I have mentioned before that, when I started junior school at the age of almost 8, I was moved up a year because the year below me was full. In total, there were four of us who that happened to, but John was the only one who started school on the same day as me.
In many ways, we were similar. We were almost the same age – he was 15 days older than me – and both tall, skinny and blond haired. The difference was that he was extremely good at sports and I had barely begun to take an interest in them, whilst I didn’t need help with my reading the way that he did.
Throughout our time at school, John was the golden boy so far as the games staff were concerned. If anyone was needed to step up and play in an older age group, it was John they sent for. He played for the school football team, the rugby team and was the leading light of the athletics team – a situation which continued right up until the time that he left school.
One other constant was that John always had a very pretty girl to date. Three of them, to be exact. Right from those early years he seemed to have a happy knack of forming close relationships with girls which endured for some time. For the first four years that we were at school together he was close friends with Michaela Skellon, but, unfortunately, she was not one of those who was a year ahead and so their relationship ended when she moved on to secondary school and he didn’t.
Not that this was a problem for John. No sooner did he get to the same secondary school than he hooked up with one of the cutest girls in our year, Sue Marlow. And when Sue decided that she much preferred the attentions of Ian Pullar, he began dating Lisa Geary. If you have seen the film American Pie, John was so much like the character ‘Oz’ that the part might as well have been modeled on him.
The reason why I have been through John’s juvenile love life in so much detail is that he didn’t stop dating Lisa when he left school. The last time that I saw him was about twenty years ago, in Jephson Gardens (the main municipal park in our town). He was on one side of a pond, I was on the other with my family. He and Lisa had a toddler on a set of reins. My family tried to encourage me to go and speak to him, but I didn’t want to disturb them. Someone (probably Karen) pointed out that, even after all that time, I was still slightly in awe of him. Maybe I was. But it is somewhat scary to think that that little child is now an adult.