Pete Hounsom. Died December 2013
by Geoff Piper
I met my mate Pete when we were both aged 5. My family had just moved to Cranbrook and I was a new boy at Cranbrook Primary School in Mrs Mac's class. We soon became friends and used to play together. Pete and I were two of four pupils who at the age of eleven passed the 11+ and moved on to Cranbrook School: the other two were Geoff Day and Tim Pavey (Pete's next door neighbour). In those days, Cranbrook was a school of 325 boys with intake at 11 years old,
Pete and I were very close at Cranbrook School and we laughed a lot – we shared the same sense of humour (!) and loved radio programmes like "the goons". Pete was very bright and was especially talented at languages. He was sporty too and was a very fast rugby centre: in his final year playing for the first XV and amazing everyone at his acceleration, speed and excellent fearless tackling. He was also an extremely good tennis player and finally became captain of school tennis. Pete was also very fond of music. When we were sixth formers he built a HiFi system with a very special record deck which nobody else was allowed to touch: he liked all sorts of music but jazz was his favourite. Pete was a talented pianist and I must have clocked up many hours listening to him playing at his house. When we went to parties (as you did!) if there was a piano Pete would home to it and I admired the way he would play cool jazz all evening (as long as we kept supplying a fresh pint when necessary). In our Upper Sixth form year Pete and I became even closer: as senior prefects we shared a study and always went there in the evenings approaching A levels to revise and study. It worked well though every now and then we had to have some jokes, maybe drawing pictures of fish and chips if we were hungry or making funny "goon voice" comments. Often after working we popped along to see our prefect friends in Cornwallis House for coffee, toast and a bit of folk-singing. In those days we had to take subsidiary subjects so Pete and I decided to have a go at the new subject which John Collier decided to teach: Russian. A factor which helped this decision was that there were to be two girls from the now extinct Lillesden School in Hawkhurst attending the classes. We both took part in the Sing Song (an annual pupils' revue) and we wrote sketches for it together giving us many laughs.
We both worked during hop-picking time and whilst I was out in the cold hop gardens picking the hops, Pete worked in a warm oast house at Hartley, usually overnight.
Pete went on to study French at Queen Mary's, London, where he gained an excellent degree. He didn't go on to use his French however but gained a job as junior manager at Avon Tyres in the west country. Pete mainly worked night shifts managing in the factory: his marriage sadly suffered as a result of this though later he happily re-married. After Avon Pete became a manager at the Mars factory near Slough and over this period unfortunately I saw little of him.
Sadly Pete's health started to deteriorate and when he was only 46 he had a kidney transplant. This was reasonably successful but he was never able to do as much as he had hoped after that and often became extremely tired.
I have not yet mentioned Pete's amazing mechanical ability: when we were at school he was a whiz at motorcycle mechanics and rebuilt several machines, though his beautiful BSA Gold Star became a bit of a joke as it remained in pieces for so many years while he ground, polished and re-polished valves etc. He used to ride a Norton Jubilee. Pete could just as easily have done Engineering as French and it was his ability to make and do things that gave him such pleasure in later life. He got the Gold Star together (and rode it) with many of his own modifications. At his home in Devises he made a fabulous and beautifully organised workshop with a security system which was simple and brilliant: another Pete invention. Pete was a perfectionist when it came to doing things and his woodworking skills matched his engineering skills.
Sadly Pete's replacement kidneys slowly deteriorated and in November 2013 he suffered a stroke followed soon afterwards by another whilst in hospital. He wasn't quite ready to go and I was pleased that several of his old friends were able to visit him in hospital before he peacefully passed away aged 66.
Thanks for all the fun and laughs Pete. You are missed.