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February 8, 2006


Pete and I appreciate things that are made well from good materials; things that weather and patina; things that become slowly scratched and marred; things in which character is developed over time but which still work, and even work better; things that can be relied upon increasingly. In a nutshell, we like things that age well.

Pete is a master craftsman and an artist. He can make anything. I have learned so much from him. He works with his hands and his big heart. He is a carpenter now and he used to be a tree surgeon and a scuba instructor.

He is very humble. He walks in and looks at a job unlike anything he's done before and he just figures it out; no fuss. For example: a client wanted a bed for their kids, so he designed a frame with colorful cartoon-like jungle scenes on it, carved from wood. He drew the designs and made it. But if he stops to think about things, he's not sure that he can do it.

He used to keep snakes. They ran out of mice at the pet shop; they only had gerbils. He was about to feed the gerbil to his Indian Python when it looked up at him so sweetly that he had to take it back. His friend could get hold of spare lab rats; one arrived, in a box, while he was at work. He took this big rat out of the box and was holding it by its tail above the snake. The rat wrapped its body around his arm; squeamishly he dropped it and it ran under a heavy chest. He tried to poke it out with a broom handle but it wouldn't budge. He got his air-rifle; he figured it was going to die anyway. He was about to shoot when the power went out. He went and got a flashlight and finally the Python was fed.

He likes to wear combat trousers. He has a thing for combat trousers. He likes his partner and his daughter to wear combat trousers. He likes shoes; technical shoes; like walking shoes.

He likes hardware and tools. There's always a new delivery from the tools catalogue when I visit. On the side counter in the kitchen there might be a hundred Stanley knife blades or a hundred identical Philips driver bits; "I get through about one a week." he says. "You can pay five pounds for four or eight pounds for a hundred."

We built a brick wall together. I took breaks from designing chips to mix the mortar. I remember laughing so hard while doing that; I almost died. He used to do a lot of work at our house. I remember feeling so happy when he visited that I couldn't help myself from grinning; I tried to suppress my grin thinking that there was something wrong with me. You make me grin, Pete; it's a good thing.

He understands aesthetic: choice of colors, materials, proportions, relationships, space, and light. He is wise and frugal; able to think about value and cost; to make wise tradeoffs. He is trustworthy and honest; he watches his client's pennies even when they are not watching themselves.

He told me about making rockets in London in his late 'teens. They used to take everything but the motor out of the firework and then embellish it with fins and other accoutrements. "Kids don't do that any more; they're too busy with computer games." he said, an Xbox fanatic himself. He made the biggest and nicest rocket. Up there on a roof in central London he lit the fuse. It went upwards and then sideways and shot in through the open window of a hospital. "I bet they weren't expecting that." he said.

He makes things that last and he makes things that are beautiful. He knows about wood and grain; about opacity and fire; about rot and ventilation; about drainage and trueness.

He's been through some really hard times in his life. He's had some great losses. And now he has a wise and very sweet partner and a very special daughter. He is content. And when I've been going through the hardest times in my life, he's called me to check that I'm doing okay.

I didn't have much of a dad when I was a kid but now people are coming into my life to fill that space. Pete is one of those people. He is truly an outstanding man and an outstanding dad. I love you so much Pete. I hope that you live a long and very happy life.


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