Lives Remembered: Peter Hubbard

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The Independent Online

Peter Slingsby Hubbard died in Mexico on 3 December 2008. An inspired writer and pioneering teacher, his endless patience encouraged students and friends across an enormous range of interests, from tennis, photography, and cuisine, to science, philosophy and the glories of ancient Greece.

Peter was born in 1944 in what is now Pakistan. His birth certificate was lost en route to the UK and he endured endless problems in proving who he was. He was senior classical scholar at Shrewsbury, and went up to Worcester College, Oxford to read Greats, later changing to PPP. He rowed, coached, flew in the Air Squadron and developed a talent for repairing old cars, conducting one restoration in a college bathroom as cleanliness declined around him.

Frustrated by his first job with the Medical Research Council, and inspired by John Fowles' novel The Magus, he decided to work abroad. He applied for a teaching job in Greece and discovered that the great man had been his predecessor. He bought a tiny boat, built a cabin and sailed it over the wine-dark sea.

In 1971 he left Greece to travel across the United States and down the West Coast, sleeping on beaches till he came to Mexico. He taught at the Anglo-Mexican Cultural Institute in Guadalajara. Peter fell in love with Mexico, its complex history and the warmth of its climate and people. He married Maria Palomar in 1974.

Apart from a period in Cyprus and a year at the University of Canterbury, Peter was to spend the rest of his life in his adopted country. He never became a Mexican citizen, but an "Englishman who lives abroad". He specialised in training locals to teach English. Applying rigorous linguistic methods to what had been a rather slapdash affair, he developed his own methods and used unconventional approaches, creating a series of major books that sold widely in Mexico, South America and the US. Elected Head of Modern Languages, he turned the University of Guadalajara into an international centre of excellence.

Peter's first marriage ended in divorce. In 1992 he married the love of his life, the wonderful Marcela Appleby. Together they built a beautiful house and garden on the shores of Lake Chapala where, surrounded by domestic animals and furnished with an enormous kitchen, they entertained in style. Peter's culinary range was enormous; French, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Aztec food poured from his kitchen enhanced by his own creativity. Faced with a heart condition, he applied science to freeing the richest dishes from cholesterol.

Peter had a genius for the practical. An early invention woke him, boiled eggs and made coffee. He repaired a defunct Morris Minor suspension with a terrifying piece of carpentry. He built kites, tortilla makers and watering systems. Approaching retirement, Peter planned an enterprise to bring preserved meats to the local population. Sadly, in late 2008 a cruel and rapid cancer intervened. His friends will always have the warmest memories of his intelligence, friendship and uproarious good humour.

Paul Kafno