The Eccentrics: Number Two - Jon

It’s terribly self indulgent of me but I feel the urge to share some of the more interesting characters I’ve met during my twenty something sentence upon this misty ball. Whether you will think them interesting, amusing or even real is entirely down to your genetics but I find them amusing to recall.

The mark of a good office is its eccentrics. The people that everyone – and I mean everyone – knows. The Old Place was blessed with the king of eccentrics. We had our own version of The Man Jon. At first I thought he was gay. He used to talk in loving terms about Eric, with whom he lived and upon whom he lavished gifts, love and praise. There is something bohemian about Jonny. Something almost Oscar Wildey. So him being gay was just one of those things that didn’t surprise you in the slightest. Eric was, of course, a cat. The only living creature welcomed into Chez Jon on a regular basis. The absolute first time I really noticed him was when he returned from his lunch hour and announced to no one and everyone that he’d just been arrested. He then told a complicated story about one way streets and him only going one way down them and all in all he’d been lucky because he’d not actually been arrested, just cautioned, and that only the gods of fortune had prevented the police from noticing his lack of road tax and from asking to see proof of the insurance he didn’t have.

As far as I can tell, the earliest story I know about him came from his days as a naïve little fellow. Obviously blessed with boyish charms, he had been invited back to the bedsit of an older man. Plied with drink and possibly more, the man got down to the serious business of removing Jon’s clothes. Finally Jonny smelt a rat – this man was obviously a shoe thief who wanted to steal his Doc Martens.

Jonny joined The Old Place sometime in the 1980s. He was a hot prospect and soon found himself headhunted by a firm of financial advisers. Sadly, the man Jon forgot the first rule of life. Never leave class A drugs in a policeman’s desk draw. It’s simple enough – we were taught it between reading and writing in infant school. A matchbox of an undisclosed substance was left in the desk of a special constable who worked at the firm and Jonny’s once promising career was cut short. Luckily, the Old Place was desperate for staff even back then and took him back without a word.

There is something you always need to bear in mind about Jonny. He’s a genius. He really is. A flawed and generally wasted genius but a genius nevertheless. Had he not been consumed with vices – both legal and illegal – he could’ve been a big cheese. His knowledge of financial affairs was second to none. His familiarity with the works of Shakespeare was awesome. Indeed, anything he set his mind to he could become an expert on. It’s a shame he never yearned to learn about karate as it could’ve saved him some black eyes.

Staff barbeques are fairly dull affairs except when you have a drunken Jonny with no one to look after him. Once again he forgot the first rule of life – never wipe blood that is trickling down your face all over the shirt of a large passing stranger. Jonny had, and all this has been pieced together from witnesses as he himself has no memory of the events, drunkenly sidled up to a woman who was happily dancing with her significant other and tried to pull her. Said signif other took exception to this and a nose bleed followed. Once Jonny forgot the first rule of life, all hell broke loose. That’s one social club the Company won’t be invited back to if they ever open another office in the region.

On his thirtieth birthday his mother got him something special. It was a court order which forced him to leave home. On his fortieth birthday he spent all afternoon in the pub, largely alone, and was sent home unconscious in a taxi at seven thirty. His usual method of celebration, aside from the drinking motif which I may already have mentioned, was the dancing. Not just dancing – the dancing. I was told that I absolutely had to see Jonny dancing before I died. They didn’t actually add the last bit but I’m usually thinking about dying anyway and occasionally it fits the sentence. How can one describe it? It’s something between Mick Jagger and electrocution. If I may borrow a line from Four Weddings and a Funeral, "When I first saw him on the dance floor I feared lives would be lost."

He was always capable of surprising you. You’d be in a meeting and the following exchange would take place.

Piglet: "And Peter Pardon is our new Director of Customer Services".

Jon: "Oh fuck!"

Piglet: "Is he a bit of a bugger?"

Jon: "No – it’s just that he once caught me breaking into his flat."

There was a perfectly simple explanation – somewhere between Withnail & I and an episode of Some Mothers Do Ave Em – but it was still a memorable moment.

The war in Iraq was a trying time for him. He would sit at his desk, his head in his hands, and when anyone asked what was wrong he would look up with his big puppy dog eyes and sigh "The war!" It really got him down. Sometimes it made him angry and he’d accost people at random and demand to know their opinions. It didn’t matter whether you were pro- or anti- as he’d still shout that you were wrong and that the war should be stopped. More than once he was taken to one side by Piglet and casually reminded that he was in an office and wasn’t yet one of those weird blokes who wander the streets and either sing or play a mouth organ. I bet he can play a mouth organ. He went to an all boys school – he must’ve got his lips round an organ or two.

But for all his flaws he is both a nice guy and a genius. And it was these qualities which attracted The Woman. Like Irene Adler, she deserves the definite article. She adores him for his intelligent conversation, she loves being able to mother him utterly. Having shown two years of solid patience, she is clearly a woman of formidable character. She is slowly but surely sorting his life out for him. But not in a naggy way – she’s not revolution, she is evolution. She is helping him to grow up.

Which would be a nice place to end but I’ve not yet mentioned the bin liners full of pornography or the fact that he didn’t open his post for ten years in case he accidentally saw one of his fine notices or the time he punched a printer so hard he left blood stains on it or how, once a year, Sally would hide a plastic spider amongst his papers and he’d nearly die of shock or the time he got into a fist fight with a colleague while the latter was on the phone to a customer or when he got himself banned from Wetherspoon’s for apparently head butting the manager at the above mentioned barbeque or the business trip down to Romford when he turned up at the station and his "luggage" was two bottles of red wine which he drank on the journey or the bizarre road rage incident which almost put him inside...

But most of all he is a character and those three and a half years in purgatory were made so much more entertaining thanks to him. And he looks like Adric would’ve done had he lived to be a forty year old dipso rather than being blown up to death and killed into little pieces by the Cyberpersons.