On the morning of October 21st 1991 I rang chess master Peter Large at his home in Putney. The telephone was answered by a lady whom I at first supposed to be his wife, but she explained that she had purchased the house from the Larges and gave me Peter’s work phone number.
I rang Large at work.
He mentioned that this lady knew my brother. Intrigued, I asked how, and he explained that when she had been viewing the house she had spotted a pile of his chess books and had remarked that she knew someone whose brother was very good at chess: Bob Plaskett. Large told her that he knew me well.
I rang her back.
She said her name was Kate Fitzgibbon and that she knew my brother because in the mid 1980s, or perhaps even earlier, he had been living with Nick Kemp and his girlfriend Elanor and that Nick was a good friend of hers. Mr Kemp had liked climbing holidays in Scotland and had organised one annually. For three to four consecutive years a party, including herself, Mr Kemp and my brother, had gone on such a holiday.
She mentioned that Nick had now moved to Scotland, where indeed, her parents also lived. Bob had visited the family home.
The reference to Scotland and my brother for some reason prompted me to mention something that my brother David had told me the previous year.
"Robert was once offered a position at Gordonstoun School, lecturing on Dr Johnson."
Her reply startled me.
"Yes, I know; that was through my father."
She explained that her father was a teacher at Gordonstoun who, through his respect and fondness for my brother, had lent him two rare and valuable books, first editions of Dr Johnson.
She then, a little hesitantly, said that something of a rift had developed between her and Bob and that they had lost touch with each other over the past few years.
If I could pass on her new phone number to my brother then she would be very grateful.
Robert had taken a law degree at Cambridge, and then gone on to become someone who sorted the mail (or "a man of letters", as he styled himself). Kate said that she thought that this was a waste of his talents, and that she, and maybe even more so her father, would very much like to restore communications.
I passed on her number and contact was renewed.
I later learnt that Ms Fitzgibbon had even been a visitor to the family home.