It shouldn’t happen to a gardener pt. 1

At the weekend en-route from the kitchen to the garden I was reminded by something on the radio about a bonkers thing that happened to me a couple of years ago.

joe-hayes_on the grass

About 9 am on a Saturday morning after dropping my son off at his music class in Peckham on my way to the supermarket, I walked past a well-dressed elderly chap (late 70’s) in a suit who looked a bit confused and a bit down on his luck. I stopped and asked the bloke was he okay. He told me he had just hitchhiked from Dartford after being chucked out of his flat and had been on the go since 6 am. He said he was on his way to a hostel and did I know where he could get the bus to Victoria. I did and walked him to the main road. This is where it gets mad…

He told me his name was Joe Hayes and was a famous footballer who played for Manchester City back in the day but had fallen on hard times after his wife died. I know nothing about football so it was lost on me but he said he played for city in the FA Cup in the 50’s and also played against the great Stanley Matthews. Most of his other contemporaries had since died and said his secret to him looking so young was he kept off the demon drink. He told me a lot of people back in Manchester thought he was dead and he was waiting on his monthly pension from Manchester City but they could only send it to a fixed address hence him looking for a hostel in Victoria. I felt sorry for the old boy and gave him his bus fare (£1.50) as I didn’t want to see him walking the few miles to Victoria. I stuck him on the bus and carried onto the supermarket.

When I got home I looked him up on the internet telling my wife about meeting a supposedly legendary football player saying wouldn’t it be funny if he really was Joe Hayes, he had died and I gave his ghost one pound fifty! Turns out he was an imposter and an early morning one at that! Here’s what I found out about him on the Manchester City fan site (there’s a few posts on him as he’s well known):

“Someone was passing himself off as Joe Hayes in London a few years ago. He conned quite a few people out of a few hundred pounds and was never caught. The police were informed but the story was kept out of the papers because of the distress it might cause his family.
The guy is a good con man – he knows far too much about Joe and sounded so believable that I ended up talking with some old players. One of them confirmed that he had visited Joe in hospital shortly before he died and had also been to his funeral.
There’s no doubt that Joe has died and that this man is a very convincing con artist”

Brilliant, so if you ever need a couple of quid, catch me on a Saturday morning, spin us a yarn about being a dead musician/sportsman and I’ll part with some cash!