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    September 7 to 15 Tony and Jo will visit us from the UK

    13-23 January, 2018 Cruise out of New York around the Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem

  • theatre and Concerrts

    July 1  Saw “Napoli, Brooklyn” by Meghan Kennedy at the Laura Pels Theatre. It is based upon a real-life disaster, the surprise staging of which, is mind shattering! However, the story line has a surfeit of themes added; religious brain-washing, the effect of a bullying husband and father and lesbian freedom. None of these is fully convincing in spite of the excellent acting of the cast.

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Peter

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.

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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.

    Love,
    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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