My publisher MuseItUp invited me to post some recollections of my mother at the May blog, the theme of which is Mother's Day, so I'm sharing the following, which is only part of my contribution.
My mother, Lucy Agnes, celebrated her 100th birthday Boxing Day and left her body on the night of the 28th December, 2010.
During the last few years of her life Mum’s hearing was impaired and she suffered from macular vision. In her own words: “It seems as if there’s a small coin placed over the centre of my eyes and I can only see round the edge of it.” For years she suffered from back pain and one of her lungs only worked at quarter of its normal capacity. However, Mum’s wits were needle sharp and remained so until the very end.
Mum had more common sense than anyone else I have ever known and I could always turn to her for advice. There’s a huge gap in my life. She’s always in my head. I see a film she would have enjoyed, go somewhere she would like and miss her dreadfully. Sometimes I pick up the phone to give her a ring and realise she’s no longer there for me – at least – not in this world.
Since mum’s death memories have flooded into my mind fast and furiously. I imagine the young Lucy leaving school at fourteen. Her father arranged for her to be apprenticed to a milliner. He said that it would provide a living for life as women would always wear hats.
Mum spent one miserable day at the milliners. On the next day she tramped the streets of London until she found a job at one of the large London stores. Nothing my wonderful grandfather said persuaded her to return to the milliners.
Over the years Mum worked at many of the large, fashionable London stores in the West End where she met potential husbands. One of them was a high-ranking civil servant who had a splendid house run by his housekeeper in the Chilterns, near Wendover. They used to go for long walks in all seasons. Afterwards they went to his house where they enjoyed afternoon tea. Cucumber sandwiches made with thinly cut bread, scones with strawberry jam and fancy cakes in the summer; crumpets, cheese on toast and fruit cakes in the winter. However, the civil servant was too old for her so she turned down his offer of marriage, but he was not the one who broke her heart.
She never told me the name of the man she fell passionately in love with, but not passionately enough to go to Brighton with him for – as she put it – “naughty weekends”. However, she and the man she loved, who I shall call John, and other friends often piled into cars and set out for Brighton, where they swam in the sea, ate fish and chips and returned to London in the small hours of the morning.
John went on business to Australia. Mum waited for John to return and dreamt of marrying him. All her hopes were destroyed. John, Lucy, her girlfriend, May and May’s fiancé, Bunny, went out for a meal at a posh restaurant. Halfway through the meal Bunny looked John straight in the eyes. “Why don’t you tell Lucy you’re married?” Bunny asked. I can only imagine the scene and grieve for my mother, who lost the love of her life.