Visiting My Mum

When we lose loved ones, they live on in our memories. In my case, they often appear to me in dreams too.

I went to bed before midnight last night. I felt tired after a reasonably busy day, and went straight to sleep. Not long after, I was visiting my mum.

She spent her last years in a small flat in South London. When she became almost immobile with breathing problems, I would visit her there, go out and buy her shopping, then cook her some meals to leave in the fridge and freezer. Before leaving for home, I would always watch her eat a meal, to make sure in my mind that she was getting some decent food instead of existing on sweet biscuits and cake.

Her living room was small, but she had a folding table and two chairs under the window. That was for guests to sit at if they wanted to. She remained in her armchair, and ate her food from a lap tray. I was watching her eat, which was a slow process, as she had to rest between mouthfuls and catch her breath. She was talking to me about when I retired from work, and moved to Norfolk. That dates the conversation as sometime in 2011, as we had just bought this house that summer.

She was also talking about the pets she had lost, and lamenting the fact that she was now too ill to get another dog. She hoped that I would get a dog when I retired, and bring it to London to see her. I spoke again about the possibility of her moving in with us once we moved in 2012, but she was adamant that she wanted to stay in London.

It was completely real, and totally familiar to me, like watching a video of us recorded at the time.

But most dreams also have a surreal element, and the next thing I knew we were walking across a cemetery to find the grave of someone we knew who had been killed in the Falklands War. Except that she could not have physically managed that, and we didn’t know anyone who had been killed in that war.

Before we found the grave, I was woken up by a severe bout of cramp in my left leg. I had to get out of bed and stand on the leg to ease the pain, and I was surprised to find myself in the bedroom in Beetley, and no longer standing next to my mum.

Whatever part of my subconscious brain recreated that visit to my mum, I am glad it did.

Happy Birthday, Mum

This is my mum photographed in 1994, at her 70th birthday celebration. Now I am the same age she was then.

She died in 2012, and if she had been alive today, it would be her 98th birthday.

As far as I am concerned, it will always be her birthday. She is never forgotten, not for one single moment.

Sunday Musings For Mother’s Day

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK, and that was combined with the clocks going forward one hour. As often happens, this made me stay in bed one hour longer than usual, and I will be feeling like I am catching up for the rest of today.


I am sending greetings and best wishes to every mother who reads this blog. We only have to focus on recent awful events in the world to see just how determined mothers are, and that there is nothing they wouldn’t do to protect and nurture their chiildren. Not everyone had/has a good mother, but their bad luck was a rarity.


My own mother died in 2012. She died in pain and distress, in a side room of a hospital ward. I had sat next to her bed for some hours that night, before returning home exhausted. In the early hours, I was telephoned by a nurse to tell me she had died around 1:30 am. I was relieved that her suffering was over, and upset that I hadn’t chosen to stay by her side until her last moments. I can never take that back, and make a different choice.


This photograph of my mum was taken in 1939. She was 15 years old, and already working full-time since she left school at 14. She smiles at the camera, her teenage life spread out before her, the hopes and dreams we all recognise are present in her eyes. Three months later Britain was at war, and my mum’s life changed forever.


She will never be forgotten. When I am gone, my younger family members will remember their aunt, and their children will be told tales of her. One child is even named after her, to continue my mum’s legacy.


As for me, not a day goes by without remembering something good about my wonderful mum. That’s as it should be.


I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday.


Nice Times (6)

On Holiday in Kenya, 1983. We attended an ‘African Cultural Evening’ staged at the hotel in Mombasa. There were dancers and music, then they produced snakes to be stroked or avoided, depending on your fears. But the best bit for me was when one of the dancers put a live Chameleon on my arm. I have always loved those fascinating creatures, and I watched as it made its way up my shoulder, and eventually sat happily on my head. I can still feel the sensation of it climbing slowly.

I took my mum to one of the most expensive Chinese retaurants in London, the Feng Shang floating Chinese junk, on the Regent’s Canal. My mum always claimed to hate the taste of garlic, yet she devoured garlic prawns and Singapore noodles, before exclaiming they were “Delicious!” The Chinese staff showed great respect for her because of her age, and were very attentive. She had no idea how much that meal cost, but I wouldn’t have cared if it had been ten times more expensive, as she relished the atmosphere for every second she was there.

