I first met Peter in the “chateau” in 1977 or so. I was rehearsing a play with Alison Sandford and a few others there. This tall guy with a beard who appeared to be an inhabitant mocked us for our artistic pretensions. I hope I gave as good as I got.

A couple of years later Patrick Tyson-Cain was laying a hash from there one wet Saturday and the same guy with the same longitudinal excess started giving me hard time about the foolishness of running through the Brussels streets in the rain. I didn’t even know his name; and at that juncture wasn’t quite sure I wanted to!

Then he started appearing on the hash. I said - I thought you were resisting all this. He patted his incipient beer belly and said something like - Needs must when the devil drives.

I subsequently discovered, actually about 20 minutes ago, that he was being less than forthright with me. His motivation was more a case of “Cherchez la femme!” - and a particular “femme” who is sitting not 10 feet from me right now.

We became pals. I would meet him and others of a Friday evening in the Corkscrew, the then expatriate watering hole of choice. And one the great pleasures was how he and I - one an instinctive libertarian-Thatcherite and the other a Union man - could, with a little patience and clarity, make common ground. I greatly respected him for that.

We did a joint 40th birthday bash. He cut quite a dash in full fig, I remember. Somewhere there is a photo of us both looking intolerably pleased with ourselves, tolerably inebriated and, of course, poignantly youthful. 

He came to our wedding in South Wales. I have a memory of surveying the scene at about 10pm - people dancing, gossiping, carousing, drinking. And in the distance I could see Peter at the bar surrounded by a bunch of boyos in their sharply creased flannels and double-breasted rugby-club blazers. They appeared to be pressing drinks on him. The mystery was solved when later one of them came up to me and said - Yooah butt Peter, only the grrandson of the grreat Percy Coldrick - best hookah Wales evah ‘ad. Bliddy mahvelous! He then went off in a miasma of joy and alcohol to spread the intelligence.

Peter was, by common consent, the right person to be hashmeister. This he did for three decades by dint of judicious and masterly inactivity. He let the winds and the sails do the work and pushed the tiller a tad to port or starboard only when strictly necessary. I respected him for that too.

I was just so pleased that a few short weeks ago he was able to come into our house and meet Alex Cordier, ex-hasher visiting after a short 25-year stay in New Zealand. There was some trouble getting Peter into our lift - unexpected steps - so Rowena called for backup. A kindly neighbour helped and the situation was resolved. I was struck then, as I had been so often before, by the dignity, the forbearance, and the courage of both Peter and Rowena.

Going back to last November, I think, I had just done a short one-man show at the Studio. It was no longer physically possible to get Peter there so Rowena asked if I would do my schtick at their home. Their large front room was converted into a small theatre and about 20 people turned up. At the very end I plugged in a joke for Peter because he had always loved it, chuckled merrily at it, and asked me to repeat it over the years. I asked Jackie to be my feed-person and I’m asking her again to come up and do it one last time.

Me -Jackie, I want you to ask me what I do for a living, I’ll reply, and then ask me what the most difficult thing about it is. OK? Jackie - OK. Here we go. What do you do for a living? Me - I’m a stand up comedian. Jackie - What’s the most diff……. Me (interrupting) - Timing!

I forgot to clock Peter’s reaction so on the way home I asked her if he had smiled. She said he started smiling as soon as he saw where I was going.

And I was just so pleased to get a smile from him at a time when he really didn’t have that much to smile about.
Hugh Dow

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