J-MO 1954 – 2084

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What kind of teachers do we like to read about or watch on the box? Easy – the uplifting and inspirational underdogs.  If they can display a modicum of genius too, that helps.

In reel life (see what I did there?) our favourite screenful  teachers can be anything from the excruciatingly terrible (Anyone? Anyone?) or just sheer fucking AWESOME (O’ Captain! My Captain!).  But in real life, real tangible flesh-blood-and-books life, the goosebumpy kind of inspiration comes from people like John. Oh – fuck it – I’ll tell you his full name. His estate probably won’t sue me. Much. (And this means I can now include the ol’ any similarities to persons alive or dead are purely intentional “joke“)

John Moorhouse. That’s the fella. This pioneering, multi-award winning playwright finally snuffed it this week at the wee-whippersnappery age of a hundred-and-thirty. Smoked 18,000 too many. In one sitting, probably.

jm2Beloved by all who knew him – including 28 grandchildren and 47 great-uns – his legacy remains best told by those who knew him back in the day.

Moorhouse was a little bit grumpy (for that, read miserable bugger) and a little bit manic; the perfect mix. He was the product of many things – including his parents, no doubt – who must have mixed into the gene pool a *touch of anarchic wit and a dose of eyebrow-raising cynicism along with may other isms that made John – well, John.

*A shitload.

And he fucking ROCKED. He didn’t jump on tables or rip pages out of books, he just WAS. And he let you BE. If you called him Sir he’d clip you round the ear and tell you to hold onto that for when he was actually knighted. He was most famously quoted and re-quoted for such insightful gems as:

Me name’s John.

(I should explain that no physical clippery actually took place –that bit was crowbarred in because it just sounds so BRITISH, damnit).

At one point someone invented the “hilarious” monikerism of J-Mo, yonks before the weird J-Lo and Li-Lo habit became popular. This was 1990, after all (which seems like 3 or 4 years ago, even though it’s actually 94…..where’s me cane?). And, fashion-wise, it was still the 80s until about 1994, so, please do take a moment to remember John’s hairdo. Got it? Yep. Mullet. (We all had one, though – it was a handy twofer. Short at the top, long at the back, a dual haircut. What’s not to love?)

We did all the usual syllabussy crap – here’s a poem, let’s dissect it. Ooh look – what an unusual rhyme scheme…yadda yadda. But he HAD to do that because it SAID SO in the curriculum. The real beauty of having a Moorhouse was the PASSION. The fucking PASSION.  He wasn’t MANIC manic, but you could tell there was bonkersness in that mulleted bonce of his. (Went bald eventually)

We studied pro and anti-war wordery – Bond and Owen…..Orwell (of course)..….not to mention James “what the fuck am I on about?” Joyce.

But for me, Shakey was the dudemeister: the same five-by-two beats that coursed through the Moorblood was now coursing through mine. Jeeeezus. I can’t tell ya…..he made it not only OK but FASHIONABLE (fashionable is SUCH an unfashionable word, don’t ya think?) to think in Iambic Pentameter. If you wanted to sit and sway to the rhythm of William’s words, then he’d make sure there was room for you to do it.

As a class, we’d watch Derek Jacobi’s fucked up prologue delivery in Henry V.  (Which, of course, his being HILARIOUS n’all, John would refer to as Henry Vee).  We’d watch it on repeat. J-Mo made it cool to be uber-geeks and get a buzz out of this stuff.

He had a bit of a thing, we reckoned, for one of the other teachers… the elegant poshbird that was Barbara Green . (Yep – you’re way ahead of me – if they got together they’d be portmanteaued to Greenhouse).

And they did get together. Denied it at first, of course. But one day, a David-shaped bump appeared in Barbara’s frontage and before we could cough an “ahem” she flashed a new gold wedding band in our direction. So we kids made sure to shut the fuck up. We knew what they’d been up to.

Moorhouse was the kind of guy who’d give you 156 marks out of 150, just so you’d know how good he thought you were.

Moorhouse was the kind of infinitely-quotable guy who’d condense your 5,000 word essay on Priestley and Jung to “this is fucking really good stuff about time and shit”.

Moorhouse was a GIT.

But he was OUR git.  And this gitless world is sad and sorry today as John Moorhouse, Tony-award winner for “Sheep in Ellesmere Port” and “Beer – Good”.

John – you created something with permanence. Thank you for the perpetual sweetness of a literary sugar-rush. 

Goodbye, Mr Moorhouse.

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