Jump On, Happy Now

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

I recall Mr Jones at Chapel Street Primary School making a simple poem. It was wordplay on my name John. Jump on, happy now. So simple. So memorable. Like other school events. When I was young, our class went to Mam Tor and the Blue John Cavern in Castleton, Derbyshire. I remember very little other than giggling at the name Blue John. The cavern is named after a semi-precious mineral Blue John. The 250 million years old was and is mined for the purposes of jewellery. The cavern sits beneath Mam Tor, a rather tall hill, a 517-metre (1696ft) peak of the world famous Peak District. I never picked up any fluorite (with bands of a purple-blue or yellowish colour) but I do recall the French name of bleu-jaune (blue-yellow). So, my name went from blue to yellow. In China blue movies are called yellow movies.

Our class had walked the 4.8km up (3 miles) from a car park, where our coach awaited. In misty wet conditions we returned, a little soggy. The views across the Edale Valley and Kinder Scout were wasted on us. It was completely shrouded by clouds. The Derwent Moors were less than visible. We even walked to another cave, Windy Knoll, but the entrance was covered by loose rubble. That was invisible to us too. Still we’d climbed up the peak that means ‘Mother Hill’. The brittle shale and so-called shivering mountain also left us shivering in the damp and cold too. As our teeth chattered a teaching assistant rambled on about Bronze Age and Iron Age forts. To kids in a field, drenched head to toe, he mustered zero enthusiasm. We all had ideas of using the caves (Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern A.K.A. ‘The Devil’s Arse’ and Treak Cliff Cavern) as a kind of natural umbrella.

So, that was my first time to see the name John in a strange place. Our primary school used to have three Johns. John O’Neill and John Doherty, with myself. Recently, I played football with John Burns and John Crompton. My surname is Acton. So, here in China, we had John A, B and C at Murray’s F.C. It isn’t an unusual name. John is Jewish, or was. It coms from a word meaning ‘Graced by Yahweh’ – a kind of Samarian God. Jack, Jackie, Johnny and Jonathan all come from the name John. Jackie Chan is a wannabe John. also comes from the name John but as a Manchester City striker, I can’t take responsibility for him, and nor should the name John. Johns can be equally good or bad. Everton, not the football team, but the name also comes from the name John. Being a very biblical name, John has been mutated and transpired into Celtic (Ianto), Germanic, Romance, European, Arabic (يُوحَنّا‎), Hungarian, Albanian (Xhoni), Slavic (Ján) and other forms. One of the most common names in English-speaking countries is sticking around hard and fast.

Yahweh is or was a storm-and-warrior deity which explains why I like the rain a fair bit. That and being Mancunian – it’s a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Here in China, as the Dongguan rain lashes down, I can write Yuēhàn (约翰) into my phone to produce a local version of my name that sounds more German than Chinese. My Korean student Kim could write my name as Yohan (요한) and my Japanese student Leon could write my name as Yohane (ヨハネ). Then there are countless feminine forms around the world such as Jone, Johanna, Ghjuvanna and Sinéad.

John is mentioned countless times throughout religion, with the Gospel of John, First through to Third Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation by a certain Saint John the Divine scribbling something down. There were no blog pages in his time. Apocalypses have remained popular in fiction and non-fiction ever since. Well, until the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Gospel of John was the third sequel to the Gospel of Matthew. Mark and Luke were the other members of the Gospel boyband. The Gospel of John has much prattling and something to do with the raising of Lazarus and contrasts Judaism. It’s probably where Christianity broke away, circa AD90-110. Three faith-raising sermon letters (epistles) of John followed much like the Fast & The Furious franchise.

“Who’s that writin’? John the Revelator. Who’s that writin’? John the Revelator. Who’s that writin’? John the Revelator. Wrote the book of the seven seals” – John the Revelator, Blind Willie Johnson

Many kings and queens have taken on the various forms of the name John through time, with prophet John the Baptist (died 30AD-ish), John the Apostle (one of a dozen). John the Evangelist (an author type), John of Patmos (the Revelator/the Divine), John the Presbyter (open to interpretation), another John (father of Saint Peter etc), John of Antioch (a chronicler which is a kind of news reporter of the time), umpteen Pope Johns (at least 21 of them), and several Saint Johns. There are Saint John churches and places as diverse as Cornwall (a parish village with the nearby St John’s Lake SSSI), Malacca in Malaysia, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador and even the Church of St John-at-Hackney. Wherever a boat could sail, and a missionary could set up a parish, that’s where the name has reached. If you don’t believe me, take a glance at the maps of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and Grenada. Oh, and there are ambulances displaying the saintly name: St. John Ambulance. Mighty Mouse was even a St. John Publications comic character.

