Tribute to Robin - from his family

Created by Helen 11 months ago

Robin Wensley, 26th October 1944 - 29th September 2022

Robin was born in 1944, and spent his early life in Wimbledon, moving out of London and finally with the family to Cambridge.  He went to boarding school when he was 8 until the 6th form when he was   relieved to join his 2 brothers Nick and Anthony at school locally.  Whilst there was certainly a lot of laughter and fun at home through these years, they were also formative in the strong views Robin held of bullies and boarding schools throughout his life.

He and his brothers spent many hours together and separately on the rugby pitch often watched by their parents. He was proud of having played in the Rugby 8 when at Cambridge and the skills he developed on the pitch proved very helpful in later life.  When Parkinsons caused him to fall with increasing regularity he would curl up like a hedgehog and let himself roll gracefully. Amazingly he avoided ever hurting himself.

Robin enjoyed many holidays with his family at Kingsgate where his grandfather, Clifton, lived who he was always close to.  The holidays in Europe included winter skiing holidays to Austria. On one such holiday Robin, who wasn’t a natural skier, was finding it difficult to ski only to find a small child hitching a ride standing on the rear of his skis!  In 1966 he also spent a month travelling in his mini with Nick round Europe, perfecting his skills as a mechanic which would be called upon many times over the coming years when he could regularly be found tinkering under a car bonnet.

On a trip with his mate cycling down through France to Northern Spain Robin found himself after one drink too many deciding to sleep in a ditch, maybe the start of his enjoyment of camping?  On holiday years later similarly inebriated he and a good family friend would spend the night sleeping in a pigsty.

Though Robin would go on to significant and noteworthy success in his professional life, his time at Cambridge was marked by less auspicious academic achievements, having needed to take Latin four times to gain entry, he then enjoyed his time playing rugby and involved in social activities more than academic endeavours.  His oar was awarded for the achievement of the rugby 8 at his college and not for winning the Oxford/Cambridge boat race!

He moved to London to Lancaster Gate, a flat overlooking Hyde Park, at a time when you could afford to live there as a student. Sue and her flatmates lived in the flat downstairs, a good place for parties.  Sue nudged his thinking and views to the left, a political stance he strongly maintained, advocated and actively supported throughout life. His children have clear memories of helping post labour party leaflets and going on demonstrations through the 80’s.

Sue introduced Robin to her family when her sister Lib was 13. Lib remembers, he seemed to spend many weekends with their brother John tinkering under a car bonnet and, not understanding marketing, the academic world, and careers in general, was under the impression that he sold instant mashed potato which he ferried around in his car boot.  Later she was not much wiser about what he did, mainly witnessing the frequent amount of time he seemed to spend under floors working out the mysteries of small bore central heating and other major renovations for the Wensley’s home in London.

Robin and Sue were married in 1970, they travelled overland to India with Robin as the mechanic on the trip, his greatest success was to get the transit van moving again after it had been completely flooded, draining the petrol tank with the help of a potato!

Over the same period, Robin completed his studies at London Business School, surprisingly following his success at Cambridge he was top of the class!

After Roy, Sue’s father, died Robin always welcomed his mother-in-law Rene, from then on known as Gran, to join the family.
When he and Sue bought their first house together, always practical, he re-plumbed and re-wired it.  Robin tried not to swear when some DIY task didn’t quite go to plan - Farting Henry’s was one of his best non-swear moments remembered by his children.  He taught Helen, Ruth and Ben how to change a fuse, wire a plug, mend a puncture - all those things you don’t really want to do yourself, but it is really great to know how to!

Having established himself in the academic world the family left their house in London with 3 children aged 5 and under to go to LA and live for a sabbatical year. Unbelievably they got on a flight out there without knowing where they were going to live, and spent the first month with Gran in a motel whilst looking for accommodation. All turned out well so that was proof that preplanning wasn’t essential.  Little prior planning remained a feature of many future holidays, Robin was an expert at completing things at the last minute.

Sue must have known the exact location of the last post box before you left Dover or Heathrow as every single time they went away Robin had something he ‘just needed to get done’ before they left the country. On one occasion they were so late for a plane that they had to run up the down escalator at the airport with all their baggage.

Family holidays, travel & camping were cornerstones throughout Robin's life
- Long weeks camping in France and meeting up with friends, heading further south as time went on to get better weather
- Pitching tents in sometimes challenging conditions - at the end of the day when it was getting dark, and tempers were frayed
- In the mountains in America keeping food in the car because of bears
- In the desert in Nevada where they realised why no one else was on the campsite after one night- being so so cold in their tents that they all had to put on all the clothes they had with them
- Walking in wonderful places in England especially in school holidays
- Easters in Wales and Robin spending most of his time mending the boiler
- Robin and his love of hats, particularly a yellow baseball cap which he was convinced made him like Nigel Mansell - he would not take it off, even inside.

