It’ve been finding it rather hard of late to get the words together for a piece for Let’s go Ludlow, because generally I prattle on about stuff that’s been going on in my deli, or things that are related to my daily working life. But there has been no working life, not for some eight weeks now. Everything has changed, as well you all know.
Today I went into the shop (as I do every day — there’s always work to be done, even if I just make it up) and the market square had never felt emptier. Roger Farmer passed away this week, and with him went a considerable part of this place. I have only a handful of passions in my life; one of them being cricket, the other being delicious fruit ‘n’ veg. I would discuss those with Rog at length, literally on a daily basis for a good six years, up until a few months back when he started to reluctantly complain about a sore tummy. Then on Monday, he was gone. Towards the end of his treatment, when things were briefly looking up, I laughed with him how not even brutal chemotherapy could get rid of his shock of curly hair.
To those readers who don’t know Ludlow, or didn’t know Roger, or have never experienced what it is to live in a tight–knit community such as this; he was one of those singularly rare human beings who had the ability to make a place shine, and to make its heart beat.
Just a greengrocer perhaps, but a greengrocer who was the embodiment of a place and a way of life. For many of us here — and for the tourists who would normally be flocking at this time of year — shopping in Ludlow is more than just a function. It is more than the act of filling a bag and handing over some coins. This place thrives as a market town because of its market and shops, but essentially it has proper people. Characters, who are its very soul. Roger was one of them. The most charismatic of us all.
Ludlow market has been silent for weeks now; I would wager the longest in its nigh-on 900 year history. When Roger was there, silence wasn’t an option. Constant chatter from dawn ‘til dusk, often unintelligible to the untrained ear, and above all Rog’s laugh. A laugh as familiar to hundreds of us as the bells of St Laurence’s Church. Both silent now.
I’m glad that there probably won’t be much cricket this summer, because the thought of not being able to discuss the previous day’s play at Lord’s, Old Trafford, or Edgbaston (one of few places where he would allow himself a rare day off) with Roger, first thing in the morning, is too hard to bear. I’ll miss my friend terribly.
For Roger’s family, the emptiness of his loss, and not being able to give him the send off he deserves must be unimaginably painful. Ten short weeks ago I was making jokes about loo roll. Nothing seems that funny any more. Rog was funny, but he’s gone.
We’ll get back: my shop will open soon, so will Ludlow market, and life will return to the new normal. Good will come from this period, but there has been unfathomable sorrow for so many.
Farewell Roger Farmer. God speed, and may Ludlow flourish after all this. We owe it to you.