Friday, March 28, 2008


It wasn't easy to walk past his house without stopping to talk. At least chat. Local stuff. Neighbourly stuff. A bit of putting the world to rights. But not much. If you didn't want to stop or talk, it was easier to take a different route, past someone else's front gate.

When I was a lad, my father had a corner shop. People, mainly women, came in for the company. It wasn't the kind of shop where the service was swift and efficient. Hygiene and accountancy were not high among my dad's priorities. You didn't get a receipt. There wasn't a till. Dad was as much a friend, counsellor, entertainer, as a shopkeeper. His customers were his captive audience. To work alongside him was a great laugh, but ours was not the kind of shop I would have visited as a customer.

To pass Jack's gate was to enter into a relationship with him; to know and be known. Like shopping in my dad's shop.

Jack would also have made a great country parson. He would have done supremely well what I could never do. Standing in one place, watching the world go by, passing the time of day with villagers and visitors alike. I wasn't good at it. I was always friendly and affable, and ready to talk about everyday things. To men I could chat about sport, but cars and tractors and DIY left me cold. And always in the back of my mind I would be thinking of what I ought to have been doing that would have been more worthwhile, more like a proper job, more like work. I was paid to be the Vicar after all.

Jack would have taken all this in his stride. At least I think he would. What I don't know is how good he was at keeping confidences, or how much he just liked a good gossip. I've no doubt though he was a mine of personal information about the local populace, and people don't usually talk as freely to those they can't trust. He had his very own drop-in congregation, many of whom I never see now.

It was too cold in winter for Jack to take his stand, and that's why we didn't miss him for weeks after he died. In fact we didn't know he had died. Now we do, and our walk to the post-office will be more direct, but less of an event.

Jack RIP

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