14 March 2010


Mum in the room where she died
On Mothering Sunday those of us without mothers may feel a little sad. One recalls the bunches of early daffodils, the handmade cards, the chocolates that were given in days gone by when mum was alive. Not all mothers are good ones but I am sure that all mothers have their little foibles though I was lucky because my mum was the best mum in the world and since she died in September 2007, I have thought of her every single day.

I try to look beyond the room in that residential home where she became almost stupefied, that room with its corner sink, its stale odour of senility and its little window aperture with net curtains: that ante-room in which the monotony of waiting for death was broken only by insitutional mealtimes and irregular visits by the Bulgarian, Filipino and Polish careworkers who Mum insisted were "Kosovans".

I try to look beyond that room and I recall mum singing in our old kitchen in the heart of East Yorkshire..."There is a happy land far far away/ Where old Schonut kills his pigs three times a day" and "We'll gather lilacs in the spring again." She had a lovely, lilting voice - always in tune. I see her pegging out piles of washing under those old sycamore trees and darning her four sons' holey socks. I see the risen Yorkshire puddings on Sundays and her baked rice puddings speckled with nutmeg.

But Mum was more than a rather reluctant domestic goddess, she was a lifelong socialist and atheist in a conservative, god-fearing rural community. She knew everybody and everybody knew her. She was a pincher of babies' cheeks who seemed to mesmerise small children with her kindness and mischief for she never forgot what it is to be a child.

Mum could dance. She learnt German. She was a founder member of the village's Women's Institute and taught mixed crafts at evening classes for almost thirty years - glovemaking, lampshade making, basket weaving, embroidery, quilting, soft toy making. She was very clever that way. In her seventies, she bought a round the world air ticket, taking in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and of course India where she had married my father in December 1945 when they were sure that the war in the far east was over.

Mum had spirit, a real zest for life. Everybody was her equal. She had a strong sense of justice and was angered by injustice. She gave money regularly to Oxfam and the Salvation Army. She despised Margaret Thatcher and strangely that affable TV chef Ainsley Harriet. She collected buttons and nick nacks and plastered her fridge with tiny fruit stickers from bananas and apples.

She cried and she laughed. As a wife she loved my father passionately and as a mother she loved her four sons equally. I am so glad that my two children got to know her as a doting grandmother. And as I write this on Mothering Sunday, I know that I take some of mum with me wherever I go for subtly and secretly she has infiltrated my defences. Happy Mother's Day Mum. I still miss you.


  1. Lynda4:09 am

    Thank you for sharing your memories of your mother, YP. I was moved by this beautifully written tribute to a mother who is so loved and missed.

  2. Elizabeth8:07 am

    yp, what a wonderful, honest tribute. Your mum sounds like the kind of lady that I would have liked very much. x

  3. Apart from the latter years, that you chronicle so well, Puds your mum seems to have led a happy life and that's all we can ask for.

    Here's to all mums wherever they may be.

    ps- I'd love to write something similar about my dear departed old lady but I don't think I could do her justice.

    The best thing I could say perhaps, is that I'm sure your mum and my mum would've got on famously although I doubt either ever would've admitted it!

    I think there would only have been 10-15 years between them as well.

  4. You must miss her a lot YP. Thank you for telling us about her. She sounds (and she lives on for you) brilliant!

  5. LYNDA Thank you for that.
    ELIZABETH At her funeral, the village church was standing room only. She was loved and respected. She had no airs or graces.
    JON BOOTH Even as I wrote this, I guessed that it might have a special resonance for you. A toast to your dearly departed mum.
    HADRIANA To go from abject poverty and the disgrace of a broken home to join the WAAF in India and then to become a village schoolmaster's wife and crafts teacher, raising four sons was indeed quite brilliant. We may not always like it but all of us echo and reflect the lives and attitudes of our parents.

  6. Elizabeth6:13 pm

    Then she definately sounds my sort of lady!
    It's so true that we unwittingly imbibe the attitudes and mannerisms of our parents. My own mam is well into her nineties(she would hate me saying how well!)and getting forgetful of who is who. Yesterday, I found myself answering one of my boys by going through a whole list of names before getting to the right one for that child. The whole room just creased up laughing and relayed how like mam I was getting! They tell me I also go around the house muttering to myself like she does, but I hotly refute this! x

  7. If you life to be a hundred and five, you will still think about your mother every single day (mine died in 1957).

    FYI, I am not on any drugs except the ones for blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart problems, so I won't be sending you any as I need them for myself.

    But like you, I think, I am high on life. Enjoying it to the full is what makes the death of a loved one all the more poignant.

    I loved your post today, YP.

  8. Well you have give me a good cry to start off the week. What a wonderful mother and such loving memories. If my children love me half as much as you did your mum I will consider my life very blessed indeed.

  9. Ohhhh - - - great post! My mother still is a socialist atheist - - and is still trying to change the world, at eighty-five, and I love that. Your mum sounds wonderful and of course you think of her every day. I feel sorry for those whose mothers aren't - like yours and mine - the best mother in the world.


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