Village History
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Peter Brook

Peter Brook

16th September 1943 – 29th November 2006

A memorial service was held for Peter on May 19th – a blustery day at the start of the wretched summer weather. Suitably, those who came ranged from villagers and fellow ex- cricketers from Steep to erstwhile BBC colleagues and Peter’s brother-in-law Simon Brett, broadcaster and writer of radio and TV comedies, who gave the main address.

In it, Simon chronicled Peter’s ‘global’ career, starting as a true son of East Meon – his parents were Geoff and Eileen Brook who ran a wonderful High Street general store in the days when we had as many as six shops in the village. Peter went to New Zealand in his twenties, visiting Eileen’s family and finding work where he could. His glorious voice and English accent found favour with local radio stations so that is where he got his first experience behind a microphone.

Peter decided to return home at a time when the New Zealand government was anxious to attract more residents and offered citizenship in return for completing a single form, so Peter became a Kiwi as well as a Brit. He came back to Hampshire, joined the BBC as a continuity announcer (the out-of-vision voice which takes viewers seamlessly from one programme to another), met Mirabel and married her. Simon told tales of the aplomb with which Peter would switch from snoozing or listening to cricket commentaries, to fully alert conduct of the broadcast omnibus even in times of crisis.

Peter and Mirabel moved to Lythe House and started a tripartite working pattern which would have left most of us gasping. They developed outhouses as luxury self-catering apartments (and later added the Martello tower further down the Buriton road) while Peter made a business out of his passion for wine by starting Hampshire Wine Shippers, a cornucopia of well-chosen French varieties which led to many an addiction among other villagers – ours was for Chateau Pierrail.

The Brooks earned a paragraph in the history books by being the first British couple to adopt three children, Alexi, Anton and Anna, direct from a Moscow orphanage. Their lives were heavily influenced by the needs of these three and when they decide to go to New Zealand it was partly to provide a liberal and caring environment for them. Peter and Mirabel bought a ‘batch’ – a plot of land near Havelock North in the Hawke’s Bay area. They then found a suitable house which was transported on low-loaders to Cape South. Another house was later added as part of a small colony of wonderful self-catering cottages – Tricia and I enjoyed a glorious stay there and unreservedly recommend it to other Limeys seeking a luxury break in New Zealand.

It was the worst possible blow for the family that they no sooner had Cape South in shape and visitors starting to arrive than Peter was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. He had superb care especially in the hospice in Havelock North to which donations at the Memorial Service were made. Peter and Mirabel came to Europe in September last year to meet friend and family in the near-certain knowledge that this would be Peter’s last visit and to visit their favourite holiday home in Cyprus. Peter said firmly that he also wanted to attend the 2012 Olympics …. an unquenchable spirit and a redoubtable son of East Meon.

Michael Blakstad