John Noonan

imagesWhere do all the guts and innards from sheep and cows and horses end up? Ever wonder that? No, not Safeway, although recently that would have been my first guess. John Noonan,  a company that was situated in the east end of Glasgow, was famous for one thing and one thing only, it’s stench! A stench that came from said innards!

Brian Freeman, a large, often lovable crook, sat behind his desk, windows open with the stench of animal innards wafting casually into his office, unabated. Brian was English and spoke with a kind of slur in his voice, even when sober. A chemist by profession, or so he said, he was the buyer at Noonan with whom my father had been dealing with for many years. Supplying plastic sheeting, bags and packing tape, the account was worth many thousands in profit and whenever asked to quote for something, there was always a bidding war between my dad’s company and one of his competitors, who slugged it out with Brian until the bitter end, carving each other up into little pieces, always to the detriment of each other and the sole benefit of Noonan and Brian’s bonus.

I was 11 the first time I was taken there. I had to wait in the car while my dad delivered something. He told me it would take 5 minutes, and 45 minutes later, with this horrible stench now seeping through our car windows and my stomach about to puke its contents onto the front seat, my dad returned, just in time to save the day. As I grew older, I became wary of anything he said that resembled even thinking about returning to that horrible place, so, you can imagine my shock, when, as a van boy, and now 14 years of age, John, the driver told me we were making a delivery to John Noonan that morning and collecting some faulty bags in return. My immediate thought was to run, my reaction obviously confirmed by the look of shock and dread written across my face.

“Dinnae worry, it’ll onnae tak a wee munit” said John, in his broad Glaswegian accent. John had been my boss all summer long. Wherever he went, I went. He loved Glasgow Rangers, as did I, so we got along just fine. He used to reminisce about all our victories and triumphs, as we drove round Glasgow every day. Collecting me from home at 7 am and then dropping me off at 6 pm, we put hundreds of miles on that van each week and lifted thousands of boxes. John was my introduction not only to flat sausage sandwiches from McGuire’s bakery where we’d make a scheduled stop every day around 11 am, a time which we called our elevenses, but also to heavy beer, a dark flat concoction, loved by most Scotsman. Only when he asked me to try my first pint, I was reluctant as any 14-year-old might have been and yet curious too. One sip of that crap however, put me off for life. I was lucky! Yes, he would drink and drive. A couple of pints around 1 pm with fish and chips accompanying the ‘heavy’ and we would be off once again, running round Glasgow and it’s suburbs making deliveries.

This particular day, on the way to Noonans with a huge consignment of cartons loaded neatly on the back of the truck, he asked me if I wanted to go into the factory and look around.

“It’s no as bad as it seems, ah promus” he offered, as he put pedal to the metal and we shot off, fully laden and headed for anything but paradise!

As we approached the gates, two tall green monstrosities, I could already smell that disgusting odor as it belched out into the grey Glasgow sky and breached my sensitive nostril passages. My stomach started to churn, my mind went into lock down and my face must have turned pure white.

“Dinnae puke up in ma van” said John, without one iota of compassion. The gates opened, and in we went. Brian Freeman was in the courtyard awaiting our arrival. This delivery was urgent, and so it was all hands on deck to offload it asap. Brian looked at me and then at John and said,

“You brought the wee fella with you then?”

“Aye, but he’s no gonnae last long”

Just as John said that, I puked all over Brian’s shoes, and half way up his trouser leg. All my elevenses came pouring out, and bit by bit, left a permanent stain on Brian’s suit. No one uttered a single word, and as if nothing had happened, Brian turned round to me and shouted,

“OK you got that out, now offload the fucking van!’

And I did. It took us half an hour, and while Brian was away changing his clothes or getting cleaned up, all the workers from Noonans we out there with John and I pissing themselves laughing at what I’d done. Some of them seemed quite pleased in fact, but none of them gave me peace and each one asked me, in turn, if I’d like to tour the inside of the plant, mask free! I told them no thanks, and with my stomach running on empty, we left, back to the warehouse to collect our next load, which, thankfully was not for Noonan!

Years after that experience, I used to call on Brian regularly, and each time I did, he told me I still owed him a new pair of shoes and new suit. He eventually got his revenge when he asked me and my father for a loan, some 15 years later, when he’d invented and patented this new idea which required financial backing. We agreed to give him the money, but we never saw a single penny repaid. Don’t know where he is now, don’t really care, but I can still smell that place and still turns my stomach every time I think back!

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