Remembering Neal Chubb
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st October, 2012
When Neal Chubb went out canvassing in Waltham Forest I often wondered what people who opened their doors made of him. The cravat must have been the first thing that caught their eye — even in Chingford golf clubs that is a rare piece of male apparel these days — but the accent was a little disconcerting too. Obviously East London and yet quite refined; certainly the phraseology was, however he pronounced it. There was a slight air of the bohemian who had fallen on hard times and bizarrely, as those of us who attended his funeral service at Chingford Old Church this afternoon discovered, that description really was him to a T. He was quite an accomplished artist, as the canvases that someone had thoughtfully displayed in the church bore testimony. And he was distinctly erudite (as well as a stickler for punctuation and grammar, as anyone who sat down with him to write a Focus leaflet soon discovered). But did any of us really know him? I certainly discovered a great deal about him that I didn’t know from the excellent and beautifully balanced eulogy at the service. That he was born in West Ham in 1944 to a mother who was almost immediately widowed when her husband was shot down over Germany. That she too died young, leaving Neal with a house. He got involved in local politics in Newham, getting elected as a Labour councillor, later switching to the SDP. Then suddenly he sold his house, to go to live the life of a liberated artist in Amsterdam. He had invested his money, but alas suffered direly as a result of Black Wednesday. Back in London, he was elected to Waltham Forest Council as a Liberal Democrat, representing Wood Street ward, before being declared bankrupt and literally disappearing. He was found some considerable time later in a hostel for the homeless in Victoria, saying his name was Tony and that he had absolutely no memory of who he really was. Friends and former political colleagues picked him up and got him placed in a tiny flat back in Walthamstow, where he grew plants in his bath and survived off very little food indeed. It was there that he was found dead this August, following treatmet for liver cancer. And Waltham Forest thereby lost a true eccentric, a character with a life that was in many ways tragic but which he made artistic, sardonically amusing, while never forgetting his love for the people of East London.