Snookered   Leave a comment

 Snooks the famous jazz musician died last month. Today all his friends and family are celebrating his extraordinary life. After a church service in St. Bartholomew’s there is to be a big meal at the Hotel Eustace, with a party afterwards with some of the most famous jazz and blues artistes in the world.

I remember the first day I met Snooks. I had just come out from a night-club in Soho when I nearly fell over a body lying outside. It was a largish body, dressed in a garish pink and blue striped suit, accompanied by blue suede shoes. The face was hidden by a large black trilby hat.

“You alright mate?” I asked.

“I’m perfectly happy. I’m in a state of euphoric bliss under this canopy of stars.”

I raised the trilby hat. A red flushed face, with a potato shaped nose, big rubbery lips, and protruding eyes, stared back at me. The man grinned with a gummy smile. He lifted his hand to me.

“Snooks….. Glad to make your acquaintance.”

“James….. James Ridley.”

“Well James, I suppose you could help me home now my reverie is done.”

Snooks pulled hard on my arm to lift himself up, and nearly pulled me down onto the pavement.

Once he had staggered up, he put his arm in mine, and led me to his abode. He lived in a mews not far away. He asked me to frisk him to find his door keys. I felt a bit self-conscious doing this, and was relieved when I found them. The small house was bohemian to say the least. There were tapestry hangings, large brightly coloured paintings of languishing nudes, black and white photos of jazz musicians and singers in smoky night-clubs, old leather chairs draped with various international flags, and a menagerie of birds, cats and fish.

“Sit down James. Would you like a night-cap?”

Although I declined his offer, he poured me a whiskey anyway.

“Tell me about yourself young man. What is your passion in life?”

I started to explain how I was a trainee journalist, when he started bellowing with laughter.

“A hack, you want to be a hack! Of all the people to bring home….. A f***ing hack!”

“Do you want me to leave?” I asked nervously.

He slapped his knee and laughed until the tears ran down his face. Eventually the laughter subsided, and he looked at me sincerely and said, “My dear boy I invited you here and you are my guest.”

After that we talked until the rays of dawn started creeping in the window. Snooks fell asleep then, and started snoring. I let myself out, and went home to my own bed, little realising that this was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Before I met Snooks I didn’t know anything about jazz, so I decided to go to a jazz club a few months later. I listened to a few artistes and enjoyed them; but then there was resounding applause when a small stocky figure came on stage. It was Snooks. A hush fell over the crowd as Snooks played his saxophone. The notes sang to my heart, and I was transported to a different place. Intermittingly he growled a few lines of song in a husky voice that spoke a beautiful truth. Snooks had hooked me.

Soon he was hooking everybody as well. His fame spread far and wide, not only for his music, but for his flamboyant lifestyle, generosity, and loyalty. He gave me my first big scoop, despite his dislike of hacks. I became fairly famous in my own field, and Snooks introduced me to many celebrity friends, knowing that he could trust me not to betray them.

Then one day Snooks went missing with all his animals. Nobody knew where or why. The press hounds were relentless in their search, without success. If anyone knew of his whereabouts they weren’t saying. But then that wasn’t surprising when he engendered such loyalty and trust in his friendships. I didn’t hear from him for years and I missed my charismatic chum.

A few months back I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Snooks, and in his text he asked me to come to an isolated address in Cornwall. So I did. It was a cottage in the middle of nowhere. I hardly recognized Snooks when I saw him. He looked emaciated and pale. He dragged his body around the small cottage.

“James I’m ready to come home now, my time is up.”

He explained how he had been diagnosed with cancer. He had tried to fight it in his own way; but he was now terminally ill. He hadn’t wanted people’s pity; but now felt he wanted to settle his affairs and organize his funeral the way he wanted it. I promised I would help him sort out homes for his pets, write a suitable piece for his ‘home-coming’, and keep other press away.

So Snooks the Legend came home, and chose how and where he would die, how and where he was to be buried, and how and where he would be remembered. His friends, rich and poor rallied round and respectfully acknowledged the man, the music and an uncompromising life.

But today is a celebration of life and we will embrace it, and raise a toast to our friend…

Posted March 25, 2014 by eileenmoynihan in Uncategorized

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