Saturday, 15 December 2012


Suddenly the Good Fella's mum was gone - like a candle in the wind.  

Symond's Yat
I had driven up only the week before to help out when the Good Fella's dad came home from an operation and she was just as she always was:  humorous, affectionate, quarrelsome.  We pottered round the house together, I argued with her to get her to stop in bed and let me do the grocery shopping on my own, we had a girly night watching Ladies in Lavender and enjoyed the beautiful shots of the beach and the garden.  
I drove back in a Wild West Wind, with the trees tossing golden brown all down the Wye Valley.  Only a few days later I phoned to find out how things were and had to wait for a call back as the ambulance was in attendance.  When they called back it was to tell me she had gone.  
I couldn't believe it.  I hesitated to call the Good Fella although I knew I had to tell him immediately.  Some part of my brain said:  It can't be true, if you say this, you'll be making a dreadful mistake.  
When we went up there were so many friends coming round.  We were obliged to realise that she had been special for us not because she was ours:  our mum, our Nanny.  People wept and said they would no longer have a friend they could talk to as they had been able to talk to her and we realised she just was special.  She was very good at listening, at understanding without letting you fall apart and at providing practical support.  She cast a steady rational light over our lives and helped us see things more clearly.  
From Prima Manche
She was tactful.  She always asked me before buying the Piglet make-up sets, bejewelled sandals or the expensive toys she longed to shower her grand-daughter with but which might be too large to fit into our house.  When the Good Fella and I were moving into our first house she phoned me up one day and said:  "Now you may already have chosen something but I've seen some curtains I think would be just right for the front room."  I was seven months pregnant and trying to ensure as thorough a handover as possible of my responsibilities as the Deputy Director of a Research Centre before I went off on maternity leave.  Curtains had never crossed my mind but I realised we would have to get some for the window that looked straight out on the street.  I was struck not only by her eagerness to help us out but by her great respect towards my wishes in setting up a new home with her son.  
She was someone who enjoyed the small things of life, the 'thisness' of the world and it's the small things that catch me as I go about my day and make me suddenly start crying and missing her again.  
I miss her when I clean the Piglet's school shoes, not just because they were the last pair she will buy for Piglet but because she was someone I could phone up and talk to about whether to get pinafores or skirts.  She was intimately concerned and willing to go through the unsuitability of skirts which slip down off toddlers' tubby waistlines.  She would always pitch in with the school uniforms, she pretended to me that she never bought any for the Good Fella to save me feeling bad about it when I lost my job and had to ask her to help instead of letting her buy a few things just so she could join in.  
I miss her when I brush my hair because she bought me the Mason Pearson hairbrush I asked for although I hadn't realised how expensive it would be, because one year when she asked for a Christmas list and I gave her a long list so she would have plenty of choice, she bought me everything on it.  
I miss her when I cook chips.  She bought me my chip pan and taught me how to cook chips.  I never ever thought I would have to use her chip pan:  coated with a black layer of years of loving use and so old that she complained she couldn't replace the basket inside it because chip pans had gone metric.  
I miss her every day when I could have phoned her for a chat about mundane small things that make up the life of a mum - and a Nanny - but now she isn't there and will never be again.  There's something there, in every small thing, something in the essence of 'thisness' that is our family life.  The school uniforms - even the ones in the future that she would have bought;  brushing out the long hair she sometimes cut for me and Piglet;  using starchy potato water to make the gravy for Sunday lunch;  cleaning the Piglet's school shoes.  
She believed in us and knew that if we were struggling it was because times are tough not because we weren't good at managing and so we believe in ourselves too, continuing to light our lives with her love for us.  Piglet says she doesn't want Nanny in her heart she wants her here with us but she is in our hearts, and she always will be.  

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