The weather is now definitely autumnal. I don't expect anything very different from now on: we seem to have settled into a normal weather pattern.
I approach the season of death anniversaries: 16th October last year, my father; 2nd October 2013, my friend Candice; 8th November 2014, Mike3; 28th November last year my mother.
I'm not sure quite what to expect this year!
On 29th September we finally had the memorial service for my mum and dad, in the church where they had been parishioners for many years. I'm so pleased with how it went: many of my cousins came and several of their friends and fellow-parishioners and I read out a tribute I'd written. I'm particularly pleased about the tribute. One friend wrote to me afterwards, "... especially your tribute which was warm, loving and humorous, capturing their essential selves perfectly."
For those who are interested, here it is in full.
Thank you all so much for coming to remember Leslie and Anthea. We had funerals for each of them a short while after they died, of course, but at that point we weren’t allowed to sing and when Dad died, Mum said we should have a memorial service once we were allowed to sing. I was able to ask her about it when we spoke on the phone for the last time (when she was in hospital) and she said it would be “most suitable” to have one memorial service for both of them together.
Mum had been a dancer when she was young. She got quite far in formal ballet dancing, dancing on points, but had to give up when she suffered an injury. Dad had always enjoyed dancing too and they met at Scottish country dancing in Catterick. They always loved to dance together as long as they were able and the slightly comic photo on the back page of the service sheet shows this. Dad, in particular, loved the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna and the recessional music is some pieces from those concerts.
The readings I’ve chosen speak of love and friendship and both say so much to me about the sort of people Mum and Dad were and the marriage they had. Friendship in the wider sense too was so much a part of what made them what they were, and they made many lasting friendships throughout their lives. They were cheerful people, stoical in adversity, and I couldn’t have wished for better, less selfish parents. I was so pleased that as they grew older they welcomed my gradually making more decisions for them and I was able to make sure they stayed in their own home and were well cared for during the last three years of their lives. Special thanks go to Lily and Sharlene, who were their main carers during that time.
Mum and Dad were also both known for their sense of humour and I remember many times when the three of us were helpless with laughter. Mum had started inventing words from the age of about three and by the time they were married, Dad said they should pin a note to the front door saying, “English also spoken”. When Dad died I was struck by how many people mentioned that he was such good company, particularly because of his funny stories.
Mum came from a background of entertaining large numbers of friends at Christmas and other occasions and since they came to live in Caversham, Dad organised a large group of friends to attend concerts at the Hexagon, followed by a buffet prepared by Mum. I’ve inherited their love of good company and a love of cooking and eating. I’ve inherited Dad’s methodical mind and love of organising and making lists but I hope not his hoarding mentality. Who needs three broken telephones that had been replaced by working models? Or two boxes full of old 3-pin plugs which “might come in handy” for new appliances, which of course come with their own plugs these days. Mum did hoard in her way but in her latter years periodically went through things and had a big clearout of all the clothes, shoes and bags she was never going to use again. Dave and Jean, who took the remaining things to charity shops for me, might be surprised to learn they had already been whittled down so much. Mum really loved to dress up and in her everyday life took care with colour co-ordination even towards the end of her life. I have certainly inherited that from her. She liked my purple hair and even Dad was getting used to it.
I obviously inherited some of my artistic flair from Mum but Dad too could paint. He rarely did so though and even then had a rather more rule-driven technique about such things as perspective, distance, colour mixing and so on. But he was a rather good cabinet maker and I was really pleased that the people buying their house want to keep one of the pieces of furniture he made. Both Mum and Dad were practical people and when Dad was 55 and retiring from the army he qualified to go on a resettlement course. They both went on a building course and learnt everything from bricklaying to painting. I think Dad was quite an irritant when their house in Picton Way was being built as he could nip up in his lunch hour and inform them that they were using the bricks the wrong way up. I’ve always indulged in DIY too and of course both Mum and Dad loved gardening and I’ve inherited that as well.
They were intelligent, interesting and interested people. They were avid quiz watchers, though they never took part in any. They watched crime dramas, documentaries and wildlife programmes but never soaps, though amazingly Mum still seemed to know things about the main characters in them. They loved music, opera and ballet and enjoyed the theatre too. They also loved animals, though after owning one very wild kitten in Germany and one dog in Malaya, I was never allowed to have either again. They didn’t want any ties, but both really loved the two dogs I had as an adult and often spoke about Ralph, the West Highland Terrier, years after he had died.
Mum and Dad were married for 69 years, with Dad surviving the anniversary by a couple of weeks and Mum by six more. They were both very kind people and took care to express gratitude to those who showed kindness to them. They were also modest and I’m sure would have been pleased to see so many here to remember them today.
Go well, Leslie and Anthea.