CHRISTINE CANN - Maidenhead Years (1964-2005)
On this page I'm covering the period following Christine's marriage, her move to Maidenhead, the birth of her 3 children (& later her 2 grand-children!) - going right up through four decades until her days as an active senior-citizen.
9 Shirley Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
In April 1964, Christine, Clive & Reva re-located 25 miles away to this 10-year old semi-detached house in the growing riverside town of Maidenhead. They continued to commute to their respective workplaces in London by train - the town had excellent rail links, & the London-bound stretch of the M4 motorway had been completed a year previously.
They purchased the property from Estate Agents Arthur Perrett & Partners - for the princely sum of £4,350!
This was to stay Christine's home for the remainder of her life.
Here's Clive in the expansive back garden at 9 Shirley Road, overshadowed to the rear by a full-size oak tree which stood in a neighbouring garden (& fills most of the background here). To his right are rose bushes (left by the previous occupants), & to his left a kitchen-garden which he turned into a mini-allotment!
Jim: "One thing I remember very well is your father's first venture into serious gardening during the first year of their marriage. He bought a packet of lettuce seeds & planted them all - hundreds of them - & they all matured together & everyone in the office had lettuces galore."
He would spend the next 10 years or so pottering around the garden most Sunday afternoons in his galoshes. Very often on Saturdays he would visit his father at the Butcher's shop in Chiswick - a very convenient journey straight down the M4. I think the grey tank-top was knitted by my mother!
And on Christmas Day 1964, Christine became a mum! She had left her job officially at 55 Gower Street on Nov 13th - obviously wanting to stay at work for as long as she possibly could. She started going into labour whilst eating her Christmas lunch - & Clive rushed her to hospital.
Maurice Cann was then born at 3:40pm at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in nearby Taplow, weighing in at 7lb 12oz.
Christine: "Maurice is beautiful... The nurses sang 'Away in a Manger' round his cradle... The hospital's all decorated. He has a special cot for being the first baby born on Christmas Day. The Slough Express took some pictures of us & the Lady Mayor yesterday - lots of people have come to see him."
And here's a good photo of Maurice, taken during the summer of 1965, on the front porch. Christine & Clive had a friend at the time with the name 'Maurice', so this is possibly where the inspiration for his name came from. 'Christopher' could have been a reference to Christine, or even the Christmas season (or Christmas Day itself?).
One year and one week after Maurice's birth, on New Year's Day 1966, Christine gave birth to her second child - me! I was born at 8:50pm, weighing in at 8lb 3oz. This photo was taken in the back garden, on the day I was baptised at St Joseph's Chruch, Maidenhead - May 15th 1966.
Christine: "Stephen was baptised this afternoon by Fr. Flanagan. It was a beautiful summer-like day - & Clive was very well behaved! We had a ceremony all to ourselves."
The name 'Stephen' refers to the 'feast of Stephen' - which of course is the celebrated period over Christmas & New Year. It must be very unusual & unique for someone to have babies born on Christmas Day & New Year's Day - there was always plenty for us to celebrate at this time of year. Funnily enough, the day before I was born (December 31st 1965) my nan (Reva) officially retired from working life at Shipley, Blackburn, Sutton & Co, Jermyn Street, London - at the age of 61.
This photo dates from July 3rd, 1966. We can now see the complete family line-up thus-far, seated at Wally's (Clive's elder brother's) house in Sidcup, Kent. To the left are Wally's wife Rachel (known as Ray), & their son Simon Cann, my cousin - born 5th Feb 1961.
And here's Christine pictured during the summer of 1967 in the back garden at Shirley Road. As I've said before, she was quite a modest person... & the reason for her little frown here is that she didn't want Clive photographing her in her bikini top! I think he was just having a little bit of fun.
These photos are from our family trip to Brussels in September 1968. It was my first ever trip on a plane - a 35 minute BEA flight from Southend Airport! Whilst out there, we met up with Madelaine Schmalkwijk (seated above left with my mother & nan) whom I always knew as Auntie Madelaine. I'm not sure if she was actually related to my mother or not, but I know she was Dutch, & lived in Amsterdam during the 70s.
On the right-hand side we of course see Maurice (in a very smart blazer) alongside our father & nan. I think we're seated at Le Jardin Botanique - possibly Brussels answer to Kew Gardens?! On our final day we travelled to Waterloo, and climbed the mount up to the stone lion - which is actually one of my earliest childhood memories.
Here's my mother, Maurice, myself & Auntie Bertha, pictured at Windsor Castle in 1969. Bertha still lived in Brussels, but was visting England on holiday. During her stay we also visited Cliveden House & grounds. As I mentioned before, Bertha had been a teacher by profession, & could speak several languages - she had also spent time living in London too.
This photo is from an article in the Maidenhead Advertiser, dated April 24th 1970 - & shows the Maidenhead-based Berusca Singers in full voice, with Christine (4th from left) & Reva (6th from left) who had joined up back in 1968. Seated at the piano is choir-leader Ruth Hand, who started the group as a 'housewives' choir.
Ruth: "When Christine & her mother first turned up at my front door, I thought they were sisters!"
Here's an extract from the article, by Ann Kendall:
"Lots of people ask us about our title - the Berusca singers," Mrs Hand told me. They think it sounds exotic, maybe Russian. In fact it is simply the name of my house!" (The name of her house was an acronym of the names of the 4 members of Ruth's family - Bert, her husband; Ruth, & daughters Susan & Catherine).
[Ruth] advertised at first for musical housewives... "We just got together & sang & played what we all liked."
The choir meets at her home in Pinkneys Drive on Tuesday mornings & Thursday evenings. If no baby-sitters could be found, the youngsters [come] to singing practice & listen to their mothers hitting the high notes. From these domesticated beginnings, the highly efficient, professional sounding & prize-winning Berusca singers have emerged. I asked Mrs Hand if her husband enjoyed the house reverberating to song every Thursday evening...
"Well, he's not musical, but he doesn't mind... He doesn't dash out to the pub to escape or anything like that. As long as he can hear the TV he doesn't mind!"
I must say I thoroughly enjoyed listening. From this chorus of talented housewives came some of the best choral singing I have heard in a long, long time.
Here's a photo of the group, also from 1970, pictured on the lawn at Ruth's house. I have a feeling they made their own matching outfits - & Bert silk-screen printed their very professional-looking music folders which they took to every performance.
Christine & Reva stayed up until the late 70s, & the group itself continued until 1986 - when they finally gave their swansong after 19 years together (following Ruth's & Bert's retirement & move to Newton Abbott). They had performed at numerous shows, including every Maidenhead Festival since 1967.
This wasn't entirely the end though... the group later re-emerged in the 1990s (sans Ruth) as the Tuesday Singers. My mother re-joined them for a couple of years too, & was delighted to catch up with old friends again.
(She also joined the choir at St Joseph's Church, Cookham Road, Maidenhead in April 1969 - eventually becoming the organist through to the 1980s).
In June 1970, we all spent our 2nd holiday at the wonderful Langstone Cliff Hotel, Dawlish Warren (we'd previously stayed in 1968). This was (& still is) one of the largest family-run hotels in the UK - and boasts a wealth of fine facilities & entertainments in its 12-acre grounds high up on the cliffs, overlooking the Exe Estuary.
Here's Christine relaxing on the beach at Dawlish Warren during our stay, & where she helped us collect sea-shells! This was a very quiet & undeveloped area back then... though when she & I returned in 2002, we found the Warren had succumbed to the inevitable developments & had become more of a 'resort' - although the hotel was still an idyllic haven!
Below left - me playing in the sandpit at the hotel; & below right - Clive helps Maurice with his swimming in the hotel pool (with the aid of an inflatable swan we'd purchased at the hotel shop). This pool is still there - myself & my son Sam had a dip there in 2002.
