Layabout Hero – A Tale of Dead-leg Derring-do


I know a guy you wouldn’t give tuppence for – and perhaps I’d better rephrase that. Because what I really mean to say is that I personally wouldn’t give tuppence for him.

With good reason, too.

He’s 45 years old but looks ten years older. He’s gaunt, generally unkempt, and unshaven in the main. Yet he’s had every conceivable chance in life – good looks in his youth, a caring family, a good education. But he’s hardly ever worked and hasn’t had a job in years. Meanwhile, he receives more in state benefits than his younger brother, a family man, earns, working all the hours God sends.

He’s no dummy, though he acts the part most of the time. He’s got a B.Sc. despite the fact that he was drunk when he sat the exam – before he was ejected from the examination room for being inebriate, that is.

He spends every last penny piece on drink, tobacco and worse. He’s into the wacky baccy, I’m told – and anything else that’s going the rounds amongst the footloose and feckless. He’s schizophrenic, due in part, ’tis said, to the wacky baccy’s effect on him.

He never does a tap. By way of example, he has all day to himself, with free access to leisure facilities and public transport. Yet he avails himself of none of these benefits. Come nine o’clock in the morning, when the rest of us are up and about, girding our loins against the vicissitudes of another working day, this guy will more often than not be picking up a six-pack of Carling from the local off-licence, which he’ll chug down before lunch.

Never in a month of Sundays would it occur to him to buy a Christmas card or a birthday present for anyone. He never has any spare funds, is the story. Notwithstanding which, he fully expects to be on the receiving end in season and to be included on any list of guests to family parties.

He is forever on the cadge!

He has a nice little flat (one bed, lounge, shower room, kitchen), rent paid. It’s convenient to all amenities. It’s gated, has a communal garden and is sufficient unto his needs. Which are, simply stated, smoking, boozing, belching and breaking wind 24/7. He certainly doesn’t appear to do anything else. He never cleans the place; never decorates it.

When the home situation gets really bad his family has occasionally felt obliged to tidy the place up. In the past they’ve got cleaners in and a decorator, too. Place looked a treat, it did. For a few weeks anyway.

Six months on, it’s as bad as it ever was.

Of course what the guy needs and requires is prescribed medication on a regular basis. Medication that works, provided it’s injected. The trouble is that Dr NHS Phool-Hardy (let’s call him) invariably makes the basic mistake of supplying him instead with tablets upon demand. Whereupon the guy simply neglects to take his medication.

At which point things quickly go from bad to worse.

On two occasions he’s binned his TV. (Because he can’t stand the voices.) This time around he threw out a good leather settee. (Because it’s green.)

Meanwhile Dr NHS Phool-Hardy never ever intervenes until the guy reveals himself to be a public nuisance, a danger to himself and the general public. Whereupon Dr NHS Phool-Hardy will then “section” him, sloping-shouldering the problem on to the police. The guy is then locked up and treated for 6 months minimum.

As I say, I hate the guy with a vengeance (and, incidentally, Dr NHS Phool-Hardy, too.). Because their misbehaviour on the one hand, coupled to deliberate inaction on the other seriously impinge upon the quality of life of the guy’s family and friends. (Amazingly he still has a few – good ones, too.) And all for the sake of dose of prescribed medication.

The guy to whom I refer – Mr Drunk and Looney Tune, let’s call him – was “sectioned” recently, a couple of months prior to readers seeing an item on the television news concerning a guy who drowned in an accident at Hollingworth Lake.

Not Mr Drunk and Looney Tune, I hasten to add.

What happened was they’d taken a trip out, canoeing, it seems, from the place where Mr Drunk and Looney Tune is “sectioned”. And at some point in the proceedings the guy who drowned threw his lifejacket off and jumped overboard . . . was immediately dragged back into the canoe – then went overboard a second time. Whereupon Mr Drunk and Looney Tune did no more than dived in, fully-clothed, looking to rescue him.

Unsuccessfully, I regret to add.

It takes some guts to dive into open water, fully-clothed. So I take some small satisfaction in calling to mind three local men who found it in themselves to undertake rescue missions of such a kind.

Michael Hodgson, was one, I remember somebody telling me in the great long ago, though I never did hear the details. Another was one of the sons of Roy Barry [RIP], former landlord of the Waggon and Horses, RhodesVillage. (Was it Steve who braved the RochdaleCanal back in the Eighties?) But what I may declare, and categorically, too, is that Number 3 is none other than Mr Drunk and Looney Tune.

Who’d-a thowt it?

Just goes to show how people can surprise you, doesn’t it?

Because Mr Drunk and Looney Tune for whom I wouldn’t normally give tuppence, has, by so doing, impressed me no end for once in his feckless life.


See Amazon Kindle books recently published by Bill Keeth: Every Street in Manchester, Manchester 9, Write It Self-Publish It Sell It, Boost Your Pocket Money and Pension

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