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My mother was born in 1940, just after the start of World War Two. My grandfather was at that time an aircraft mechanic and shortly after my mother was born he spent the bulk of the war in a Portuguese prisoner of war camp after his plane was shot down. My grandmother raised my mother by herself for the first 4 years and it was a tough time as you could imagine. Following the war my grandfather was a printer on Fleet Street for The Times, they lived in West London and if the photographs are anything to go by they had a happy time as the world healed its wounds.

 My mother was an only child and throughout her life she loved attention, as a young girl and young woman she was a chorus line dancer, with newspaper clippings from the local papers of her in fanciful costumes in My Fair Lady or something similar. She stayed living at home as her mother was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis – which scars the nerves and left her immobilised – and she needed a great deal of support. She sadly died when my mother was 21 years old. My mother was on an overseas holiday and was not contactable. They had to bury her mother before she returned home. I don’t think she ever really got over it. My grandfather re-married after 3 years.

 Some time later my mother married a handsome man who was a mounted metropolitan policeman, one of those coppers who rides around on a horse, a far more high profile job in the early 1960’s than it is today. All was fine until one day she returned home to discover another woman wearing her bathrobe. She turned her back on her husband and his mistress, walked out of the house and never saw him again. She went to her father’s house and pulled her life back together. Whilst she was waiting for her divorce papers she met another young handsome man. She was working on Harley Street as a dental technician and her boss introduced him to one of his friends, they had a whirlwind romance and fell in love. That man was my father.

 An often quoted story is how my mother learnt about the age difference between her and my father. On a flight to Paris before they were married my mother looked at my father’s passport and was shocked to discover that she was eight and a half years older than he was. This never bothered my father one little bit and we always used to tease my mother that she had a toy boy.

 My mother fell pregnant before she and my father were married, they had a little girl who sadly only lived for 3 days, it was terribly upsetting, her name was Emma Louise. A year later my mother gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. He had dark hair and green eyes. He was healthy. Two and half years later at 38 years old my mother gave birth to a little girl, Emma Charlotte. Life was wonderfully happy and they all lived in a little house by the sea.

 The 1980’s were pretty tough in England, it was the Thatcher era and we were plunged into recession. My fathers businesses struggled and money was tight. My mother was extremely creative and could make something from nothing and often did, be this clothing or toys, or whatever you can imagine. Our house bustled with activity, there was always laughter and I had a ridiculously happy childhood. My father worked a great deal and left the raising of children to my mother. Every summer for as long as I could remember my mother, sister and I would spend 3 weeks of the 6 week school summer holiday away from home. One week on the Isle of Wight at my Aunt’s house, she was an honary aunt and it was only in more recent years that I discovered she was in fact the sister of my mothers first husband. The other two weeks were spent house sitting for one of my mother’s old friends in London. They had a fantastic house with a swimming pool and we took their dog for a walk every morning. The dog was literally and figuratively dotty, an insane Dalmatian. It was during one of the house sitting breaks, just after I had turned ten years old that life took a dramatic change.

 I remember this night extremely well, my sister and I had secretly watched or attempted to watch through clenched eyes An American Werewolf in London, we had freaked ourselves out and had gone to bed quite late. At some point in the early hours of the morning my mother came into my room and something was wrong, the right hand side of her body had stopped working, from her face all the way down to her leg. She was very scared and between us we called my mothers friend, Anne. I’m not entirely sure why we didn’t call an Ambulance but I think she lived fairly close by. The rest of this is a blur. At the time it was thought that my mother had a stroke, in reality it was the first strike of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It is said that MS isn’t hereditary which I really want to believe, but my mother had it, her mother had it and her great uncle had it. That’s a remarkable co-incidence. From this point on in my mothers life she needed a lot of support and she knew exactly what was going to happen to her as she had seen it happen to her own mother. As a consequence the family was drawn together very closely and I still remember a lot of happiness and laughter.

 A few years later, I would have been 13 years old, my mother was crossing the road and due to the MS was a little slow in getting safely to the pavement and was hit my a speeding car. She was clipped on the side of her body and hit her head on the pavement which left a large scar on her forehead, which for a pretty lady was terribly sad. During the time in hospital she was having a full check-up and they discovered that she had cancer of the womb. The cancer was quickly removed although they didn’t get it all. Through poor procedure something remained within my mother, it travelled up to her shoulder and was close to her spine, it got into her bone marrow and spread extremely rapidly. For the last 18 months of her life she was in and out of hospital before spending her final 4 months in an intensive care clinic where she passed away due to cancer on 2nd May 1991.

 My mother and I had a wonderful relationship and she was my world. We said all of our goodbyes and it was all carefully thought through. We’d often discuss what would happen to her after she left, would there be heaven? We had both gone to church together for about 8 or 9 years and were confirmed on the same day when I was 13. We agreed that if there was a way to contact each other, we would. I have since lost any faith I might have had, but my views on religion are another matter all together. By sheer luck my sister and I have always spent the 2nd of May together as it falls on an English bank holiday, even this year, I am 12,000 miles away from her and through sheer dumb luck we will be together in Sydney on the 2nd May, it’s 16 years later and we’ve been apart for longer than we were together. I still miss her and my life is influenced by these earlier years although I’m slightly numb to it all and I have found that I have stopped missing people. An example being that I haven’t seen any of my English friends and family for 7 months and I don’t miss them, they’re just not here. It’s borne from an emotional detachment that comes as a result of survival tactics. If you have ever lost anyone close to you I’m sure you’ll understand.

 What have I learnt from my mother’s life? I believe that life is too short and too precious too waste. Be happy. Love and be happy. Be decadent. Don’t settle for second best. If something upsets you, change it. If you want something with all of your heart, make it happen. Put things in perspective. Be creative. Don’t listen to negativity. Be extraordinary, because life can be taken away at any moment. Live for now, live for today. Be passionate. Be positive. Dream, because if you don’t have a dream, how are you going to make your dreams come true.