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'I’ve been told it’s a wonder-fool world'

I often hear from people who read this column that a subject has a certain ‘ring’ or has an affinity to them which in some cases is quite intriguing as the subject matter is perhaps weeks, or even months old since it appeared in this very newspaper, writes columnist JOHN WARD.

One that seems to have caught some people’s imagination recently was when I related the saga of my school friend Pete, who had started a new job and got me to get him ‘two quid’s wuff’ of diesel fuel for his van as he was in danger of not getting home in it.

Since that appeared the interest in this freelance version of a village idiot has been quite interesting, ranging from readers to other school chums inquiring as to his whereabouts.

Columnist John Ward (47377075)
Columnist John Ward (47377075)

At such times I feel it’s perhaps along the lines of tossing a coin: heads he’s working in some far flung, unseen or unknown government department or tails: possibly a guest in Rampton Secure Hospital that deals with those with psychiatric problems.

Oddly those who know him seem to favour this latter possibility.

For the benefit of new readers: I pointed out in my last account of him, when I last saw him physically, he was performing as a night security person for a ‘basic private security company’ to put it politely.

When I say ‘basic’ I should point out his ‘uniform’ was obviously surplus as on one jacket lapel, in the right light, I could just about read ‘The SoandSo Omnibus Company’ where a metal badge had once been.

This vague outline was perhaps ‘bleached’ by sunlight over the years until it was finally put to rest before it being Pete’s uniform jacket.

I went with my son and met him ‘on site’ to hand over the said diesel to him.

My son wanted to meet/see him as he had heard so much about him but then he also wanted to meet ‘Sammy the Clown and His Exploding Car’ but this was not possible as he was away on tour, so he made do with meeting Pete.

Prior to all this I had lost track of him soon after we left school to put the record straight as our career paths differed slightly.

I sometimes saw members of his family who said he was ‘coping’ although coping with what exactly was never explained.

So after a few decades, but not too many of them as I think I had hair then, but prior to the diesel malarkey as outlined, I had received a phone call as once again we went through the malarkey of: “You are the John Ward I went to school with?” to which I was silly enough to confirm.

Once this was sorted he told me that he was ‘back’ although to be honest I had no idea he had gone, but back from where exactly?

It seems he had left our area when he got married (oh dear, there are others involved then crossed my mind) then he/they moved “down to Wiltshire but to a bit you probably wouldn’t know anyway” was his reply.

Intrigued, I asked if this moving was done during daylight hours as the sometimes deployed way of doing such things under the cover of darkness to which the reply was neither as it was night time when they went.

Odd to think that ‘cover of darkness’ and ‘night time’ had a totally different meaning but there you go – or rather he did.

Anyway he was back amongst us but this is where he excelled himself to beat his personal best as he told me he did not want anybody to know “he was back” so I wasn’t to”‘let on to anybody”.

I asked if he came back “under cover of darkness”or “night time” to add to the supposed secrecy but no, by train he explained.

He was ringing to tell me that he had changed his name as on hearing that I asked if he was working for MI5 or on a customer services desk in a large store but his reply was: “It’s a bit complicated,” which possibly summed his entire life up.

I won’t use his real name but from birth he was Peter Hex but he was now Peter Why so to speak, with possibly option Zed waiting.

He explained he had moved house three times since “being back” in just over seven months.

He gave me his address to which I realised was situated in what could be best described as a “problem area” in the local to us town, so he must have blended in very well there.

The next bit was he was speaking from his new phone, which was ex-directory, but being ex-directory he wouldn’t give me his number although I was quite happy about that, believe me. He was also now wife-less but if we ever had a few months to spare to speculate about it to wonder why or how, I wouldn’t really be interested.

He did say “she had run off four times with other people” so whoever she was, she certainly had stamina.

So based on these titbits or clues she was obviously into athletics and liked to socialise it seems.

I might add that friend Tony often asks me how I meet these people and in response I always point out I don’t go looking for them.

However, Pete’s real reason for calling me was to tell me that if anybody asked (?!) I was to say I had not heard from him or seen him. I heard no more from him for a few weeks until one evening.

The phone rang as my son picked it up, spoke or listened to it for a minute or so then looked across at me: “You know that gormless bloke who was Pete Hex but now Pete Why? – well it’s him again.” Pete was straight to the point; in the last few weeks, he had not received one phone call, so was ringing me to find out if it was still working.

Beyond the ‘Carry On’ films for silliness, I did say it might be because he was ex-directory although he replied he had given it to his close family but none of them had rung, so possibly a message or clue there then.

I suggested that he could try giving his number to his ex-wife, assuming she was not out doing her athletics or socialising.

He went silent for a moment as he then replied: “I can’t do that – she might ring me.”

It’s a wonderful world out there – or so I’ve been told.

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