Friday, 3 February 2012

To Everything There Is A Season

Today was a really sad day for me, I went to the funeral of one of my oldest friends, he was a consultant anaesthetist and I have known him for over 30 years.  He was a wicked friend... I am sure that he chose the music for the funeral as it started at the Crem with Bach's Air on a G string.  I am secretly hoping that someone hid a pack of Hamlet cigars under the Fedora hat on his coffin.
Here is part of a letter I wrote to his daughter:

I first met him properly at The London Hospital, initially working behind a number of bars for the weekly Wednesday night grope fests known as College Hall discos when your dad would amaze people with the number of plastic beer glasses he could collect, creating Whitechapel’s very own leaning towers of plastic.  However, his greatest feat at that time was managing The Hostel Bar.  This illegal unlicensed bar ran in the Medical Students Hostel for twelve days over Christmas (to cover the Christmas review) and culminating in a last night on News Year’s Eve - the bar opened at 8.00 pm and closed at 8.00 am – Clint was the first person to ever run the bar at a profit which he claimed was solely due to his superior culinary skills with the cheese and ham toastie, served from 5.00 am, it was a masterpiece of taste.

When he left the London and I went off to UCH, I did not see him for many years until 1989, when I bumped into him in the Thomas Neale with Ian, we started to chat and when the pub closed, Ian promised he could get us all into The Feathers (another London Hospital establishment, infamous for the Feathers twitch when everyone’s head swivelled at 10.00pm to see which nurses had walked into the bar) but the bar was shut so everyone piled back to my flat and left at 4.00am.

About a week later there was a knock at my door and there stood Clint, “I couldn’t remember which no. was yours, but I remembered your name and checked the electoral role... got any coffee going?”  And thus began the second phase of your friendship and one of the happiest times of my life.  Clint lived with PJ in a block of flats just across from mine, and when he was studying for his final attempt at his Final Fellowship in Anaesthetics, I used to get calls, “I see the lights have just gone on in your flat, so I know you are in, got any gin?” or “I need a bit of your anatomy, can I borrow your foot, arm or neck?”  And over he would come, drink a G&T, drink even more coffee, sit and smoke on the balcony and we would both set the world to rights whilst watching the East End sky line.

His estimation went up immensely when one of the locals had a heart attack and was rushed into Newham Hospital, or ‘Nam as he referred to it.  Peter was indeed a walking heart attack, smoking, drinking and eating, he was lying on a trolley when Clint approached him, “I know you, you’re Clint... so you really are a proper doctor, I thought you were just one of the boys!”  At which point he arrested but  several weeks later he was back in the pub buying a pint for Clint.

I can remember a Sunday morning when you fell over and were taken to hospital... Clint was beside himself, “I don’t know what to do, I usually fix people... not sure I can do being a dad on the sideline.”  The one thing that I know is that he could never be a dad on the sidelines because he loved you so much and was inordinately proud of you.  I remember him ringing me up when you got your A level results, chuffed to be bits that you had got into Uni.  In fact when he came out to dinner with my sister and her husband, they reckon that he glowed when he spoke about you.

He was one of my oldest friends, I realise I have known him over 30 years, he was there to find out which surgeon had the best results with hip replacements when my mum had hers done, he was deemed to have a lovely bedside manner by my neighbour who he anaesthetised and he would even answer the phone to me at an ungodly hour and offered to come over when another friend had an asthma attack and would not go to hospital.  He was also the best kind of friend who did not need constant cultivation, it could be left a few weeks or months and still when the phone rang it would be as though we had only seen each other yesterday.

The last time we went out together, we went to the Jazz Club at the Mayflower and he was pretty poorly then.  For some reason there were very few people there and at the end just the two of us, so Digby Fairweather played his last number “for just you two kids!”  Hmmm... in your 50s that is kinda flattering I think.

As we walked very slowly back to my house, we discussed the fact that in all the time I have known Clint, we never kissed hello or goodbye... frankly, he was my mate and more like a brother which always confused people as they tended to assume that we were more than that.  When the taxi came to take him home, he kissed me goodbye and then said, with a glint in his eye, “Well that another good story ruined!”

I shall miss him dearly, the man who introduced me to Bombay Sapphire Gin, the joys of Ry Cooder, the thought that yes, dressing up is for grown ups, the wicked glint when playing cribbage, he proclaimed “And one his knob!”, one of the few people I know who could leapfrog a post box and one of the brightest, wittiest friends I shall ever have.

So can you now, pour yourselves a G&T and  as you listen to the Byrds, please raise your glasses to my friend Dr Clinton Buckoke, doctor, bon viveur and wit.  God bless!


Anonymous said...

You have to stop making me cry

Stocki said...

How lovely and how lucky to have known someone so wonderful...such friendships are precious and eternal.. hugs, Jill :)xxx

Jam Dalory said...

So sorry for your loss, he sounds like he was a great man and a wonderful character. Your letter is beautiful. x

Ali said...

What a wonderful letter full of incredible stories of friendship for Clint's daughter to be able to chuckle at and remember her Dad from another perspective. You have given her a great gift at a very difficult time.

My deepest sympathies to all of Clint's family, you and all of the friends he left behind.

Thank you for sharing just a small piece of this wonderful friendship with us.

Ali x

Sarah - Dragonfly-Jersey said...

Ros, what a wonderful letter, how lucky you both were to have such an enduring friendship. Huge hugs from Jersey, xx

Annie and Lyn said...

What a beautiful letter that benefits the recipient as well as the sender.

The amount of joy brought to our lives by someone special is equaled by the amount of sadness when they leave.

Wendy said...

Oh my word what a beautiful letter - as Ali says, you've given a real gift to his daughter with your memories x

The Seat Bottomer said...

A truly beautiful letter Ros. Memories like you have of someone so special must surely mean that Clint will always be around in spirit. My sympathy to all, it sounds like there will be a big hole left in a lot of peoples lives. Thanks for sharing. Kim xx


Oh Ros you made me cry - my brother always wore a fedora too takes special men to wear them and your post showed me how special he was xxxx

CarolC1 said...

I have put off making any coment here as I didn't know what to say or whether anything I did say would help so I will content myself with saying that time is a healer and you will never forget but will learn to live with. I feel sosad for you.

Finbar said...

I have just had a G&T, listened to The Byrds and thought of Clint. Your post was so poignant. I knew Clint as a young med student when I was a student nurse at The London. From reading your post, he seemed exactly as I knew him. He introduced me to Lennie Cohen - strummed a guitar and sang Suzanne. Very fond memories indeed.
I know not why I found your post when I did - I just know that I feel so deeply saddened to learn of his death - and so recently too. Clint was a good and special friend back then. I feel for his family, especially his daughter, and all who are missing him.
Thank you for making your personal letter public - a beautiful, intimate eulogy. God Bless Clint.

Anonymous said...

I work at Southend Hospital and only found out today about the loss of this great guy, though not having seen him for many years I have fond memories of us both in the long since gone smoking room there when I was a student on placement. To whom ever reads this I would like them to know of why I held him in such high esteem; it was his complete lack of ego and his willingness to talk to everyone as though they were his equal, he did indeed have an amazing bedside manner, and a way with people I only hope I can emulate... He will be much missed. Gary Woodward