I met Ronnie when we were in the same class at school together. He was a bit of a “character” if that is the right word for someone who is somehow challenging, disturbing and demands to be the dominant male at every turn, but that is how he was anyway.
I kept out of his way, and his attention as far as possible but somehow he sensed I was not an admirer and that was something he found it hard to live with. Sure enough, he used to poke fun at me, and jostle me, sometimes roughly, when opportunity presented itself, but I was careful not to rise to the challenge and largely ignored it: perhaps he found that even more annoying, who can say?
Life has a way of mocking us, or testing us with the most uncomfortable situations, to see how we will react and so it was, by some strange chance, that his mother invited all his class mates including me, and my closest chum Patrick, to a barbeque at his house to celebrate his sixteenth birthday and final year at school. Whatever my misgivings, I was pressured into going by my mother and Patrick, who wanted some backup at a party he was as keen to go to as myself.
Here we were then, glasses of lemonade in hand and Ronnie waving a spatula around as he took a turn at the barbeque. “He’s a brilliant cook” said his mother. “He’d do anything for me “ and I’m inclined to think that’s true as, after his father left the house when he was ten, she had turned to him, calling him the “Man of the house” on every occasion and praising his every action regardless of its merits. The odd thing was he seemed to have no moral centre and everything he did was for effect or to impress, or just short term advantage.
Even when he was stopped by the police after he had stolen his mother’s car late at night and gone out, uninsured and joy-riding with a girl, his mother said, “Boys will be boys” and smiled as if he was a god come to live among us. If anyone said anything critical of him it as if they had touched a bruise and she shied away from any comment not loaded with admiration.
At one stage he took an interest in my sister pouring on his legendary charm but luckily she was as wary of him as I was and quite possibly the “interest” was to unsettle me as much as anything or is that too self-obsessed a theory? Who’s to say!
I mention this now, twenty years later because, as I sat there on the sofa eating dinner with my wife and watching the news, up popped Ronnie entering a police van after being arrested for being involved in some violent protection racket involving pensioners. I followed his trial with keen interest and, sure enough, there was his mother looking understandably distressed and, when asked by a reporter if she had anything to say about her son’s behaviour said again, “He would do anything for his mum,” which seemed to be her answer to everything.