January 2002, an email from Pete confirmed the good news. He too was keen to broaden his horizons and, as far as we were concerned, the only way to do that was to travel to the other side of the world and hang out with people who were exactly like us.
And so on the 12th April 2002, Peter Pan, Rowland Stone and Tom Cruise (the names we were later assigned by an Indonesian hostel manager) set off for Hong Kong. This was to be the first stop of a 10-week trip that would take us on to Australia, Indonesia and Thailand. Ming the porter greeted us as we walked into the lobby of the YMCA hostel in North Kowloon. Despite the long flight we were in good spirits, largely due to the fact that we had met Ming. He was the first of a number of memorable individuals that we would encounter on our travels. People that we did not necessarily speak to for very long if at all. Such as Disproportionate Dave, who was spotted by Pete as we travelled through Australia's Gold Coast. We never did speak to him but, if you can picture a bean bag stuffed with foam piping and balancing on bamboo, then you will understand why he warranted his nickname.
Sex and drugs did not feature particularly heavily on this world tour. But we did stumble upon some rock and roll. A Cantonese rendition of 'Rock Around The Clock' was a highlight of our stay in Hong Kong. We had actually been looking around Stanley market for bargain clothing deals. The hustle and bustle of the various markets we visited undoubtedly inspired some of Pete's finest work. A master of subtle humour, if he wasn't being gently sarcastic to anybody trying to push past us, he was generally scheming. He stopped at one particular market stall to enquire about football shirts before informing the owner that his friend 'Coolboy' was a HUGE United fan. Suffice to say that the 5 minutes that followed were quite awkward for one of us.
Another of Pete's favorite activities was to cross examine the opinions of baffled locals on topics such as Arsenal's formation change to wing backs or the infrastructure improvements in Norwich. Always a joker, it was a privilege to witness.
Practical jokes aside, Pete's easy going and warm nature ensured that we got along well with fellow travellers and locals that we met. Be it humouring Australians or signing autographs for Indonesian school children (we were inexplicably mistaken for Westlife while visiting Mt Bromo in Java), he was the leader of our pack. Humans liked Pete as soon as they met him but, as far as mosquitos were concerned, he was irresistible. Rarely has so much insect repellent been applied with such little success. It seems only yesterday that we were all sat down to dinner with Stale Martin, his mum and other short lived but unforgettable acquaintances on Fraser Island off the east coast of Australia.
We were incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to visit so many fun and interesting places, all the more so because we were in the company of such a vital, generous and amusing person. The people and places we encountered will live long in the memory but the happiest recollections involve a particular Coolboy.