Mum was the daughter of parents who were particularly able with what mum would say "good with their hands in making things”. Dress making, sewing, doll-making and the making of a cello and canoe. Reeling from the depression years in a Northern town mum's headmaster father had to defer to an autocratic Priest (who apparently was suffering from PTSD from the 1st World War) but who didn't like any form of display! So, Pa, who had health issues to do with his eyes and stomach himself had to accommodate the sneering contempt of a cleric damaged by war psychologically who didn't like Pa's creative touch because he felt undermined by the displaying of school children's work on school corridors as conflicting with clerical imposition and pre-Vatican 2 fear of lay overreach! Pa suffered so especially as he trained to be a Priest himself at Ushore but instead became an engineer, father of two and husband to Mary Egan (Nana - that's right, that’s why Mum became 'Nana 'too to the grandchildren) Mum also shared that sense that her creative side wasn't recognized in and out of school; but we all did! We noticed your self-effacement whilst you made marmalade, caramel slices, flapjacks, toffee apples, etc. and as for your coconut cake!!!? Mum even made me vegetarian meals to feed my rebellion when I was all out of 'too much cheese '! But mum, the artist of our family, also taught me how to look at skylines and look for shapes in all sorts of landscapes rather than realistic stuff 'that people have done already '! So, mum introduced me to 'abstraction' in Art by a simple way 'to look' -she put it down to her Art teacher advising her, but the teacher is only as good as her students are inspired by what they want to learn! Perhaps mum could have enjoyed a more active artistic yearning, but she nevertheless knitted us all thick Arun jumpers, taught us the rudiments of sewing, but never had her ego invested into her creative expressions! Her days were over-full, but she would flourish during the summer holidays abroad with her Paintings when she ever got a little time.... normally she'd encourage dad to Paint as well and thank goodness she had the sensitivity not to tell Dad and myself how far away we were from any artistic merit!!
When I think of the biggest influence on me as a Painter today, I think of the great Abstract Expressionist W. De Kooning, but whereas his work suffered in colour and 'simplification' because of his suffering at the hands of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but mum affliction (before she deteriorated to the point when she would live at Claremont Care home) would actually lead her to create her own path of Art appreciation by her innate rebelliousness! In spite of her situation her sense of colour and the colour field became unfiltered and instant! Unbelievable! But utterly mum regardless of her decline. Mum did trailblaze as a victim who refused to give-up hope! When someone's brain is slowly being eaten by disease there are still elements of light in so many 'reminders' and of new discoveries to hold onto as part of your brain will attempt to compensate until it can't hide the cruelty of deterioration of loss of what makes us all who we have become, then to all left behind remind yourselves that a loved one is still in pain and fear but is different and not less and is still trying to communicate on wavelengths that medically we have yet to understand, remember, we will one day!
Her Unique Generation and their legacy!
Don't blame my mother's generation for their 'plentiful pensions' that will be subsidised by the generations after them, because her generation had to put up with so much - actually too much! Her Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia was both cruel and parasitic! There may be a cure for later generations, but Mum's generation has had to endure, at the end of life, a sadistic brute of a disease that is both humiliating and beyond 'unfair'! She, like so many others were robbed of the time with my father and family and friends by a form of torture in the midst of her own isolated nightmare. But even in Claremont she was popular -the staff and many of the patients/clients all remember mum and her athleticism driving up and down the corridors with her chosen Ferrari (her Zimmer frame) and her cheerful "Hello darling" to all the staff!
