Monday, 20 June 2022

A matter of death and life (part one)

What a week it’s been…

The phone call from the hospital came last Sunday afternoon and we knew that a long and difficult saga was drawing to a close.  My dear old mum-in-law’s health had been deteriorating both mentally and physically for the last couple of years, so it wasn’t unexpected.  We saw her for the final time on Sunday evening, short of breath and unresponsive, but there was a peacefulness about her too and I like to think she was still somehow aware of the familiar voices and comforting touch, and perhaps they helped her to just let go.  Still, feisty to the last, she hung on for one more night and then finally went on Monday afternoon.

Well, my mum-in-law has made an appearance on this blog before and now seems a good time to remind myself of that.  I mean, she was the mother of an anarcho-punk guitarist with an occasional penchant for black nail varnish, whose girlfriend used to turn up at their home from the bus in a pink velvet jacket and leopard spot trousers… she was bound to pick up on some rock’n’roll trivia!  Proof came many years later, when she was in her 80s, and Mr SDS spotted her filling in a crossword puzzle with the letters:  M  O  T  O  R  H  E  A  D .  The clue was simply ‘Lemmy’s rock band’…   

We naturally started to harbour secret suspicions that, tucked away amid the kitten ornaments and well-thumbed copies of the TV Times, there might be a copy of ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’.  Not only that we thought but, perhaps carefully disguised within a Tom Jones album cover, there would also be an original issue of ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’, after we noticed this completed puzzle page:


(It's not very clear but the box on the right has the clue ‘Pink Floyd founder, ____ Barrett’)

Anyway, here’s to my mum-in-law Eileen, who lived a long and happy life in the same little village where she’d spent her childhood.  She loved her crosswords and her fish’n’chips, and was so generous with the bulging bags of crisps, chocolates and biscuits that she gave us every Christmas that we probably still have a few packets of Jammy Dodgers and onion rings left in the back of the cupboard from 2006…   I fondly remember the early days of getting to know her when she’d feed us with Findus Crispy Pancakes (the cheesy ones) and the best home-made date cake I’ve ever tasted.  RIP Eileen.

Unfortunately, therefore, it wasn’t the best timing that the morning after she died I was due to be travelling 400 miles and staying away in Edinburgh until the Friday, but it was for a brief yet exciting adventure that had been 2 years in the waiting, and Mr SDS wouldn’t have wanted me to miss it.  It felt strange to leave him home alone at such a time, but at least we could communicate by phone and it was only for a few days.  And what a few days!  From thinking and talking so much about death at that moment, I was lucky enough to go off for a fantastic new experience in the loveliest of company (which you may soon, if not already, be reading about elsewhere) and it was at the opposite end of the spectrum: positively life-affirming.

More on that in part two!

In the meantime, what’s it gonna be?  Motörhead or Tom Jones?  Oh, go on, let’s have a bit of both…

Tom Jones: I Gotta Know (1964)

Motörhead: Live To Win (1980)


  1. Best wishes to you and Mr SDS, what a lovely celebration of mum-in-law Eileen. It's those fond memories and surprising insights that keep loved ones close to you, even as they have physically departed. I chuckled at the anecdotes about crosswords, crisps and Findus Crispy Pancakes. With my (long departed) nan, it was my sole exposure to the singular attraction/revulsion of the Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie in a tin!

    Wonderful to read that you were finally able to meet up with some new/old friends again/for the first time. As you say, it's those moments that provide light to the shade and remind us how wonderful life can be. I'm looking forward to reading more in part two!

  2. Sorry to hear that C.Pass on our condolences to Mr SDS

  3. A lovely tribute to Eileen who I'm guessing you must have known since you were a teenager. I love the beautifully written block capitals in the crossword - says a lot about a person.

    As for the timing, not great as you say, but hats off to Mr SDS for coping alone with such a massive thing until you got back. It wouldn't have worked without you and life-affirming indeed. Many condolences to him, you, and the rest of the family.

    Two great clips as well. If you are lucky enough to live a long life, not unreasonable to be a fan of both.

    Looking forward to Part 2.

  4. Best wishes and condolences to you both. Funny how its always the little things that remind us of people we've lost- I get the Jammy Dodgers and onion rings thing completely.

  5. What a wonderfully warm tribute to Eileen, she sounds like a lovely character. I can imagine that Mr SDS's heart must have swollen with pride when he read the Syd Barrett crossword entry. My condolences to you both.

  6. I hope you give her a good send off, C.

  7. Thanks all. Sad as these things always are, it was time - I think we're really now starting to feel the sense of relief after a stressful couple of years for all involved.

  8. My condolences to you both. It must have been tough leaving for the blog meet, but I'm glad you managed to make it.

  9. Hi C. Sorry to hear about your Mum in law.We have reached that time of life when long good byes take up a large part of our existences (if we are lucky). I love the connections between Eileen, Jammy Dodgers and the counter culture.

  10. Rol and Ben - thank you both.
    A 'life' post to follow soon as I can collect my thoughts!

  11. Hope you are both doing okay. Glad you made it to "The Story Of The Blogs" though. Go steady.

  12. Thanks Martin, yes doing okay, and glad of the meet too. (Sorry, can't seem to do personal replies at the mo!)


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