Sad News

It is with great sadness that I report the loss of Julian Parke, JP. My best friend for 35 years, fellow paddler on both Gutless Kayaking trips, and amigo on countless other adventures. His funeral took place last week and I gave the tribute / eulogy. Some people asked for copies of it so here it is:

Hi, I’m Justin and I was introduced to Julian almost 35 years ago by our mutual friend Al Colston, when Al had invited us to join him on a road trip through France. By the end of this incident-filled trip we had become firm friends and I will be eternally grateful to Al for that introduction.

Julian was known by many names, to some he was Julian or Jules or daddy or uncle Julian, even uncle Hooligan. But I always knew him as JP. His full name was Julian Patrick James Parke, JP JP. And I remember when he was considering becoming a Justice of the Peace, so he could sign off his letters with JP JP JP.

In those early days JP started his career as an antique dealer and restorer in Bermondsey. I was always hugely envious of his woodworking skills and would often spend a day or two with him at work, trying to discover exactly how he was able to transform a few pieces of discarded timber in the corner of his workshop into a genuine antique Queen Anne chair.

Over the years we went on many hiking trips, often joined by Paul, his brother and my other good friend. On these trips I’d carefully design each days walking, ensuring we took the most interesting route to our destination. Invariably these plans came to nothing, especially in the early days before I had learnt to take into account JPs love of building dams. No stream would remain untouched by JPs damming expertise. JP fancied himself as Brunel while Paul I were his workers fulfilling his orders for rocks of a particular shape or size.

Our lives grew in very different directions but we never grew apart. JP became a loving husband and doting father. It was in later years that we decided to introduce an annual camping trip into our busy lives. By now, I had a huge range of state of the art camping gear at my disposal. JP on the other hand had a tent called the ‘Summertime’. The Summertime had been designed with favorable indoor weather conditions in mind and had seen better days. The slightest breeze would leave it flattened, and a couple of drips of rain would see the inhabitants getting soaked. But JP, never a great one for throwing things out, insisted on persevering with the Summertime. These were the only camping trips I’ve been on where I would pray for poor weather in the hope of seeing a disheveled JP appear in the morning, cursing the Summertime tent. JP, on the other hand, took on the challenge of proving that the Summertime was up to the job, and he would always emerge triumphant in the morning following a calm night and a peaceful sleep. It was typical of his sense of fun and humour that for the benefit of others he would repeatedly put himself through this pantomime.

One such camping trip ended with a classic piece of JP farce. It was Sunday afternoon and we had to pack up and leave. We carefully packed away the tents, clothes, cooking gear etc into our vehicles and said our goodbyes. It was at this point that JP announced that he’d lost his car keys. We searched the area and couldn’t find them, so we set about unpacking everything. We looked everywhere, inside and outside of the cars. After a couple of hours the sensible thing may have been to call Allison, who had a spare key, and ask her to drive the 3 hours or so to come and rescue us. But, this would have been admitting defeat, so we began discussions on dismantling the vehicles. Should we drain out the fuel first, in case the keys had somehow fallen into the fuel tank? Or simply start by stripping down the engines? After all it would be easy to put everything back together again after we’d found the keys, because, as usual with JP, there was plenty of gaffer tape on hand. But then JP had a stroke of genius. He sheepishly put his hand in his trouser pocket and pulled out the keys. Having wasted about 4 hours and now running late on a Sunday evening, if it had been anybody else, I would have had a chronic sense of humour failure. But seeing JPs funny half-smile always meant I was bound to forgive him, so we just laughed and drove home.

JP’s kids have since told me that that episode was ‘typical daddy’.

This absent mindedness goes back many years.

Before the age of mobile phones, arranging to meet up with JP required careful planning. He and his great friend Robert Bentham had once spent an entire evening at opposite ends of Shepherd’s Bush green trying and failing to meet up with each other.

At the time I was not entirely surprised to hear about this, so I would be as specific as possible with both of them when arranging meet ups. Shortly after the Shepherd’s Bush incident I had arranged to meet JP at Waterloo Station. This is a large station, and very easy to mislocate someone, especially JP if left to his own devices. So I gave him foolproof instructions as to what time and exactly where we would meet. I got there, waited a while and there was no sign of him. I went over and over the instructions in my head. I began to fear another Shepherd’s Bush debacle when I noticed a bench near our meeting point. Someone was sitting there reading a newspaper, with the paper held high, obscuring their face. It was a broadsheet with those big pages, but something didn’t look right about it. I moved slightly closer for a better look when I noticed that two tiny spy holes had been torn into the paper. I moved closer still and the paper started shaking, followed by fits of laughter. JP was in stitches as he recounted using his peep holes, to watch me getting increasingly agitated over the previous ten minutes.

In later years JP continued to struggle with his organizational skills, but he had no real need to improve them because Allison was so brilliant at all the practicalities. He did, however, call me a couple of weeks ago to tell me about a wonderful invention he’d discovered. ‘It’s this thing called a diary’ he told me, ‘I think I might try using one’.

One of the last things he said to me was that he couldn’t remember the past without Allison. I’ve wondered since if perhaps he was trying to say that he couldn’t imagine a future without her. He was heartbroken when Allison died. Theirs was a real love story, complete with tragic ending.

Now we have to try to imagine a future, without JP. There’s a huge void in his place. But when I look into this void I’m going to be reminded of everything he gave me. Thousands of happy memories, the fun the farce the mischief and the laughter, his unfailing good humour and kindness, and how he probably saved my life by rushing me to hospital when I had heart disease, and best of all his four amazing children, Louise, William, Patrick and Elizabeth, who he was so proud of and I’m so lucky to know.

I wanted to try to express how he made me feel when we were together. The best I could come up with is that if I was feeling down I’d come away feeling better. And that if I was in a really good mood I’d also come away feeling better.

I was hoping to be able to balance this account a bit, with details of some of his less loveable traits but I’ve had trouble finding anything. So, right now, I think his only fault was to leave behind four wonderful children, family and so many friends who loved him very very much.

JP was a massive success as a man,

he was my hero

and I idolized him.

JP is the person I hope to be when I grow up.

Please now join me in a round of applause for JP

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