A man with a wicked sense of humour and love for music
Humour and music were high on the agenda of memories shared by friends and family of Uckfield man Peter Fordham whose funeral took place yesterday at Holy Cross Church.
His widow Sheila said jokes were a constant part of Peter’s life and remained funny because they were told by a man with a zest for life, a real gift for telling a story, and a gift for mimicry and acting.
Sheer, wonderful daftness
His friend Duncan Bennett, who said it was a privilege to have Peter working alongside him when he ran a music shop in Uckfield High Street, said they shared a love of humour and were regularly dissolving into fits of laughter. His memory was of “sheer wonderful daftness”.
Horace Trubridge worked with Peter at the musicians’ union in London and he too remembered Peter’s “wicked” sense of humour and many lovely moments chuckling with him over this and that in what used to be a smoking room.
Peter’s children though, as children are wont to do, would complain to their Mum that Peter was telling a story again that would go on for an hour and if they heard a bad joke they would say: “That’s the sort of joke Dad would tell.”
The funeral yesterday was conducted by Fr John Wall who said Holy Cross was Peter’s church, he played in the group Reflections and was a hugely valued part of the community. His death was an horrendous shock to all especially because he had got through the critical 48 hours after a stroke and everybody was breathing a sigh of relief when he went suddenly.
Peter’s love for music was recognised in choices played between memories shared yesterday. There was Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, Elgar’s Nimrod from Enigma Variations, Sandy Denny’s Who Knows How the Time Goes and Johnny Cash’s Meet Me in Heaven.
Horace Trubridge told how Peter’s encyclopaedic memory of musical performers was invaluable at the musicians’ union where he worked in the recording and broadcasting department.
Film, TV and advertising companies would want to use music but could not identify all the performers on a recording and would want the union to grant a licence.
The man who could name the performers was Peter. He would go into the middle distance, rub his chin, say “Let me think”, and in no time at all would reel off the names of players. “He was always right,” said Horace.
Sheila told how she and Peter met when they were delegates at a Labour Party branch committee. She said that was a suitable place for Peter to be as he was a lifelong socialist, a man with a passion for justice who wished to give a voice to those who didn’t have one.
He introduced her to his London, and she learned how music was part of him. To her knowledge there were only two genres he didn’t respond to. Indian riffs which he thought went on too long, and, for reasons she couldn’t fathom, brass band music.
She told how the couple’s first child Oliver needed life-saving surgery at the age of six weeks and it was then she could see Peter really lived up to his name, Peter the Rock.
Miraculously Oliver made a good recovery and over the next ten years was joined in the world by sisters Helen, Zoe and Emma.
Sheila said Peter was a “most wonderfully loving and indulgent father”.
Even after he was elected to serve on Barnet Council and many of his evenings were taken up with site visits and meetings, and then when they moved to Uckfield and he began commuting on the Uckfield Line, he still made time for his children.
He would come home every evening with sweets and was ready to read a bedtime story for anyone who was still awake.
He would also give up large chunks of his weekends to take the children to parks and zoos, summer fairs and Christmas bazaars. He also made time for each of them as an individual.
Sheila said Peter was a real part of the Uckfield community, a member of the church, the Labour Party and the wider community of the town. “He seemed to know everybody.”
She said he would pop out for a few minutes and return an hour or two later because he had stopped to chat with Johns, Margarets and Victors, a great long list of people. “Peter cared about people and that’s a very great gift,” she said.
His grandchildren brought him great pleasure and his love for family remained with him right to the end, even during the last hard week of his life, she said.
Sheila told how his grandchildren had visited him in hospital and one day Zoe had brought her baby Nova to see him and how her face lit up to see Peter. He held his left arm out to her while she leaned forward and took his finger. A beautiful smile on her face was mirrored on his.
Sheila said: “Many centuries ago a very wise man wrote about the three most important things in the world, faith, hope and love and insisted the greatest of them all was love.
“You only had to see Peter’s face at that moment to know he was right.”
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