My last visit to Paris, in the 1990s. We went up a few stages of the Eiffel Tower, took a river trip along The Seine, and we were staying with my dear friend Francoise, who lived in a smart apartment near the centre. When it came time to go home, Francoise had already left for work, and we needed a taxi to take us to get the Eurostar at the Gare Du Nord. I used her phone to call the cab rank, and requested the taxi in very good French. My (second ex) wife looked at me as if I had just split the atom, and said, “You sounded so French”. She was actually surprised when the taxi arrived ten minutes later.

Leaving Ollie at the local Vet when he had just had the tip of his tail bitten off, and needed an operation. The Vet nurse came to get him, and as she led him away on his lead, he stopped and looked round at me. I said, “Good boy, Ollie, you will be okay”, and he trotted off with her, trusting what I had told him. Despite being worried for him, the fact that he had trusted me brought tears to my eyes.

Nice Times (4)

Continuing my happy mood with more memories that make me feel good.

Taking my mum to The Ritz Hotel in London for the classic High Tea. A birthday treat for her 80th, and something she had never done. She was thrilled by the opulent surroundings, and the quality of the food served. Then some waiters brought a tiny birthday cake to the table, with one lit candle in it. They sung Happy Birthday to her, and the others in the restaurant gave her a round of applause. The look on her face was priceless. She treasured that cake, and kept it in its little box in her fridge for the next seven years. I found it still there, when I was clearing out her fridge after she had died.

Picking Ollie up from the Animal Hospital in Newmarket. He had just had his final eye operation for Entropion, and had been kept in for three nights after. His sheer delight at seeing us arrive to collect him brought happy tears to my eyes.

Standing on a hotel balcony in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Just across the street from that hotel was the splendour of the famous Registan temple complex. I had read about Samarkand and the silk route when I was very young. Now here I was, standing opposite that history. I felt every second of that moment, deep inside.

I was part of the ambulance crew that was first on scene at the Ladbroke Grove train crash in 1999, one of the biggest rail disasters in British history. Acting as incident officer, I had to request every available ambulance in London to attend the scene. As they started to arrive, I recognised one crew, a young man and woman from Fulham Ambulance Station. I asked them to help me triage the injured that were being brought to a central point, and for one of them to set up an aid station for walking wounded in a nearby school. At the debrief over six hours later, they approached me and said, “We were so nervous about going to that job, but when we saw you were there sorting things out, we knew we would be okay”. One of the best things anyone ever said to me, in my entire life.

Sitting in a lounge chair outside our cabin at the Kilimanjaro Safari Lodge, in Kenya. I was drinking a gin and tonic before dinner, looking at the distant mountain as thousands of wildebeest crossed the horizon. My wife was inside showering and getting ready, and I sensed a movement next to me. I was amazed to see a huge male Mandrill had come and sat next to my chair. Not much smaller than me, with its distinctive coloured facial markings, and teeth as big as a wolf. I was really scared, yet fascinated. It watched me closely for a few moments before walking away. It was completely non threatening, and I felt the connection with a wild animal that meant me no harm. A simply unforgettable moment.

Happy Birthday Mum

The photo above is of my Mum celebrating her 70th birthday, in 1994. She died in 2012, but if she was alive today, she would be 96.

I’m not sure I would have wanted her to have still been around to possibly contract Covid-19, or to be living in fear of the virus like so many others are. Though her own protracted death was no less pleasant.

She had a hard life, living during WW2 as a teenager in the London Blitz. Then she was later abandoned by my father, in 1975. She always worked, right up until her late seventies, and she loved all her pets as if they were children.

My Mum was not only a great mother to me, but also my friend, my confidante, and a support I could always rely on.

Never a day goes by when I don’t think of her.
Never a day goes by when I don’t miss her.
Never a day goes by when I don’t thank her for all she did for me.

Violet Annie Johnson. 1924-2012.

Never Forgotten

Today would have been my Mum’s 95th birthday. The photo below shows her at her 70th, twenty-five years ago.

She died in March 2012, aged 87.

It was a hard and painful death, and very uncomfortable to watch, I assure you.

But then she had endured a hard life, with her teenage years spent during WW2 in London. Then in 1947, she married my Dad, and he didn’t give her a very easy time. She worked for most of her life, from the age of 14, until she was 75. She had a work ethic, and didn’t like to feel like she was being lazy. Despite my Dad’s numerous affairs, she stuck by him. Then when he finally left her for another woman, in 1976, she stuck by me.

