My brother Barrie Walker, who has died aged 71, moved to Paris in 1974 to teach English at the British Institute (part of the University of London, and now known as the University of London Institute in Paris). He taught students, mentored staff and organised conferences and public lectures there for 30 years, and lived in Paris for the rest of his life. He spoke fluent French, Spanish and Italian, all with flawless accents.

Barrie loved Paris but had periods of depression and extreme anxiety, which led to agoraphobia and alcoholism. He continued working through these periods and eventually overcame his addiction.

He loved music (especially jazz), literature, politics, cricket and art. After retirement he began to paint seriously and his semi-impressionistic style of Parisian street and cafe scenes, to his surprise, were much appreciated. He experimented with style, branching into portraits and abstracts. In the last 10 years of his life, Barrie developed a large circle of friends and became loved and fulfilled.

Self-portrait by Barrie Walker - he began to paint seriously in retirement



Self-portrait by Barrie Walker – he began to paint seriously in retirement

Born in Fulham, south-west London, to Harry Walker, a civil servant, and Brenda (nee Wildman), a journalist, he grew up in 1950s London and loved the city. As a child, he used to go to the Natural History Museum’s children’s club at weekends and sketch the birds. He was multitalented and excelled in all academic subjects, gaining a scholarship to Westminster City school. However, being gifted seemed to weigh heavily on him, compounded by a move to the Kent suburbs when he was 12. He refused to make any friends for a year and this started an awkwardness in social relations.

After leaving school he went to St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he studied modern and American history. He disliked university life and became depressed there. However, his passion for languages led him to take a TEFL teaching course and to spend time in Morocco and Spain, before settling in France.

Latterly, he rejected what he believed Britain had become, Brexit and the election of Boris Johnson as prime minister being the last straw for him. To his pleasure and relief, he was granted French citizenship shortly before his death.

Barrie spent the last three months of his life in hospital with kidney cancer, his illness enveloping him as Covid-19 locked us down and prevented his family from visiting him. However he kept in contact on social media and was still drawing, following the US primaries and reading a biography of J Edgar Hoover.

He is survived by his sisters, Ann and me, and seven nieces and nephews.




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