TRISTRAM BARRAN, who died tragically in a car crash on Wednesday, made of his life a party to which all were invited.
In conventional terms he gave up all pretence at a career when in 1968 he abandoned his attempts to read for the Bar. His main interest in the law had been joining the Muslim students when he went to eat his dinners at Gray's Inn, where his grandfather Nicholas Macaskie had been a Bencher. Not only did he find the Muslims much more interesting and charming than the other aspiring barristers but, more importantly, he was able to consume all the wine at his chosen table.
Throughout the Sixties Barran was an inescapable part of swinging London. The arrival of his massive kaftan-clad figure, incongruously perched in a Mini-Moke, was the signal that the party had really begun and, better still, would not finish until all possibilities of entertainment had been exhausted.
In the early Seventies, having completed a course in an agricultural college in Northern Ireland, he bought a small farm in Tuscany on the slopes of Monte Amiato, where he had decided to raise pigs. It was there that he met and wooed the beautiful Miranda Mitchell-Cotts, whom he married in 1973 (spending his wedding night in a police cell). Together they produced three children and entertained a continuous stream of English and Italian guests at the Podere dei Fratri. Unfortunately the pigs were not as well cared for as the guests; one startled visitor remarked that he had never seen pigs that looked like whippets. Barran's response was that it made for higher-quality bacon.
At the beginning of the Eighties, and after an unlikely spell in Zaire as an Italian-government-sponsored agricultural adviser, he returned to England and moved to Brent Eleigh, Suffolk. Together with his father, Sir David Barran, managing director of Shell from 1961 to 1972, he embarked on a project to grow and sell herbs. Brent Eleigh Herbs provided the backdrop to his other activities, which ranged from wholesaling fish to, latterly, working as a gardener at the Old Rectory School, Brettenham, a school in Suffolk for severe dyslexics, where he also enjoyed teaching some games and general subjects. He became extremely knowledgeable about herbs and their applications and particularly interested in the different variety of plants, growing, for example, over 20 different sorts of lavender. In recent years he had given lectures on the subject to horticultural societies and gardening clubs in East Anglia.
Barran's relationship with cars was always problematic. When I first met him when he was 22, he had already had 16 car-crashes, in four of which the car he was driving had been written off. A mere three weeks ago the van which he was driving lost a wheel. Undeterred, and in very typical fashion, he took one of the four nuts off each of the other wheels and completed his journey - each wheel attached by just three nuts. It must have been his eighth life.
It is fashionable in these mean and churlish times to deride the Sixties. Tristram Barran was a child of that time and those values. He was generous, open and without any trace of snobbery or envy. If he delighted in excess, he was also a wonderful husband and father, the best of friends and the most entertaining of companions. For the world of telegrams and anger he did not exist but for hundreds in London, in Tuscany, in Zaire and in Suffolk his existence brought joy and happiness into their lives. A young niece who had the good fortune to spend some of this summer with Tristram and his family was devastated by the news: 'He was the funniest person in the world.'
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