Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye Mum

The last post of this year is a sad one for me. In October my mother passed away after being diagnosed with cancer some years ago. She could stay at home up until only a few days before she died, and fortunately was able to look after herself, with some help, more or less to the end. I will always be grateful to her next door neighbour who helped her so much, and to the hospice where she spent her last days and whose outpatient day centre she so enjoyed visiting.

Mum was born in London in 1924 and was a keen Girl Guide. She should have been on a trip to Switzerland when WWII broke out – she was very annoyed at this and much enjoyed travelling in later life. I once said she should leave an itinerary letting us know which continent she was on! We have relatives on her side of the family in Australia and New Zealand – in fact a relative of hers, William Burton, was the last surviving member of Scot’s expedition to the Antarctic when he died just short of his 100th birthday in 1988 (he was a stoker on the Terra Nova). I am glad to say Mum and Dad met him in Christchurch before he died.

When war broke out Mum was evacuated to a safer location. Unfortunately, the evacuation plans were not exactly well thought out, and she was evacuated to Luton, opposite the Vauxhall works that were turning out munitions! As soon as she could, she left school and returned home. Given a choice of working in a munitions factory or for the post office, she chose the post office and spent the war years in a typing pool in central London, volunteering with the Red Cross and spending some nights in London underground stations during the blitz. She never spoke much about the war years to me, except that at one of the buildings she was working at the chief safety warning was to stay away from the glass doors during an air raid. The blitz itself lasted for eight months and by the end of it one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and 40,000 civilians had been killed. In 1944 there was another series of bombings by V2 rockets, the first ballistic missiles, which lasted until March 1945, which killed and injured several thousand more people.

Meanwhile, my father was also working for the post office in London, though their paths didn’t cross then – they met on holiday in the Lake District after the war, and married in 1949. Mum worked as a secretary with various solicitors, typing complicated legal documents that had to be right first time – no corrections allowed!

Dad was working for the Crown Agents and was sent to their Washington DC office in 1956 for a year. It must have been quite difficult for Mum, living with a toddler in a flat with no air conditioning and cockroaches! However, she enjoyed the trip and made some good friends there. Some years later the whole family went on a second posting to Washington DC, this time for two years.

When dad retired they moved to Fordingbridge, just south of Salisbury, but Dad died of a heart attack when he was 67 (he was a fairly heavy smoker). Mum was still driving ‘old dears’ as she called them to community lunches when she was 80, and often volunteered at Fordingbridge museum.

One of her biggest interests was the W.I. She was a member of the Sanderstead branch, and naturally joined Fordingbridge WI after their move. (insert details of roles taken)

Mum was always determined to make the most of life. She enjoyed many great holidays with friends; loved cooking and needlework of different kinds; and was always delighted to see the family. She loved spending time with her grandchildren, who remember her gift for light verse, making up poems on different subjects. This was something she always enjoyed; in fact she was very annoyed when a poem she helped my sister write for homework only received a B+! She loved going out for meals and became a bit of an expert on local pubs, probably because of all those W.I. walks! We were all very grateful that she was well enough to attend my niece’s wedding in May, an event which she was determined to see and which she loved looking back on afterwards.

That closes this years’ series of posts. In the New Year, pheasants, marmosets, wild birds, and conservation projects will be among the topics covered. Please leave comments or make requests for any animals you would like posts on!

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