Street Life and Death

12.00 on a Saturday morning is a good time to go to a pub. Not for a session  but for a quiet pint. The pub  will be clean, empty and silent. So I went with my favourite Guardian Book Reviews.

Someone had got to the Bricklayers  Arms bef ore me. An old chap  I knew his face. He was talking to the manageress who has been working in Putney bars for thirty years and frankly hasn’t aged a day.

They are talking about someone I know. Andrew Pateron(1932-2015) a  neighbour  who died t wo weeks ago, So I joined the conversation. I knew Andrew who was  unmarried and totally associated with the London Rowing Club one of the grand rowing clubs on the nearby Putney  riverside.

I knew Andrew had used this pub , I had met him there. But this Saturday meet was  something special. Five guys all in their eighties  all veterans of the LRC would meet there every Saturday morning. Except when it was crowded  because Fulham were playing at home. It was when Andrew didn’t turn up two weeks ago that alarm bells started to ring. And his cold  body was found. He had been dead two days.

Only days before he had been seen as he was most days walking down our road along the front to his rowing club which of course had a bar and was close to the nearest  supermarket. Often he wore his distinctive, traditional   blue and white stripped LRC cap.

I got talking to them. Andrew I knew spent  a few weeks every year in the same hotel in Austria. Apparently he had got to know the area and a certain family when as a National Service man he had been stationed there in the early 50s. The man telling me this   had done his National Service in the Army of Occupation in Japan. Andrew had also spent time at

Andrew  was never married but his family told of a girlfriend who got fed up with waiting and married someone else . Educated at Winchester College  and  Cambridge. It was rowing for Pembroke College senior boat where he got his life time passion. Though it turned out he was  also fanatical about the golden age of film musicals, home movies and not a bad musician.

As a lieutenant doing his national service, between school and university, he had been stationed in Austria. Doing Modern Languages had taken him to Neuchâtel University in Switzerland. Every year  he spent several weeks at the same hotel in the Austrian Alps.

He came to the road because not only was he member of the LRC but his brother lived in nearby Deodar Road.

He had retired many year ago. His career  had taken in blue chip  marketing and advertising assignments and for many years running  a trade index for the  carpet and furniture trades. He also  ran the Thomas Martyns Foundation devoted to watermen’s charities. He was a Freeman of the City of London and a  member of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen..

When I came to the road he was running the neighbourhood watch scheme. His philosophy  was that keeping people informed about local crimes only worried them so best to keep the information to himself. Any way he didn’t have email .I suggested that I took over, he was only too happy.

For  many in our street his cheery chats  were one of our first introductions. Anyway the funeral was yesterday at the lovely All Saints, Fulham the historic summer chapel of the Bishops of London just over Putney Bridge. Its where Octavia  was  christened and Vivien  and I used to go to hear Father Ken preach. Very much his church where ,he would sit in the fourth row for Evensong.

But yesterday the delightful preacher led us through the remembrance of a man who spent his life in  traditional institutions  , Winchester and Pembroke Colleges, The Army, the major corporates, Rowing Clubs, the City’s Livery Societies. Henley. His favourite service was Evensong, only then he could  organise the highly successful  Sunday morning  rows for the LRC’s eight  Irregular Crews.

The over one hundred who were present at the funeral were a testament to the man’s loyalty and service to his community, sport and friendships. He was a godparent many times over. It was also typical of the man and his age that he as a lieutenant doing his National Service had struck up a good  relationship with his sergeant. The man sent his regrets which were read out that he could not be at the funeral.

One of the hymns we sung was Immortal invisble… which includes the classic line

We blossom we flourish like leaves on the tree,then wither and perish;but nought changes thee.

The family chose as its reading the verses from John which include the line “In my house there are many mansions.”. There are many houses in Festing Road. Number 39 will not be empty for long.

Meanwhile the flag outside the handsome LRC boathouse flies at half mast. One of its oarsmen is missing, known to have paid the ferryman to take him to the other side.




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One Response to Street Life and Death

  1. Nick Leslie says:

    Hughie…excellent. N

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