This Thursday we say good bye to someone I’ve hardly interacted with since 1998. In fact, the last time I physically met with Lee, or Gunny as I knew him, was three years ago at a reunion of fellow quaffers, of which I’ll come to later.
These last twenty years or so Gunny hardly ever made any effort to stay in touch, and when he did it was either to extract the urine about me being Welsh, or to curse Liverpool, (my footy team of choice). He scorned the cavalry, being a proud ex infantryman in the Devon and Dorset Regiment, (9 years) and always thought Heavy Metal, (the music I used to play when I first met him) stupid.
However, from April 1998 to March 1999, we shared a flat and had the absolute best of times.
I worked in Sennelager during the time I knew him, having moved from the Lüneberger Heide to play in a band, make money, live the dream etc etc. During the daylight hours though, to pay my rent and support my family before stardom hit, I stood on the gate at Dempsey barracks, with a nice 9mm Browning and a smart blue uniform, and controlled access to the camp. Gunny turned up a few months after me and we were paired off as a team.
Because at that time I was reliant on a mate to find me accommodation for the days I spent in Sennelager, (my wife and kids were still in Wolfenbüttel, a two, two-and-a-half-hour journey away), Gunny mentioned he had a spare room and if I wanted, I could use that. I was relieved as I used to literally phone up another mate, (Ads, the guitarist in the band) and ask him where I was sleeping for the next couple of days. To have my own room, just around the corner from the camp, was a weight off of my shoulders, and it was in the flat that I really came to know my oppo on the gate.
Gunny never once asked for rent money, although he was skint himself. We shared food, but he liked to clean, saying that I never cleaned up properly, typical Cav, always sloppy, not like the infantry, etc. etc. etc… Everything had its place and that was that. We once held a beer tasting afternoon in the flat and the cleaning operation after the drunken devastation lasted for days. Luckily I went home the next day and missed out on the scrubbing. 😊
His cooking skills were limited to say the least, and that’s coming from a bloke who, if he lived on his own, would exist solely on toast. However, he knew his limitations and wanted to improve himself. Once he asked me how to make Chili, which along with curry is the only thing I’ve ever had any interest in making. I told him, fry the meat with some oil, add some spices, while that’s frying, make the sauce blah blah blah.
“Easy peasy,” said I.
“Right, you go to drums, I’ll make us some Chili,” said the Gunnster.
I returned a few hours later and Lee met me at the door like a house-proud mother, complete with apron.
“Go shower, it’s all ready.” He said, and I did.
I sat down in “my chair” and he brought in a steaming bowl of gorgeous smelling Chili. I remember being absolutely ravenous and almost drooled at the sight of it, I couldn’t wait to slurp it down. The first spoonful was too hot, but even as I felt my oesophagus disintegrate under the piping hot flow of spiced minced meat, I sensed a peculiar texture to its consistency. For the second spoonful I took my time, and again the Mexican chowder, though tasty, felt … well, slimy!
“Gunny, how much oil did you use, mate?” I enquired, hesitantly.
“Not much, about three quarters of the bottle, there’s still some left,” he replied nonchalantly, spooning the broth of death down like the hungry man that he was.
I stopped eating, disappointed, and explained to Sennelager’s Jamie Oliver that he’d put way too much oil in, and we should go for a pizza or something. However, my delivery was short on tact and the Infantry bloody-mindedness, that same stubbornness that had seen foot soldiers fight on through the Somme, Rorke’s Drift, and Waterloo, kicked in.
“You can have a pizza if you want, too hot for you is it, Welsh poof? Can’t handle it you big girl’s blouse? F***ing cavalry…”
Gunny ate his bowl, then mine, and the rest in the pan later on while we watched a film. I didn’t go for a pizza, I made some butties. Later on, around two-ish, I heard Gunny dashing through the corridor like patient Zero of the zombie holocaust on speed. He crashed through the toilet door and I literally heard, from my room, his bowel evacuation hitting the porcelain like a high powered water cannon on some rioter’s bare skin. The jet was relentless and I silently saluted his sphincter muscles that they’d held back the flood for so long.
Full of concern, for the toilet as well as my wing-man on the gate, I called through,
“I f***ing told you!”
“F*** off you sheep s****ing W*****” he shouted back. The man was a legend.
Gunny was also one of the original members of the Paderborn Chapter of NO MA’AM, (National Organisation of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood). Due to his unrelenting military bearing, Al Bundy’s cosmic influence, and the fact that we had learned to recite lines from the film “Heartbreak Ridge” backwards, Gunny was promoted to Sergeant at Arms within our ranks. The Sergeant at Arms was responsible for discipline, parades, marching offenders and recruits in to be interviewed or punished, and anything else we could think of that had any martial orientation.
