I was excited to discover a link, this evening, to the outgoing pontiff, Ratty 1st. There have been times since he shot to top of the popes that I have not felt much empathy with him. As a rule my closest friends come from the general populace and are not distinguished other than by their mild eccentricity. Those seeking to thrust themselves into the public arena are not normally those with whom I choose to associate.
But I am not one to shun other humans on the basis of some circumstance or prejudice, and therefore I was gladdened to see the headline on the BBC news site that proclaimed that Benny “recalled Joy and ‘Choppy’ Waters”. I was immediately taken back to 1977, and the somewhat overcast spring day when Joy Chippendale as was, married Graham ‘Choppy’ Waters, in the registry office in Bristol.
What a wonderful couple they were, him with his ready wit, remarkable birthmark across the whole of his forehead, the slightly suspicious leer that he gave whenever pronouncing the letter ‘t’, his uncanny ability to identify any make of vacuum cleaner by its sound alone and his strange predilection that caused him to spend 3 months at HM’s pleasure that time. I will not waste your time by a detailed description of how he acquired his unusual sobriquet – you will already have deduced that, probably correctly.
Many thought them an odd couple, and could not work out what they saw in each other.
It was generally felt that Joy was one of nature’s spinsters. She had a slightly unworldly air and being cross eyed one was seldom ever sure to whom she was addressing her unique observations on the nature of existence. Before the illness that caused her to quadruple in size she had been one of the country’s leading gymnasts. After she gained weight the strange way in which her breasts were uneven became even more apparent; despite spending hours of their lives captivated by the phenomenon, I never encountered a male friend of hers who could describe exactly what it was about them that was odd.
I believe they had a happy and loving marriage, until the accident, of course. They produced a batch of strange looking offspring, I have no idea what became of them apart from Giles who emigrated to Laos. As so often happens even with dear friends we lost touch, and I miss my strolls around the park with old Choppy. I am grateful to him for some of the wisdom he imparted.
“Choppy, old guillemot,” I ventured on one occasion, “I have been thinking about life quite a bit lately”. “Scurra”, was his reply, “I think you will find that life is mainly hexagonal”. I have never forgotten that.
I do not know at which point their existence intersected with that of the Pope, not even whether it was before or after I knew them best. I find it difficult to imagine him, for example, fitting in with their friends at the time they occupied the terraced house in Salisbury, or listening to Joy’s xylophone recitals on the beach in St Tropez. But, like all of us, his life will have been enriched by knowing them. I may call in on him when all the fuss has died down and exchange stories.