I would reply to e-mails on John’s behalf because his computer is only used for card games and indignant letters to newspapers; on my contact list Peter was listed as The Sis, and when he e-mailed John he would sign his messages as TTG.
This good natured banter kept their brotherly relationship warm and often on the edge of laughter, and it was a very sad time for John when his brother died. He had intended to make the long journey to visit him but we heard how ill he was, and hesitated too long.
We attended the funeral in Southwold, Suffolk, where the family foregathered the night before at their beach hut and lit Chinese lanterns in his memory. As the delicate, glowing paper boxes drifted up into the night autumn sky many stories were told about his life, his quirks, his humour – it was a healing time for all.
The following day at the funeral various tributes were read out, including John who gave a very moving account of his much loved brother, with anecdotes of their incomprehensible language and their Tough-Guy-Sis mantras. It was strange yet comforting to hear the sound of laughter among the formerly subdued congregation who had come to say goodbye. Peter’s children, John’s nephews and nieces, told him later that he had made their father live briefly for them again. These are the final paragraphs of John’s speech, which was given at the lectern of St Margaret’s Church in Reydon:
“Just once in my life, as a spoilt, petulant schoolboy who was furious at not being allowed his own way by his elder brother, I played a dirty trick on Peter, inserting a pin into one tyre of his bicycle. Our maid – a buxom, earnest Irish lady called May East (who had nothing whatever in common, I might add, with Mae West) saw me lurking near Peter’s bike and accused me of plotting mischief – which I hotly denied, as schoolboys do. Later on she told me suspiciously that Peter had found that he had a flat tyre and had been in trouble for being late for school.
These childhood memories stay with us for the rest of our lives, and in recent years it has bothered me that I never confessed to Peter and apologised. Believe it or not, this troubled me so much in recent times that I was determined to confess to Peter this September when my partner Caroline and I hoped to visit Peter and Eva. So what can I do now except to say –
Peter, I’m truly sorry; and as part of that final confession may I add that you, Peter, are and really always were the real Tough Guy. Right now it will probably be obvious to everyone present that I am indeed “The Sis”.”
Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's non-digital archive
Some more images of Bristol