It was my friend Peter’s funeral yesterday and I couldn’t go because it was too far away. I went to church to say a prayer for him, dressed in a riot of colour – he was a very talented painter and lithographer and loved colour and disliked black.
What a life-liver and giver! We met in the same village in France, and quickly became friends with him and his wife Marion. My memory is full of laughter and dinners like the one in the high hills of a Provençal farm that took hours to find but was so delicious that I can still taste the paté, hams, sun dried tomatoes, melon (first course) roast rabbit with home-grown veg and a groaning cheeseboard of local produce. All served outside in the warmth of a Provençal evening. Just as we were getting ready to pay the bill, the farmer’s wife emerged with the largest apricot tart in creation. We groaned, but we ate.
Peter was also very serious about his work and produced some wonderful prints and paintings. His other great passion was his saxophone – he played in a band. He was also serious about everyone else’s work; no conversation would go by without him asking you how it was going. Quiet, determined encouragement, getting you to talk about your writing, painting or dancing. Yes you had to work to put bread on the table, but your real destiny was your art, so you’d better have something to show him, or talk about.
He was not a religious man but deeply philosophical, when bad stuff happened, he’d listen or tell you about it. Then shrug his shoulders with a grin, ‘what can you do?’ I’ve been smiling about him all day, remembering so many lovely times together. But I’ve also been neglecting my writing since I’ve been ill – I can see him raising his eyebrows and asking one of his, ‘so what’ve you been writing then?Better get on with it.’
He’s right. What can you do? Shrug and get back to work. I’m not allowed to drink with all the medication but I’m smiling as I think of him and raising a large glass of metaphorical rosé.