Friday, 8 July 2011


My Mum died last week.

I haven't been able to face writing about it until now - but thought you should know.

18 years ago my Mum was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. For many that would be the beginning of the end.

For Mum it marked the start of a period of great happiness in her life. She threw herself into her music - the first love of her life.

My Mum was born in the middle of the war on Christmas Eve, December 1943. She was born at home in Yeadon (near Leeds) and lived for most of her childhood in the home in Chapel Allerton, Leeds that my brother and I remember so well from our own early childhoods in the 1970s. Her father worked in various factories and my grandmother was a school-teacher - she taught French like her father before her.Teaching was really the family business.

In the 1950s my Mum won a place at Grammar School. She did well, combining academic studies with developing her musical talent. In the mid 1960s she made, what must have been, the thrilling move to London, arguably the centre of the universe in that period, to study for a Maths degree at University College.

She combined this with studying at the Royal College of Music - maths in the morning, music in the afternoons. She quickly became a well-known figure at University, organising and performing many concerts.

It was during this period she met my father, when (as I recently discovered) she snatched him away from another girl who had been caught snogging Harold Wilson's son Giles! (Now I know why I could never be Labour!). They married before my Dad had finished his final exams and lived together in a flat - blissfully happy.

Following my birth in May 1969, we moved to Hertford. This was a difficult time for my Mum. After my birth, she suffered a very severe bout of post-natal depression and battled this demon for the next 20 years or so. In 1976, we moved to Guildford and my Mum started her involvement with many local choirs and taught music at local schools.

Her grandchildren Danielle and Nicky were born in 1996 and 1999 respectively - she fell deeply in love with them both and made a huge contribution towards helping them develop their talents and personalities.

In 2009, the cancer came back. Undiagnosed, a large tumour had formed on her spine and wrapped itself around her spinal cord. The tumour had grown to such an extent that the pressure it exerted fractured a vertebrae - causing intense pain and finally alerting the doctors to the real reason for her decline in health over the previous few months.

Things looked hopeless. The tumour was inoperable. The treatment, an intense course of radiotherapy, was a 'last ditch' attempt with limited hope of success. Even if successful, her Consultant confessed that she was only likely to live for 18 months, not from October 2009, but from whenever it was that the Cancer has first presented itself, perhaps many months earlier.

But. Bolstered by the sheer dedication of my father, the love and support of her close family and the kind and motivational words of our large family in Australia she turned her formidable strength of mind to the task of fighting back from the brink. We all supported her by focussing on giving her as much love and support as possible - all we could help give her was our love and the will to live.

Last July I found a villa in the hills above Nice in the South of France and invited my Mum and Dad to join us for an idyllic two weeks of family meals, talk and relaxation in the sultry heat of a beautiful part of France.

This photograph captures this time perfectly. When we arrived at the villa we discovered that the only access to the cottage was a long steep pathway. As she negotiated the steps, she glanced at the seemingly inaccessible swimming pool and said 'I will never get in there'.

Of course she was in the pool every day. The lure of the wafts of laughter and happiness from her two granddaughters overcame all.

And there she stands gazed at, surrounded and literally enveloped by those who loved her - completely.


Peter Blow said...

Thanks Rob.
That's fantastic.x

Ben Barton said...

Robin, an amazing piece for an amazing woman. All our thoughts are with you, Sophie and the kids, your Dad and brother.
I remember her being oh so terribly patient with us all as we mucked up our adolescence in Merrow. And always ready with breakfast!
Best wishes

Paul Hensby said...

Your love and admiration for your mother pervades this beautiful piece. Your mother loved music and she might have found My Last Song (dot com)helpful and enjoyable. I set it up to help people select the pieces of music that best suited their lives and music to be played at their farewell event.
I hope you are coming to terms with the loss of your mother who you loved so deeply.

Post a Comment