How long have you known Andy? A couple of years? 10 years maybe? 20?
I met Andy about 49 years ago, when we were both doing stop-gap jobs at Booths supermarket in Chorley - you know - the original one on Market Street. I have to say I didn't warm to him, with his long blond hair parted down the middle, grey overall which did nothing to flatter him, and reluctance to communicate. I just left him alone. He was however very good at recommending the best Beaujolais, Burgundy or Bordeaux to his little band of regular middle class Booths customers. Yes his department was wines and spirits!
Anyway, it came to pass that we began to find that on a Monday lunch time we were the only ones in the brew room, and a conversation was started. I began to develop a liking. And so, while enjoying a Golden Rail holiday in Cornwall with my Mum in 1975, I suddenly realised I missed Andy and sent him a postcard. As I didn't know where he lived, I had to send it to Booths. You can imagine the stick he got there! We were married in a very quiet manner in July 1977, and here we all are, 46 years, 3 children (Chris, Sally and Jonni) and 4 grandchildren (Tom, Lexi, William and Axel) later, remembering a life well spent with the wonderful man who was Andy Peers.
After leaving Booths, Andy worked as a Furnace Foreman at Coupe's foundry in Higher Walton, but in time the polluted air there was too much for his chest and he realised he needed to work more outdoors. Our doctor at the time was instrumental in getting him on a 6 months training course to learn Brickwork. He passed with flying colours. He had found his niche. His studies at Bolton Institute some years later earned him an HND qualification, though I remember he had to get special permission to complete his assignments with pen and paper as his typing skills were - well - dire!
We didn't have a lot of money, what with 3 children in 4 years, and only one income. For a while we were without a car and Andy would then cycle to work. My Mum would sometimes lend us her car. Once, though, we had an orange mini, and managed to shoe horn all 3 children into the back - no seat belts necessary in those days - oh and the pram went on the roof! But however hard up we were we always ate well, and I baked for England - bread, cakes - you name it. And, most importantly, we usually managed to scrape enough money together for a caravan holiday in Wales each year. The car would be loaded up, kia ora bottles filled up with home made damson wine, swimsuits and an inflatable dinghy at the ready. Happy days.
Eventually, sometime around the millennium, and after a particularly cold, wet July caravan holiday, one frustrated daughter decided it was time we took Dad abroad. Hmm....well that looked like being fun I can tell you. It was bound to be far too hot, and he was not going to be seen dead in shorts and sandals! Sally and I went ahead and booked anyway - one week in Menorca, where we dragged poor Andy, kicking and screaming, having invested in some suitable attire for him - yes, shorts and sandals!
We arrived at our quiet, family run small and friendly hotel, and after eating, went up to our rooms. The curtains were drawn and we thought about bed. Andy was still muttering to himself, wondering how on earth he's allowed himself to get into the mess. But we soon realised that a lively hubbub was breaking out on the terrace below our room, and suddenly the sound of fireworks. We drew back the curtains and peered over the balcony, and realised we had arrived the weekend of the local fiesta. What fun! A large bonfire had been lit on a huge rock at the end of the little cove, and lanterns flickered all along the rocky ledges. The full moon made the whole scene perfect. And so began Andy's love affair with Menorca. No sooner had we returned home from that one week holiday, than he was straight down the travel agents booking for next year, only this time for 2 weeks! A dozen such holidays and many bottles of Rioja later, we ended up with lots of lovely memories of our holidays on this beautiful little island in the Med.
Having worked for various builders and construction companies for some years, Andy felt ready to branch out on his own, and AKP Construction was born. He realised he needed his own van, and I could tell that the idea of a "van" wasn't floating his boat, so suggested he buy a Land Rover, as I knew he had always loved these sturdy beasts. The one you saw outside, heading the cortege today, is the 3rd and smartest of the 3 he owned over the years, and no doubt you'll agree with me that it was a fitting tribute to a man who's name had become synonymous with said vehicle - Andy's Landy. How could we not have involved his trusty workhorse in today's events, with his work boots proudly gracing the bonnet, and his braces hanging from the back door! It would have been, quite simply, unthinkable.
Over the last 25 years or so, Andy has worked mainly with self builders, helping them make their own grand designs a reality. And along the way, he dreamed that he would one day realise his own modest grand design. So it was that at last his dream came true, and Low Row Cottage was built, its name inspired by a small village of the same name, in one of the loveliest parts of our favourite Yorkshire Dale, Swaledale. And here we've lived for the last couple of years, with work outside the house still an ongoing process.
So what a sad, cruel blow it was, when Andy fell ill with a terrible infection he simply couldn't shake off. He had developed an underlying condition in recent years, which compromised his immune system, and his body simply couldn't fight this last battle. It was a bridge too far.
I think we were all shaken to the core on hearing of his unexpected death, at just 67. How could this big, strong, dependable and inherently good man be so cruelly cut down like this, and so young? Well, it's a sad reality that "In the midst of life we are in death."
Thank you to everyone who has come here today to share our family's grief.
I love you Andy Peers and I always will.