The Gospel According to John


My Grandad passed away the other day and I haven’t really had time to stop and reflect on it. It’s obviously sad, but I don’t feel boo-hoo sad. I think partly that’s the reality of someone dying with Alzheimer’s – you know they were gone a long time ago. Moreover, though, I know that at the ripe old age of 90, he’d already plucked from life all he needed (“plucked” being interchangeable with a similar sounding profanity from what I hear…he was a charmer after all), and was ready to pass on the baton.

However, the old boy left his fair share of questionable wisdom with the world before shuffling his way up to those pearly gates. So, here’s a few of John Martin’s lessons in life. This is the Gospel According to John.


A Gnat’s Cockful. 

And John said unto his daughter, as she lifted the wine bottle away from the glass, “What’s that? A gnat’s cockful?”

A classic line from Grandad that takes some explaining if you’re not familiar with Fen-tongue. Grandad would use this primitive phrase to describe a small amount of anything, and it’s definitely one I plan to carry on using. It would usually be followed by a wry grin and a scan of his audience, always looking to catch someone’s eye. The lesson here is to be imaginative with your words. Also, don’t be offended if I say it to you, I am merely using the metaphor of an insect’s phallus for hyperbolic effect. How can I turn that into a topical ad?

You Are What You Eat.

“Behold, for you are what you eat”, said John to the stranger with her shopping trolley full of treasures.

Now I did warn you some of these are questionable. This basket of wisdom comes from a time he was at the supermarket, saw a shopper unknown to him with a trolley full of crisps, chocolates and the like, and told them that they are what they eat. In no way do I condone fat-shaming, that’s a terrible thing to say Grandad. But the man said what was on his mind, he always spoke very openly, and there is a lesson in that. Express yourself and be open (most of the time). Sorry, it is quite funny though…

Never Let Tomorrow Ruin Today.

But as Daniel pushed away the beer placed before him, exclaiming “No John, for I have work in the morning,” John rebutted “Never let tomorrow ruin today, Daniel.”

This saying of Grandad’s at least sounds a bit more prophetic, but I’m pretty sure he used to just say it as a way to get people to carry on getting battered with him. But I like it. Life is fragile, who knows what can happen tomorrow, so let’s get messy. The hangover is tomorrow’s problem. Que sera, sera.

Very Nice.

“Very nice,” John said of the miracle seen before his eyes.

Simple, but powerful. Grandad would literally describe everything in life as very nice. How’s the food? Very nice. Good holiday? Very nice. What is your new nurse like? Very nice (there’s that wry smile again). In a world where most people describe things as “fine” or “not bad”, how refreshing to know someone with such an abundance of positivity. Black hat didn’t exist in his mind. He was all red hat and god damn did it suit him. Always be positive.


If In Doubt, Laugh.

“What? Ha ha ha,” reacted John, hopefully.

This second book of John’s Gospel focuses more on his nature, and the lessons I learnt from his simple being. For as long as I knew Grandad, his hearing was terrible, so the quotation you see above was a painfully common occurrence. You’d shout something at him, he’d ask you to repeat once because he didn’t hear, then on the second attempt, he’d just laugh. The lesson? If in doubt, laugh. More often than not it’ll be the right reaction, because laughter is the best thing in life. Obviously, there’ll be times when you laugh after your mate tells you that their dog died, but hey you’ll laugh at that one later. 

Avoid Conflict.

“Oh well, nevermind.”

You couldn’t drag this man into an argument, because he knew it wasn’t worth it. It won’t solve anything. Arguing would get in the way of laughing, so don’t bother. We can apply this to our creative journeys too. Be the sun and not the rain, don’t get caught up in bickering when the stress reaches climax. If confronted with an argument, revert to the teaching in the paragraph above. 


This ended up a longer SCAB than I thought it would. I guess I had some things to say. I’ll keep the ending short. I wanted to use the method Deanna taught us in week one (place/food/transport/colour/person) to describe who, or what, Grandad was:

Grandad is the fireplace in a bustling pub, selflessly warming those around him,

Always glowing, you couldn’t look away if you tried.

Grandad is an artisan pizza, simple ingredients bursting with flavour,

Made for sharing, he’s a comfort food, no need for formalities.

Grandad is a combine harvester, cruising through open fields,

Bringing in the harvest, he’ll reap so we can grow.

Grandad is the gold of midday sun,

A shining beacon of good times ahead.

Grandad is a child in a candy shop,

Excited by everything he sees, the world is his oyster.

More wine Grandad? I’ll top you up. Cheers.


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