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Memento More And Other Antient Memories


John Wright

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Well this last couple weeks has been a heavy time. I have been working, almost over time. I start a four week trial on 13 October and there are acres of papers and files. Nearly there but not quite. I am enjoying the cut and thrust but it does remind me of why I stood to one side.

 

On the family front I got news that my uncle by marriage died in September. As most of you will know I am adopted. My adoptive parents were each only children. I have an adopted sister and a niece and nephew. I found my birth mother a few years ago and have a half sister and a niece and nephew there. Relatives are few and far between

 

In my adoptive family I have only fairly remote relatives. I had a scutch of elderly and venerable great aunts when I was growing up. Victorian ladies, lavender smells, antimacassars. Most were spinsters or widows. Two or three had staff. I was to be seen and not heard, but indulged as the male for the next generation.

 

Lorraine (whose husband has just died) is my grandfathers brothers daughter. That means we share a common set of great grandparents. She is my fathers cousin and my first cousin once removed. She is a few years younger than my dad George and was in her youth a bit of a rebel, or so I am led to believe. She is mid seventies now. I first remember her in Liverpool at her evacuation home. Her parents lived in central Liverpool and sent her to friends in Aintree for the duration in 1940. My great aunt and uncle were killed in bombing raid in 1943 and by the time she was in her late 20's the family who had taken her in were all dead. So that memory is about 1960 when I was 4 or 5. In those days out of race season you could camp on the race course. Her kitchen window overlooked the camp site.

 

Lorraine qualified as a teacher in the middle 50's but found English class work boring. She worked for Cunard and P&O running education on the Aus and NZ routes for migrant children then she went to Trinidad and Tobago to work for Shell who ran an expats school for workers on the tar lakes. back in London she answered an advert for a governess to an American diplomatic family to coach their two daughters for entry into the US equivalent of Eton or Harrow and when they went back with one in and the other too young to sit the entrance she spent two years in New York and Washington doing the same. I have the Kodak camera I was sent as a present one Christmas.

 

Wherever she was she sent regular cards and presents. Multiculturalism was not high on the agenda for a young boy in Morecambe in the early 60's but I had colourful Caribbean T shirts and a steel drum. I was the envy of myself, if not my friends. When she turned up on leave she had a triumph TR5A. Imagine how I felt when that stopped outside school to pick me up!

 

From US she went to India and Pakistan, I think on a years pilgrimage/tour, maybe hippy dom. I have three wonderful model elephants. Then her last post Malaysia in the last days of the British presence in the far East, as a teacher at the RAF school in KL and then in Penang. That is where she met Bruce who was a captain in the air force. They married and he was decommissioned back to the UK.

 

BY this time my mum had died. dad was a great single parent. But home life was dull. Bruce and Lorraine had never had a house, they bought and furnished afresh a la Conran, instead of a black old style BT phone they had a trim phone, a B&O stereo, G plan furniture. You get the picture. I loved their house and her.

 

They retired to rural Norfolk, got involved with dogs and couldn't leave them to travel, then Bruce became ill, he couldn't travel anyway. We wrote, phoned and I called to see them. Any idea how awkward Norwich and beyond is? Especially from IOM.

 

Recently I had helped her get on line. She was sinking under the strain of 24/7 care for Bruce who after heart attacks and mini strokes had gone on to Alzheimer's. We got in Norfolk Social Services who got him up and put him to bed and took him to day care twice a week and gave respite every three months for a week. Any way he died whilst being moved so we had to have a PM and enquiry and waited to hear if an inquest would be necessary. No it is not, so off to funeral on Thursday. can you do Norfolk and back via any airline in a day for a 14.00 funeral, cremation and brief appearance at the bun fight. Not likely. Wednesday evening was full on the Steam Packet. Any way all sorted, but with what patience Lorraine has borne it all, what dignity

 

At the same time i got an e-mail asking if I was the same John Wright who lived in Hest bank as a child, went to Bolton le Sands school and knew a Helen N.... . Someone I had not seen or heard from since I was about 7. We have exchanged messages, its strange how it all comes flooding back, names and people who I have not thought of in 45 years. Her father a copper, her mother our lollipop lady, teachers, surprisingly one still alive, our contemporaries, parties, pets

 

I am so glad I have a vivid memory. If I ever become affected by Alzheimer's or a stroke and cannot communicate please someone switch me off. In the meantime both Bruce's death and Helen's e-mail have enriched my life with all the memories that have rushed back.

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