Where to start when talking about such a truly special person as Mum? For that, simply, is what she was and what she always wanted to be. As you will know, I am the only child from her long and happy marriage to my Dad, Tom, yet we are certain she would have loved to have had a large family, for she had more than enough cotton wool to wrap an army in. To be a part of my growing up was one round after another of tea and cakes, themed parties, newly washed football shirts and filling the house with my friends, to help compensate for a lack of brothers and sisters, something about which she worried, yet never needed to. She made sure that we were all catered and cared for. She had an abundance of love to give and made sure it was doled out in large portions.
Sadly, Mum was widowed in 1983, yet in 1984, her lovely grandson David came along and a new chapter in her life began. After leaving Cardiff, she settled in Devon for a few years before renewing her nomadic approach, during which time her garden acquired sandpits, toys and footballs to keep him entertained during his holidays with her. Devon gave way to Eastbourne, then came Spain, where she met a clairvoyant who told her that the Mediterranean lifestyle would extend her life by 7 years. Let us hope that it did. She welcomed so many friends to the villa over there and in some ways, reincarnated her times spent with my Dad in Gibraltar and southern Spain in the 1950s. Happy times she often referred to. I look forward to welcoming you all to join me at the Riverside Inn later to look at some of those memories in picture form and to raise a glass of champagne to someone who truly made a difference to so many.
During the past year, after moving to Chelmsford to be nearer to us, she talked a lot about what she had done and in some cases, what she hadn’t done. At the age of 93, to hear someone talk so clearly and so fondly about where she had lived, the people she had met and the experiences she cherished was very uplifting.
In 2013, she took the great step of embracing technology, announcing that she wanted “one of those Apples”. An iPad was duly purchased and she began to enjoy the delights of Facebook, photographs and searching out childhood memories. From here one, whenever we talked of anything she needed to research, she would fix me with that look of hers, as Dad often called it and say, “…just ask Dougal. Dougal it…” Chats with David on Skype were a constant source of amazement to her. “Ask him what he is doing, Philip”. “No, Mum, you ask him. He’s right there”. Video Skype was something else!
“Well, I just want to know who is paying for all this.”
She played a huge part in the Christmas of 2013, staying for all of the Christmas Day and Boxing Day parties at our house, keeping the family entertained and joining in with all the fun and games. Laughter rang around the place and the newer, younger members of her extended family made all the difference to her.
There were aspects of her life she wished she could have expanded after the war, such as tennis playing in her beloved Cheshire she had enjoyed as a teenage girl in the 1930s, but the accident had put paid to that.
“Of course, we didn’t have teenagers in those days,” she would say, in that gently authoritative voice she used, especially when talking to me, as in her eyes, I generally never passed the age of 6. The war and the ambulance incident put paid to pretty much all physical activity for her, save for her love of swimming, yet she regaled me with stories of playing tennis with Fred Perry’s doubles partner, tea dances in Manchester and holidays in North Wales as a child in the 1920s. We managed one last northern tour with her in 2010, visiting all her favourite places, including the house where she and her brother Gordon grew up in Glossop. The present owner even invited us in for tea and a look round. Much of it was just the same and you could clearly see she was back in her young days once more.
Right until the end, she still had that wicked sense of humour, in fact it came out even more. We had to fill in a health check at Broomfield Hospital in August after she had been admitted again and during this, the nurse had to ask about her lifestyle. “Do you smoke, Mrs Wharam? “No”, she said firmly. “Do you drink?” “Not any more”. Mum paused and looked up, “…but I do watch an awful lot of pornography…”
Thank you, Mum.