After he was gone, she never once went out with another man, despite being the relatively young age of 52 at the time. She devoted her life to her family, her numerous pets, and to me. She worked hard at trying to run her own business, twice. When that failed, she got work as a housekeeper for rich people in the countryside. After that, she worked as a domestic cleaner, and did ironing too, right up until she reached the age of 75, and illnesses stopped her working.

She was a devoted Mum, aunt, sister, cousin, and friend too. When she died, not only family grieved her loss, but the community she lived in as well.

An accomplished baker, knitter, and talented on the sewing machine, there was very little that she didn’t turn her hand to, in a life lived to the full. She was political too, as a long-term member of the Labour Party, and a committed Socialist. And even at the age of 70, as shown in the photo, she cared about her appearance, and still held down three part-time jobs.

She was everything anyone could have asked for in a Mum. And in an aunt, sister, or cousin.

And she will never be forgotten, I promise you that.

Violet Anne Johnson. (nee Pallen) 1924-2012. Rest in peace, my beloved Mum.

Happy Birthday, Mum

My Mother was born on the 9th of July, 1924. If she was still alive, she would have been 91 today. But she sadly died in 2012, and didn’t see her 88th birthday. I think of her often of course, but it is always a little more poignant on this date.

She was a Londoner, an ordinary woman from a working-class background, who sought to better her circumstances, and to improve her lot in life. Her teenage years were scarred by the Second World War, and her marriage to my father was not completely happy. But she found her joy from having me, being with her family and friends, and loving her pets. She worked hard all her life,  long past a normal retirement age. Until her mobility was reduced by illness, she could be seen out with her beloved dogs two or three times a day, in the area where she lived.

She managed old age well. She did not complain about loneliness, and found her pleasures in simple things; a dog at her feet, a cat on her lap, a good book to read, or favourite TV show to watch. She was devoted to her extended family, and remained a great friend to me until the day she died, as well as a mother who trusted me to do the right thing, and to live my life well. She worried about the state of the world, supported charities helping African children, and also animal charities here in the UK. She would do anything to help an older neighbour, whether preparing them food and cakes, or getting their shopping for them.

Her own needs were few. She eschewed luxuries, and was happy to eat the same food she had enjoyed for all of her life. As long as her pets were well-cared for, and her family content, then she was happy. She never asked to be taken out, or for gifts, yet was free with her own generosity to anyone in need. She could teach many of us what it means to live a life that involves caring for others, never putting yourself first. She was a good woman, in every sense of that description.

She will not be remembered as others are, by their so-called achievements, or successes. But she did achieve, often against trying circumstances, and she was successful; as a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and a neighbour. She was of her time, and that was a good time.

Happy Birthday, Mum.

Violet Johnson 1924-2012.

A grandson comes to Beetley

As I posted recently, we have been happy to announce the arrival of our new grandson. He now has a name! He has been called Kayton. This is without doubt an unusual name, and almost unknown in the UK. It is more popular in America, where it is used for both genders as a first name, and is common as a surname too. He is unlikely to face any confusion in later life, with such a unique monicker.

His arrival was similar to that of a visiting film star, at least in terms of the amount of baggage required. It is amazing how someone so small can require so much attendant luggage. Within moments, our large living area was filled to the brim with the accoutrements of babyhood. Bags, bottles, wipes, nappies, more bags, clothes, blankets, large teddy bear, and more bags. Then there was a substantial bean bag for him to rest on, and a fleecy throw to keep him warm as he did so. Not that it was needed of course. Between a loving mother, and doting grandma, he was always enveloped in one set of arms or another.

Despite his tiny size, at least for now, long fingers and large feet indicate that he may well grow to be very tall. He had a good appetite, enjoying his milk, and only crying when he wanted more, or was unable to expel painful wind. He was unusually quiet for an infant, and very alert too, holding his head up well, and watching what was going on. I had a hold of course, and he seemed fairly settled in my tentative grasp. Photos were taken in abundance, including some of me holding him, and many more involving Mum and Grandma.

It was also Ollie’s first encounter with a tiny baby. He gave Kayton some careful sniffs, and looked enviously at the large stuffed bear. When the baby cried, Ollie rushed to his side, presumably to offer help, unsure how to do so. Other than that, the dog didn’t bother him at all, and spent most of his time trying to find somewhere to lie down, in the small spaces not filled with things needed for baby.

After the evening meal, we took mum and baby home, filling the car boot with bags and prams, and adjusting the unfamiliar travel seat to fit into my car. It was the first of many visits to come, and it went very well. I passed my initiation as Granddad, and met the latest addition to the family.