Here we are with our fellow travellers during our stay at Ostend in June 1971, in an unusual 'wide-angle lens' photo. From left, we have: our tour guide, Clive, Reva, myself & Auntie Bertha; & under the 'skyline' logo on the coach (just a little further to the right) you can see Christine with Maurice.
On the left is our hotel, the Hotel Mayfair. I always remember being fascinated by the 'dumb waiter' in the dining room - I'd never seen such a thing before! We were all ensconced in room 32.
On the beach at Ostend: Reva, Auntie Bertha, Christine & Maurice. I remember making sandcastles here, & Auntie Bertha helping me put little flags into each one! I also remember it being fairly sunny - despite the ladies here adopting winter coats & scarves!
Here I am with my parents at Leopold Park, Ostend - standing just by the giant flower clock that we used to walk past each day. I'd started school in the January, hence my blazer! My mother is also heavily pregnant now with her 3rd child, my sister Diana.
This photo is also significant because it sadly appears to be the last I can actually find of my parents together, despite a week's holiday at Swanage during the following month.
A few weeks after this, she attended an Old Girls' reunion in Chiswick for St Anne's Convent.
Christine: "It was so nice to see Sister Stanislaus again & the school after 12 or so years. I'm very glad I went."
In early 1971 Christine became a lunchtime playground supervisor at St. Joseph's School, where Maurice & I were now both pupils. She also worked for a while part-time in the Maidenhead branch of Marks & Spencer - I remember going in the store & seeing her in her uniform! She had also had part-time jobs in the 60s at Boxalls & Beechams.
And here's Diana Cann! She was born on 27th September 1971, at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Taplow.
Christine: "Went into hospital & Diana was born at 6:20pm tonight. Mummy & Clive came to see me, & I can't believe we have a baby daughter! Diana is beautiful... can't believe we have her."
I remember being at the hospital on the day she was born - though I didn't actually see her till my mother was discharged about 3 days' later. I also remember my mum describing her at the time as looking like 'a little Japanese baby'!
Diana a little bit older now (pictured in 1972) sitting in her pram. She was baptised Diana Helen Patricia Cann on 6th February at St Joseph's Church, Maidenhead.
My mother bought this big pram secondhand in April - I remember she used to push Diana to school with us the short distance up Altwood Road.
Christine: "Diana is 7 months' old - she has just started to roll over in earnest. [She's begun] to make word-like sounds... bah bah bah! She's so sweet & has brought us all a lot of happiness."
Here we all are pictured in July 1973 on the platform at Maidenhead train station - the first photo of us since Clive's untimely death in May.
This is basically how the family would remain for the next 20 years or so, continuing to live at Shirley Road as Christine's children all grew up!
The above photo was actually taken by mother's Spanish friend, Joana Munné (pictured right) - whom she'd known since the 60s, when she came to visit us at Maidenhead that summer.
Jim: "[Joana] was an art teacher & I first had contact with her through a correspondence club, in the days when I used to be into philately. When she visited England, Mary & I accommodated her a couple of times &, probably, I took her to London & to the NFYFC office where she met your mother. Her portrait of our daughter Lucy (then about a year old) still hangs on our wall. Lucy now has two children aged 5½ & 7, & is currently teaching."
My mother kept in constant touch with Joana for the rest of her life - & we always knew her as Auntie Joana.
Joana: "Jim & myself used to exchange letters - [it was he] who introduced me to Christine... just before Maurice was born. Christine was a very good friend, & I enjoyed hearing from her & her lovely family. I'll miss her letters which always gave me a sense of peace & bonhomie."
This photo of Christine & Diana sitting on the lawn in the front garden dates from 1974 - & I think it was taken on the day of Diana's 3rd birthday in September.
Notice the bicycle in the background - my mother had a special seat fixed on the back so she could take Diana to playgroup at the Castle Hill Centre. She'd also recently purchased a motorbike - a Honda 70 - & a brand new car, a silver Vauxhall Viva.
These photos date from April 1975, & show Christine & Maurice during their stay in Amsterdam. Christine's father was of course a Dutchman, & as far as I know this was her only visit to Holland - even though for many years she held dual-nationality. The above photos were taken at Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse - one of the stop-offs on a coach tour they enjoyed of local attractions.
Christine: "We spent nearly 2 hours there walking round the lovely gardens with their lake, on which were swans & other water birds. We climbed up the windmill & walked round the outside platform. [We] visited a small nursery where we saw some beautiful bulb flowers in a hot house & I bought some seeds & some gladiola bulbs. [We] went on to Delft to see the pottery factory - it was much smaller than I had imagined. A gentleman explained to us how it was made, & we saw some girls painting the various pieces."
Other highlights of their stay included a sight-seeing boat trip down the canals of Amsterdam, visiting a clog-makers, a cheese farm & a diamond-cutting workshop.
Christine: "[It was a] short but very interesting stay in Holland. I have brought something living back... that is the seeds & gladiola - so when I see them flowering it will remind me of my visit to my Fatherland. I am so glad I have been there at last."
Above left: Auntie Bertha's house in St Mard, Virton, Belgium - photographed by my mother during our first visit there in 1976.
Christine: "We travelled through some lovely scenery on the way to Virton - beautiful fir forests & broom blooming everywhere - this was the Ardennes. Auntie had a nice meal ready for us when we finally reached home, which is a lovely old house in which she has a very nice flat with large rooms... 3 Chemin Morel, St Mard."
On the right are my mother & Auntie Bertha pictured at the café (Le Sapiniere) at nearby Croix Rouge. She took each of us out there in turn (during the late 70s) for a little holiday to visit Auntie Bertha, which we all enjoyed very much. Bertha was now retired as a school-teacher, but was still very active & full of energy. I certainly remember she had pupils round to her flat for one-to-one private language tuition during our stay.
Christine: "Caught the bus to Croix Rouge... went for a walk in the lovely woods where there were masses of Lilies of the Valley growing, some still in bloom... we saw a deer leaping through the trees."
Here's Christine (now aged 40) at the top of Dodd Summit, during a week's holiday we spent in the Lake District in 1976. It was her first visit there since 1964, & we enjoyed it so much we returned many times over the next few years. We stayed at a B&B farm in the charming village of Bassenthwaite, nestling at the foot of Mount Skiddaw.
Christine: "Arrived at Bassenthwaite at 7:30 after a 9.5 hour journey... we found Bassenthwaite Hall Farm quite easily. We were awakened [next] morning at about 6 by the cock crowing & the sound of the milk churns clanking! We drove to Watendlath Tarn up a very narrow, winding road... the boys were soon in the water playing with the stones - it is very pretty there with a little packhorse bridge over the beck. We climbed... Dodd Summit (1612ft), from where we got a wonderful view of Bassenthwaite Lake & the Derwent River leading into it."
These photos are from Christine's cousin Margaret's wedding to John Cogger in July 1977. Margaret had of course been my parents' bridesmaid at their wedding back in 1963! Above left we see Christine with Maurice, looking very smart - & on the right the happy couple, complete with Diana (aged 5) as one of their bridesmaids.
Here we are, back at the Lake District in August 1980. After the holiday we enjoyed at Bassenthwaite in 1976, we returned to the Lake District in 1977, 1980 & 1982, each time staying at the house on the left (Garden Cottage), which Christine rented for the week. It was situated at Threlkeld (a village lying at the foot of Blencathra, near Keswick) & she heard about it from a lady at St Joseph's church choir - Kim. We all have wonderful memories of our times spent here - & Maurice & myself returned in 2004 & saw the cottage & some of the areas we visited as children once again. On the right we see Diana (now aged 9), Christine & Maurice (now aged 15), again perched on Dodd Summit I think!
