Fantasy and Illusion

Posted on 04/09/2021 By

Peter, Bob and Phil.

Three friends. Two civil engineers. One teddy bear lover. Peter, Bob, Phil.

As we left the busy A3 at the RHS Wisley junction, we immediately became aware of the volume of traffic heading into the gardens. The long patient queue of people at the entrance, including lots of young children, only added to the illusion that this was a good idea. A horticultural version of Brighton Beach on a Bank Holiday.

Add to that the fantasy that Bobby had only come to read a book in peaceful serenity. Something he never felt at Laurel Cottage. Or the intention of joining an Al-Anon Zoom meeting at lunchtime that required complete privacy.

May we assure you that it is not an illusion. Wisley Gardens are big enough with a mass of diversity to easily satisfy these aims. You just need a little experience of where to go in the appropriate season. In spring, Battleston Hill is a magnet for its wonderful collection of Magnolias and Camellias. In August, it is just a beautiful wood away from the main attractions.

He needed to read 120 pages of his impressive book “Wilding” so that he could give it to Andrew for his birthday on Saturday. And probably get it back for his own birthday in January! The Al-Anon meeting Zoomed from Islington was one and a half hours long, during which just two couples passed by.

A time in which that favourite term from the pandemic came into play. “You are muted, Bob!” The topic was “Fantasy and Illusion“. In Al-Anon terms imagining that if only people changed, you would be happy. “If you really loved me you would give up drinking.” Here is an Al-Anon take on the topic from their daily reader Courage to Change

Fantasy and Illusion: A page from the Al-Anon "Courage to Change".

People’s stories were remembered and shared. Once again, the true nature of kindred spirits wanting to help each other had come to the fore. Once again, you felt better for having been to a meeting. For us in the setting of a glorious woodland.

Back we went into the sunshine and the glorious gardens. Finding a peaceful seat, he read and read and read. Over 100 pages! The phone rang. It was our friend Anne…

“Something terrible has happened Bob.”

“Don’t tell me, Anne. Peter has died, hasn’t he.”


“Can I come round tonight for a chat?”

“Yes of course you can, Anne.”

Anne (holding Bertie) and Peter.

Anne and Peter at 31 Fournier Street, Spitalfields.

The illusion of paradise had suddenly slipped. And yet there were two hours to go before closing time. We walked and we walked deep in our thoughts. And then decided that we were still here, it was fact not illusion. It was acceptance. In memory of Peter we would share some glorious flowers with you. He, and his partner Anna, were here with us just a few weeks ago.

It is a sobering thought that we talked about future plans that day. Holidays; football; Christmas concerts; days out like Dunsborough Park; meeting the next time the London Transport Museum opened its brilliant Acton Depot. We talked with an air of immortality. How he loved the Brompton bike that had once been Diddley’s. Sold to him last summer and used all over London. Life was such fun. Especially with your loved one and friends.

Peter and Anna have had a lovely life together. It was cruelly cut short when they had so much to look forward to. But they had it together and nobody can take that away. Like the loyalty he showed towards his many friends.

He really was everyone’s idea of a good guy and he has played a big part (unwittingly) in the success of writing Mindfully Bertie. His unwavering support for the diversity of subjects we write about will not be forgotten. He and Bobby were kindred spirits in their love of life and the two ladies they shared it with. Here is one of his many comments on Mindfully Bertie:

“Great blog, Bob; I’m collecting your walks including this one.
The Snowdrops will have to be for next year, but when lockdown
lifts there lot’s of good walking in your patch for us Londoners.
Half an hour of Skylark song, Belted Galloways and Cotswold
Snowdrops (your handiwork?). All good stuff.”

Peter and Anna loved Kew Gardens near where they lived. As compensation, we offer you the glorious herbaceous border at Wisley. Not a fantasy, but a demonstration of just how beautiful the world can be. All you have to do is look. As Peter and Anna have always done.

An Herbaceous Tribute to Peter Sandwell

Fountain at Wisley.

Deep red Dahlias at Wisley.

Blaze of colourful flowers at Wisley.

Blaze of colourful flowers at Wisley.

Flowers aat Wisley Gardens.

Red Dahlia, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Dahlias, Wisley Gardens.

Dahlias, Wisley Gardens.

Fountain, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Flowers, Wisley Gardens.

Boardwalk, Wisley Gardens.

The Civil Engineers' Walking Club visit Diddley's Bench in 2018.

The Civil Engineers’ Walking Club visit Diddley’s Bench in 2018.

Peter, Bob and Phil, with an unknown person behind.

Peter, Bob and Phil. Nobody knows the bloke at the back…


“Appreciate what you have got while you have got it because it may not be here forever.”

These words were spoken by Meg McCubbin to her stepfather Chris Packham at the end of a new series on BBC2 “Chris and Meg’s Wild Summer”. Available on BBC iPlayer.

We follow the daily Skokholm Blog posted each day from Dream Island. On 29 August they posted the following:

Screen Print from the link above.

Dream Island” was the very first blog posted by Mindfully Bertie. We have been back there many times and only just recently decided that Bobby’s increasing fear of falling over had led to a decision not to go back. And there were Chris and Meg on the island with the Puffins. A pleasant jaunt around West Wales followed ending with them philosophising on a cliff top. Chris being quite depressed about the future, while Meg declared “appreciate what you have got while you have got it because it may not be here forever.”

Lighting a Candle for Diddley

Bertie on a hassock labelled "St Paul's".

Altar in St'Paul's Church - The Actors' Church.

We had intended lighting candles in St Martin-in-the-Fields but it was closed. So we walked to Covent Garden and went into St Paul’s for the first time. “The Actors’ Church”.

Peter also took an active part in suggesting stories and reminding us of numerous things including a different version of our motto …

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow a mystery
God gave us today. That’s why it’s called the present.

– – – – – – –


  1. Phil Barnett says:

    Wonderful words and pictures, and a reminder of a wonderful friend taken far too soon. Peter, we will miss you.

  2. Bertie says:


  3. David Cooper says:

    Many thanks Bob. All well said. I am thinking it would be good to raise a glass to Peter and John R.

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