Friday, 10 May 2013

three cricket matches, a flower show and a funeral

The Systems Administrator was comparing notes with a friend, as they made arrangements to go to the cricket, and the contents of the SA's diary were three test matches, the Chelsea Flower Show, and a funeral.  Today is the funeral.  I don't suppose I'll feel like doing a write-up of what is anyway a private affair when I get back, so I will tell you about my father's cousin's late wife now, to help fill the odd couple of hours until it is time to go out.

She was called Ann, and she was ninety, so had a good innings.  She went as I should like to go, fully active until hospitalised with a bout of pneumonia, and that was it.  Only twenty four hours in hospital.  Musician and individual.  Wife of Derek.

Ann studied at music college, where she was so poor she became malnourished, and contracted TB, which she survived.  As a young woman she made her way out to Africa.  She met my father's cousin, and they ended up running an outward bound school in (I think) Rhodesia.  Unusually for the time, it was fully mixed race.  We've seen photos, and it developed into quite a large operation, but in the early days it didn't run to a bathroom, so Ann took her baths in a pool under a waterfall, while the (almost entirely male) staff discreetly absented themselves.  One of the photos was of her sunbathing (decorously in a bikini) on a rock by the waterfall, and in her day she was a stunner.

Back in England she taught the piano, and when they moved to Aldeburgh she persuaded the authorities at Snape to let her play in their practice rooms sometimes.  That's pretty good going for an octogenarian, getting access to a concert grand in one of England's premier music venues. Kindly, sociable, a fount of stories about her own life, interested in other people's, deaf as a post, discreetly silent on whatever other ills of old age affected her.  The SA always said she was as mad as a box of frogs, which was intended as a compliment.

I remember two stories in particular.  As a young woman she went on holiday to Scandinavia with a group of friends.  I suppose this must have been soon after the war, and that exchange controls were still in place.  Standing on the deck of a ferry they debated whether to visit Denmark, but none of them had any Danish kroner.  A man overhearing their conversation told them that he worked for a bank, and that if they decided to come to Copenhagen if they should call at his bank and he could exchange some money for them.  He gave them a card, and as he seemed quite respectable and they were young and blithe and wanted to see Denmark, they went to Copenhagen and called at the address they'd been given.  The doorman seemed surprised to see them, but took the card and let them in.  It did not seem quite like a normal bank, but they were able to exchange sterling for kroner and were not pounced upon by white slave traders.  Afterwards they realised that they had just visited the Danish national bank, and that their acquaintance on the ferry was the Governor.

Later on, in Africa, Ann needed to take her driving test.  Tests were administered by the local police chief, so Ann set off to the testing site, a police station surrounded by bush, taking one of her music pupils with her as a chaperone.  In my day in England you had to reverse round the kerb on a corner.  Ann had to reverse round a rose bush, which she ran down.  In her defence she pointed out to the police chief that it was over anyway, to which he replied 'Madam, it is now'.  When the test was over Ann's chaperone began to complain that she was hungry.  The police chief sighed and said 'I suppose you had better stay to lunch'.

Today's funeral is intended by her husband to be a celebration of her life.  There was much to celebrate.

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