• Upcoming trips

    13-23 January, 2018 Cruise out of New York around the Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem. Note : this trip has been cancelled altogether because of the damage caused by the hurricanes to the Caribbean islands.

    October 31st - 11 November. Caribbean cruise to break up the winter. Note: The itinerary has not yet been determined owing to the havoc wreaked by the hurricanes.
  • theatre and Concerrts

    October 8 Went to BAM, for the first time since Ethel died, to hear a wonderful modern opera composed and written by Matthew Aucoin called “Crossing”. It is based on Walt Whitman’s experience and the libretto is largely taken from his poetry.

    The story is multi-themed, as modern plays tend to be; the first is a harrowing anti war depiction of the suffering wounded seen through Whitman’s eyes when he volunteered as a nurse during the American civil war; the second is Slavery and its effect upon a run-away slave who fights on the Union side; the third is treachery portrayed by a guilt-laden deserter who spies for the South. And forth, inevitably these days, is the (entirely fictional) homosexual one.

    The powerful music fits the story perfectly and the voices of the lead singers and the chorus is magnificent; Rod Gilfry, bass-baritone, sings the part of Walt Whitman, Alexander Lewis plays John Wormley, the deserter, and Davone Tines, whose baritone reminded me, distinctly, of the sound of the legendary Paul Robeson.  Both Christine and I were extremely moved by the work. We newly discovered Walt Whitman’s poetry, too.

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The Passing of a lifetime friend 

Scan23000 miles away, while I was on my fishing trip, Peter died.

Jean, his widow, left the devastating message on my answering machine—It was the only thing she could do.


When first I listened to it, I  thought that the news was about a traveling acquaintance but with the realization that it was my Peter who had gone, the chemistry systems went into instant overload and I was reduced to a palpitating jelly. The whole range of emotions soared and waned with every remembrance that raced to my mind. It was not the same ‘utterly emptiness of life’ shock which the loss of a spouse brings about. I have experienced that and Jean must be feeling it terribly now. But complicated by thoughts of life’s lottery which allowed Peter and I to come out of the war more or less unscathed while thousands died around us. The lottery which allowed us to meet throughout 70 years or so without shaking hands—our friendship didn’t need a gesture to reinforce it. 

Of course, part of the emotional upheaval was due to thoughts of one’s own mortality. Peter was about two years older than I, and, as we aged, those two years seemed to become more and more significant for both of us. He was always a shining marker post ahead of me. And now he is gone. 

We first met at the recruiting office of the Territorial Army in 1939. I was a callow youth of 18 while Peter was a mature, well-traveled man of 20. (He had already been to France twice). I had joined up for the gung-ho feeling and he (Thinking man) was joining up in a non-combatant Corps so as to avoid being sent to an infantry regiment when the imminent general call-up came about. Here is an example in which, giving the lottery a nudge led to a very chancy result—but who knows what the alternative might have been? I was fascinated by his freedom of thought. He could question and talk about everything. Even subjects which were strictly taboo in my ‘King and Country’, working class upbringing. 

We went through the war together, mostly as P.O.W’s (There are references to him in my “P.O.W. Tales”) and afterwards we toured the south of England together, including Devonshire where Peter eventually chose to live with his family. He chose a career in academia and I became a civil servant. With the development of our careers and families, the distance between our places of living increased and, in 1964, I moved here to the USA. Nevertheless, we still took every opportunity we could to meet up and we had some very wonderful times in London, Staverton, Albufiera and the US over the years, sometimes with our families, sometimes, not. Our friendship was not the demonstrative sort, but rather the comfortable acceptance of each other’s make up– joys, regrets and all!

Jean, their sons Robbin and Mick and daughter Janet were all with him at the end. In this, his luck held out! I only wish I had been there too.


2 Responses

  1. Dear Ben,

    We are so sorry to hear of the loss of your dear friend. You have written a lovely tribute, allowing those of us who didn’t know Peter, a glimpse into this special man. Our condolences to you and his family.

    Bonnie & Nancy

  2. Bonnie and Nancy. Thank you for your kind message. I am glad that I am able, grace the Internet, to share such thoughts with my friends. Strangely, Peter, himself, never saw my web pages–he never owned a computer. I tried earlier to get him interested and explained how much we ancients missed in the way of comunicating and exchange of ideas, but he said he found the machine too daunting and was content with the pace of his life in sleepy Devon. I am all for the hustle and bustle of a New York kind of city. Love, Ben.

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