Christine: "Had a good journey in a nice comfortable [hire] car, & the weather got brighter as the day wore on. We left at 9:25 & stopped after nearly 5 hours (at Nantwich), & got to Threlkeld at 6:30. [The next day] we all went out in a rowing boat [at Derwent Water] - pretty hilarious with Maurice & Stephen rowing!"
This is Sally the Basset Hound (who had been with us since 1971, when we'd taken her on from a friend of Clive's Auntie Cath). She'd been part of our family for 10 years when, unfortunately, during 1980, she became very ill, & sadly had to be put to sleep at the beginning of 1981...
Christine: "It was done so beautifully, & was so quick. I felt so happy to see her so peaceful & at rest, but it upset me very much... we didn't think we'd miss her so much."
On a lighter note, around this time Christine started dyeing her hair to cover up some of the little grey that was starting to emerge...
Christine: "At last I coloured my hair again - very pleased with the result. Look & feel 15 years younger!"
This article appeared in the Maidenhead Advertiser on April 24th, 1981. Christine had joined St Joseph's Church choir in the late 60s (as I mentioned earlier), & later went on to become church organist too! She also played at weddings (from about 1975) - I remember her being a little nervous at first, but she soon settled in, & played at numerous marriages - many of them being couples from the local Italian community. Elena Pike (also pictured) later became organist too, & shared duties with Christine. I believe she was the wife of Mr Pike, of local estate agents Pike, Smith & Kemp.
(I'm sorry the above picture isn't more clear - it was the best I could manage, the original being sadly rather rumpled!)
The house on the left is Stubbings, Maidenhead Thicket - the HQ for many years of Beacon Garden Centres. My mother worked in the offices here part-time from about 1979 to 1985, & it became her first long-term job really since the Gower Street days. She enjoyed the beautiful setting at the Thicket - it was just up the road, so she was able to cycle there each day. Pictured above (in June 1982) we see Myrtle, Violet 'Vi' Lawson (who has since emigrated to Australia), Margot, & of course Christine - still looking very youthful it has to be said!
Vi Lawson: "We first met in 1981 when i joined the garden centre HQ in Maidenhead Thicket... I was only there just over a year, before leaving for Australia. Christine made me very welcome & always had a friendly word to say. We used to console each other about the conditions! The last time I saw Christine was in 2000 when I was over for 8 weeks on long service leave visiting family & friends. We spent a couple of hours in a cafe in Maidenhead shopping centre, catching up on all the news & saying we must do this again - but sadly it was not to be."
Here's Christine with Sally#2 - celebrating her 2nd birthday in July 1983. She took Sally on as a puppy from some friends who lived in a cottage on the Stubbings estate - Sally's parents were called Tammy & Scamp! She loved Sally very much, & later called her 'her angel dog'.
Here we have Christine (again with Sally), & also Reva & Diana, pictured enjoying some lovely sunny weather at Virginia Water in June 1984.
And here's my mother with her new car! It's a Mini Clubman Estate, & was about 7 years' old when she bought it in June 1985. Before this she'd owned a Fiat 126 & an Austin Allegro - which she kindly passed on to me! She liked this car as it was small & easy to manoeuvre, & she could put Sally in the back compartment when she took her out for walks.
Here's Christine & Reva with Brenda, after she'd relocated to Farnborough in April 1986 - after living for many years at West End, Woking. After about 10 years, when they'd lost touch & hadn't seen each other (shortly after Maurice was born), Brenda paid us a surprise visit in 1974 - & they were to remain in close contact from then on. Like Christine, Brenda's 3 children were now all grown up too.
Christine: "Went over to see Brenda this afternoon at her new home in Farnborough. It's a lovely house [with a] beamed lounge... & a small garden back & front, & beautiful big windows with wide sills. She gave us a lovely tea which I did great justice to! It was lovely to see her again."
And here's some more old friends! This is the day Christine & Ken Hale paid a very welcome visit in Sept 1986. Christine#2, as you may remember, worked with my mother at the NFYFC in the 1950s/60s, & they had remained in contact ever since. Christine & Ken had married in July 1964, & made their home in Peacehaven (near Brighton), in August 1966. They had twin daughters in 1970, Kathryn & Suzanne.
Christine: "Christine & Ken came to see us - so nice to see them again. Christine Has lost 2 stone, & looks much younger! We had a very nice afternoon & evening with them."
This is my poor mum after she hurt her ankle & foot in an accident whilst at work.
Christine: "January 1987 - [me] after falling down stairs at CMS, Stubbings!"
She had to undergo physiotherapy, & wasn't able to walk again properly for a couple of months. She had left Beacon Garden Centres to work at CMS (Custom Microfilm Services) in June 1986, & they were based in a unit near Stubbings House - very close to her previous employment!
Christine: "Every move is such an effort with the crutches - the specialist... said 2 weeks on crutches but I told him Wexham said 1 week - I'll go barmy if I have to go another week on them. I know I shouldn't complain & that other people are worse off than I am, but that thought doesn't help!"
This is King's College Chapel Cambridge, as photographed by my mother on a visit there with Diana in April 1988. It was completed in 1547.
Christine: "Diana & I went to Cambridge with Carters Coaches. Started at the market, then Lion Square Shopping Centre... made our way to St John's College... saw Bridge of Sighs then to the little redundant church of St Peter. Climbed tower of Great St Mary's... King's College Chapel is the most beautiful place I've ever seen."
Christine: "Mummy, me, Grandad & Cath Hill at Grandad's flat - Dec 1988. Cath's... friend Marjorie [was] there too - Marjorie's son Paul used to be Saturday delivery boy at Endensor Road. It was very nice to see them all - Cath drove us back to Ealing Broadway station. Dad's flat looks much smarter - I think Cath had had a go at it!"
Cyril Cann (my father's dad - my Grandad) had moved to this flat in 1979, when he finally sold up his butcher's shop business & retired - aged 79! This flat was situated a short distance from the shop, just off Chiswick High Road. He remained here until the early 1990s - he then moved to a nursing home where he saw out the remainder of his days, passing away in 2002 at the grand old age of 101! My mother always referred to him as 'dad', which was rather nice.
Cath Hill had been a friend of his family for many years, particularly helping him out with the shop - for a while in the 50s/70s he ran another butcher's shop at 10b Edensor Road (near Chiswick Park), & Cath had worked there I think as the manager. She later became a home help, &, like Cyril, worked way past her retirement.
Here's Christine at a snowy Maidenhead Thicket in early 1991 with Sally, & an new addition to the family - Bugsy the Beagle! He joined us in November 1989.
Christine: "Nov 19th - Bugsy arrived! A little Beagle needing a home - Sally's been very good about it all."
Busgy had a habit of running off, so normally had to be kept on a leash. He loved his walks though, & my mum enjoyed taking them both out together.
Here are my mother & nan (with Sally) on the day of Reva's 88th birthday - 25th October 1992. You can see the flowers behind my mother that she had bought for my nan. Also, notice the same circular mirror that hung in the living room at Rutland Court all those years ago!
Here's Christine looking proud with her first grandchild! Sam Billington was born on February 27th, 1995. This must have been when he was just a few days old - & from then on, Christine became known as 'Nana'!
Here's Sam a little older - about 6 months - in his baby-walker with Nana (& Sally looking on!), above left. In the other photo, Mummy (Marie Billington), Daddy & Nana are seated at Marie's flat in York Road, Maidenhead - with a very excited-looking Sam!
Here's Christine (with Diana pictured left) during a celebration meal for her 60th birthday at Francesco's Restaurant in Maidenhead. It was a double celebration, being also Sam's 1st birthday during the same week. I think Maurice & myself must have been responsible for the bottles of Bud on the table!!
