie’s living room. Now as Nolly was renowned for, let me put it politely wetting the bed Big Archie warned him, “Remember Nolly nae pishing the bed.” Nolly’s reply “OK big Guy,” and all went to bed. Three O’clock prompt and Nolly (Marine Boy) wakes up to discover, yes, you’ve guessed it, he pished the bed. In a panic he decides to put the mattress next to the fire to dry and duly fall asleep on the couch.
Seven o’clock dawns and Archie’s wife and kids get up for work and school only to open the door to be engulfed by a pungent pishy smell and steam filled room from the drying mattress, with eyes nipping and gasping for air they had to flee to the back door for air. As Archie ventures down the stair Nolly wakes up from all the commotion as says “what’s all the fuss the mattress is dry,” as Archie flies at him Nolly grabs a can of cider and scurries out the front door like a rat deserting a sinking ship. Needless to say Nolly was never a guest in Archie’s abode ever again……

Ned is a very funny guy but doesn’t really know it, (if you know what I mean). Ned worked in the same place for twenty years and carried out the same toil day after day and led a funny but normal life for a single man. He and I had a great times together over a period of years, getting up to all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Ned was always late for work and had used every excuse in the book; alarm didn’t go off, granny died etc. He was in the middle of a disciplinary for his time keeping (again) when low and behold we had been out on the lash on the Sunday and I had crashed at his and he had overslept for work once again. He wakes up and having a nightmare of trying to put his clothes on, brush his teeth and wash his face he sprints out the door half an hour late. In his wisdom decides to take a short cut to work along the railway track to make up time, this being the middle of summer the grass at the railway was about six feet tall. He arrives at work and upon clocking in the gaffer gets a grip of him and said “OFFICE NOW”. No one ever found out what was said in that office but on returning to the local hostelry that evening as part of a single mans ritual, I asked him what was said, his reply to the patrons of that hostelry was, “when the gaffer asked me why I was late this time I said, “This time it’s the truth I got lost in the long grass and had walked right past the work”. The gaffer fell about laughing and told him he had heard it all now and let him off. (The whole pub was creased up with laughter) The mans a legend………

Barney, (RIP) Dusty, (RIP) Crock (RIP) and Hawky decided this day to dog school (play truant) like they did on many other occasions throughout their schooldays. So off they went on a grand adventure down to the local woods (The Cauther) to have themselves a full day of undisrupted fun. After playing around the boredom set in, so the mischief set in, they decided to wander up onto the street and low and behold outside the first public house they came across were a beer delivery truck. (Teenage delinquent’s dreams come true)They lay in wait for the driver and his boy to return to the pub for their customary drink from the landlord before they departed. As the truck was unattended it was easy prey for these young scallywags to help themselves. Up onto the truck Barney goes and throws off a barrel of beer and they rolled it off into the bushes, the unsuspecting driver jumps into his truck and drives away. “Result” says, Dusty, “but how are we going to move it in daylight”, “no problem” says Crock “we will return when it’s dark with my bogie.” Later that night the barrel is placed on the bogie (without the help of Hawky who they have decided to double cross) and they returned to Dusty’s house to go about the deed of emptying it.
In the kitchen of the house the barrel was placed on a table raised from the floor on a towel, the big screw top lid was off, the Alpine bottles were at the ready and the hose was in place to start siphoning the beer out. In the meantime Dusty’s mum and dad and two brothers were in the living room nonchalantly watching TV (very understanding parents). As the bottles filled up and the beer kept flowing, on numerous occasions throughout the evening Dusty’s dad was called into action to place his mouth over the hose so as not to spill any beer on the floor. The evening ended with all a little merry and Dusty’s dad got a few bottles of beer for his trouble not to mention about ten pints of overspill from the hose. Hawky never got to find out what happened to that barrel of beer until years later.

As the embers of the fire flicker and dawn approaches we are all heavy eyed as the talking and reminiscing has been concluded. We can only reflect and say, should we have chosen another path to go down, what would we have changed, would it have been for better or worse, we could be here along time …………….

To be continued with many more characters………..

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