Daily Archives: August 7, 2017

Until We Meet Again

We had a wonderful day today. Sad in parts, and very emotional but at the same time it was lovely to share memories and celebrate the life of this remarkable woman. Thank you so very much for all your lovely messages of support, and I’m touched by the way you’ve all surrounded me with this blanket of care, and propped me up.

You’d be proud of me…I managed to get through my eulogy without falling apart. Well, I say that…I lost it a bit right at the end, but by then it was okay. I did her proud. One or two of you have asked me to share some of the memories that I talked about, and I’d be happy to.
Most people knew my Godmother as Audrey. To us, she has always been Elsie. She was my Aunty Elsie, and she’s been my mum’s best friend for the last eighty years.

I won’t dwell on Elsie’s childhood, but it’s fair to say that having lost her mum at a very early age, it wasn’t without its challenges. Never comfortable with the role of ‘victim’, her formative years put the steel in her backbone, and she rose above it all. At her first opportunity, Elsie reinvented herself as Audrey, determined to live life on her terms and show the world that she was a force to be reckoned with.

In many respects, she was a woman before her time. In the 1970s, that same backbone, together with her razor sharp intellect and drive saw her rise to the very top of her profession, and her career as Chief Export Sales Manager for a large printing firm took her all over the world. This is a picture that she and I found earlier this year when we were clearing out some of her old papers. It was lifted from her international driving license. I mean, how many women do you know who had an international driving licence almost fifty years ago? Exactly!

She would breeze into our house on a cloud of Chanel No 5, and fire my imagination with stories about places I’d never heard of. She blazed a trail through South America, and Japan and she made friends around the world. Some of those friends became our friends too.

To an impressionable little girl living an ordinary life, she was fascinating. She would float around in brightly coloured kaftans and I vividly remember her green eye shadow, and her brightly painted nails. Mum used to call her The Duchess Of Cock-a-Leekie, which Elsie found infuriating and hilarious in equal measure.

She loved to cook. She had a very temperamental oven that we nicknamed Vesuvius, and visits to her house generally involved her trying to recreate recipes that she’d encountered on her travels, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes Vesuvius would burn dinner to a crisp and she’d make me cover my tender young ears whilst she turned the air blue.

When I was seventeen and learning to drive, she would pull up outside in her very big and very fancy company car, stick the ‘L’ plates on the bonnet and throw me the keys. We’d set off, me behind the wheel, Elsie directing operations from the passenger seat and mum chewing her knuckles in the back, praying that both car and occupants would arrive home unscathed.

Elsie took her responsibilities as my Godparent very seriously. To mum’s despair, she taught me how to season a sentence with just enough salty language to drive home a point. In my teenage years she could always be relied upon to provide a steady supply of cigarettes. Sorry mum. She taught me the art of French inhaling, which felt like the height of sophistication back in the 1980s when smoking was cool, and it made me the envy of all my friends. She dispensed words of wisdom when I dated unsuitable boys, and she instilled in me a curiosity about the world which has never gone away.

In the same way that Elsie’s colourful life seemed full and rich and exciting to us, our quiet and altogether less exciting life provided a bolt-hole for Elsie in the more turbulent times of her own life. The enduring and symbiotic friendship between her and my mum which had its roots in childhood has been a beautiful thing over the last eighty years, and these two very different women, both amazing in their own way, have been the biggest influences in my life.

I will remember my Godmother as spirited, stubborn, intelligent, sometimes difficult, always determined, proud, independent and wise, and I will miss her beyond measure.

Elsie Audrey Woodhead, August 1933 – July 2017

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Sweeping Up The Mess

Well that was a turbulent week. The storm appeared from nowhere and blew the shit out of me, but I think the worst of it has passed now. Yesterday morning I faced the music and had a Come-to-Jesus conversation with the Shitbird Scale, which wasn’t pretty, but it is what it is. I’m philosophical about it, you know? I made a mess, and now it’s time to sweep it up.

Something had to blow, and it did. Spectacularly. The sugar monster got me right between the eyes, starting with the coconut slice last Monday, and ending with a cheese and onion quiche and three peanut butter Magnums on Saturday night. I don’t need to go into detail about the six days in between, but nine pounds and change on the scale tells it’s own story. I’m such a fucking plank.

I’m done though. I rebooted yesterday, and the time was right…I’d started to miss the discipline. I’m not making excuses – you all know me well enough to realise I don’t do that ever – but sometimes giving yourself the chance to miss something is not a bad thing. It’s kind of like the acid test to see whether it’s a keeper, right? It’s a dangerous game, because if you don’t miss that thing you’ve walked away from you’re screwed.

Thankfully, I came full circle. I went from feeling relieved that I’d relinquished control, to craving the control back again. Yesterday, I took mum and visited some of our extended family so I couldn’t be fully in control of the menu per se, but I was in control of what I chose to eat. And I did okay. My choices weren’t completely sugar free – come on, there was home-made trifle up for grabs, and I’m not made of wood – but the trifle was duly calorie-counted and logged, and today will be my sugar-free ground zero.

This morning, we lay my beloved Godmother to rest. It’s going to be a very emotional day, so please forgive me short-changing you a bit. My head’s a tad wobbly and I can only really manage half a post. I need to go read my eulogy to Charlie dog a few more times, so I can desensitise myself to some of the memories and give myself a fighting chance of sharing them in the moment without snot candles 🙂

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