On New Year’s Eve 2008, the wall was destroyed in a fire. ‘The climbing wall was the drawcard for visitors; the bar began losing money as the customers fell away.’ Clarke continued to live in Thailand as he was married to a Thai national. However, in 2009, Clarke was falsely arrested for trafficking conspiracy (a minor charge) and spent 13 months on remand at the infamous Bang Kwang prison in Bangkok.
The charges against him were eventually dropped, but legal fees had consumed the majority of his life savings. Clarke was released and placed in a detention centre for several weeks before being deported to New Zealand in 2010, with nothing but the clothes on his back and little funds.
Clarke has been living on the streets of Wellington for two years. Like some other Soup Kitchen guests, he spends his days drinking and doing the circuit of the social agencies which support Wellington’s marginalised communities.
Clarke recently completed a five-week residential detox programme, without touching a drop of alcohol, but within the first hour after completing the programme, he had his first drink in hand. When asked why he said:
‘I prefer the foggy haze of inebriation to the stark reality of sobriety. When drinking, I have nothing to worry about. After being released [from rehab] where else is there for me to go? What else is there for me to do? Nothing changes.’