Today, 7 February, would have been Ian Berry’s ninetieth birthday. Ian, who died last September, was a good friend for more than 40 years.
We met at Hillbridge Farm on Dartmoor in the early 1970s when Ian with his wife Paddy (as I have always known her, though she is really Janet) and their boys Howard and Julian visited for family holidays and I was there riding. Paddy had known Dee Ivey, who owned Hillbridge, from their days in Buckinghamshire, so the connections ran deep. We had a lot of fun together, and one day, to give Dee a break from us all, the Berry family invited me on a day out to Trebarwith Strand, near Bude, for a swim.
Ian was one of the kindest and most considerate people I have ever known. When we were at Hillbridge he was always willing to help out, quietly getting on with washing dishes and other chores while the rest of us were outside, doing things with ponies. He was invariably cheerful, selfless and interested in others, with a twinkling sense of fun. He was also practical. It was Ian who patiently spent ages with a spirit level to ensure all the tables were steady for my birthday party on the rough ground of the paddock.
Ironically, as so often happens I learnt much about Ian at this funeral. This was at the peaceful Barton Glebe woodland burial ground near Cambridge last October. His sister Rowena spoke of their Yorkshire upbringing and surprised me when she said that Ian lost his temper when his brother Tony bowled him out or beat him at chess. I had never known Ian show anger.
Howard and Julian, in a conversation, presented some thoughtful and amusing reflections on their father. After qualifying as a chartered architect, a vocation which combined art and science, Ian moved to London. It was there, while he was studying and teaching philosophy at evening classes, that he met Paddy. They were married in 1960 and moved to Harrow. Ian spent his whole 40-year career with the same company of architects; he liked his routines and for things to be organised and predictable. He hated putting anyone to trouble: his former secretary told how he never answered the phone until he had picked up a pencil because he didn’t want to keep the caller waiting once the conversation had started.
Although Ian was virtually blind in one eye and had suffered from cancer and double pneumonia, he never complained and didn’t let such disabilities slow him down. When he retired, they moved to the Chilterns where they enjoyed their passions for walking, the natural world and the countryside. Ian loved poring over Ordnance Survey maps to plan an interesting hike and it was a bitter disappointment to him when he was no longer able to walk or mow the lawn. Howard and Julian concluded: ‘He was a contented man with a positive outlook on life—never greedy, not ambitious not demanding—yet making a gentle but lasting impression on most people he met’.
He certainly made a lasting impression on me. If only there were more Ians in this world—it would be a much more agreeable place.