We first met at a dinner party one night in 1990, but we didn't become friends until some time later when we were asked to organise our debating club's first lustrum celebrations. We worked on it for a year, and pulled out all the stops: there was a day programme of lunch and lectures by highly regarded, internationally renowned scholars in the fields of art, archaeology, history and theology, followed by the presentation and publication of a liber amicorum; and an evening programme of dinner and dancing...and all on a very tight budget (as we were all just students and/or recent graduates). Peronne's family connections secured us the Snouck Hurgronjehuis, an 18th-century town house in the historic heart of Leiden, as the venue for the first part of the day at virtually no cost, and I found us a great big attic to turn into a discotheque overnight and for one night only a few houses further down the street, also at little or no cost. Needless to say, the whole thing was a great success, but the absolute best thing I got out of it was Peronne's friendship.
I was a recent graduate, she was still a student, reading theology. When she graduated, I was there. When she held her very first sermon as a brand spanking new vicar, in Groningen, I was there. When she went to Oxford, to continue her studies there, I went to see her there often. She got called to Delft, a small town not far from The Hague; then to New York, Amsterdam, Aerdenhout and lastly, Lunteren, another small town in the middle of our country. I visited and helped her with her work in all these places, and in some others besides. Peronne was a tireless traveller, and many's the time we jumped in the car and drove it into Belgium, Germany, Austria; or hopped on a plane to the UK, to go shopping, or take in an exhibition or a show, roam around the countryside, have fabulous dinners, and chill. We talked and philosophised about everything on these trips, as well as at home.
While she lived, Peronne was alive, more than any person I've ever known. She had such a joy about her, and even when she was sad, she was still vibrant. She's left me with many wonderful memories, and I am glad to have them, although they only make me miss her more.
A week before she died, she asked me to come with her to Estonia. I said I couldn't take the time off work. If I had been there, would I have recognised how sick she was, could I have talked her out of driving home, could I have got her into hospital? Even though I know these are useless questions to which I'll never know the answer, they keep coming back to me again and again.