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Loveable, laughable Leslie: part 2

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John Ward revisits an old friend in his weekly Ward's World column...

Not so long ago I scribbled about my then neighbour Les, but since then I had many assorted comments about him and so without more ado, I bring to you ‘Laughing Loveable Leslie: Two’ as if the first one was not enough.

The fact people have inquired about him amounts to two points: one, you care enough to get in touch and two, you’re reading these intellectual offerings hence me scribbling away now to satisfy that need or, at worse, your craving for this culture stuff.

Columnist John Ward (55331097)
Columnist John Ward (55331097)

History bit: he was the local junior school caretaker for years so when he retired, he was presented by the staff and well-wishers with a greenhouse due to his ‘green fingers’ hobby, plus he was also a dab hand at growing lettuces.

It was an aluminium frame model so after putting down a concrete slab base for it to stand on in his garden, myself and Jack, my neighbour on the opposite side, both saw this process of groundwork by Les and his son-in-law John go without so much as a hitch– they used a screwdriver instead.

We both thought the framework looked okay when John went off home while Les was into part two of the construction as he dragged his wife out to ‘help’ with the ‘trial run of fitting the glass’ or to make sure it fitted when the time came.

He carefully took out a half pane of glass from its box, then asked her to hold it in the top half of the sliding door, which after a bit of grumbling she did, with the next part being hysterical as he stood inside the framework as he asked her to carefully slide the door across while still holding the glass in place.

Jack and I wondered what would happen next – then our hero stood there after she slid the door ‘closed’ as he spoke, I quote: “I know it’s only one pane of glass fitted in but you can feel the heat building up in here already,” to which both Jack and I had fits of sustained, stifled laughter at the silliness of it.

Jack suffered with bad chest problems so trying to stifle his laughter didn’t help but once he used his inhaler, he then made an observation based on what we had just witnessed.

He was of the opinion that once all the panes were fitted the intense heat build-up, based on the single “half pane experience,” would be so intense that Les would be down to wearing just a loin cloth, knotted handkerchief and flip-flops to enter the actual greenhouse for brief moments but possibly it could be worse in the summer.

Work eventually went on and it was soon “up and standing still” as he related to us a few days later but perhaps not aware we had seen the ‘test trials’ as related above and it lasted for a few years afterwards, but another story, another time.

On a personal level, it didn’t help that Les was a dead ringer for little Jackie Wright, he with the bald head and glasses, who was one of the team on the then Benny Hill Show on television, who Benny used to slap on the head a lot in assorted sketches.

The times I heard people say or mutter on seeing him for the first time: “It can’t be him surely?” Or they would ask him: “Where’s your mate Benny then?!” to which Les thought of a different Benny entirely.

He thought they meant Benny, the character in the then daily soap on TV called ‘Crossroads,’ who wore a woolly hat but Les always said he never wore a hat, so they were mistaken, plus he wore glasses. Benny didn’t, as he would try to point out – but to no avail.

Being a local councillor, he sometimes wrote letters to the local newspapers but he always signed them off after his name with ‘councillor,’ hence some got the wrong impression as in one case somebody approached him for help as he ‘wanted to stop smoking’ so a case of mistaking the councillor bitty do-dah for counsellor.

He opened a local produce and flower show, with the chairman of the event introducing him to the assembled crowd with: “Now somebody you all know for both his gardening expertise and his council work, Mister Les Brackets Councillor,” but to say there wasn’t a dry eye there would be an understatement as those who heard it were in hysterics although he thought it “right and proper” like.

When Jack heard about it he said he was glad he didn’t attend as he would surely have had ‘one of his attacks’ based on other events he had seen or been close to such as the above greenhouse saga being just one.

I must own up and say Les was one of a group of locals, I included, who staged assorted events on our local green under the banner of being a Gala Day, among others, but to his credit I can honestly say that Les had a knack for rounding up raffle prizes among his many talents.

There was a popular theory that when some local shops and businesses saw him coming, they knew he would asking them for something to donate but whether they wanted to donate or not, he usually came away with something but he was, as they say, a ‘bit of character’ so most obliged if only just to get rid of him.

He once saw a shop owner in the High Street coming out of his shop who knew him, and realised the time of the year meant one thing: so Plan B – he shouted to Les he would “see him later as he was busy,” then hopped on a bus just driving off to get away from him!

He got off the bus a few stops away and rang his shop from a phone box to tell his assistant he would be back shortly as she wondered what had happened to him as he asked if Les was still about (!) but the reason I know this happened was the assistant told me later when I called in.

As the saying goes, you could write a book about him as knowing him was delightful, hilarious plus bewildering at times but he was a real genuine character.

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