Robin continued to travel abroad with Sue particularly in the winter and remembered his time in Nepal with Ben as the greatest highlight.

He always enjoyed family gatherings and celebrations but was not one to relish the planning or organisation. At Sue's surprise 40th birthday he left the list on the table.

He loved the Karaoke’s, masterminded by his friend Alan, and remembered by Helen and Ruth's friends.

Robin was always very close to the Ryburn children. He had many fond memories of holidays with them in Europe and of trips to visit them in New Zealand. More recently in Leamington there were many relaxed and happy times he spent talking with them normally with cake or pudding involved at one house or the other.  Lib was equally important to Robin, a constant, dear friend. It was a feature of the past couple of years that whenever Robin and Sue went on a walk which past Lib’s house, they would have a ‘pit stop’ with Lib always having something chocolatey on hand for him.

Food and chocolate held a special place. Robin always enjoyed cooking, using every bowl in the kitchen and leaving an exceptional amount of washing up when preparing his signature meals – Chinese or pizza. He was well known for going ‘off list’ when doing the family shop, sneaking Kit-Kats into the trolley and leaving tell-tale mars bar wrappers in the car / pockets. When he was interviewed for Newsnight - his insight was - 'I couldn’t eat the croissants' - which turned out to be set dressings for his cafe style chat.

And when it comes to teaching, Robin was clearly an amazing academic and particularly enjoyed supervising his PHD students.

For the family he was very skilled at making simple things complicated. Trying to tutor Ruth through her first term of A’ levels in Maths, Chemistry and Economics in LA she remembered a great deal of frustration and ‘why don’t you understand’ being said.

Though not perhaps his highest academic achievement, his efforts to teach Caitlin maths and his white hair and beard led to her naming him Professor Polar Bear, he didn't quite live up to the name though as he was rarely spotted without either a blue or green fleece.  He was also particularly adept at never tying his shoelaces.

He was well known for his individual sartorial elegance wearing woolly jumpers and casual dress.  Appearing on online panels 2 days running in Rio, his ex PHD student, colleague and friend, Alex took him to buy a new shirt for the second day to improve his presentation. Even when trying hard he suffered clothing malfunctions.  Like the time he was a keynote speaker at a meeting in Toronto. When Anthony and Karen came to pick him up at the end of the day he was walking very oddly – sort of sideways with his back to the wall. Turns out he had split the seam on the back of his trousers! Typical Robin - brilliant mind and unreliable wardrobe.

His office at home and at the university was a mystery to anyone who wanted to find anything including a seat!

Robin was very lucky to do a job that he loved. His work was his hobby and took up most of his time, he would still be working in recent years if he had been able. Throughout his life he had an ability to fall asleep whilst talking to other people but amazingly to wake up and follow on the conversation in the room.

Robin had a stellar career, his scholarship and contribution to the fields of marketing and management were widely recognised. While in his work life he was a very able showman this wasn’t a side of him his family saw. He didn’t take himself too seriously, never boasted about his professional achievements, and was always kept grounded by his children who often called him Professor detritus as he always seemed to have an answer for everything, however obscure.  There was always an element of surprise for the family when Robin’s professional world crossed his personal and for his children when their friends would say ‘Robin Wensley is your Dad’ with a sense of slight awe. He had great understanding and knowledge of the areas he taught and researched. Paul remembers Robin reading his thesis for his MBA at Warwick, 60% of the words Robin used in his comments and suggestions he had to look up in a dictionary.

In the more recent past though Parkinson's dementia did muddle him up and Sue was getting him out of pickles each day they were often able to laugh and wonder at how he managed to achieve them. Despite them, he was still enjoying lots of good conversations, reading, Tai Chi and with Nia's support weekly visits to buy huge quantities of, preferably very large, vegetables to make soup and turned out excellent bread and brownies.  He also re-discovered the joys of singing with the local Parkinson's Group.

Recent walks with friends became more difficult and presented occasional challenges but with help over ditches and styles he would again manage the course, enjoying the companionship and good humour from all. Then there were restful times in the Sun, in the garden listening to the birds.

Robin was a loving and supportive dad. Always encouraging without ever pushing his children to do things they didn't want to.  His grandchildren, Jess, Maya and Iris brought him great joy.

Sadly, Robin’s time with everyone was unexpectedly cut short. Robin was a gentle, kind and thoughtful man with a fierce intellect and great sense of humour who loved to laugh. He will be a much missed partner, Dad, Grandad and friend.