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!