Butch.Posted: March 10, 2011
John Butcher is regarded as a lot of things by a lot of folks. An eccentric, a rock opera writer, a great speaker, a loose cannon. a bizarre chef, a pub lover, a limerick author, a politician who did his job, an encyclopedia, mountain wanderer, quintessential party host, solitary fisherman, loyal friend, an Englishman, humanitarian, chuckler, Birmingham City Bluenose, businessman, writer, etymologist, historian, loving husband, patriot (not Nationalist – Patriot).
It’s easy to wax lyrical about someone no longer with us; that they “loved Life” in a way that made them burn out too fast. For Butch’s family the proof is in the friends we have now, how we see our world and what we do in it. This link is perhaps more discerning than I can be.
We knew him as Butch. Butch, who called contemporary Pubs “Ikea with Beer”, who categorically followed a flaming Vindaloo with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut, even if the only place to get it was an hour down the Motorway. Butch who lost his car keys twice a day, and saved Nina Simone “for special occasions”, and took a blind man up a mountain, describing the view at every stage.
Butch who drove 2 hours at 2 am to pick up a sobbing 19 year old and race her back with the top down and the speakers up. Butch who befriended an entire pub full of seasoned Lakeland locals, and who could discuss the geology of Northern England and Spike Milligan in the same breath. Butch who was forbidden to have a pet owl, and who landed in a paraglider in the middle of a football match and learned to ski at 60.
The same Butch, who roasted horse chestnuts, ate berries off the branch, and passionately hated Magpies for their decimation of smaller birds. Butch who walked from coast to coast, up all of the highest peaks in England and could name every hill or lake he saw. Butch who met the Queen many times, and plenty of heads of state, and Stevie Wonder. Butch who had Maggie Thatcher round for tea, and wore the same hideous swimming trunks for twenty years, until his children snipped the crotch out, and who never willingly chose a ‘relaxing’ holiday.
Butch who did a far-too convincing Michael Caine, took his family up in an airship for curiosity’s sake, made fiercely hot ‘Stews’ to burn your tastebuds and would drop everything to get to a gig. Butch who was forbidden from playing Trivial Pursuit for being a “Know-all”, and would recite the entire “Feast of Crispen” speech from Henry V, (long enough to make everyone feel awkward, then inspired). Butch who hated ‘pointless’ Yorkshire Terriers but loved a noble mongrel called Jake for 14 years. Butch who made his friends sing ‘Delilah’ in Pantomime outfits every Christmas, liked to dance with his children in the conservatory at 3am, or on Scottish monuments at 6am, and who in his ‘retirement’ enjoyed regular beer-fuelled all-nighters on mountains.
Butch who plotted uncatchable ways of destroying speed cameras, who despaired at the Political media, but delighted at the Fast Show, who instilled Motown in his children but loved anything authentic, of any type, that was good and had “no agenda”. Butch who told us to “make your mind up as you go along, according to what you learn, not what you’re told.” and that “The best investment you can make is in memories”. He did that.
Share my online toast to the original Butch, with a smile and a glint in your eye please, and celebrate a loving and loveable light, who, like Buster Meeks, is tough to outshine, was put out too soon, but one that endures. Perhaps that’s why he loved this quote so much:
“We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Hugh Latimer [attrib. to John Foxe]