I can’t believe how much time has passed since I wrote my last blog post. That post was a review of 2017 which started with the loss of our dad. Very sadly on 10 February this year our lovely mum, Betty, died very suddenly. I knew I wanted to write about her here, although I really haven’t reached a point where I can believe she’s gone. However, we’ve just had a very happy weekend with the wedding of one of my step-daughters and I realised that I just can’t write any new posts until I’ve published this one – which I originally wrote about two months ago.
When my sister and I started to think about the eulogy for Betty’s funeral – which was read so well for us by Mr Jane Makes – we realised there was an awful lot to say about her.
Our mum was so talented and, like our dad, there was very little she couldn’t turn her hand to. She was very musical and for many years she taught the piano at home. She also played the accordion and when we were children she played in Max Castelli’s very glamorous accordion band in Twickenham. We were sadly rather a disappointment to her as our musical careers never really took off! We made music the theme of her funeral service and one of the highlights was my other step-daughter playing Debussy’s Clair de Lune on the flute, one of Betty’s favourites. Hardly a dry eye in the house. My sister and I managed to read this poem entitled Music by Walter de la Mere.
When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.
When music sounds, out of the water rise
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,
Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.
When music sounds, all that I was I am
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came;
And from Time’s woods break into distant song
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.
Betty was a stalwart of the WI for many years including stints as Madam President and Secretary so we sang Jerusalem and also played Frank Sinatra. She was a great fan and on cloud nine for days after she went to see him at the Royal Albert Hall back in the 70s.
Betty’s other talents included knitting, sewing, embroidery, crochet, cake decorating, painting and she was an excellent cook. If there was a school or village fete she would be sewing and knitting toys (most of which we wanted to keep) and she made clothes for herself and us when we were children. We have some beautiful examples of her embroidery and more recently she had been crocheting blankets and cushion covers. Baby J now has the set of knitted Noah’s Ark animals so they’ve gone to a good home.
Another particular talent was writing firm letters of displeasure or complaint. These were always referred to as ‘Dear Bastard’ letters within the family and generally had the desired effect! Betty was a very demanding lady in many ways and her expectations of others could be rather high. That might be an understatement!!
Betty was very bright. She could speak French well, which came in useful when she coached me through my French O Level, and she could do the Telegraph cryptic crossword and Sudoku. Both activities are beyond me.
From an early age she was interested in tennis, which she also enjoyed playing in her youth. She and her friends would queue up outside Wimbledon after school waiting for people to leave and hand over their tickets so they could go in to watch the late matches. She was able to name every Wimbledon winner from the early 20th century to the present day in the correct order! A major bone of contention as children was that we didn’t have a television. Apparently it was a distraction from our education?! However, Betty’s love of tennis meant that a set was hired for the duration of Wimbledon and, disappointingly, returned immediately afterwards.
The recent years hadn’t been easy for her, especially after breaking her hip and then her ankle. The greatest sadness was our dad developing Alzheimer’s which meant that they could no longer do many of the things they used to. Despite this she did an amazing job supporting him and enabling him to continue to be active. She missed him dreadfully so let’s hope they are now reunited.
We’ve recently finished sorting out everything in their house – an emotional experience – but we are finding some real treasures, not least my vintage Sindy doll who is awaiting a visit to the dolls’ hospital to deal with her alarmingly wobbly neck. She used to have an extensive wardrobe, much of it made by our mum, but that seems to have gone astray so she only has the clothes she was wearing when discovered. I shall be remedying that when her head isn’t in danger of falling off.
We’re keeping the house so haven’t had to part with everything. We’ve found good homes for things that had to be moved on and I think our parents would have approved. We’ll be turning our dad’s workshop into a garden dining room and using his workbench and tool chest as part of the furniture. Betty’s artwork will be on display in the house.
We are missing them both so much. People who know us will be aware of the amount of time we spent with our parents and there is now an enormous gap in our lives which is difficult to fill.
Her funeral ended with the words of Frank Sinatra …. The song is over but the melody lingers on …. and AA Milne
But, of course, it isn’t really Goodbye, because the Forest will always be there ….. and anybody who is Friendly with Bears can find it.