Friday, 21 September 2007

Soundtrack Track 59

59.Fields Of Gold (Sting) STING
This song is featured as it was played at the funeral of a dear family friend, Violet – and It remnunded me of a piece of writing I wrote shortly after her death so have included it here – A little longer than the normal I’m afraid!
I must have been little more than three years old. I had just been given the Fisher-Price family houseboat, and in my excitement there was only one thing on my mind. I stepped out of the porch of 44 Hilary Crescent, clumsily negotiating the step with my new toy, and began my short journey. I pulled the houseboat by its string, past Beattie and Franks’ bungalow, towards my destination. I turned right into the path which, as always, had beautifully tended flowers and shrubs along the left hand side. This was the house with a little stone church at the top of the garden – which in later years I seem to remember was “Breedon-On-The-Hill”, and a bush of the hugest most colourful flowers which could be seen from the back windows. This was also the house with a shed that contained not only miniature steam engines but a couple of fully operational beautifully detailed miniature fairground carousels. All of these things held great delight for a small child, but this was not my reason for visiting. I pulled my boat up to the backdoor, which as it was a fine day would of course have been open, peered through the door and would have seen the kitchen table on the other side of the room. On the left, by the window, Bert would have sat, and on the right not to far from the boiler, with an open copy of “Peoples Friend” in front of her, was my main reason for visiting. Violet. If I had a new toy then, of course, it had to be presented for Vi’s approval. Her approval and delight were always forthcoming – and as I got older this ritual never changed, as it changed from toys to books and later records I would still have to show my spoils to Violet.

Always smiling and always happy to see me, Violet was a constant presence in my life. One mustn’t forget Bert as well naturally – a known story teller who loved to spin a yarn – albeit often the same yarn told and re-told. I am still haunted by his tales of how it wasn’t that great in the old days, and the cheese was left piled high on the pavements for the dogs to urinate on.
“You’d still eat it” he would say. Truly the stuff of nightmares. The other abiding memory I have of Bert is of his kindness to me. But at Vi and Bert’s bungalow, kindness was in no short supply.

On occasion I would knock on the door and Vi would have visitors so I would apologise and say I would come another time. Vi would have none of this of course.
“It’s alright, come in m’darlin’” she would say – and if I wavered she would be quite insistent. So I would be welcomed in and sit with her while she chatted to maybe her friend Lena with the artificial leg – or Janet and her mother Lucy. Sometimes she would have her family over, George and his wife Hilda, and maybe John and Audrey. They always seemed larger than life to a small child, with their broad northern accents, but were every bit as welcoming as Vi herself. Then there was her sister Irene, and Jess – always dressed in trousers with blousons of elaborate designs that twenty years later were revived by Versace. Sometimes Irene and Jess would have a little fall out but to me they were always lovely. I remember one Christmas they bought me a toy post office – complete with stamp pads and tiny packets and jars of the all the products you might want – I was delighted.

Some people you remember with sadness, others with a smile, but with Violet it’s not long before you begin to laugh. So many incidents over the years happened that ended in laughter that it’s a pleasure to recall them. A visit to London to see Simon at the Players Theatre ended in us being late for our train at St.Pancras. As myself and my Nan ran for the train Vi was having difficulty keeping up, the train started to pull out so I remember shouting at the guard “You stupid man can’t you see she’s an old lady!” I don’t recall if we managed to get on the train but I do remember everyone laughing around me. Sunday mornings Violet would come round and have a drink of wine before lunch, “Your cheeks are getting red!” my Nan would say to her, and my Grandpa would say “Y’alright Fatty?” and she would chuckle with good humour. Often we would sit in the kitchen and play scrabble, and on one occasion, as it rained outside, suddenly there was a clap of thunder and Vi was nowhere to be seen. In her fright she had sprinted from the table and was cowering in the hallway. When we found her we took one look at her and she started chuckling at the absurdity of it all. Most Saturdays were spent on a shopping expedition, Leicester, Loughborough and on occasion Nottingham. It was on one of these occasions (actually I have a sneaking suspicion that it happened more than once) that somehow we lost Violet and seemed to spend hours looking for her – finally tracking her down wandering the multi storey car park. There was one very funny incident when she telephoned my Aunt Jane, after she had been baby sitting her three children, because she had got home and realised that her false teeth were no longer in her mouth. It seemed she had fallen asleep and the teeth were discovered by one of the children down the back of the settee. So, when we remember Vi, laughter is never far away.

In the last few days I have heard so many people say that Violet never had a bad word against anyone, to this I can add that she always seemed very happy and was always incredibly appreciative of anything anyone may have done for her. She never took the kindnesses of others for granted.

In the years after they both lost their husbands Violet became very close to my Grandma Cox, and they would spend many hours sitting together and chatting. On one occasion my Grandma complained that her false teeth were uncomfortable and it transpired that she had somehow put Vi’s in.
“It’s alright I’ll wash ‘em” said Vi, and that was the end to it. There were a few occasions when Grandma Cox, whose health was on the decline, could be a little caustic towards Violet . Violet never complained about this, always saying “It’s alright I know she doesn’t mean it”.

When Violet moved from Hilary Crescent to Park View I felt that loss as keenly as any bereavement. By this time I had long moved to London – but it didn’t seem right that on my visits home I couldn’t do the short walk that I had first done so many years before to go and see Vi in her house. In these years I saw Vi much less than I would have liked, so often my infrequent visits home seemed to tie in with her frequent holidays, but I would at least try to send her some flowers at least so she would know I was thinking of her. When I did go to her flat I was always touched to see that all the candles I had bought her for Christmases over the years seemed to be given pride of place. I would urge her to use them but she would say “I don’t like to ‘cause they seem so lovely”. She really did appreciate everything so much.

AsIe moved into adult life time seemed to move so quickly and, before I knew it, another year has gone by, and I would sometimes stop and think I can’t believe that it’s so long since I saw Vi. The last time I spoke to Violet was at one of these moments, and I had decided to give her a call.
“’Ello m’darlin’ it’s lovely to hear from you” she said and I can’t recall what we spoke of but I remember her warmth and affection at receiving my call.

How do you do Violet justice? Initially a neighbour to my grandparents, her good friends Jean & Reg, Violet seemed, over the years, to become adopted by the entire family and it’s a tribute to her that so many of us were there to lay her to rest. But it kind of goes without saying, because even if she wasn’t of our blood she was a vital part of our family. But how do I define Violet’s role? I could say it was like having another grandmother or another aunt but neither of those words do her justice. She was a “Violet” and I count myself lucky to have had her in my life. Always kind, always smiling.

There are no better closing words than Violets own.

“ninety one, going on ninety two – not bad is it ?”

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