Vernon: encompassing his life by Nigel, Vernon’s brother.
It was with deep sorrow that I heard of Vernon’s death. I find it very difficult to write something which can encompass the life of my biologically closest relative.
My only brother
He was my only brother, born into the nuclear age thirteen days after Hiroshima and died in the digital age of electronic intelligence and was someone who had always been there.
Had an important influence on my life
As children, we shared the experiences of our formative years and, as my senior by 3 1/2 years, had an extremely important influence on my life, introducing me to some excellent music from an early age. I would never have chosen a career in TEFL had it not been for him.
Went to Chesterfield Grammar School, which had a reputation for bolstering confidence
From childhood, Vernon displayed a precocious incisive intelligence.
When he was eleven, this was confirmed when he was given a place in one of the most prestigious local grammar schools. Only two children were selected out of the entrants. Chesterfield school had been a public school. These have a reputation for bolstering confidence, certainly an aspect of his character which served him well in later years.
As a child, Vernon took music to his heart
Vernon took music to his heart as a child and, given the opportunity of taking piano lessons, displayed a natural talent for the keyboard.
Keen to progress, he went on to have lessons with one one of the best tutors in Sheffield gaining certificates and experience on the way but playing requires more than technical prowess. He had an empathy with the feelings of the composers which gave his flair for their music a vital ingredient.
His next love was foreign languages
His next love, foreign languages, started at school where he studied Latin, French, and Spanish.
Vernon gets hired by Joe Cocker
Whilst still under 21, Joe Cocker was so impressed when he heard him playing in a pub that he hired him on the spot to join what was one of the best bands in Sheffield. A tour of American bases in France soon followed and their blues style was warmly received by the G.Is.
His first experience of Higher Education
His first experience of higher education was on a Business Studies course and, whilst there, he became very interested in economics, something that stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Student by day, band player by night
Whilst at college, he would study during the day and play with the band at night, often resembling a businessman in horn-rimmed glasses but sometimes, incongruously, a kaftan, playing cool blues music.
First the Continent, then Birmingham Uni
After working on research of how a British steel company would prosper in the then “Common Market”, travelling through much of Western Europe, where his knowledge of languages served him well, he decided that that was not the life for him and became a mature student at Birmingham University studying French and Spanish.
His teaching career starts: Italy, Madrid, Tenerife
After teaching in Italy for a period, he decided to move to Spain and a fresh chapter of his life commenced. After Madrid, he tried Tenerife but, accustomed to cities, the island didn’t offer the kind of atmosphere he cherished, that of a cosmopolitan environment where new ideas can flourish.
Back to Madrid, Vernon & Paloma set up SLS
He returned to Madrid, met Paloma, one of his students, fell in love, married and brought up two boys , whilst establishing his own language school: Sheffield Language Services.
Vernon was someone not easily overlooked
Vernon had a real passion for music, particularly that of Beethoven and could quite easily be moved to tears by the beauty of a performance.
He was a man with a strong personality who was not overlooked or, once encountered, easily forgotten, leaving a powerful impression.
I have read quite a number of positive statements from those of my friends who knew him and some of his old friends from Sheffield Forum who had posted a lot of praise for his playing and his character a few years ago.
A complex character, sometimes holding contradictory views
Vernon was a complex character holding original ideas about a wide range of subjects and, like all of us, he held a bundle of sometimes contradictory views.
He was an atheist and rationalist, sceptical about many things but was a firm believer in luck. He told me many instances of how things had turned out well for him and how fortune tellers had “correctly” predicted what would happen in his life.
Vernon loved leading the conversation…
Inconsistency makes for interesting topics of conversation and Vernon liked to discuss serious subjects rather than chatting. He liked to throw a comment into the talking to provoke more robust beliefs.
…and holding court in his chair
The most recent main impression I have of him is holding court in his chair with a sound system playing some of our favourite pieces and his explaining why it’s so good.
It’s difficult to think that I won’t see him again.