Saturday 11 May 2013

Andrew "Spud" Hudson RIP

This week saw the funeral of one of Mill Hill's most colourful characters. Andrew "Spud" Hudson passed away aged 65 after an heroic struggle with cancer. I first got to know Spud in the 1970's when he started working for my dad's car repair business. My mother used to tell the story to demonstrate my fathers general lack of attention to detail, when she questioned his decision to take on the new member of staff. My mum queried his decision "Why have you employed a fitter who only has one arm?". My father replied "Don't be stupid" and went off to see Spud. When he then approached him and said "You'll never guess what, Celia thinks you only have one arm!". Spud showed my father his stump and, rather bemusedly said "I have".

As far as my father was concerned, there were more important things than whether people had the right amount of limbs. Spud could do the job and even more importantly, having lead a rich and colourful life, he had a rich supply of anecdotes. Spud had spent time giving her majesty pleasure and some of the stories were simply hilarious. My father had spent time in a prisoner of war camp and he found many of the stories Spud regaled us with rang very true. One of the most amusing was when he was assigned to a work party to sow mailbags. Having only one hand rendered this impossible, but rigid prison regulations meant he couldn't be reassigned. As a result he just had to sit in silence. He said that one of the prison wardens (screws) took pity on him and eventually transferred him to the farm. Spud knew all of the other locals who had spent time in such establishments. One particular character had been telling all and sundry how he'd been the equivalent of Harry Grout in porridge and how he'd had a cushy time. Spud retorted that "well if you like making tea for the screws I suppose that is OK". He also told us about when he became a Sikh whilst serving time, so he didn't have to get a prison haircut. I had assumed that he'd simply given it lip service, but was amazed when he gave me a full precis on the history of the religion and how in many ways it is the worlds most modern and reasonable religion. Spud was a very bright guy and extremely well read on a whole range of subjects. He also had a special and unique knowledge of some of the more nefarious things which happen in our society and some of the ways in which the powers that be keep us where they want us. In the late 1960's Spud wrote a book about some of his experience. There was a huge depth to the man that many people who didn't know him well would have missed.

Spud had a love of anything that makes a large bang. He lost his arm as a teenager when he was trying to make a bomb in the shed, with improvised home made explosives. I was told, although I have no idea whether it was true, that the hospital could have reattached his arm, but the family dog had got hold of it and wouldn't give it back. Spud was an accomplished marksman and won medals as a disabled athelete at European level.

One of the more amusing things, which perhaps illustrates how much life has changed and how much more prosperous we've become was Spuds court suit. Spud had invested in a very well tailored and good quality suit. He told us that if you looked respectable in court it would always work in your favour. Myself and many of my friends at the time were the same height and weight as Spud. We'd regularly borrow the "Court suit" for all manner of things. I personally wore the suit when being interviewed for my first proper job. I can remember seeing one of the other interviewees in a cheap, shabby, ill fitting suit and thinking "Job Done". I bought Spud a pint in thanks for the loan. In hindsight, that was the best investment I ever made.

Spud was someone who always had a solution if you had a problem. Many of my friends got jobs when desperate, as they'd bump into Spud and he'd say "You should have a word with ...... as he's looking for someone". He was very adept at fixing things. Rather coincidentally, on the day of his funeral, I had an Osteopaths appointment. As I was lying having my back cracked, my osteopath said "It's funny, I was thinking about your brother all morning". I enquired why. He said "Years ago my treatment bench broke. The manufacturer said they couldn't fix it. I phoned your brother (he's a welder) and asked if he could. He said that he'd send his friend around who had a portable welding outfit. When the guy turned up, he only had one arm, but he did a fantastic job". My osteopath was amazed when I said I was going to his funeral later.

Spuds funeral was packed and I saw many people I'd not seen for years, decades in some case. Spud was such a larger than life character that the chapel was packed. I don't think any of us could quite believe he'd really gone. A few weeks ago, his son Drew came into my shop. He said "Dad has had a terrible accident, he was cleaning his air rifle and he tripped and fell down the stairs, he shot himself in the head". I was worried and said "That's awful, how is he?" Drew replied "Oh he's fine, apart from the terminal cancer".

As Spud's coffin was lowered into the ground, there was a huge gust of wind, all of the trees in the cemetry shook violently. I thought that this was Spud telling us all that he was OK. Spud was never an angel, but I'm sure that he's up their with the angels now, keeping them all amused. Life in Mill Hill has become just a little bit less fun with his passing.

My sister Val posted a message on facebook saying " Rest in peace and pray the holy ghost isn't really a pigeon." That really summed Spud up. My thoughts and prayers  are with his wife Irene and four kids.

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