Wednesday 23 November 2011

Peter John Salkeld 1938-2011

Text of the short eulogy I gave at my father's funeral last week 

I am sure that many of us have been thinking about Peter over these past few days. I have been puzzling over how to sum up a whole life into a few short words here today.  Foolish as it may be to meddle with the words of John Donne, I find myself indulging nonetheless.  He said, “No man is an island”. Quite true. Thinking about Peter’s life I see a wide archipelago – all the different interests, the connections, the friends and family, the many sides of his life. So it is a challenge now. What I thought I would do is highlight three things that Peter, during his life, has passed onto me, our family and friends. Three great gifts to us.

The first thing, which we may not fully appreciate standing here in the cold of mid November,  was a love of the outdoors.  But looking across this flat, windy, somewhat bleak Kent landscape, I can tell it is the sort of spot that Peter would have enjoyed. He loved the world’s wilder places – the mountains and hills, the coastlines, the moors and deep country. And he loved climbing, walking, canoeing and camping in them.  It was in the hills that he got to know Audrey and they enjoyed exploring the outdoors together.  It is hardly surprising that us three boys took on the same love – we grew up as much outside as in.

The second inheritance we have is that of hospitality. Many of our happiest memories have been after a great meal with family and friends, perhaps opening another bottle of wine, and putting the world to rights. Peter understood that hospitality is at the very heart of humanity. Over the years he welcomed guests to his table from France, Germany, Russia, America, Africa and Asia and many other places. He loved cooking feasts – sometimes with a theme, Roman or Medieval, others just a celebration of good food and company. Recently his roast dinners became a huge hit with the new generation of his grandchildren. The spirit of hospitality is one we are all determined to continue.

Lastly I want to pay tribute to Peter’s appetite for learning. He was not lucky enough to have enjoyed a long formal education. He had to leave school very young by today’s standards. But Peter cherished learning and understood that it is not limited to a certain stage of life. He read voraciously and continually.  No subject seemed too dense or too intimidating.  With only his own ambition for knowledge he was not constrained by subjects or disciplines. He was at home discussing politics with politicians, economics with economists, science with scientists and history with historians.  In recent months he decided that he didn’t know enough about quantum physics and theories of time. With the help of his new friend Amazon, he was getting stuck into some formidable tomes. I hope we all remember and take on that energy for ideas, those explorations in knowledge.

I am sure we could easily come up with another three gifts from Peter, and probably more again. I hope later on we can all talk about them.  Just now I want to say thank you to him for all that he passed on to us.