Meeting Ronnie Crouch for the first time at what was to become “my local” shortly after moving into the area was an experience. He was a sprightly, slightly elderly gentleman, with a glow and smile about him which draws the attention of those still wading through the chaos of their own making, otherwise known as middle age. Just the kind of bloke I like to get to know, so I said to him as I stood at the bar waiting to order my drink, “Well the sun seems to be shining then” and he smiled at me and raised his glass in salute.
We started chatting on this and that and nothing, as people do, and then, prompted by curiosity, and moved somehow by his unscarred optimism I asked, “What keeps you young?”. He replied, “Since I could stand on my own two feet I’ve only been interested in four things, Booze, food and sex and shelter,”
” Not too bothered, with the ancient Egyptians or consequences of global warming then” I said. “Couldn’t care less.” he replied. I’m old enough to know that anyone who wants to run a country these days is a bit gone in the head, so after a century or ten of mankind getting it as wrong as he can. I’m sticking to simple pleasures while they are available.” He paused briefly and then added. ” Its a bit like giving a gun to a five year old, letting mankind manage his own affairs”
“Bloody hell” I said, “We’re going a bit deep aren’t we,” and he smiled. “When we were primitive enough to be frightened of something other than ourselves there was some hope, but now we think we know it all and can do what we like so sure enough, we are gradually messing up anything we can see, and most things we can’t” I looked at him anew then, because I could see that the “Booze, Food, Sex and Shelter” thing was more a protest statement than a philosophy I asked him , “What’s the strangest thing you’ve done?”
“I climbed up to Machu Picchu last year” he said, “And I can tell you I was out of breath when I got there.” I was surprised and impressed because the guy was clearly already in his seventies, and he continued . “I sat down and took out a Big Mac and a Coke, to toast that ancient civilisation, with the cuisine of the modern age.” He looked at me as if he was telling me something, but I’ve no idea what it was
It was time for me to go, so before left I asked him what his tip of the day was, and quick as a flash he said, “There’s no such thing as fresh wisdom.” That’s Ronnie for you, every glib aside had an aftertaste , and every casual observation was drenched in his experience . He was the most complicated man of simple tastes I ever met.