Yvonne and Neil Salmon 21.07.75
It is almost impossible to put into words a person who has always been your rock, your constant, your sky and earth, and air. Granny is so ever-present in my world that I don’t know what a world without her is like. I want to call her and ask her,- how does this bit now work then? But she’s not there. I like to think that she is with Zo√´ and Grandpa, free from any pain or worry, watching us all from her sett√©e in the sky, and doing her crossword.
Only in recent years did Granny start to talk more, at least to me, about her own health and well-being. She always seemed to be looking after other people. Not in a fussy, pushy, way.. but was just always there for them, if they needed her. People were the centrepiece of her life. Primarily her husband, sister, and children, her nieces, nephews, godchildren and grandchildren, but also her dear friends from school, from the WAF, and friends she met through Neil’s work, and their offspring. She was exceptionally good at keeping in touch. She would phone people, write letters, always follow the developments in their lives. Up until recently she always had people popping in for tea, lunch, or a drink in the evening. But while she loved all the people in her life, she also loved her time alone, her space, and her privacy.
She had a routine into which visitors were scheduled. 10-10.30 was morning tea, lunch fell between 12 and 1, afternoon tea at 4pm, and alcoholic drinks, usually a dry sherry or Bloody Mary, were allowed after 6pm. I once turned up at 5pm and that really put a spanner in the works! She visited me in a field when I moved onto my house-boat and brought with her a moving-in present of a bottle of vodka, to be mixed with V8 like a vodka sandwich: V8 – vodka — V8. It was one of our jokes that she never taught me to bake cakes or suck eggs, but she did teach me how to make a Bloody Mary. I told her I’d tell that story at her funeral and she laughed.
One of my favourite pastimes was to stay with Granny for a night or two and just share the space in her flat. We didn’t talk that much, but used to happily co-exist. After waking in the morning she would eat breakfast prepared the night before, drink a cup of tea, and read the morning news before doing her stretches. Then, sitting on the edge of my bed, she’d bring me a cup of tea and while I gradually woke and rose would get on with her daily tasks: watering plants (twice per week), filling the radiator humidifiers, writing thank-you letters, sorting accounts, and talking with Val, Moira, or another friend for a morning catch-up. Twice per week her cleaner would visit, on Thursdays she would do laundry, on Fridays, she would go shopping and visit the library. Her day would then start with first visitor, or visit, around 10 and I would disappear into my work or see friends.
In the evenings she loved to watch TV: Eastenders, Casualty, Rosemary and Thyme… and always the tennis. Though I don’t own a TV myself, I could sit and watch with her for hours, sitting on a poof by her feet while she stroked my hair and I grabbed her toes if it was scary.
She always watched the 10 o”clock news so I knew I could call her either at 9.50 or 10.32. By 10.35 she was brushing her teeth, and by quarter to eleven she was propped up in bed reading a book. She loved to read. Mysteries, fantasy, adventure, and historical novels. She always had a few books checked out from the library and a pile of unread gifts from friends on a chair, waiting for their turn in the priority list.
As kids, she loved reading to us, and we loved listening. As we got older she would give us free reign of her bookshelves, especially those at child-height in the long corridor. We used to sprawl out there, right under her feet, for hours.
When we were older yet, we would hang out in her sitting room. Felix might read the paper, Kirsten would read a book, or I might be studying. But never at the same time: she liked us to visit on our own. She would sit on the sett√©e doing the crossword, occasionally reading out a clue. I remember her and Felix going out to dinner once on the prize money she had won for completing the Times Crossword with his help on the last word: Dinosaur.
She also loved writing. She used to write to Zo√´ every Sunday and later, when I was in Antarctica, she I and I also wrote weekly,- hers arriving by fax every Tuesday after she had posted it to Cambridge on Monday morning with a first class stamp. It became so reliable that the rest of my colleagues would set their weekly clock by Rhian’s “Granny letters”.
That was her most fundamental aspect,- she was reliable. And a great listener. For many of us: child, niece, nephew, god-daughter, grandchild, she has always been our stability. Yvonne, always there, always listening, always both sympathetic and sensible in her response.
It will take us a long time to adjust to life without her, but she left the world as she wanted: quickly, at home, and without a fuss. She regularly instructed me to not get ‘teary-eyed” when she passed away, before offering up one of the great selections of chocolates adorning the sitting room. That was another of her great attributes: she loved food and drink, and was an exceptional chocoholic.
Yvonne and Rhian on Nooksak, September 2006