But age with his stealing steps Hath clawed me in his clutch

Dear Peter

So, you decided to leave us. The time had obviously come for you to go. Always contrary, sometimes annoying as big brothers can be, you were also a kind and loving person in your own way.

You didn’t have an easy start, being born with a hole in the heart, and were operated on in a pioneering operation for the time by surgeons at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, going back for years after for them to monitor your progress. No wonder you didn’t like visiting the doctor.

I must have come as a shock to your world, having been the youngest in the family for a long time, but you took it upon yourself to look after me and protect me, often in very subtle ways. You were the first boy to get sent home from your school for having your hair too long (it touched the top of your shirt collar). You chose to learn Russian at school, but dropped out before the final year. You read Jung and Freud for fun when in your early twenties. You wrote poetry, becoming obsessed with the great Finnish epic, The Kalevala. You guided – or misguided – my taste in music like so many other older brothers, who think they know what is best. And so I don’t like Bowie.

Aged 5, first day at primary school

You painted and made your own paints, spending hour studying pigments and finding the ingredients. You loved puns and silly plays on words – feels odd not to email you today and wish you Hoppy Burpday (for 9th March is your birthday). Like me you hated participating in any sport, and also never learned to drive (though I think you could ride a bicycle?). But you had a life-long love of speedway, taking your sons to watch in later years.

You helped me in lots of quiet, funny ways when I was little, helping me with writing the letter ‘w’ (not sure why that was a problem) and teaching me to say ‘plastic’ instead of ‘plac-sit’ (the first I remember, the second is what I was told). We held similar views of Copenhagen, both of us having lived there, but you never visited our father’s home country, Poland, so we couldn’t share our thoughts on that land.

But most of all, I thank you for the kindness and generosity of spirit you showed our mother in her last days, something I will never forget. As a friend wrote in his email to me “I’m sure that he was not always the easiest brother, and certainly not the most conventional one, but for my times with him he had gentleness, kindliness and sincerity that is all too rare”.

Goodbye Peter….you will be missed.

Peter 09.03.48 – 07.03.20

Explanation of featured image at the top of the post: Peter loved cacti and succulents, and had a large collection. He also continued to have a life long love of things Finnish, hence the Iitala candle holder.

The title of the post comes from Hamlet, Act 5, scene 1 and is part of the conversation between the grave diggers. Why? Well, Peter wrote a long essay at school once dissecting this dialogue in a piece of homework on Hamlet. I have no idea why I remember this! Apparently, the teacher was most amused.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com

12 Comments

      1. You have some wonderful memories with and about your brother to cherish. I think you have written so well about him and I feel I know him, just a little bit. I’m very sorry to read that he has gone. Sending warm thoughts.

  1. What a lovely tribute to your brother. I’m sorry to hear of your loss, but your memories of him will keep him in your heart. I often find myself thinking of my brother who died 7 years ago – just the other day I heard a Donald Duck cartoon which made me smile as my brother could imitate DD so well. It’s the little things. ((hugs)) 🤗

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