Nicknames involving Johns area round us too. My Dad had a friend who was nicknamed ‘John the Ghost’ because of his pale look and I think had a few near misses with death in hid life. John the Hunchback isn’t as famous Quasimodo. Being a General and Politician in Roman times on the flanks of the Eastern Roman Empire wasn’t quite as romantic as being the protagonist of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. John “the Savage” features in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. John “OO” Fleming is a trance D.J. and his music could be heard on a portable speaker sat atop your very own Johnboat (an aluminium hunter-fishing boat). My mate John Petrie shares the name of Arbroath F.C.’s striker extraordinaire – he scored a record 13 goals in a 36-0 win. That’s something to mull over as you listen to former Meat Loaf and Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5. There are countless Johns to plug: I mentioned John Rabe and John Nichols before.

Whether in a campaign, a B-side on a Kylie Minogue with Robbie Williams song, a Giant Cave of Gilbratar, the John’s Langur (Semnopithecus johnii), a famous New York pizzeria, archaic phones, or a show about Tourette’s syndrome, the name John can be used for good or bad. Fritz John made an ultrahyperbolic partial differential equation that carries the name John’s equation. It was pretty bad for my eyes to see it and understand very little of it. Not all Johns make sense. I know that I don’t.

“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.” – ― John Donne, The Poems of John Donne (Volume 1)

The name John is popular in many ways. Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 from the video game Halo wasn’t an ideal role model for me but he did accompany far too many adolescents through early development blasting the hell out of crazy religious Covenant alien radicals. Almost as great as sending a Dear John letter to tell your loved one that they are a former loved one and now you have a new loved one. Writer Philip Jerome Quinn Barry wasn’t a John but in 1927 the New Yorker published his play called, yes, you guessed right, John. That play was unsuccessful. Bad John. Lil’ Wayne (2011) and Desireless (1988) didn’t write their songs of the same name, based on P.J.Q. Barry’s failed play. They sold around 2 million and 313,000 respectively.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost.

Other odd uses of the name John can mean someone who uses a prostitute, slang for a toilet (cheers America!), tropical storms and hurricanes, and there are about 13,400,137 Johns in the U.S.A. at any one time. That’s about one in every 25 Americans. On the flipside, John the Ripper is a program used to test the strength of a password. In Morse code John looks like this: .——….-. (which may be useless in the digital age). John Lennon and John F. Kennedy didn’t get any Morse code message of their fate. John R. “Johnny” Cash is one of my favourite Johns, in terms of talented Johns. John Paul Henry Daniel Richard Grimes is not.

Bizarrely the names Eoin, Evan, Yohannes, Ifan, Ioane, Hermes, Siôn, Janes, and Núño have origins in the name John. Jhon is also a real name. I guess somebody couldn’t type or spell, and it stuck. John has grace the rich and famous with numerous kings, Elton John, the late huge-nosed Gottfried John, Dame Olivia Newton-John and (was it personal?) R&B singer William Edward “Little Willie” John having a certain name. That 24-bar blues song Leave My Kitten Alone is so underrated. The Beatles and Elvis Costello copied it at some state too.

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter” – John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn and Other Poems

The name John is classic. It is a natural and wholesome formal name, refined and well at home in history and equally strong for the present day. It can represent the boring aspects of name history and the simple yet serious mature look of a person. Whether the name represents an author or an actor in Downton Abbey, the name John could likewise be a Canadian prime minister or a character in DC comics. John can be legend or literature, musician or theologian. The name John was once consistently popular in one of its many forms. Now newer names and international culture are heavily influencing naming across the globe. The name John, however, will not fade away.

Johnny Marr is from Manchester and spent some of his years in Ardwick. He probably wasn’t far from another famous John in Manchester. All of the above writing could easily have been a huge and tedious introduction to Manchester’s famous John Dalton. Born in Cumberland at a place called Eaglesfield (by Cockermouth), John Dalton headed for Manchester. He would go on to be a hugely influential chemist, physicist, and meteorologist. He made huge contributions to atomic theory research, the study of colour blindness and dissenting educationalists from church-backed establishments. He was radical.

Buried under Ardwick’s playing fields (former cemetery), Dalton’s legacies are far more than a statue-bust in Manchester’s town hall. The John Dalton Building of Manchester Metropolitan University houses the Faculty of Science and Engineering. There’s a statue of John Dalton outside. John Dalton Street connects Deansgate and Albert Square in central Manchester. There’s a bleu plaque at 36 George Street, his former residence. Dalton published many pieces including work on the Law of Multiple Proportions, Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures, Daltonism (also known as colour blindness). He earned his Royal Medal amongst many plaudits and lived to study and research. Nowadays his name lives on through such terms as Dalton (S.I. unit), Daltonism, and the Dalton Minimum. The latter was a period of low sunspot count, representing low solar activity, possibly much like the City of Manchester’s exposure to sun at the peak of winter, right?