The photos below are from Christine's 60th birthday hot-air balloon-ride!
It was always one of her ambitions to ride in a hot-air balloon, &, as a special surprise, Diana (& her then-fiance Dave) arranged for her to take to the air as an extra birthday gift. The balloon set off from Newbury, & I remember my mother saying how much she enjoyed this experience, & how peaceful it was.
Notice in the top-right photo Diana & Maurice helping her aboard... & in the middle-left picture her head (with red scarf) poking from the left-side of the basket!
Here's Christine (just about visible by the garden wall!), back at her very first home at Chapel Way, Epsom in 1996. Again, this was a little treat from Diana & Dave, & it may have been the first time she'd seen this house since she left in 1943. Not much had changed externally - save the obligatory satellite dish perched on the roof! I wonder how she felt seeing this place again - unfortunately she didn't keep a diary at this time for me to view her thoughts on this return to her roots.
Christine: "22nd Sept 1996 - Diana & me at Portsmouth beside 'The Warrior'."
This was taken during a day out in Portsmouth with Diana & Dave, when they also visited the HMS Victory. The Warrior was launched in 1860 & cost £377,292 to construct - a lot of money in those days. It served in the Channel Squadron from 1861 to 1883, & would have had a crew of over 700! It was restored in 1979 - opening to the public in 1987.
Christine: "24th Nov 1996 - visit to Bath with Diana, Dave & John (Dave's dad) - Pulteney Bridge."
Pulteney Bridge (1 of only 2 bridges in Europe to support shops) crosses the river Avon joining east & west Bath, & is a landmark of the city. Architect Robert Adam was commissioned by Sir William Pulteney to provide a fitting approach to his estate, & the bridge, completed in 1770, was the impressive result.
Here's my mother outside one of the most famous pubs in Britain! Coronation Street was a programme she rarely missed, & in 1997 she visited the set with Diana, Dave, & Dave's Auntie May - whilst staying at Dave's parents' house in West Kirby, Wirral, on a long weekend.
Christine: "Left at 12:30 to go to West Kirby - long journey, arrived about 5:15. John & Pat's [Dave's parents] house is very nice, & so tidy - & tastefully decorated & furnished. I have a nice little bedroom painted all in white with pretty green & beige floral curtains. Picked up [Dave's] Auntie May & went to Manchester for Granada tour - saw Coronation Street! Drove back through Liverpool & visited cathedral."
Notice also that Christine is now walking with a stick - she was experiencing difficulty with her leg, & would eventually have to undergo a hip replacement in early 2000.
Here we have Clive's brother Cyril (always known as Wally), his wife Rachel (Ray), Christine, Marie & Sam - pictured during a visit to their home in Otford, Kent in June 1997.
Christine: "Nice to see them again after 5 years - they'd changed quite a bit. Ray had made us a lovely tea - & we spent some time in their garden. Lots of wild flowers - especially Lady Slippers growing in the grass, also orchids. Sam liked the garden!"
Sadly, this would be the last time we would see Wally, as he passed away suddenly on May 3rd of the following year.
Christine: "Had a phone-call from Simon [Wally's son] to tell me the sad news that Wally died this morning - quite unexpected, & I could hardly believe it. Poor Ray - she'll miss him so much - they've been together for about 47 years."
Here we all are gathered together the following month at Diana & Dave's wedding - which took place at Monkey Island Hotel, Bray - near Maidenhead.
Christine: "Very pleasant ceremony in the Temple Room, then photos. Lovely weather - saw peacocks on the lawns at Monkey Island. 4pm on to the motor launch for reception - nice meal, & most enjoyable river trip to Windsor & back. Back to the River Room at 8pm [for party] - extremely loud 'music'!"
Christine, Diana, Dave & members of Dave's family stayed the night at the Monkey Island Hotel - before Diana & Dave set off for their honeymoon the following morning.
Here we see Christine on Mother's Day 1998 placing flowers upon her mother's grave. Reva had passed away from a heart attack on August 20th 1997 at the age of 92 - after a gradual deterioration of her health & the contraction of Alzheimer's. My mother had in effect been her carer for the past few years, & it had been a very challenging time for all of us.
Christine (speaking on the day of Reva's passing): "Went to see Mummy this afternoon at her new ward 15 [at Heatherwood Hospital] - she was very poorly, semi-conscious & not really aware that I was there - I got there at 2:10 & held her hand & stayed till 3:45. The staff nurse, Helen, spoke to me about her... [they] said all they could do was to keep her comfortable. I kissed her goodbye & told her I'd come Monday, although I knew she couldn't hear me. Anyhow, at 7:45, Helen phoned to tell me she'd passed away. It was quite a shock... although I was expecting it."
Speaking on Mother's Day, 1998: "Me, Maurice & Stephen went to Braywick Cemetery to see the stone that had been lain last week - it looked very nice, & I'm very satisfied with it. I put some flowers on the stone, & I showed them Barbara's grave - Carol had been & put flowers on for Mother's Day [too]."
Here we see Nana & Sam together with Christine & Ken, who had paid us a welcome visit in May 1998.
Christine: "So nice to see them again after 8 years! We all went out to the East Arms where they treated me to lunch, [&] afterwards I asked Ken to drive to Hurley. When we got home Stephen & Sam were there... [then] we all went for a walk round [Ockwells] Park. We came home & had a coffee & chatted. Enjoyed their visit very much - showed them Diana's wedding dress & photos."
Christine: "Brenda & me at Lulworth Cove, October 1998."
Mum had travelled down by train to stay with Brenda for the weekend at her new home in Weymouth.
Christine: "Brenda gave me tea in bed - what luxury! She drove me into Weymouth as I wanted to look around - we walked all round the harbour, & saw ferries to the Channel Islands & St Malo - also lovely old Regency houses. I wanted to see where her parents are buried at Preston in the churchyard of St Andrew's - she took some flowers along & put them on their grave. [The next day] Brenda drove to Lulworth Cove, as I had particularly asked to go there - we walked around the west side of it, then down on to the beach. It's almost circular, with a narrow opening out to the sea where the sea has worn it away. [Brenda's] looked after me so well - I feel so much better... it's really done me good."
Here's Christine outside the gates of her old flat in Rutland Court, West Acton. This was the day in early 1999 when I took her to visit some old haunts... & for me to see them too of course.
Christine: "Stephen decided he'd like to visit Monks Drive etc... visited Queen's Drive (flat at Rutland Court), Monks Drive & St Vincent's [school] - came back via Western Avenue. The lovely houses in Gunnersbury Avenue look very run down - & look as though a lot of them have been turned into bed-sitters. So much traffic now, & Monks Drive crammmed with cars - wouldn't want to live there now."
We also visited Chapel Way, & the church where her father is buried - All Saints, Banstead High Street.
Christine: "[Stephen] wanted to see the bungalow, as he's never seen it. M25 very busy, even on Sundays - we had a long look at 125 Chapel Way & 'The Start' [house where she was born] & compared it with the photos. Then drove to Banstead & went into churchyard to look for Dada's grave - not exactly sure of its position, but had a fair idea - went inside the little church & bought a picture of it."
Here's mum pictured at that famous railway station with the longest (& most unpronouncable) name! This was during a visit to North Wales whilst she stayed with Dave's parents (Pat & John) in Birkenhead once more in May 1999.
Christine: "Left about 10:45am for our Grand Tour of North Wales - crossed Queensferry Bridge over the River Dee to get into Wales. All the road signs are in Welsh & English - just like being in a foreign country! We visited Holywell - the oldest shrine in Britain. Went on to Rhyll & visited the ruins of Rhuddlan Castle - lots of castles around North Wales built by Edward I to 'subdue the Welsh'."
