It’s a Swahili word – Milele (say it like me-lay-lay) and I’ve used it here as an allegory for life, love and death. The Circle of Life thing, because today’s the day we leave the original purpose of this blog behind us and start afresh in looking at the good times that are still with us, if only in memory – I’ve explained it in more detail HERE so let’s forge ahead now 🙂
On March 13th this year my husband Pete went on his last journey, so I’ve had to decide what to do with this blog that he left behind, pretty much unused because, really, he wasn’t one to read and write – he just loved living his life and meeting people. So that’s what I’m going to try and carry on, for old friends and new who might look in here sometimes to share a memory and a laugh because that’s what Pete liked doing most. But first I want to tell you a bit about Pete, especially if you never met him – so here’s what I and some friends said about him at his funeral…
I’m very grateful to Andy for remembering that Sean Connery had done the narrated version of In My Life that we’ve just heard. It fits. Everyone who knew Pete will know that he enjoyed travelling, meeting friends, old and new, and how much he loved to laugh and regale them with tall tales, and absurd anecdotes. Most of them were true… So you will know that today is going to reflect how Pete was, and look back, with fondness, on his favourite people, places, and activities, through the eyes of some of those who shared those experiences. It may be sad to say goodbye, but what memories he’s left us, so let’s all smile too, as we celebrate the times Pete’s had with us all over the years.
I’m good at writing and the words today are mine, but my voice isn’t up to much at the best of times, and so, Suzanne is going to share my final gift of words to Pete, with us…
In some ways Pete and Jan were chalk and cheese – Jan was the quiet one mostly, but that was OK because she loved listening to Pete. He was the one who did the patter. Jan remembered the punch-lines and fine detail for him. They were a good double act and propped each other up as they went through life, whether it was easy or hard.
There’s only Andy left now who remembers Pete’s schooldays, as they both attended Hyde Park Juniors. Pete never knew his father, but he had a very happy childhood with his Mum and Gran, elder brother Malcolm, and later, his best friend John Mavin, who was like a second brother and another son in the Hawke household. Money was always tight, but there was lots of laughter and fun going on, despite both Gran and Mum having serious long-term health problems. As there were 9 years between Pete and Malcolm, they often had a ‘sticky’ relationship – as a cheeky and talkative 5 year old Pete was not always a great companion for a moody teen… They grew on each other though, and when Pete and Jan married and moved up to Hertfordshire, they lived close to Malcolm and his wife, Janine, and socialised with them all the time. Pete and Malcolm worked for the same firm, and they both had a taste for real ale, so most of Pete’s downtime (when they weren’t saving for a house deposit) was spent searching out CAMRA-approved pubs, which luckily there were rather a lot of in the area… We mention this because the pub was really where Pete began his career as a travel agent, talking the other 3 Hawkes into increasingly ambitious holidays on the canals all over England, then further afield to Greece and Austria rather a lot, and, later in the 80s, when he and Jan embraced skiing, to winter breaks in France and Italy, as well as Austria and, in the summer, to Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
Here’s some memories of those times from Andy and Kathy Pope. Pete was a larger than life character, never afraid to state his opinion. He had a great memory – particularly for jokes which he would deliver with ease. He seemed to have a joke for every circumstance and we know for sure he would have found an appropriate one for this occasion.
Pete was a huge fan of Plymouth Argyle and would attend every home game including the Fans Fest, which preceded every match. Home Park won’t seem the same without him. He always complained that he had never seen the Greens win away, and it was poignant that he was able to see an away win against Exeter just a few weeks ago, on a day when he was struggling so much. Andy remembers being reunited with Pete, having gone to primary school with him, at an Argyle reserve match in the mid-60’s, when they both managed to get evicted from the ground (even though they swore they hadn’t done much wrong) and they’ve been good friends ever since.
Pete’s great love of planes became very useful for Andy and Kathy. Pete lived close to Gatwick (where he often spent the odd afternoon at the end of a runway, photographing aircraft) and he would always encourage Andy and Kathy to use that airport so they could visit them and leave their car outside Pete’s house. On one such holiday it happened that Pete and Jan were also away at the same time, but insisted that they still use their house, leave the car outside and Pete ordered them a taxi to the airport. Unbeknown to Andy and Kathy, the taxi was in fact a chauffeur driven limousine. This was typical of Pete’s sense of humour and they loved it. The chauffeur helped them out with their bags at the airport, making them feel like a million pounds in their tee-shirts and jeans.
They returned back from one holiday late in the afternoon on a beautiful summer’s day. Pete and Jan had recently returned from a shopping trip to France and Pete insisted that they all take advantage of the great weather and have a few beers on his front lawn prior to dinner. Pete had loads of boxes of French beer so it soon turned into a party. They were having a good time and the beer was flowing. Pete encouraged the neighbours, Robin and Carol to come and join them all. They too had been on the shopping trip to France and brought yet more boxes of beer. The evening wore on and the pile of empty beer bottles grew ever higher. Everyone was having a great time and dinner was eventually eaten late into the night. This impromptu event had been orchestrated by Pete beautifully.
There were so many relaxed evenings like that when Pete and Jan were living in Kent, because their closest neighbours all got on so well. They formed a notorious wining and dining set, known as the Greedy Pig club, with fancy dress theme nights and murder mysteries all accompanied by good food, wines and great company, culminating one year in a gigantic Christmas Dinner for 17 people in 4 stages and houses.
