It was In the early sixties. He was the Landlord of a small public house in Mortehoe in North Devon. It is a small community in the hills above Woolacombe, and close to Twitchin Holiday Park where we had a caravan for breaks away from business.
John was a happy go lucky fellow whose idea of breakfast was cider and honey. We both had the same make of car, a Triumph 2000, one of the first production vehicle with all round independent suspension, the only difference being that his was yellow and mine white.
Eventually John bought a small inn on Exmoor in the tiny hamlet called Challacombe, boasting a post office with a telephone kiosk a few houses and the public house, the ‘Rose and Crown.’ However, looking through its four hundred year old history he found that for a long time it had been called ‘The Black Venus’ so he returned it to the original name
We stayed there frequently and became great friends.
One time we were picnicking in a cove at Combe Martin when the tide started to turn. John wasn’t fussed and told us not to worry. I did worry! The water got higher and our exit vanished. We were trapped. I could not see how we were going to get out of the cove.
Suddenly John stood up and did a perfect dive and disappeared under water. We could not see where he had gone. My thoughts ‘what do we do now?’
About ten minutes were to pass and now we were in serious trouble, there was no sand left. Suddenly. John appeared around the corner rowing a boat and laughing.
Our friend decided it was time to remarry. His first wife had left him before we met. He had two women in mind, both were frequent visitors to the pub and flirted unashamedly with him. He thought it was a ‘hoot’ when he invited Jean and I to meet them on separate occasions so he could ask our opinion on which should be his wife. We thought one was more suitable, but he chose the other.
It was the end of our relationship; it certainly was not a marriage with love in it and the new wife made it known we were not welcome … perhaps he had told her we had chosen the competitor.
I did call in there once in the seventies when I was travelling through, he was a shadow of his former self but as we chatted his wife interrupted, and that was that.
It was in the eighties and more than a decade since I had seen John on that brief visit. I had a business appointment in Cornwall for early on a Monday morning. So, I would be fresh for the occasion I left from Bristol the previous evening and very dark.
I made my way down the A30, passed through Oakhampton and was feeling hungry. There was not a glimmer anywhere and being Sunday everywhere was closed.
Some way ahead I could see some lights, which, as I approached, I was chuffed to see was a public house. At least I thought they would have a bag of crisps if nothing more sustainable. It was very dim in the bar as there were not many lights on as it was just opening, I was the only customer.
A tall man came in from the back and stood behind the counter. He was dressed in a black suit with a same coloured tie. He stopped and we were staring at each other. I was mumbling about a pint of beer while my brain was searching through a catalogue of memories trying to put a name to the face.
Memories came tumbling into place, I recognised that he was a friend of John Green having been his best man. He knew me from the time he had a hostelry ‘Queens’ in Ilfracombe where John and I would visit for a giggle with the three of us.
I said something like ‘How is John I haven’t seen him for about twelve years?’
I was still waiting for the beer. He had not moved, he looked shocked. Perhaps it was because I was the last person he expected to see that day.
Looking at me as if I did not exist, he replied ‘You don’t know then … I have just got back from his funeral.’