NO MA’AM meetings were strict, any and every infringement of the rules was punished by a round for the Brothers. This meant infringements outside of the pub, in everyday life, as well. So, as you can imagine, living with Sergeant at Arms Gunny Medway was like living in a military base behind enemy lines in Vietnam. Our ID card, a waterproof, credit card sized document with your name and the NO MA’AM logo on it, always had to be with you, no matter what. The casual greeting in the street didn’t involve a friendly wave and smile, it was a mad grab for your card, within the ten second timeframe allowed, or you’d be grassed up at the meeting and end up paying for a round… and in extreme transgressions maybe even be put through the “Grimace of Disapproval”. Gunny grassed me up all the time. Yeah, the French Foreign Legion had nothing on us when it came to Draconian authority.
I’ll never forget bursting into the bathroom while Gunny was having a shower, waving my card like a lottery winner shouting “Ten seconds, ten seconds!” Without blinking, he silently reached around and pulled his card out from between his buttocks, told me in no uncertain terms where to go, and then carried on showering. Git.
We had so many good laughs that are hard to put down in writing because nobody would really understand them unless they were there. The day Gunny, Ads and myself only had money for beer, but were hungry and in the fridge there was one Aldi pizza between us. When it was ready, we told Gunny to put the Tabasco on it while we checked something out in the kitchen, and so he emptied the whole bottle on one ten-inch pizza. One whole bottle on one ten inch Pizza, think about it. Talk about test of manhood! I mean, Tabasco isn’t killer hot, but it was absolutely saturated; imagine drenching a sponge in Carolina Reaper juice, and then sucking on it, that’s exactly how it felt.
We managed it though. 👍
Or when Gunny, Ads and myself completely ruined a film night in Limericks by quoting the dialogue as it played, in unison, from start to finish. Heartbreak Ridge had long figured in our daily conversation and we used to test each other on the gate for quotes. So when Gar mentioned the Limericks film night would be showing, “The Ridge”, we had to be there. At first people laughed at our script recital choir, but after a while the disgruntlement began to show. By the end everyone hated us, and yet we felt like heroes having recited the film word for word right up until the end. HURRAH!! Even Brother Gar behind the bar was impressed.
Or the time he came to my place in Wolfenbüttel for the weekend and we ended up doing a seventeen-hour drinking session. He was allergic to cats, which made him sneeze continually. When we arrived home, poisoned and hammered, he sneezed and nearly had an accident round the back of his trousers. I couldn’t laugh though, I’d earlier had a spontaneous dribble in my waterworks, (whilst walking!) that I couldn’t explain. I looked down to see why my jeans were suddenly warm and saw to my horror a darkening around my crotch area.
“You’re f***ing pissing yourself, boyo,” Gunny noticed casually. He could make the word, “Boyo” sound like he was saying, “Arse”.
Unfortunately, in my addled state I couldn’t remember how to stop the flow. When I did finally control myself there was an embarrassingly large inky patch in my Wranglers. How drunk must we have been? I was just glad I had the sneezing squitter story as ammunition if ever he decided to tell anyone… which he did. Obviously. 🤦♂️
He also loved films. Faves to quote were “Heartbreak Ridge”, (obviously), “Twin Town”, “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”, and “Platoon”. I also saw the first X Files film at his place, though it never made the reference list. The quotes themselves would be dropped into everyday conversation, and to the casual observer, it must have bordered on insanity.
Me: What’s for tea?
Lee: Hotdogs for tea, boys. (Twin Town).
Me: Oorah. (Heartbreak Ridge)
Lee: It’s been emotional. (Lock, Stock.)
Me: Take the pain! (Platoon)
Lee: Fantastic Jeremy. (Twin Town)
Etc. etc. etc. Like I said, to the casual observer, absolute twaddle.
He was into Oasis, (a band I hated), Lara Croft, (unashamedly telling everyone he had finished the game, but saying nothing about using the cheats on every single level), Man United, though he came from Plymouth. To be honest, we had nothing in common except the job and a love of stupidity, and yet it grieves me now he’s gone that we didn’t stay in touch.
When I left Sennelager we lost contact.
This was before Facebook and WhatsApp, when the only contact was an overpriced SMS, a telephone call, or a letter, so it just never happened. I suppose we could have made an effort, but blokes are blokes, once you have nothing more in common with a mate, and you’re not in the immediate area, friendships tends to wither. Now and then we’d meet up if I came down, but he’d found other buddies by this time, and I was more interested in music than stories from The Gate. The bottom line is we had all moved on. I heard he was a father, then I heard he’d binned his job. When we did manage to meet up he always left early. The last time I came to Paderborn for the NO MA’AM reunion, I bugged him to be there. In the end he said he’d come to shut me up, but he didn’t.
Then a couple of weeks ago, June13th to be precise, I was told that he’d passed away. Later I was to find out it was a stroke. Not yet fifty and yet taken by a stroke. Gutted.
Gunny, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you these last twenty years, but we just moved on brother. I hope that where ever you are, you’re at peace, listening to Oasis, calling my music f***ing crap, and flicking the Vs at Liverpool and Wales.
Like Rhah said to Chris, “If there’s a heaven, and God I hope there is, I know he’s sittin’ up there drunk as a f***in’ monkey and smokin’ shit, cause he done left his pains down here.” (Platoon)
RIP Sergeant at Arms Lee “Gunny” Medway.
Gone, but impossible to forget.