“Do something physical, something mental and something social was a mantra that Peter embraced when he retired more than a decade ago. But he never expected it would lead to participation in the Olympic Torch relay in 2012.
“It was like being parachuted into the best ever party – you were surrounded by people willing you on,” he recalls.
Achieving more than he could imagine
Cross-country running had been an interest at school, but it was his sons who reignited his passion by encouraging him to do a Fun Run some years ago. It wasn’t until he was retired that he took up marathons; he’s since completed five, including the London Marathon in under four hours, aged 70.
Given that just a year before he had had major surgery for bowel cancer, his achievement is all the more remarkable.
But he cites his fitness as part of the reason why he was able to recover from surgery quickly – and handle a subsequent diagnosis of prostate cancer with aplomb.
Exploring his creative side
The “something mental” began as evening classes in art, which he loved so much he signed up for a part-time degree course and graduated from Plymouth College of Art with a First in Contemporary Craft.
He has since pursued an active artistic career (he was working on a 30-30 exercise, a new work for every day in April, when interviewed); though he works in every media, much of his work involves mechanical design, which draws on his first career as a civil engineer.
By being part of an artist’s collective, his artistic life is also fulfilling the “something social” element of his retirement; the group meets regularly to share work and artists’ talks, as well as staging occasional exhibitions and running community art projects.
Supporting his local community
Community is a second leg of Peter’s “something social”. His career took him around the world, working in Zambia as an engineer and then, after switching to journalism, to the US where he co-founded an internet publishing company. It was only after the sale of that company that he moved to Cornwall, but he has clearly put down strong roots.
“We are so lucky to live here, surrounded by amazing scenery and amazing wildlife,” he says. “One of my recent art pieces was a drawing of myself and my wife, and underneath all these roots going into the ground. That expresses my real appreciation of living here – the scenery but also the people and the community.”
A sense of having a life well lived prompted a desire to give something back, and he enrolled with Cornwall Council as a volunteer mentor, helping teenagers in trouble. He also works with a local charity that helps families with special needs children, where his entrepreneurial skills have been put to good use writing a business plan and creating its website.
“I’ve always felt I’ve been very lucky in life,” he says. “I remember as a teenager getting quite depressed, and my mother quoted the saying ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin’ – meaning that I should keep myself busy. That’s what I’ve tried to do all my life.”
His advice is to create that balance between mental, physical and social, but also being flexible enough to take advantage of any chances that come your way. “Following my nose has delivered a very happy life for me,” he says. Listen to more of Peter’s story in his podcast episode, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.