"Crossed the Menai Straits bridge to get into Anglesey... quick visit to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch... the locals call it 'Llanfair.P.G.' (In English [it translates as]: 'St Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool & the church of St Tysilio near the red cave).Then on to Portmeirion, the village built in Italian style by Clough Williams-Ellis, & featured in the TV series 'The Prisoner'... Went to the 'Prisoner' shop & bought Stephen a T-shirt! I had a lovely weekend with Pat & John & Diana & Dave = they looked after us so well, & we had wonderful meals - it was very nice to see them again. Dave was so good taking us on the Grand Tour... it was so enjoyable & interesting seeing so many new things."
Christine: "Berusca re-union with Ruth - the 'old' Berusca singers in Angela's garden."
Here's mum with her old friends from Berusca (see 1970s) - Ruth is the white-haired lady at the front, who was up in Maidenhead on a visit from her home in Newton Abbot. Most of them were now a new singing group, the 'Tuesday Singers'.
"Went to singing - Ruth was there, & we sang some of our songs for her. After the practice, we went to Angela's house in Ray Lea Road. Judy (& Betty Raven) arrived as well - haven't seen the 3 of them for years. Very nice to all meet up again - Angela has a nice house & garden. Her husband Ken was there too - he reminded me of their son when he was a little boy, which is really round the wrong way! Mummy would have liked to see Judy again - she looks so young still - very slim & energetic, & she has a son of 45!"
In March 2000, Christine underwent her hip replacement at Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot...
Christine: "I was given a corner bed with 3 other ladies in the men's end of the ward - ladies all full up! I have a nice nurse called Mariana... she asked me lots of questions, & told me Mr Thomas is doing 3 hip-replacements next week - I hope I'm first on the list, I want to get it over! The Radio Heatherwood people have been round... I asked for 'Young at Heart' by The Bluebells - it reminds me of the times when Diana drove me home from Brighton, & is also how I want to remain - young in body too after my op."
The operation (which was performed on March 2nd - her 64th birthday!) was a success, but Christine remained in the hospital during her recuperation...
"I got out of bed & took my first steps - very difficult & painful, more than I expected - feel as though I'll never walk again at the moment! Sat out for a while. My gentleman friend made me laugh tonight - he watched 'Blind Date' with all the ladies, then wanted to see the Lottery results - but they wanted to see 'Casualty'. His remark to me was 'Think they'd had enough of bloody hospitals, wouldn't you?! It sounded so funny. I've has lots of cards, & have been very lucky... can't believe it's nearly all over, it's certainly been an experience."
This photo shows us all at the Stag & Hounds pub, Pinkneys Green, Maidenhead, in July 2000. Sitting between my mother & myself is Neil Brooks, Diana's new partner (& future husband), & we arranged to go out for a meal all together to meet him & for him to start to get to know the family. Her marriage to Dave had ended during the latter half of 1999 - he has since re-married an Australian (Simone), & now lives in Australia!
Christine: "Neil is very tall (I have to look up to see his face!) - there's about 18" between us, but that might be exaggerating - but he's over 6ft. Seems very nice & unassuming - reminds me of Christine's Ken. Has an attractive west-country accent - I'm glad I've met him. Sam enjoying running about in the grass, & Maurice, Stephen & Diana played with him - there was also a swing there & a see-saw."
I love this photo of myself & my mum (which was taken by Sam in the back garden of 9 Shirley Road) during the several days of snow over Christmas 2000. We made a little snowman too, which Sam loved.
Christine: "Stephen & Sam made a mini-snowman in the back garden - he had a pointed paper hat, frozen peas for eyes & mouth & a frozen parsnip for a nose. Bugsy tried to eat the first parsnip, & was eating snow as well - he's mad!"
The above photos show my mum (with Diana & Sam) on her 65th birthday - March 2001.
Christine: "It's my 65th birthday today - which I can hardly believe! This time last year I was in Heatherwood Hospital feeling very sleepy after my op. I opened 4 cards & letters... from Marion, Lillian, Brenda & Carol. Stephen collected Sam from school... they gave me presents & 2 nice birthday cards with badges on which I put on my jumper. [Diana] gave me my present - a clock with pictures of different birds at every hour (which sing their own song on the hour) - I want it in the kitchen where I can see & hear it. Maurice came later & gave me a dictating machine which I'd asked for in the hope of telling my life story!
This photo was taken on Swanage pier during our week's holiday there in August 2001. I'd last had a holiday with my mum there back in 1971 - though I'd been back since, as it's a place I really love, & my mum loved it too.
Christine: "Walked along to the pier - newly restored - passing the Royal Victoria on way. Queen Vic stayed there when she was a princess, & they re-named it - Edward VII also stayed there. We went on to the pier & had wonderful views of the coastline towards Poole, Bournemouth & Southampton (I think). Saw Old Harry Rocks - also clear view of the Isle of Wight as it was sunny. Walked up towards Peveril Head & saw the coastline the other side - ie Durlston Point & Durlston Castle."
We were to return to Swanage for another week in 2004. The pier has a 'buy a plank' sponsorship scheme, whereby you pay to have an inscription on a small brass plaque which is then inlaid into an individual plank - there are hundreds on the pier! I thought it would be nice to create one as a dedication to my mother, & I'm in the process of arranging that now.
Christine: "August 25th 2001 - the dreadful Charlie arrived!"
My mum had been very upset when Bugsy the Beagle had died earlier in the year, & when an opportunity came to look after Charlie, she decided she'd like to have him! He was quite a challenge though at first, but my mum perservered with him & he certainly improved.
Christine: "Had a surprise phone call from Dorothy [our neighbour from 3 doors down, & mother of my friend, Jon Crane] to ask me if I'd like to take on another dog - a 2 year-old Dandie Dinmont... [it's] a type of terrier - only drawbacks are that it has a very loud bark! It belongs to a friend who can no longer look after it. I said I'd think about it, & maybe take it on trial."
Well, after the week's trail, my mum was to end up keeping Charlie (whom I renamed 'Scruffy') for the rest of her days. She wanted to give him a good home, &, being an animal lover, enjoyed again having a dog around for company & to take out for walks.
This was at the Horse & Groom restaurant, Hare Hatch (near Twyford) on the day of my mum's 66th birthday - March 2nd 2002.
Christine: "My 56th birthday - oh yes it is! Had a nice meal together - I really enjoyed it & ate a lot. Came home & had a lovely chocolate cake Diana had brought over, & my presents - yoga video from Sam, ginger wine from Stephen, cycle helmet & hand cream from Diana & Neil & a cordless phone from Maurice. I was very lucky - they were all very kind & treated me to lunch as well."
Christine: "Jubilee celebrations in Shirley Road - me & Dorothy, June 2002."
This is the day of the street party in Shirley Road marking the Queen's 50th Jubilee celebrations (held on June 3rd), when we were given an extra Bank Holiday Monday!
Christine: "They'd organised it very well... they'd got a BBQ with burgers & drumsticks, & very nice sweets. Saw Mrs Philpot (Jacqui) - Sam's teacher helper from Boyn Hill School, & spoke to her - also Mary who lives at no.29. Sat mostly with Dorothy & Tony [Crane], & Penny & Jonathan (Kavanagh), she's very nice too. Jon was pounding out the 'music' from Mary's drive (I'm sure he'll be deaf by the time he's 50 or 60!). Sam enjoyed himself with the children."
Sadly, Dorothy herself was to pass away suddenly on July 19th, 2006 after losing her fight with cancer.
This is mum & Sam stopping to smell the roses (literally!) at a favourite spot - Greys Court House, near Henley, in June 2002.