Going back slightly to the canals – those holidays began before Pete met Jan, but was such a favourite getaway, that every few years they were back on the canal network all over England and Wales, from Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Moors, the Black Country and Stratford-on-Avon, to the River Severn and the Chilterns, with so many other friends – John and Linda Mavin; Gillian and John Benewith, Dave Taskis; Alex and Jenny Bevan; and Steve and Maria Dove and their two boys. Too many stories to tell really, but the bathroom arrangements were always a fertile area for endless amusement with many variants on the Elsan system, and even an eccentric vacuum-based contraption called the Ball-head… Suffice it to say that this always provided a good excuse to factor in one or more pub visits every day so they could all make use of more normal facilities, and, of course, have a well-earned pint or three after a hard morning’s locking.
The ski-ing holidays too became the stuff of legend, often of legendary hangovers, when there was an Irish contingent involved in the apres-ski sessions, especially in Italy or Austria, over the New Year. Ski-ing was something that Pete fell heavily for, as he loved the whole winter climate of snow and mountains. He became quite a proficient skier on the most difficult runs and this also had him watching the scales, so he could make the most of the days on the slopes. Ski LIFTS were another rich vein of high adventure for Pete to tap into for hilarious stories in the evening – with vicious button lifts leaving him in danger of singing like a pre-pubescent choirboy, and evil T-bars that trapped buckles and drawstrings, or yanked you off your feet, or just dumped you unexpectedly in a snow bank.
Safaris came along at the end of the Eighties when Pete and Jan were both doing well in their careers and had several exciting and memorable visits to Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and, on his own, on travel agent trips to Uganda and South Africa. Being an excellent photographer, he really enjoyed the challenge of ‘shooting’ the wildlife and the spectacular landscapes. Pete and Jan built up a beautiful collection of albums from those trips. Camp life on safari was always fun with exotic barbecues and cold, cold beer – one favourite memory, after a rather disappointing stay at an under-funded resort with a dreadful kitchen and no showers, was staying at another camp where they had a game-hunting licence for the pot (no endangered species were taken). After a couple of days on corned beef and stringy, elderly chicken, there was a veritable feast of fried wildebeest liver with onions and mashed potatoes and, the next night, of curried warthog – Pete was in seventh heaven and had thirds and fourths of both meals, and wasn’t at all worried that the showers there were cold, gritty river water, as they at least worked.
And then there were the Disney years in Florida, California and at Disneyland Paris… this abiding passion of Pete’s went hand in glove with his time at the Kent travel agency, Travel Experience and Jan’s writing a dissertation on Disney culture in the US, Japan and France… But more on this from Dave, Pete’s bestest Disney buddy, after this short reading…
We watch the cooling sun low in the sky
and see the birds fly south in skeins
The leaves they glow in hues of warmth
and fall on furred, white frosty ground…
We gather our harvest of fruits and of nuts
and store the kindling for the long cold…
The woodsmoke rises thin in the dusk ,
our windows lit with candles and flames…
The door is opened as the day slips away,
as a welcome voice is heard close within…
Your eyes watch mine in the fire’s light
and speak of warmth far into the night…
by Jan Hawke
On Friday the 13th just 2 days after his Birthday, my best friend Peter, or Big Peter as I have always referred to him as… died. It was a great shock, and a part of me also died that day.
Both Peter and I worked in the travel business… and this is how we met! I can’t remember exactly when, but it was about 1992, we were both invited by Kuoni to go to India, to help us expand our knowledge!.. We met up as part of the group and hit it off straight away!… I still remember our trip to the Taj Mahal, but the thing Peter never forgave me for on that trip, and was mentioned almost every time we saw each other – I got friendly with a girl whose birthday was on the day we returned to the UK. As a surprise they upgraded her and a friend to travel back in business class – and she asked me! The story was, Peter said he never saw my ass move up the stairs to business class so fast – leaving the rest of the group to travel back in cattle class!
We kept in contact, and both entered the Kuoni Travel Agent of the Year contest…. We had lots of modules to do, and every other Monday we would ring each other with the answers… We both got through to the final 30, we went to London for the final which was a written exam! There were 10 places on the trip… and I sailed through, but Peter came in 11th… He was not a happy chappie!… So I went off to Gran Cayman without him! We were always doing competitions within the travel industry… and at the time there were not many men in travel, so we seemed to win quite a few trips!… We visited California, Jordan, the Far East and Africa just to name a few!
The place we both felt at home with the most, was Disneyland Paris… and over the years we lost count of how many times we visited… Every season, always for my birthday, and we were meant to be there for Peter’s this year, but we never made it… His favourite ride was the Tower of Terror, which he could not get me to go on! But at least we went on the new Ratatouille ride with Jan’s help!….. and loved the restaurant attached to the ride….
Looking back over Peters’ vast collection of photos on the computer with Jan last week, brought back wonderful memories… and things I had forgotten… Like waiting for a parade for 2 hours so Peter could get a better picture of one of the floats!!…. Great times!
We had even planned to go back to Disney in 2 years time for the 25th birthday…. we had been there for the 5th 10th 15th and 20th ones! Peter knew where we were going to stand to get the best photos of the Parade! So I will be there for the Silver Anniversary, with Jan, with him in our hearts!
Peter I shall miss you so much…..
When I am dead, cry for me a little,
think of me sometimes, but not too much.
It is not good for you to allow your thoughts to dwell too long upon the dead.
Think of me now and again as I was in life,
at some moment which is pleasant to recall, but not for too long.
Leave me in peace, as I shall too leave you in peace.
While you live, let your thoughts be with the living.
(Native American Ishi people of the Pacific Northwest)
And then the talking was over, so we left the last song to Pete’s fanfest buddies at Plymouth Argyle where he enjoyed many a scurrilous pre-match knees-up and this was one of the live skits he liked best so they sung us out of the chapel!
The three songs we had at our celebration of Pete’s life were –
The Lennon & McCartney song ~ In My Life orchestrated by George Martin & narrated by Sean Connery
Elton John’s original version of The Circle of Life
The Sensational Barnet Brothers’ version of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle
These are included in the slideshow attached to the above blog