So what did her generation have to put up with that we and our children won't have experience?!! The fallout of the Great Depression, the Blitz, the collapse of the British Empire, being evacuated and out of reach (but were still in reach) of long-distance German bombers, the terror of the Air-raid sirens (that haunted mum throughout her life) in which her father was made an Air-raid Warden always in danger whilst trying to prevent others in danger, the fear of starvation via the U-boats, the global threats of tyrants including a war ravaged great uncle of mine who survived Gangi-jail but was tortured relentlessly by the Japanese, and the unearthing of the hate crime not just of Stalin's Holodomor but the Holocaust itself! How does one try and process the calamities of ideological extremism and its villainy??! And then having to recover amidst the rubble with your game face perpetually on in order to move on whilst the economy was flat broke, and the wasteland of British influence was being held to account by continents of ex Imperial Britain abandoning the exposed colonial rule to re-acquaint itself with independence from British rule!!?? That's what mum's generation had to face internationally and then having to extend the spirit of Blitz Britain with rationing, the Cold War, McCarthyism versus George Orwell's 1984 's view of Stalinism! How can you filter such extremes, only to have to weather industrial decay and social demographic changes and the beginning of the end of social deference that was replaced by a vindictive racism against loyal advocates of Britain who uprooted themselves from all over the crumbling British Empire to defend Britain and serve it in times of war and in times of peace for richer or for poorer!
It was the final straw that Thatcherism would enforce that Britain would become independent from its post-industrial past and its post-imperial history, but even Thatcherism knew that a Welfare state was not just a safety net for wounded soldiers from conflicts but would focus Britain's recovery from the devastation of being 'the sick-man of Europe' to a more nationalistic centre to be the marketplace for the 'new independent economic powerhouses’. Whilst recognising that Britain had to compete globally to counter those readying themselves to replace Britain at the top international table! Thatcherism was appropriated by New Labour to address the gap between raw burgeoning economic muscle, using English as the language of trade but setting its sights on English speaking America to rival, in the longer term! Imagine 90 million graduates in the 2020's who speak English and many other languages to emancipate their true economic capacity and renew their ancient cultural index with their 21st century massive economy! English will remain the language of international business as long as India wants it to! The superpowers of the Cold War and those the Empires that preceded it are being overtaken by the Tiger economies of India and its neighbour China who both have huge undeveloped potential whilst being already global superpower players! But mum's generation played-out the end game of Empires just as eventually those who dominate global Capitalism today will themselves have to give way. You could learn a lot from a generation of Brits that internalised to survive! Mum's generation saw the Arms Race and the Space Race, the 3rd world war (the Cold War) play itself out too, only to witness the impact of rulers of mass destruction wreaking havoc globally. from religious extremism to global technology hacking and Ai threats, computer viruses and then, as mum's Dementia set in finally the Covid 19 pandemic which isolated those and made mum's generation in Care Homes who died like flies without any visitation from family allowed because of lock-down!!?? I mean, although mum went into Claremont after Covid lockdowns, her generation was once again put into harm's way and in some cruel twist were tortured once again by forces beyond their control! Even the end of the Cold war won't let my mum's generation off the hook of suffering; thanks to Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine!!?!!
Digitalisation, hacking and identity theft by hackers and trolls let alone computer viruses seem to seek-out mum's generation!?! Have they not endured enough already/ My mother was a symbol of a married woman who also wanted to have a career as well. she rebelled against her mother who was expected to stay at home, be a mother and wife for happy families! and let's get this straight she also encouraged her husband to rebel against his parents to become a sociologist. They are/were lefties and I have rebelled just like they did -I became a free-market advocate! Mum and dad taught me how, and I followed their lead, much to the disdain of my siblings as well as being the moralist pain in the arse of a 'righty'! I've rebelled at nearly everything, yet I haven't been shown the door by my parents ever!
I suppose my generation and the next generation will still rely upon the bank of mum and dad as well as the bank of Nana and Grandad, but we still berate their generation for their 'pensions'? They could have retired in comfort somewhere in the sun, but they knuckled down for the generations to come - they'd call it (quite modestly) 'sticking around to hand -on the baton.! ' Their sharing wasn't materialistic only; it was such warm gentle whimsical sense of fun from gentle warriors that has facilitated their NHS and their love for their family and friends! Mum's faith and belief will steer her to whatever is next, but whatever form god takes both familiar and unfamiliar will be pleased with Lennie's unflinching devotion from a good and loyal servant, who will truly be missed by all who knew her and her winning smile by those who didn't. Thanks for everything and a safe journey Mum!