Christine: "Had a very pleasant afternoon. Went round the maze again, then walked through the walled garden - beautiful roses. Climbed up the tower - I didn't do that 2 years ago when we last came after my hip operation. Lovely view from the top of the countryside, & Greys Court itself. Crossed the moon bridge & looked at the ice-house - next on to the Donkey-wheel, which was used to draw water from a very deep well. Stephen & Sam threw pennies into it... waiting several seconds before hearing the splash!"
Here are myself, mum & Sam at Dawlish Water during our week's holiday in neighbouring Teignmouth, during Jul/Aug 2002.
Christine: "We're staying at the Devonia Guest House, Brunswick Street - run by June & Ken Ball. Went to station & caught train to Dawlish... [it] consisted of one coach which came in bursting at the seams! Walked to Dawlish Warren... stopped at Langstone Cliff Hotel - Stephen wanted to see it all again after 30 years! We had some drinks there & sat at a table on the lawn in front of the hotel - it looks a bit more 'up-market' now. Drove back to Dawlsih in evening & showed Sam the stream & black swans, & the lights came on - had some food in a cafe. Lights very pretty coming back as it was nearly dark."
This is from our visit to Brixham during the same week - the place of my mum's grandfather (Gamps) birth, so it was always a place she found special.
Christine: "Stephen drove us to Brixham, which was absolutely brilliant for me - lovely to be there again after 4 years. We walked round the harbour after going on the Golden Hinde, [then] had a meal in a fish restaurant. Walked to look at the hotel where I stayed [in 1998] - then back over Ranscombe Steps & Temperence Steps to Fore Street. Very nice day - thank you Stephen (especially Brixham) - must go for a weekend again, I love it so much.
We all enjoyed our week at Teignmouth so much, we were to return there (& Brixham) the following year!
This shows mum at London Butterfly House, Syon Park, during our visit there in Oct 2002.
Christine: "Butterflies beautiful - one large black & white one landed on my arm, then went on my face & neck - Stephen took a picture. Lovely to see them all flying round... looked at some tropical birds too. Also saw crocodiles, terrapins, fish & tropical insects."
This is mum (with Maurice & Diana) on March 2nd 2003 - her 67th birthday.
Christine: "It was a lovely morning so I decided to go to church, at last - been meaning to go for the past 3 years! Opened Stephen & Sam's cards & Sam's present - a lovely scented candle which I had lighted in the kitchen this evening. Diana & Maurice arrived about 4 bearing gifts! Diana also brought a beautiful birthday cake [pictured left] decorated like a little garden with a gnome sitting in front of a pond, with flowerpots on the grass (green icing) - really nice."
Here are mum & Sam outside the Devonia Guest House, Teignmouth, during our second consecutive holiday there in August 2003.
Christine: "Woke up calm - then suddenly remembered we were going on holiday today! Got to Teignmouth 5:15 - earlier than last year. I haven't got the pink room this time (which is rather disappointing) but am in room Stephen & Sam had last year. 72 degrees - lovely sunny day."
And here they are at Brixham marina, where we promised mum we'd return during our stay!
Christine: "Sam wanted to go on Golden Hinde again - then we walked down to quay & had something to eat. Walked round otherside up to breakwater - they've built a wide walkway round there now. Very crowded with holiday-makers - I wouldn't spend a holiday there in August, but nice to see it again! Didn't leave till 9 - heard All Saints' Church clock chiming the hour."
Here are mum & Sam at Carters Steam Fair, Holyport village, in September 2003. This was a place we always enjoyed visiting. This was the day I got very excited when I actually suceeded in knocking the coconut off the shy for the first ever time!
Christine: "Lots of amusements & rides etc. Stephen won a coconut, & Sam won a few prizes too. Had a go on nearly everything - lots of people there. Afterwards... we walked up Holyport Street - very nice old cottages & beautiful old houses near the green. Also walked up little [haunted] path & found John Gay's house. He was a poet/dramatist (1685-1732) & wrote 'The Beggars Opera'."
Here we are gathered at the Shire Horse restaurant for Christmas Day (2003) lunch! In recent years, we'd decided to have our Christmas lunch out to give our mum/nana a bit of a rest. The balloon dog I'm holding was fashioned by Maurice's friend Richard Trayner - who was also celebrating with his family at a nearby table.
Christine: We had a nice table in a bay-window at the front of the building. Had a very nice pear salad to start... & a nice mix of vegetables. Shared a bottle of Chardonnay! Hadn't eaten such a big meal for ages but enjoyed it - lovely to go out, & would like to do it every year. Richard's family had walked to the Shire Horse through the thicket... his mum spoke to me & is very nice."
Here we see Christine with her second grandchild - Charlotte (Lottie) - daughter of Diana & Neil & born on March 14th 2004.
Christine: "Stephen drove us to Wexham at 3pm - [Diana] was in ward 22... same one Marie was in. She had [her] own TV, telephone & TV games - luxury! The baby's beautiful - think it'll look like Neil, but can't be sure... I held it for a long time. She's going to be called Charlotte Reva (another Charlie!). Lovely to see baby - hope she grows up a nice girl."
Here are Diana, Sam, Lottie, Mum & Charlie on the walkway over the weir at Hambledon, with the famous mill in the background.
Christine: "Spring Bank Holiday - we all went to Hambledon Lock for a picnic. Set off about 10:30... we parked & walked back to road then crossed, passing the mill (now flats) & walked across the lock. Found a spot under a tree on the grass to have our picnic - very nice... lots of people out walking dogs. After picnic walked to Flower Pot inn at Aston... very nice day."
Here are Nana & Sam in the water gardens at Cliveden House, which stands on the river Thames just north of Maidenhead - another favourite place of ours for a day out. On this particular visit, we decided to make sure we saw everything!
Christine: Went to water garden first, as we usually do - very attractive there. Walked through Long Garden to the Blenheim Pavilion, then found amphitheatre. Wanted to find Canning's Oak again to show Sam - & were shocked to find it no longer standing but lying on its side, with a notice saying it had blown down during May - great shame. Walked on again & came to the war memorial & cemetery which we hadn't seen before - several soldiers from 1st World War buried there, presumably they died at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital. Got to the river bank & sat under a nice shady tree & had our picnic - it was so hot! Walked back up the 172 steps... to the house, & walked along to the west side - never been along there before. Searched for the Secret Garden, & after a long time looking for it finally came across it - never been there before either, very nice with arches covered in honeysuckle & clematis."
Here are mum & Sam walking up the cliffs at Lulworth Cove, during our week's holiday in nearby Swanage in August - our 2nd visit there in 3 years. (She had visited Lulworth of course with Brenda a few years previously too).
Christine: "Walked down to the cove passing the little pond & the spring which flows into the sea. Had a good look at the cove, then climbed up the grassy cliffs & looked at the Stair Hole & rock formations - walked over the cliffs to Durdle Dor, took an hour. Spent some time there - very nice."
On the final day of our stay we visited the 'hidden village' of Arne - mum had seen it on a postcard, & we decided to investigate further! We visited the village & walked along the heathlands that stretch to Poole Harbour - pictured right.
Christine: "Drove to the village of Arne in Poole Harbour - went to the toy museum there - very interesting, & had drinks in the adjoining cafe. Walked to Shipstal Point, & Sam had a paddle - it's all part of RSPB nature reserve, & the area is covered in different heathers & gorse. Saw deer grazing near the water & sea-birds feeding - wished I'd had my binoculars. Very peaceful by the water, & we enjoyed it. Walked back... went in the small 14th century church of St Nicholas - mummy would have loved it, so small like a tiny chapel. Village of Arne only composed of a few houses & a farm - no pub! We all enjoyed our visit to Arne as it was so different - very quiet & peaceful, & a nice ending to our holiday."
