My mother would’ve been 100 years old today and I would like to pay her this tribute.
Let me tell you about a remarkable lady called Joyce, who overcame suspected polio at age 7, who survived being stabbed at 18, contracted scarlet fever a year later and walked away from being knocked down by a lorry aged 23. During the war she cycled to and from work in the blackout with bombs landing each side of her, laughed in the face of cancer aged 66 and went on to recover from near-death experiences until her death in 2013.
One of her earliest memories was of her aunt dancing her around the room to the Charleston playing on the gramophone. This was the beginning of her love of dancing which led her to take part in a concert for the NAAFI during the war, and in 1946 at the Embassy ballroom in Welling, she met Leslie, my father. After a six-month courtship they were married in December and enjoyed a honeymoon in foggy Brighton.
Like many of her generation her motto was ‘keep calm and carry on’. Rationing meant that when I was born in the winter of 1949 she swallowed her pride and went knocking on doors begging for coal to keep me warm.
1950 saw the dawn of a new era. Leslie’s mother moved down from Leeds to open a boarding house with us in Bexley. This Victorian house was to be our busy home for the next 20 years. She always found time to make my party dresses and knit my boleros and joked that I was better dressed than Princess Anne! My birthday parties were glamorous affairs – a dozen children round the table and a snowman cake, a clock cake and a birthday cake, all made by Mum.
When my grandmother died in 1962 the business took a dive but Joyce turned her hand to other work including cooking in a staff canteen and selling Betterware door-to-door. In amongst all this she cared for me, my sister and brother, and found time to take us out in the school holidays. But although she was always busy she never neglected her appearance, always had her hair done and never left the house without her make-up expertly applied.
My father’s job came to an end which meant moving to a smaller house and finally my parents and brother moved to Margate in 1971 where she worked at the Sea-Bathing hospital, British Home Stores, and various school kitchens, never fazed by all this work. In later years she took on cleaning jobs well into her 80s. When asked by my brother if she should give them up she replied, ‘Oh, do you think so? But what would I do? I’d get bored.’ She was well known for her sense of humour and love of music and brightened up all our lives when trouble lay ahead.
HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY Mum. I’m sure you’re having a ball ‘up there’. xxx