I first met Peter during a Godelinde high-school camp. We slept in tents, Peter sharing with a fellow student, Eddy. Peter had brought along a self-made, very loud alarm which ran on batteries. We had a full schedule with several assignments and games. But there was also a free morning. This particular morning Peter switched on his alarm, hid it very well and left the campsite. The noise sent the rest of the group mad and they had to look for the damned alarm. My interest was aroused, who was this crazy, irritating boy.
We shared classes for two years. We had to write our reports of the chemistry experiments at home and hand them in at school. Peter and I made a sport of returning these reports in as funny a way as possible. At first we were careful and used a lot of wrapping paper and tape but we became cheekier. Peter once made a plaster cast of the report and returned it as a solid piece of plaster. Our teacher, Jaap Noordeloos, could appreciate the joke. After he had checked the report he returned it in a most original way; in a pipe-tobacco can – soldered shut.
At the Godelinde high school Peter started writing letters for Amnesty. He was interested in the charity but it was also a way to please our Dutch teacher, Rob Perrée. Peter kept on writing, not only for Amnesty. This is how he made contact with Mon Ling at the end of the 70’s. His dear wife with whom he had a good life. Peter often told me this. Also the last two years she took care of Peter in a wonderful way. Peter’s interest in language kept growing and he became a real purist. When I once used the Dutch word “uitnutten” he really laughed at me. For years I was teased with this word. English became his second native language. Look at his blog which he’s transformed into a true work of art.
Our great mutual hobby was automating a Märklin model railroad. Decorating it with little houses etc. wasn’t important at all. We tried to organize it so that several trains could travel without running into each other. This model railroad was in the attic of Peter’s parents’ house. We spent days soldering and programming. Now and then we had a break and walked Kevin, their dog, around the “Vesting wallen” and afterwards straight back to the attic to carry on. Sometimes we felt hungry in the middle of the night. We went downstairs, cooked some vegetables and had a late dinner. Vegetarian of course, he was that as long as I knew him, another of Peter’s ideals. His parents approved of all this, and always supported him in his adventures.
Cats were Peter’s big love, Tora was his favourite Tomcat. As a student I rented a room and had two cats. Peter and I thought of a plan to make a real cat tree. A tree-trunk with bark to sharpen their nails on. And with 2 levels where they could jump off and on. First we went to the woods during daytime to choose the right tree-trunk, but we didn’t dare bring it home during daylight. So we went back at night and once we managed to find it we had to work out how to get it home, we were on our bikes. Balanced on my carrier and on Peter’s handle-bars we cycled out of the woods, luckily without meeting any oncoming traffic or police! The next day we found we couldn’t get it up the stairs. After many attempts, each time sawing off another part, we managed to get it into my room. When it was finally finished the cats didn’t take any notice of it. If we put them on they just jumped off straight away ignoring it completely.
Another hobby of ours was music. Our idea of playing together, Peter on the guitar and I on the piano never happened, but we often went to concerts together. On Peter’s 23rd birthday we were in Rotterdam at the Pandora’s box festival, where we listened to The Durutti Column in the middle of the night. Another time we went to Paradiso to the Dutch Group WAT but this had more to do with the beautiful female lead singer than the music. We also developed an interest in classical Music. When I visited Peter in Prague we went to Mozart’s requiem. Peter also loved opera, especially Puccini’s Turandot.
Our deal was to try to see each other every week. This promise was hard to keep even before Peter went abroad. It would be just like him to call me just before our appointment to apologize for not being able to come because of a very important business meeting. Workaholic is an understatement, Peter wanted to reach the top, he was a perfectionist. He did reach the top literally, by climbing the Tatra mountain in the Czech Republic but more importantly by starting up his own company. Something he was very proud of, and he has every reason to be.
Also in sports Peter wanted to perform exceptionally. We played together in a table tennis team, also with his sister Marjolijn. But when he thought he didn’t perform to the maximum…, he just quit. The Japanese company in Amstelveen where he worked for a while organized an annual softball tournament. To do his best to prepare he invited me and also his parents to practice in the park on Sunday mornings. Later on we ended up playing snooker, I often had to seize the cue out of his hands before he had the chance to break it. I was too late for the golf clubs; he broke them on his knee out of pure frustration and anger after – according to him – a poor performance.
The last 2 years he was ill. Peter really had bad luck with his health, heart surgery in his late teens, skin disease (psoriasis), rheumatism and finally a brain tumor. In July this year we went together to France and Belgium for a long weekend, a wonderful trip. Peter had prepared every detail; he wanted to go to the swamps of Clairmarais and the North French coast. For the outward trip he had spotted a ship elevator at Fontinettes, a mighty piece of engineering. He got very angry with himself because he thought he had forgotten the charger for his film camera. It wasn’t until he was back home that he found it had been in his luggage after all. Luckily both our cameras worked properly and we took lots of pictures.We stayed in a very luxurious hotel in Boulogne sur Mer with jucuzzi, hammam and sauna. When we found out that the Hammam and sauna didn’t open until 2 pm Peter asked them to open them early next morning so we could use them even before breakfast. Always go for the maximum, that’s my boy.
The evening before his death, Mon Ling, his parents, Marjolijn, Gilbert and I were together with him. We had some Italian delicacies which Peter enjoyed very much. I went upstairs to get a knife for the cheese but Peter was already busy “cutting” it with a cocktail stick. When I gave him the knife he refused, he managed perfectly well with the stick. Pig-headed as always.
Last week I repaired his outdoor light. I had to smile to myself, thinking of Peter watching me struggling with screws he had fixed so tightly.
Peter made quite a fool of me with his speech at my wedding. I got his approval, even his mandate, to reply today. But I’m not the stand up comedian he was. I will miss my dearest friend tremendously but I will take an example from his love of life, his fun and his courage.