This is us all enjoying Christmas Day 2004 lunch at the Ring O' Bells restaurant, near Maidenhead. This was also Maurice's 40th birthday! Neil & Lottie were also present too. Sadly, this was to be our mother's last ever Christmas.
Christine: "Got ready to go out - red beaded cardigan, black skirt, aquamarine ring (& mummy's ring), ring necklace mummy gave me (crystal one) & jingly bell earrings. Got to Ring O' Bells at 12:30 in good time - only 1 party before us. Had tomato soup, then melon, then large plate of turkey, sprouts, carrots, parsnips, roast potatoes, bacon & gammon - I tried to eat it all! Ended with coffee & mince pies. Did our presents when we got home, then Maurice's birthday presents & cake. Maurice bought Lottie a lovely all-in-one 'reindeer' outfit - really sweet. Maurice stayed & we watched a recording I'd made this morning of a Morecambe & Wise show."
And this is our little New Year's Eve celebration! We always stayed up to see the New Year in, & watch Big Ben & the wonderful firework displays. New Year's Eve was also Charlie's birthday - & New Year's Day my birthday...
Christine: "We had Charlie's birthday cake (he was very interested in that!) & gave him gorilla toy - will give him his bone tomorrow. Sam gave Stephen his first birthday card, & we watched the beautiful firework displays from London & Edinburgh. Happy New Year - I hope it will be!"
This was the day we celebrated Lottie's first birthday at Diana & Neil's house in Binfield, Bracknell in March 2005.
Christine: "[Lottie] was very happy & standing a lot, & playing with her toys. She'd already opened Maurice's present, & opened Stephen's & mine while we were there. Sabreena, Diana's friend from Mauritius was there - a very nice girl. She'd given Lottie a beautiful summer dress with small embroidered flowers & butterflies on.Diana had bought a chocolate Easter cake with little eggs on & 1 candle in the middle - & we all sang 'Happy Birthday to you'. Lottie sat in her high-chair, & made a lovely mess of her piece of birthday cake!"
Here's mum (in May 2005) heading to one of her favourite spots with Charlie - Ray Mill Island (a small island open to the public on the Thames in Maidenhead, which was once the private garden of Boulter's Inn). She took him there every week - usually on a Thursday, & always said she enjoyed the peace & calm there. She'd often sit in the little cafe on the island & send me a text to tell me she was relaxing there & enjoying the serenity.(Boulter's Lock itself is immediately behind where she's standing in the photo).
The following are quotes from a couple of visits she made there during May that typify her enjoyment of the island & the birdlife there...
Christine: "Took Charlie to Ray Mill Island... [went] to the cafe first - had our coffee & a '99' then walked round the island. Charlie searched for food as usual! He also took me down the steps again to the weir. Charlie laid down... under a willow tree with little white daisies all round him - looked sweet, wish I'd had my camera.On way back saw a pair of Canada Geese with one dear little baby goose just like a fluffy ball, with its little feet paddling away 19 to the dozen. [Later] saw Water Wagtails skimming over the water catching flies - the Cormorants are still there too."
We noticed on our numerous visits to the island that there were a few benches dotted around with memorial plaques attached - in remembrance of people who had passed away. In particular, in 2005, my mother noticed a new one dedicated to a husband of a friend of hers from her Craft Circle - which she usually attended on Wednesday mornings. So, in June 2006, by way as a little tribute to my mum, I arranged for her very own plaque to be placed on the island (a photo of the completed plaque appears at the bottom of this page).
The above photos are from our visit to Taplow Court (on May Spring Bank Holiday 2005). It's a large former stately home near Maidenhead (& Cliveden) which is open free to the public on Sundays throughout the summer.This was our first ever visit there...
Christine: "Went... to Taplow Court which was open today - never been before, but always wanted to visit it. We turned into the drive & got a lovely view of the house - it belonged to the Grenfell family; later Lord & Lady Desborough, & is now owned by a Buddhist sect. We walked through very well-kept gardens to the cafeteria where we had a drink at a table outside on the grass. Lovely weather, with lots of sunshine. After that, walked back through the gardens & then into the woods. The house [has] magnificent crystal chandeliers & carved ceilings - went upstairs to an exhibit about the First World War. It was really about the eldest son, who was killed in the war - also his brother. Their sister became a Red Cross nurse - very interesting. The house [is] very high up on Berry Hill - we could see the weir & Ray Mill Island below us, & All Saints' Church in the distance. Stroked a friendly horse, then found a very nice garden through a wrought-iron gate & sat there for a time (above, bottom left) - would like to go back & see some more."
Diana Silcock becomes Diana Brooks! These photos show Diana & Neil on their wedding day - June 11th, 2005. On the left is one of the pictures taken just after the ceremony at Bath Guildhall - you can just make out Bath Abbey in the background.
Christine: "Got up 6:30am ready for the big day! We left just after 8. Got to Bath about 9:30 & found the Guildhall (Registry Office) very near the Abbey. Diana had a beautiful fitted pale coffee lace dress, a narrow pink flower hairband & wore my pink dangly earrings - & looked beautiful, as always. Neil looked very smart in suit, collar & tie. The ceremony was very nice, & taken very seriously. Diana asked me to be a witness, so I had to sign the marriage certificate. Lottie looked very sweet in a floral dress & hat, & was enjoying herself walking about & looking at everything - be nice if she could remember the day, but don't expect she will. After ceremony walked down to grassy bit near Abbey & took more photos & threw confetti. Then we drove to the New Inn... very nice pub/restaurant with large grassy area & playground. Had a 'carvery' meal... sat outside some of the time, & ended with a liqueur coffee inside. Lovely countryside round there, & would like to go back to Bath."
This is my mother & Lillian Cox in July 2005 - when she was a surprise guest for Lillian's 80th birthday celebrations in Windsor.
Christine: (June 27th) "Had a surprise this afternoon when I had phone call from Margaret Cogger (Lillian's daughter). Lillian is 80 in July, & Margaret's bringing her to Windsor to see the castle. They're staying in the Christopher Wren Hotel for one night, & I hope to meet them the next day. Maragaret has arranged all kinds of things for Lillian to celebrate her birthday - can't believe she's 80."
Christine: (July 16th) "Windsor train broken down... so caught bus - exchanged messages with Margaret on my mobile (very useful!). Met them at station about 1pm. Lillian was overjoyed as she didn't know I was coming - lovely to see her. She looks older, but not 80 - last saw her in 1999. We walked down hill back to Eton Bridge, & went to a nice cafe opposite the Christopher Wren Hotel. Had a nice cappuccino (Lillian had one too - she'd never had one before)... then 'gassed' away for 3 hours! So much to talk about. It was very crowded in Windsor... much quieter during week when I usually go. They walked back to station with me... had to say goodbye after such a nice afternoon."
Here's mum & Sam on our annual August boat trip from Maidenhead to Windsor, & outside the Highlander pub near the castle.
Christine: "Today we decided to do the river trip to Windsor - as a nice day was promised! Only 20 people on the boat, so plenty of room. Saw all the nice houses again, & the beautiful gardens at Bray Lock, then Monkey Island & Boveney Lock. Walked up to the castle - police with guns on guard there. Walked down to the Long Walk, then back - & had a drink at a pub at the bottom of a narrow cobbled street opposite Henry VIII Gate. Before that went to Peascod Street... ended up in playground at end of Alexandra Gardens. Nice trip back - very relaxing & de-stressing, just what I needed. Then Stephen decided to drive round roads [in Bray] including the Fisheries where the posh houses are beside river. Very quiet & secluded - saw Michael Parkinson's & Rolf Harris's, & others as well. [Later] Stephen showed us the lovely video film he'd made of Diana & Neil's wedding. The river trip did me a lot of good, & I felt much calmer - hope it lasts!"
