John's Story - by Julie (Nov. 2019)
John has asked me to write a candid piece about his personal story, in my own words – so here goes. I met John a year ago through the internet site e-Harmony. I had been using internet dating sites for about three years with no success, when the date with John changed my life. We met at the Hive Beach Café right on Chesil Beach at Burton Bradstock. We found an instant attraction, walked on the beach, and got absolutely drenched by a huge rogue wave that just came out of nowhere. And we realized that if that wasn’t a sign from the universe then we were dead in the head. The rest is history and we have been inseparable ever since.
Right from the start it was clear that music and song writing had always been a strong undercurrent in John’s life. As I got to know him more I could see that music also acted as therapy in times of need, a stable place that he could always return to. As a teenager he played in local bands around the Garden City of Letchworth where he attended the local Grammar School. Then after leaving sixth form in the early summer of 1968 he cancelled the University place he had been offered and hitch-hiked down through Europe to the Greek Islands – no shoes, with an old guitar on his back. John was certainly living the life of a travelling minstrel, playing music, making love, living free and wild and enjoying the essence of the 60’s teenage hippy movement – make love, not war. Eventually one autumn night whilst John was living in the Hippy Caves at Matala and drinking numerous glass of Retsina wine at the beachside Mermaid Café – later made famous by Joni Mitchel in her song Carey – He nearly drowned in the sea on a stormy night, whilst high on drugs and alcohol. John made the reluctant decision that maybe he was heading out of control and it was time to head back to the UK
Returning again to playing in a jobbing pop-group band, this time based around Coventry and Warwick, playing 5 or 6 nights a week and sometimes four gigs over a weekend. Often traveling the length and breadth of the country and essentially “living out of a rucksack” in the back of the Ford Transit group van John was again living the wild life of easy ‘groupies’ and nightly thrill seeking! The inevitable happened and finding himself becoming the father-to-be of a baby boy, John ‘did the right thing’ and settled down. Twenty-plus years of marriage, qualifying as an Architect, high mortgages and three children eventually came to an end with, as John will readily admit, him being a total shit and being found out in having an affair. His poignant song “Love’s Deceit” sums up that era of his life – “I’ve played my part in love’s deceit, and I’m not proud of it. Some night’s I find that I cry in my sleep. Guess I’ll never get used to it”
‘Back on the street again’, living in a cramped damp top floor bedsit, John returned to Music, to play, to write, and readily embraced the chance of playing live again in a Southampton Pub-Rock Band with all the excitement and experiences that comes with that. Two years of wild pleasures and hedonistic indulgences followed, then another decision to return to “being normal” saw him in a second marriage, and a life-changing move to go and live in South West France in 2002. Music was again pushed into the background as John set up a renovation company restoring old stone cottages that abound in that Region. Fast forward twelve years, and things had really fallen apart. The business had been hit by the classic problem – high leverage and personal guaranteed loans. The final blow was the 2008/9 crash which saw a couple of his major building projects unable to find buyers which meant the Bank ‘called in the loans’. They then forced through sales of the business assets at 40% under value, followed by legal moves to seize his family home near Angouleme. The stress of bailiffs banging on the shutters, squeezing summons under the front door etc, led to the marriage collapsing and a major accident to his knee ligaments which saw his leg in plaster, two operations, and six months of being unable to work, sealed the end of this chapter.
Returning again to the UK, now aged 60, with no partner, no business, no home and no money John was in poor health and the outlook must have been very depressing. John’s life was certainly grim, but it was about to get worse! With the inactivity caused by his injury came creeping obesity, a diagnosis of Diabetes, and living on the floor of a relative for nearly nine months, John was eventually offered a home by a housing charity in Weymouth. But within a few weeks of moving into his new home, John suffered a stroke and found himself in Dorchester Hospital for two days. This incident provided yet another life-changing turn in his life. Because, on returning to his flat and picking up his guitar John found that he was unable to properly hold down the strings as he had lost 30% of the grip in his left hand. Determined to continue to play and write his songs John experimented with tuning his guitar in various ‘open string tunings’ and fought through this obstacle. It seems to me that Music has always been John’s saviour in times of trouble and need. With renewed energy and the need for the brain to work overtime to make new neural connection, his fingers found new alternative chord shapes. John was writing again more prolifically than ever before and with deep feelings. Using this, almost as a therapy, John was working through all the guilt, anger, sorry and pain that the last thirty-plus years had brought. Songs poured out of him and provided the much needed healing. Playing his songs at various open-mics, pouring out his heart and soul to audiences was his way of not being defeated. There is a telling line in his lovely song called “Trick of the light” that goes – “playing tonight in another bar, bearing your soul for the night”
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John’s music touched my soul when I first heard his songs and continues to do so every day as he creatively writes and performs with such feeling. John wrote a truly beautiful song for me after we had only spent a few days together and I had flown off to spend Christmas with my son in Sweden. I just loved this line – “Although you’re a thousand miles, you wrap me up inside your smiles coming down from the Northern Air, and it just feels right” John has given me so much, and in return my love for him has inspired him to lose two stones in weight, come off all medication, reversing his diabetes and become a very healthy and active seventy year old – and a very happy one too. I love listening to John’s unique musical style. I love his lyrics, which are the story of his life, and I love his unique spirit which refused ever to be squashed, despite whatever life threw at him. Listen to his music, come and see him play live, and you will know what I mean.