Name from dataset fieldkey 'contributor'
Knowing Peter enormously enhanced all our lives. Thanks to Peter for that. As we remember him, I think he’d be happy for us to be “lost in wonder love and praise”. But who could possibly describe Peter?
Peter himself tried by writing and publishing his own life story - and he chose a title - Always up to Something - which could easily be his epitaph.
Life in style
There are many colourful adjectives in the English Language and pretty much all of them could be applied to Peter. We could start with “unforgettable, inimitable, extraordinary, stimulating, and surprising”. He had his own way of doing pretty much everything – from his eye-catching dress sense to his generous hospitality and his deliciously cooked dinners.
He was determined to live life to the full and the rest of us were welcome to come along for the ride. In some ways Peter had child-like quality - often rather like a misbehaving, mischievous schoolboy… and like the Fool in King Lear he was good at defying dull conventions. If you try the thought experiment of visualising Peter in heaven, you might first guess at how he could be dressed and then you might guess at what helpful advice he could be giving God about how to run a better universe. But above all to me Peter was primarily a faithful friend - completely reliable in good times - and even more so in times of trouble.
I first met Peter at Oxford in 1968 when we were given rooms next to each other in Merton. Peter was soon famous, or notorious, mainly for filling his rooms with mole skulls and for his frequent altercations with the bemused authorities, like the day he managed to get himself arrested at a demonstration against Enoch Powell.
LSD and letter to dad
As you will know from Peter’s autobiography, like many of our generation, he had a problematic relationship with his father. I don’t think I helped with this. One night at Oxford we were following the advice of Aldous Huxley and trying to open wide our sensory doors of perception - and to commune with the cosmos with the help of LSD. We were lying on our backs in the open air staring up at the starry, starry night. Peter decided he should write to his father explaining all the mistakes that his father had made as a parent. He wrote the letter in suitably acid prose, and we posted it before dawn. Sadly, but foreseeably, his father responded by cutting off his financial support and distancing their relationship for years to come.
After University Peter, Vince, Liz and I formed a sort of hippie commune. It was also a sort of business enterprise - with possibly one of the most ambitious and unrealistic of all business plans. We called ourselves “Absolutely Anything” and promised to do absolutely anything for absolutely anybody. One idea was that there should be no distinction between work and play. Peter being multitalented was able to use much of his skill set: renovating houses - designing and building furniture -buying and selling Afghan coats, running a mobile disco and a newspaper.
Peter also found a suitably Hippie van and we went on a magical mystery tour to the second ever Glastonbury. I remember that somehow, Peter managed to create a fireball inside our tent… but that is yet another story.
Later Peter decided to take up law. As usual Peter’s law career as a barrister followed a unique path. He had to go before a panel judging his worthiness for the highly respectable UK bar and he was asked if he was sorry for criminal record from his arrest at the demo. As you might guess, Peter said no – he was proud of it. At least he did not show them where he had a green lizard tattoo. He finally found his perfect niche when he decided to act as an advocate for autistic children before the Special Needs Educational Tribunal.
Peter was always wonderful with children. He shared their sense of fun and adventure and always gave them a good time. Many children including my own profited from his imaginatively planned holidays - like a week kayaking down the Wye and so many cultural treats.
And as for Anne…
In Anne Peter found the perfect person to share his life. She complemented him in so many ways. Kind, gentle, patient - with a quiet strength of character and integrity. Some couples seem like the perfect pair who reinforce each other and live a symbiotic existence which generates light and warmth for all their friends. Peter and Anne are like that.
And so to death, the event horizon which some see as a black hole. Peter approached death with his characteristically unpredictable style. He did not suffer in silence. Being trained in medicine, he was vividly aware of the problems of the struggling health service, but by being open and honest about his illness, treatment, and reactions, he also helped us all to share his experience of facing life’s greatest challenge.
Peter was rewarded with a good and peaceful death - at home with friends around him on his last day - and finally slipping away peacefully with Anne at his side.
In 1968 Peter and I believed that the world needed much more Peace and Love. He lived his life true to those values. Peter is now at Peace - and all that really matters now is that we remember him with Love.
Name from dataset fieldkey 'contributor'
I first heard Peter quite a long time before I actually met him. I lived in Grove Hill Road at the time and we often ate at the Greek restaurant at the bottom of Camberwell Grove to find Peter already dining there entertaining his friends too.
But I really got to know him when I moved into part of a rather elegant house in Queens Road. By then it was known that the Labour Council together with the Tory GLC were eager to demolish most of the North side of Peckham High Street to build a new Town Hall and a six lane dual carriageway right through the place. The Peckham Action Group was formed to publicise the plans and make people aware of what their effect would be.
We took over a row of four empty shop units at 2-8 Peckham High Street. It was there that Peter turned up with the most enormous paint tray, roller and white emulsion. In an afternoon or two, Peter soon had the place glistening.
When demolition contractors started to knock down a terrace of two storey cottages at Sumner Avenue, a handful of Action Group members decided to occupy the cottages, even though the roofs had been stripped of their tiles and windows removed.
I visited after work next day to find Peter sitting astride the rafters of one of the houses, singlehandedly nailing a huge polythene sheet – probably obtained from Whitten’s (who at Canal Head were going to be badly affected by having to move to other premises).
I climbed up to help Peter to finish the job. We both knew what was needed and it was quite therapeutic working silently together to make one of the houses windproof and water tight. By the Sunday evening, one cottage was secure, dry candlelit and warm from a wood fire. The following Monday the demolition contractors turned up to find half a dozen occupants in residence, one of them was Anne Clarke. They soon left as they were unable to continue to demolish an occupied site.
In January 1979 we organised a protest march from the Elephant to Peckham. It was led by a huge hardboard white elephant on one of Whitten’s lorries and almost every known local pressure group in Southwark and many from Lambeth and Lewisham turned out. Peter booked two new punk bands to play at the rally to be held on the then open area between the High Street and the Camden Estate. The day was so cold that the rally was almost frozen off but the local vicar organised a stand in.
Peter’s organisational skills are well known. I’m trying not to mention cooking as everyone will have their own favourite story. But he was an extraordinarily generous man too. In 2001, he and Anne took myself and Holly on a Millennium tour of Britain in what Holly, aged nearly 10, called the ‘Bibbybus’. We travelled from Newcastle to Lands End exploring all the new millennium projects, buildings and exhibitions along the way.
After we moved to Yorkshire, Ros was ill in hospital for a while and Peter and Anne came to visit her. Peter decided Ros didn’t have enough smoked salmon in her diet and a few days later a packet of smoked salmon duly arrived in the post addressed only to her.
Here is a man who made his own bath, decided to live without stair handrails, made beautiful furniture, married Anne and together they loved to cook and entertain. I am sure we will hear many favourite stories and reminiscences throughout the afternoon.
Farewell dear Peter. We all love you dearly.