“John Dalton’s records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.” – Isaac Asimov, Writer & Biochemistry professor

Music to my ears

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

The idea of collaboration music and jamming dates back to cavemen funking around their underground caves. I imagine the cavewomen were beating away the Stone Age equivalent of Harvey Weinstein. Instead of clubbing, to the smooth beats of Hacienda nights.

Some of the best writing I have ever read, has been sang. Great examples of these well-written songs have been performed by the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Meat Loaf, Johnny Cash, Oasis, Doves, Arcade Fire, and the list goes on and on. Music for me, is something tight to my own moods. Alex Clare’s Whispering lyrics can be haunting and invoke the notion of falling-down and beig lost.

But I gotta get out; I gotta break it out now; Before the final crack of dawn; So we gotta make the most; Of our one night together; When it’s over you know; We’ll both be so alone
Meat Loaf, Bat Out Of Hell

Insomnia by Faithless can ratchet up the intensity of excitement. Ever since hearing it blast from the Maine Road tannoy systems, it has held me. I plead guilty. The Maine Road and Etihad Stadium (City of Manchester Stadium) PA systems have screeched Right Here, Right Now of Fatboy Slim fame, Brainbug’s Nightmare, Bonobo’s Flutter and Arcade Fire’s Wake Up. Alongside Manchester City’s The Boys In Blue and Funky City, they are essential matchday and life listening.

Meat Loaf has accompanied me on journeys with my Dad up the motorway and back, to Cleveleys, Morecambe and many a day out. Midnight at the lost and found, seems to be my earliest memory of Marvin Aday’s music. Since then epic albums, lesser celebrated work and my devoted following to all things about that great Texan have followed me in life. Some days it don’t come easy, but there is a song for that day.

You turn around and life’s passed you by; You look to those you love; To ask them why?
Doves,  There Goes The Fear

Whilst a piece of music in the TV show Due South by Jay Semko, Jack Lenz and John McCarthy, called Victoria’s Secret always proved quite emotive, the singer Sarah McLachlan featured often. Her hit Possession from the album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, proved to be rather emotive. The re-runs of Due South on TV coincided with my Nana’s death and my super dog Pup’s passing away too.

memories trapped in time; the night is my companion, and solitude my guide; would I spend forever here and not be satisfied?
Sarah McLachlan, Possession

Manchester has a rich music history, with bands from Herman’s Hermits, to Joy Division, Doves and Take That all amongst the star names. There have been many songs written in this city of mine, that I call home. My first real taste of Mancunian music was the band Sub Sub, who would go on to form a band that I loved and still do, Doves. If there ain’t no love, then what’s the use? Another great lyricist was busker-pop Badly Drawn Boy, who I couldn’t draw even if I tried my best. I grew up on an odd collection of music in Wheatus, Lighning Seeds, Super Furry Animals, Queen, Oasis, Tears for Fears, the Fraggle Rock soundtrack and Thunderbirds. On exiting vinyl, my first CD was Kaleef’s Golden Brown. The five track CD featured 4 reworkings, of effectively a reworking of Golden Brown, originally sang by The Stranglers. I wonder what ever happened to that Rochdale-based hip hop rap crew.

Ipso facto; Using up your oxygen; You know I’m shallow; Calling out for extra help
Badly Drawn Boy, Something to Talk About

Not too long after before first CD, I entered the Now music series with Now That’s What I Call Music! 32. Tina Turner’s Goldeneye, U2’s Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me and Heaven for Everyone by Queen won my ears over. Besides it featured Roll With It by Oasis. It was the law to own it. The second cassette featured Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio, with L.V. and Renegade Master by Wildchild. 1995’s finest music was all in one place. I wouldn’t lie to you, and that’s the truth!

Going back to caveman Weinstein, it’s a man’s, man’s man’s world, and a Best of James Brown CD was my second purchase. Every lyric he spoke or sang was like poetry and my attraction to blues was swung over following an evening watching cult movie The Blues Brother on TV with my mum.

The Nine Inch Nails and Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt stings the ears with painful lyrics, wrapped in suffering and seemingly lonely. Void of life, yet full of vim.

And you could have it all; My empire of dirt; I will let you down; I will make you hurt
Johnny Cash – Hurt

That song Hurt reminded me of perhaps one of the saddest songs ever, The Cat’s In The Cradle by Harry Chapin. In some ways it is sadness, in other ways it is pure beauty. Like a good book, it slowly reveals a story and finishes with a clear plot.

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me; He’d grown up just like me; My boy was just like me.
Harry Chapin – Cat’s In The Cradle

And what is the ultimate song? For me it isn’t what has been written or has remained unwritten. It is the moments and connection from songs to life. Some Cities, an album by Doves reminds me of my university days. We can only listen to music right here, right now until we find a brighter day. The seeds of time won’t last forever – after all there is only one way of life, and that’s your own. You should throw your arms open wide because we’re gonna ride forever, or we’re gonna live forever. If I leave here tomorrow at least I still have my memories.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye