Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Local lunatics...

Everyone has them - your local nutter.

I was reminded of ours when someone mentioned him on the radio the other day, Geoffrey, our walking monk.

To be honest Geoffrey is a bit of a disappointing name for a monk, I would have much preferred him to be a Dominic or even a Jesus (an underused name for anglo saxon children), but still, Geoffrey it is.

Brother Geoffrey walks the streets of west Yorkshire in an aimless fashion with a permenant fixed smile on his face, he has been sighted, clad in regulation monks habit, bare feet and sandals even in the depths of winter, walking the highways and byways all over the county, I personally have seen him often in Leeds but also in Huddersfield and to the east in Castleford where he is regarded as normal, Castleford having more than its fair shar of nutters and monks walking the streets being par for the course.

Why Geoffrey walks, why Geoffrey prefers the monks garb, why Geoffrey doesn't own a decent pair of walking shoes is a mystery for Geoffrey will not give interviews or indeed speak to anyone save smile at them, the man is an enigma and has been walking these parts for at least thirty years yet never ages at all.

But in my childhod we had a much better nutter.

The newly opened Arndale Shopping Centre in Headingley was the home of our local cowboy, a nutter who dressed from head to toe in a manner that resembled Woody from Toy Story, if Woody had been invented in the 1960's, which he wasn't, but still...

Our cowboy, who preferred the name "Hopalong" when being addressed, strode up and down the precinct every day with a couple of childrens cap guns thrust into a pair of holsters and if you stood and pointed at him he'd draw both pistols and shoot them in the air making shoppers dive for cover in shop doorways and behind litter bins.

On the days when the police had confiscated his guns he'd carry a huge bull whip and as he strode the mall he'd sing the Doris Day song "whip crack-away" from "Annie Get Your Gun", cracking the whip inches from the noses of terrified women.

I even saw him with a horse some days, a horse in the Arndale Centre precinct took some doing but this horse was a beautiful thoroughbred and clad entirely in keeping with the cowboy theme with a proper western saddle, highly decorated harnes and a bed roll across his back - he must have liberated the horse from a rag and bone man as all of the dwellings around those parts were back to back terraces and entirely unsuitable for horse-keeping.

Unlike our current day monk the cowboy nutter was always regarded as an unsafe nutter, probably because he'd shoot you or bullwhip you if you stared at him and whilst us kids wanted to watch and laugh, our mothers would always scurry us away with the mumbled explanation that "he wasn't a well man" and when asked why, "he came back from the war like that".

"He came back from the war like that" left more questions unanswered to me as a kid, I just never recalled The Kings Own Corps of Cowboys fighting on the Normandy beaches but the thought of a whole battalion of nutters in "Woody off Toy Story" outfits racing up Omaha beach, cap guns firing in the air, a-whooping and a-hollering, would surely make even the most ardent Nazi flee his gun post.

"Thures cattle to be rounded up all across occupied Europe boys, lets go git 'em..."

Geoffrey the walking monk is very tame by comparison...



Late Edit...

I've been musing for the last hour on our mothers comment "he came back from the war like that" and can't get rid of this scene from my mind now...

...its 1946 and Sebastapol Terrace has the bunting out, the streets lined with tables covered with union jack table cloths straining under the weight of sandwiches and fairy cakes and big pots of tea, a street party awaits for Norman Clutterbuck who is today returning from the war after five years of fighting for King and Country.

His proud mother Edna Clutterbuck stands waiting at the end of the cul-de-sac surrounded by friends and neighbours all waiting to join her in celebration, all clad in regulation clean pinnies, Edna having bought a new headscarf for the occasion stands wringing her pinnie in anticipation...

Kids run amongst and underneath the folding tables and chairs, a huge hide and seek game ongoing in the excitement of their hero 's return and suddenly all is brought to a standstill as a young man from three streets away skids to a halt at the street corner and yells "he's just got off the tram..."

And they all stand in silence, a sob blurting from Edna's throat, not long now love, welcome home love...

The silence is pierced by a huge scream and the sound of gunfire and with an ear-rendering "Yeee-hawwww" Norman Clutterbuck, now Hoppalong Clutterbuck, leaps into view from around the corner of the street, twin Smith and Wesson chrome six shooters spurting spark and flame as shoots his celebration rounds into the air, "Yeeee-hawww, your boys home ma ..." he yells as the crowd stand staring, stunned into silence.

"Oh my giddy aunt" one of the neighbours murmurs, "he's come back a cowboy..."

6 comments:

Ms Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary said...

Aye...

Ms Jones said...

doesn't matter ... sorry

Grannymar said...

Gary he was only one of many to come back like that.

The trouble was they were rejected and neglected by society.

Unfortunately it still happens.

Donna said...

There was a nutter who lived across from our grade school. He always wore a Santa suit and would stand outside the school yard fence (much to the distress of our parents/teachers) ringing a big bell while he watched us play kickball.

I live in a different city now, but over the last year there's been a guy wearing an orange, tiger-striped wizard costume (with a hat that looks like the lid of a jack-o-lantern) walking around downtown.

Ms Jones said...

Saw ours today,
Bet he's always been around but never noticed..Strange isn't it? Not as colorful as the ones you mentioned.