I was very sorry to hear that Robert Chambers (above) had died suddenly but peacefully in the early hours of Friday morning. He was 46.
I didn't know Rob well (or at all, having read the obituary written by his ex-wife - see below!) but our paths crossed occasionally over the years and I always thought of him as a quiet, calm, self-effacing man who was very well-liked by those who did know him.
Caroline Chambers - they married in 1989 - worked for Forest in the late Eighties but I first met Rob (through mutual friends) a few years before that. In fact, Forest isn't the only group I have in common with the Chambers.
In 1984, following a textbook coup that removed the previous left-leaning regime, I was given the job of running the UK branch of the International Society for Human Rights, a small Frankfurt-based group whose original purpose was to bring together families divided by communism in general and the Berlin Wall in particular.
Mine was a short-term, part-time appointment. The job was subsequently taken on with a great deal more energy and enthusiasm by Robert who eventually moved to Germany where he became secretary-general of the ISHR in Frankfurt.
A few years after their return to Britain, Rob and Caroline moved into the pub industry. In 2005, with Robert's help, Caroline won The Publican's prestigious Marketing Pub of the Year award. According to the paper:
The judges were equally enthusiastic about the imaginative and energetic efforts of Caroline Chambers and her partner Robert at The Kings Head, Hythe ...
The Chambers had developed a "Good Beer, Good Food, Good Times" marketing theme, targeting affluent customers with an offering of quality wine, well kept cask beers and home-made food.
As soon as she had collected her award, Caroline phoned The Kings Head, and Robert immediately cracked open the champagne, and called for drinks all round for staff and customers.
Friends are paying tribute to Robert on a special website HERE. Condolences to Caroline, his children, and his partner Kate.
Photo courtesy Caroline Chambers
I was unaware of it until today, when I Googled his name, but in February Robert left a comment on this blog in response to something I had written several weeks earlier.
Ironically, I had written about our mutual friend George Miller-Kurakin following his death last year at the age of 54. According to Robert, "George was a big influence on my early life, and I was at his wedding." See HERE.
At the various memorial events I attended George was described as a "freedom fighter". It's no exaggeration to say that the same could be said of Robert Chambers.
To demonstrate how little I knew Robert, I have just discovered that he wrote a blog called MutleytheDogsDayOut which seems to have enjoyed something of a cult following.
What they describe is so different from the Robert Chambers I thought I knew that I can't believe it's the same person ... Amazing, really, and how nice that he managed to touch people by demonstrating such a surreal side to his personality.
Caroline, Rob's ex-wife, has posted a funny, poignant and very honest obituary on Facebook. Here's a taste:
I think there are a lot of very clever, fabulous people who struggle with depression and alcohol problems; it’s almost like the ying to the yang on their brilliance. It all became too much for me to cope with and we parted in February 2007. I am sad that he did not manage to conquer the demon booze, but to be honest there was nothing Rob liked more than a skinful of beer, whilst chain smoking and giving forth on the wrongs of the world – it was what made him – and he never lost his intelligence or his wit. I think he was more like his mad Jack Russell dog than we thought! Rob has continued to make a difference to people’s lives with his generosity of spirit on the blogosphere with his mad, surreal MutleytheDogsDay out blog – which I have to confess I find too confusing and painful to read, but I know he and others found it hilarious.
You can read the whole thing HERE.
Reading it reminds me that I must have met Rob in 1983 or thereabouts when he was working for Julian Lewis (now MP for New Forest East) at the Coalition for Peace for Security, an anti-CND operation that occupied a tiny sixth floor office in Whitehall, close to Trafalgar Square.
I have written, once or twice, about those days on this blog and if you read Robert's Facebook obituary you may recognise some of the names. (I may be mistaken but I am fairly sure that Robert took part in THIS escapade in 1984.)
Sadly, Caroline may be right when she says: "It seems what the Red Army and KGB failed to achieve Mother Nature is doing for them!"
Above: Robert in 1985. Photo courtesy Carlton Rae
Julian Lewis MP, who Robert and I both worked for (albeit on different projects) in the Eighties, has sent me his response to Rob's death:
"This is such shocking news that it is hard to take it in. Robert was one of a small number of truly dedicated activists at a time when seriously evil Marxist doctrines held millions in captivity and easily infected the young and the gullible.
"He was an admirable, selfless and committed member of our small team of counter-campaigners. I shall be proud to be present to say goodbye to him and think that society is in his debt."