The following 5 photos are from the many I took during Christine's final holiday - when she spent a week with myself & Sam at a Hoseasons resort near Dymchurch, Kent, in August 2005. I'd been to this area for a holiday many years before with Maurice, & thought it would be a nice place to explore a little further - & a contrast to our previous holidays in the 2000s at Swanage & Teignmouth. Mum didn't want to travel abroad or too far afield in her latter years... so this seemed like as good a place as any to base our 2005 holiday.
Christine: "Drove to Hythe & caught the little train to Dungeness [Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Narrow-Guage Railway]. Took about an hour (13.5 miles), nice ride most of the time... some people waved to us as well. Saw the massive nuclear power station looming ahead! Then we walked up the Old Lighthouse - got right to the top & stepped outside onto surrounding platform (pictured left). Don't think I've ever been up a lighthouse before!"
"Decided to go to Folkestone today - very big town - walked along towards the harbour... the old Edwardian houses are really nice, & we saw some being renovated [Marine Crescent]. Got to the harbour (inner & outer) - there's a fishing industry there like Brixham - & also the cross-channel ferry leaves from there. Walked uo the Old High Street - narrow, cobbled... & very steep."
Pictured right - Nana & Sam at Folkestone's attractive inner harbour (on a very hot day as I recall)... Nana's bought a local map-book of the area too which she's holding up! The distinctive timber-clad buildings in the background seem to be synonymous with the coastal towns of Kent.
Christine: "Drove to New Romney this morning & went on town-trail, visiting [the] church, old school, old town hall, a gaol [next to the haunted pub!]... also a grassy large area where a chuch once stood. [Later] drove to Burmarsh, near Dymchurch, to Lathe Barn Farm to see the farm animals there - geese, goats, sheep, ducks & a donkey... also a play area for children - very reasonable charge for all this entertainment. Lovely clean cafe - we sat outside where there were window boxes & hanging baskets of flowers (pictured); really beautiful, a very nice place - like to go back there."
"Today we went to Leeds Castle at Maidstone - very beautiful with huge grounds - used an audio guide to go round castle which told you about everything... lady speaking on it had a beautiful voice. Also a 'duckery' there with mixed water birds, a falconry, aviary, vineyard & maze (pictured right - when we eventually found the centre!). Walked for about 4 hours which was very tiring - but caught the road-train back. [Later] had meal at Britannia Pub at Dungeness... saw the power station floodlit in the dusk, with the new moon poised above - very impressive."
"Left [Camber Sands] beach at 3:15 for Rye - walked a short way by the River Rother. Got map from giftshop & a few postcards & started looking round - very old houses & cobbled streets... all the houses different from one another. Walked up Mermaid Street & saw the famous Mermaid Inn, then on to the church (St Mary's - pictured left) which had beautiful stained-glass windows - also had an unusual clock, recently re-painted."
Here's Nana & Sam walking among the classic cars at Maidenhead's annual Littlewick Show (which is always held on August Bank Holiday Monday) & is a big event in Maidenhead!
Chrsitine: "We all went off to the Littlewick Show - missed it last year. Had a ride on the wagon drawn by 2 horses - hadn't done that before. Had an ice-cream (pictured) - very sunny there..."
"...Looked at flowers, veg, photos & crafts in exhibit tent (pictured left). Saw the mayor, who was giving out the prize cups."
In the photo, Nana & Sam are looking at the 1st, 2nd & 3rd prize for the miniature garden competition - I think these were created by local children. Sam's also sporting a rosette he won for the wheelbarrow race!
And this is exactly how I will remember my mum (in one of her last photos), again taken during August 2005 - just a few short weeks before she passed away from a sudden heart attack.
I've decided to put a few extracts from what became the last letter she ever wrote (to Brenda on occasion of her 70th birthday) & is dated 4th September 2005:
"Dear Brenda - Happy **th Birthday! Couldn't buy a card with 'you know what' on it... I've decided to stay 65 myself for the next few years. Hope all is going well, & you're enjoying your life at Barton on Sea.
Pleased to say Diana & Neil were married in June at the Guildhall in Bath - very near the Abbey. Neil's family come from Bath, so it was more convenient to go there. Lovely weather, & a very enjoyable day. Lottie enjoyed herself playing with a box of confetti Stephen had brought along! Dave, Diana's former husband, also re-married in March, so I hope they will now both be happy.
Took myself up to Ealing Broadway on the train from Maidenhead in July - long time since I'd been there - a lot has changed. Walpole Park's more or less the same, also the Forum cinema (now UGC), & the town hall - awful... they've built a hideous building beside it to house the council offices.
Do you remember taking part in the Ealing Musical Festival at the town hall? I played a piano duet with a fellow pupil from St Anne's, & you had to recite a speech from the Merchant of Venice, I think... 'by yonder moon, I swear you do me no wrong' or something like that! I wonder how much Shepherd's Bush has changed.
Stephen's got a girlfriend... it's lasted 5-6 months, so I hope it continues. They spent a week at Swanage together in August, so I had a 'free' week... really enjoyed it, & hope I have some more in the future.
Maurice went with some friends to Copenhagen to watch the 'friendly' match between England & Denmark - unfortunately we lost! He still plays football once a week with the local Seiko (he used to work there) football club. A few weeks ago he met Chris Barrie (Brittas Empire), who was playing in the opposing team - I used to enjoy watching that series.
Stephen, Sam & I went on holiday to Dymchurch this year at a Hoseasons Holiday Village - a new experience for us! Nice to go somewhere different, & plenty to see round there, including Leeds Castle, Folkestone & Rye, & the Dungeness power station. Couldn't send anyone a postcard as I left my address book at home - never done that before!
Went to see [the new film] Charlie & the Chocolate Factory with Stephen & Sam in Maidenhead - we also went to Great Missenden to see the Roald Dahl exhibition. Also found his house - lovely countryside round there.
Wonder if you've seen 'The Last Samurai' with Tom Hanks? Diana lent me the video, & I really enjoyed it - a very moving & interesting story based on actual events in the late 19th century.
Well, better close now - or I'll never get it posted! Hope you have a lovely weekend with the family - hope all goes well with everyone."
Love from Christine
My mother was cremated at Slough Crematorium on Sept 30th 2005.
I'd like to share with you now the very moving & poignant little elegy which Sam read out at the funeral service - & which he'd himself written:
In your life you sometimes meet someone who is truly special. Someone who is kind, who is caring, who is a Good Samaritan. I had the privilege, no the honour, of meeting one of those people. That person was my Nana.
One of my favourite times I can remember with my Nana was when me & her were taking my baby cousin Charlotte & her dog Charlie for a walk. Although we were talking about silly things like school, it was one of the most relaxing moments of my life.
Another thing I used to do with my Nana was to count the amount of Morning Glories there were on the plant outside our front door. For those who don't know, a Morning Glory is a beautiful blue flower that only lasts one day. They remind me of Nana a bit, because she was also a beautiful flower.
Nana also loved animals & I think she was a member of the RSPCA. Since I was born, she has not gone long without a pet to keep her company. One of her pets Charlie the dog, we still have now.
To me Nana was the right in wrong, the sanity in insanity, the good in this evil world. When she passed away I felt the saddest I have ever felt in my life. But I am trying to be strong & remember that she is in my heart, & that is all that matters.
The display of floral tributes beside my mother's grave at Braywick Cemetery, Maidenhead.
This was the first time we saw her stone memorial in place - on Christmas Eve 2005.
Here is the plaque on my mum's memorial bench at Ray Mill Island, Maidenhead, just after it was finished in July 2006. I thought it would fitting for her to be remembered in some small way at a place where she had enjoyed so much of her time during the last few years of her life.