Remembering Mum

I was driving to childcare one Monday when my phone went off. There was nowhere to stop, so I kept on driving until I could pull over. I had a missed call from my brother. I called him back. He was phoning to tell me that my mother had died in hospital that morning.

It was not entirely unexpected. Mum had been in hospital since December 2010 as the result of a fall at home. She had broken her pelvis and was being nursed back to health. She recovered, was due to go home, and then fell ill again. The hospital had phoned my brother the previous Thursday to say that she had a further infection and things did not look too good. Her treatment was discussed and we were still hopeful that she might be able to return home in about a month’s time. But it was not to be.

In 2010, Mum’s last summer, my daughter, her children and I went to see Mum and Dad in Glasgow, where they lived. I was touched. Mum had prepared a children’s party tea, complete with Lowman’s fancies – french fancies to you and me. We sat down to tea and realised Mum wasn’t with us and had to be persuaded to come down to the dining room to sit with us. The kids enjoyed the cakes – it was a party after all, and they could eat as many as they liked!

(Lowman’s fancies is a throwback to my childhood, when Grandma (my Dad’s mum) would buy them as a tea time treat.

“S.B. Lowman and Sons bakery in Southampton was founded around 1860 by great-great-grandpa, Stephen. It grew into the main bakery in Southampton, and there were Lowman’s tea shops all over Hampshire, many of them bought by Grandpa Keith, who died in June 2001 two weeks after making his century – he was a good old boy!

The bakery was sold to RHM in the early 1960’s – they kept it going at Portswood for a few years, and kept the brand going for a while longer, but I don’t think there are any Lowman’s tea shops still going, unless anyone knows different?”

quoted from Facebook )

Mothering Sunday, not Mothers’ Day, was very important to Mum. She did not hold with the commercialisation of Mothering Sunday, as Mothers’ Day. She expected, and got, a card with traditional spring flowers on it and a bunch of spring flowers. Once Mum and Dad moved to Glasgow, I still sent the card to Mum and the money to Dad to buy the flowers. He was canny, he would wait until after Mothers’ Day and buy the flowers. There was usually enough left over for him to be able to take her out for morning coffee, which she loved.

For most of her life, Mum drank strong (brown, in Scotland) coffee. She bought Lyons coffee and brewed it in a two pint jug, which she strained before drinking with a bit of milk. She only drank tea under sufferance. It had to be very weak, topped up with hot water, so that the milk was barely coloured by the tea and half a teaspoonful of sugar added.

When we lived in Chislehurst, Mum and Dad belonged to The Green Room Club, a play reading group that met in Bromley. The group was about a dozen people, or so and some became life long friends. They took part in each play reading with great gusto and I can especially remember lines from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood reverberating through our house for months.

As I grew too old for family holidays, my parents found a hotel, Grange Court, in Cromer that was run as a sort of glorified houseparty with lots of organised activities for the guests. This was ideal for my parents and kept my younger brother out of mischief. Amazingly, there is a Facebook page for Grange Court, suffice to say that when my parents moved to Glasgow they still holidayed in Cromer and the family, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, would go to see them there. When Grange Court closed, my parents tried one or two other resorts but returned to Cromer to The Grove, Facebook page The people in Cromer became part of the family and Mum kept in touch with them at Christmas and when confirming the booking for the next year’s holiday.

Mum and Dad would drive down to London from Glasgow to see us, taking two days over the journey. We could usually expect to see them late spring or early summer and again at Christmas. They would stay at the Goodwood Hotel in Beckenham Mum became very fond of the owners and kept in touch on a regular basis.

Mum kept in with a wide range of friends, some of whom she knew from her war years in London. Every Christmas, letters containing the latest news and cards were exchanged.

She was the main source of contact for the rest of the family She kept everyone’s contact details in a notebook, which was regularly updated as family members married, gave birth and moved on. Now Mum’s gone and it falls to the next generation to keep the family together.