This photo was taken about 1952 when Ann, my mum was seventeen, she was about to meet Peter my dad, get married when she was nineteen, then in 1956, start a family of which by 1970 would consist of seven children. Three boys followed by three girls then finally another boy, I was the first.
When Ann married Peter, he was in the Royal Navy and as a submariner he served all over the world as well as in Korea. She found it difficult as by 1955 she was pregnant and living away from her own mother who she was very close to. Her own dad had died in Egypt during the second world war. Mum, her twin sister and my grandmother, Elsie had seen hard times but fortunately, my great grandparents, Amelia and Alfred were there to guide and help where they could. Mum and Dad moved in with my grandmother (Nan) in the old hop pickers cottage which was tied to Elsie’s job.
After my dad left the navy in the late 1950’s, he worked in the construction industry which even though the country was still being re-built after the war, didn’t pay well. My mum stuck by my dad through thick and thin, she ran his successful flooring business until 1968 when during a labour government inflicted money crisis (sound familiar?), the business collapsed. I’ll never forget watching my Mum on her hands and knees polishing the hardwood floors for the last time in that old cottage, which was now owned and had been extended extensively. I’ll never forget the tears in my Mum’s eyes as the door was closed for the last time, thirty three years old and losing the only home she’d ever known.
Our family was split up, our Dad carried on working in Surrey returning once a fortnight, while firstly we all lived in a large old house on the cliffs of Polperro, then a bungalow surrounded by fields and over looking Talland Bay, then after Simon the youngest was born in 1970 my Nan moved to Willand then Collumpton in Devon with some of us. How my mother coped with the splitting of her family I will never understand, as a parent I can’t think of anything more distressing. This was the time when our Mum had to grow up and became strong. She worked in a restaurant in Looe, I used to go and meet her on the bus at night because she was afraid to come home alone on the last bus which was usually driven by Fred the cross eyed driver!
Eventually there was enough money made so we could all move in together, mum had seen her old boss who was a solicitor, told him her story and we all, that’ll be Mum, Dad, Nan and seven kids ended up living in a town house which they bought and where I lived until 1980This is mum in the tiny kitchen in 1978, don’t be fooled by the apron though at this stage of her life you’d be lucky to for her not to burn toast. 🙂 Nan did all the cooking.
Her final home was in Peel Common near Fareham, about five minutes drive from me. She was devastated when in 1997, she lost her beloved Mum, our Nan but after a while she realised life goes on, she taught herself to cook and after a short while she was as good as Nan. She cooked for Dad until her premature death in 2004.
A little while after we lost Nan I was sat in mum’s garden and we were having a conversation about life and children I guess. Mum said to me when it was her turn, the sun would be shining, she would be in her gardening clothes and there would be flowers out in her garden.
At around 7am on Mothers Day 2004 I was up and having a coffee when the phone rang, it was my Dad. “Kev get round here now there is some thing wrong with your mum” Within a couple of minutes I arrived, Dad was on the phone trying to get a doctor, Mum was lying on the floor in the lounge, her breathing was shallow. I took the phone from Dad who was panicking and phoned for an ambulance, I then realised Mum had stopped breathing and I gave her CPR then the kiss of life before the paramedics arrived.
I held her in those final moments of life and do you know what? The sun was shining, she was in her gardening clothes and the flowers were out in her garden.
It’s only when I look at the relationship I’ve got with Julie, my wife of nearly thirty five years, how I’ve attempted to not repeat the mistakes my Mum (and Dad) made that I realise how much I owe Ann for giving me the strength I have now, the compassion I can show to others and the sheer determination to face life and whatever it throws at me.
Thanks Mum xx 🙂