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 http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=2218292626 )

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, http://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/Fans-of-Grange-Court-Hotel-Cromer/128973127137469. 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, http://www.thegrovecromer.co.uk/index.html Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Grove-Cromer-LLP/116644015026805. 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 http://goodwood-hotel.co.uk/index.html. 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.

I’m born again!

Thought I should come clean right at the start and tell you I am one of those born again, happy clappy christians, who really annoy you.

Here’s a piece I wrote for my Facebook page, telling how it happened.

It was the 1956 Suez Crisis and I was returning to England with my family from South Africa on a Union Castle liner. One of the passengers gave me a porcelain pixie. If I said good morning and good night to it every day, it would bring me good luck, she told me. It was a nice idea, but I knew I could never manage twice a day, every day.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was at junior school in Bromley. We were taught about Joshua – yes, him in the bible. ‘In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! … Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid don’t get discouraged. God, your God is with you every step you take’.

This made such an impression on me. Here was the god of Moses, the man who had dared to believe that when he waved his stick the Red Sea would part and allow all the Israelites to cross safely, promising to be with Joshua in exactly the same way. And I began to believe it for myself.

But life was not all sweetness and light. I was angry. So angry I can remember running round the playground wanting to land one on my best friend, and I felt ashamed. I began to talk to people about my temper. They suggested things I might do – count to ten, take a deep breath, go and dig the garden. But just like the pixie, they depended on me remembering to do something. And I knew I couldn’t in the heat of the moment.

Then I talked to our local vicar. He had a better idea. He said that this was something that Jesus could help me with. He had taken the punishment for my bad behaviour and I could rely on him to forgive me and to help me to keep my cool. I decided to give it a go. After all, this was the god that had promised to help Joshua – and look what happened to him.

The next day, everything felt brand new, as if I had been given a new exercise book to write in. I began to read the bible and to pray each day. I went to church and found new friends. When things went wrong, I had somewhere to go and someone to help me. I began to realise that there was a plan and purpose for my life. This had to be better than the pixie!

Nearly fifty years later, my life is still being shaped by that same god. What he says is the foundation for the way I live my life. I just can’t imagine what life would be like with this underpinning belief, this underpinning faith in God. Take that away, and there’s – nothing.

Hello

I have ummed and ahhed for the last three months about whether I should start blogging or not.

I am a big fan of Twitter. I started using Twitter in 2009 to get up to date information about the snow. I love knowing what’s happening now. I like to know what is going on in the area where I live and what my neighbours are up to.

I also use Facebook. I use it mainly to keep up with friends and family that I do not see on a regular basis. I love following their life stories and sharing mine.

But sometimes I wonder, should I blog? I have things to say that don’t really fit the ‘this funny thing happened to me today’ posting. For me, blogging takes all this a step further by being able to record the funny things that happen to me – and with five grandchildren under eight, they do – and my musings on subjects that might, or might not, be topical.

So here I am at the start of 2011, a novice blogger. I look forward to making a whole lot of new friends and sharing my life with you.