Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Joe Clarke RIP

Joe was one of the first people I met on the site when I first started my plot back in 1999. He was helping Alan, the elderly chairman of the committee, to try and discern where the boundary of my newly acquired plot might be. "It's over by the blackberry hedge" he was saying, waving in the general direction of a patch of brambles which stretched about ten feet wide the length of the plot. Or rather, he was saying "It's o-o-over by th-th-the b-b-blackberry hedge" (he had a stutter).

Not long after I'd taken on my tenancy he invited me over to his shed for a drink, where I was treated to his many long and rambling stories of when he worked on the farms. A couple of hours later saw me staggering away happily bladdered but not before Joe had told me, in all seriousness, that I now owed him four cans of Tenants. I found out later that most newcomers to the site were treated to this initiation.

Joe came up his plot most days on his bike and spent most of his time in his shed, drinking. Occasionally he would come out to sow a wonky row of peas or light a smoky bonfire, something he did most days. His plot was mostly down to peas which he sold to a mystery buyer on Harrison Street.

When he wasn't harassing his fellow plotholders he would ignore us for months at a time.

He had a highly strung dog called Jody who would try to bite passersby when she wasn't on a lead, which was most of the time.

He liked to go to the bookies and every week would put a bet on Derby County winning their match on the Saturday. He was not a wealthy man.

He was one of the old school of gardeners whose knowledge is (literally) dying out, and whose passing leaves the rest of us the poorer.

Joe died of lung cancer, aged 70. He was one of the most genuine people I've ever met. He was a pain in the arse but I'll miss him.

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