In my 20s, a few years after university, my housemate/landlord Robin, told me about a development of newly refurbished ex-council flats in a (then) near deserted part of London’s docklands called Wapping. Most of the docks had closed and the area was always a little strange; no-one I knew had ever been there, despite it being less than a 5 minute drive from the Tower of London (built by William the Conqueror around 1000 years ago). London’s docks were heavily bombed during WWII, resulting in semi-dereliction. On the day the flats were released, myself, Robin, Robin’s mum, Robin’s business partner Mark and Mark’s mum – a lady called Eve (plus a lot of other folk) queued overnight in our cars for about 3 days for the opportunity to sign up to buy one of these flats. There was great cameraderie and we all popped into Robin’s mum’s caravan for cups of tea. The block was called Riverside Mansions (http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/heritage/riverside-mansions-marks-its-first-80-years-1928-to-2008-1-666378). Out of that block, I got a husband, 2 godchildren and around half a dozen friends I still see now over 30 years later. It was soooo hard to leave that place when it came time to move on…and one of the reasons was Riverside Matriarch, Eve. Eve’s mother ran off with an American GI during the war…..and the abandoned Eve grew up to become Mother-in-Chief to what became known as the Riverside Family.
Husband and I have had cause to discuss what happens to the vibrant spirit that used to be our family, friends or companions after they pass on. We both lost uncles this year; we are of an age when the losses are starting to gather pace.
And so, today, we buried Eve. Husband J has lost his opera-going companion. She died aged 83…but as un-83 as you can get. Sharp as a pin and just as funny to the end. At her funeral, son Mark asked us to recall a happy memory about her, and since all mine are happy, that wasn’t too difficult: Election night 1997 – (an unplanned and long evening/morning of surprise, shock and laughter), when we stayed up all night to watch the election results; driving to a WWI memorial display at night along the Embankment (see Achilles Blog 41: https://aintwegotitmade.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/achilles-blog-41-8-aug-2014/), when Eve suggests we should just drive in the dark until the petrol runs out; walking slowly around Greenwich Village in New York, arms linked between me and husband, J (I guess we must have annoyed the locals), the day after a fabulous night at the Metropolitan Opera House; Eve’s constant hope and inevitable disappointment at our inability to win the Town of Ramsgate pub quiz. She was funny and acerbic. She definitely made life better. What better a tribute can one hope for than for someone to say that you made life better. Eve was an independent, stoic, grafter…raising 3 children, in poverty, on her own and getting herself educated later in life so she could better provide for them. She was very clever…and her children have been extremely successful. Eve loved Riverside. She chaired the management committee and helped turn it into a soundly-run, attractive place to live.
I often wonder what the people in my life have to teach me..as I believe we all have a purpose in each other’s lives. Eve has taught me that fun is really, really important; that accepting people as they are is really, really important; that family and friends is really, really important. That music is really, really important. That being interested in life and the people around you is really, really important. Dear Father, thank you for Eve…we hand her over to your care – and I promise You, her wit and wisdom will make You wonder how You ever managed to create such a gem.