In Memory Of ...

Sheila Lattey
2.11.1930 - 27.4.1999

Video Clip Walking on Cannes harbour

Thoughts of Mum

How can I ever find words to describe my mum without them ending up sounding empty, meaningless platitudes? Kind, loving, fun, generous, thoughtful, selfless, a great sense of humour. Yes she was all these things. But you could use these words to describe many other people too. So in the end, she's rendered Nothing Special. Just like everyone else. Which I think we'll all agree, does her a great disservice.

We've had literally scores of lovely letters. Everyone saying roughly the same things and all of us struggling to put into words just how big a person she was - larger than life. Is there a word to describe a mum who not only washes and irons your school shirts, but then puts them in the oven on a cold winter's morning so that the cotton on your skin isn't cold? Who not only dutifully delivers that forgotten games kit in time for the lesson, but also hides a piece of cake and a note at the bottom of the bag - a little piece of home to invade the monotony of the day. Who takes a cup of tea out to a stranger digging up the road because he looks thirsty. Who when cooking for a family of five makes enough for another family in case they drop in.

To me, she was a Mum with Added Extra. If she was doing something for you, she'd not only do it, but also a bit more too. She arrived to celebrate the birth of Daisy not only with flowers and champagne, but also with 460 nappies. She dragged my whole family down to London on my 21st Birthday so that we could all eat the chocolate cake she'd made out of a mashed potato special recipe from someone at the Golf Club.

There was something touchingly maverick about her. It was as if she was determined never to be mistaken as pretentious Middle Class Middle England and turn her back on her Lancashire Lass roots. So she would choose high profile potentially pompous moments to reinforce her message that We're Not Posh. There'll be a handful of people who will remember the demure blushing bride who then got up to play the drums with the band on her wedding day. Who can forget her Britannia or Tannenbaum Christmas Tree turns? The Queens Silver Jubilee street party? If it was her way of putting two fingers up at the world of ostentation. Never take yourself too seriously. If it's going to be tacky, do it with a capital T with pride and style.

She was the ultimate Ambassador for the maxim 'carpe diem' - seize the day - live for the moment. During the summer months she would regularly get me and Pip up at 5.00a.m. so we could sit in the garden in our nighties with her, drinking cups of tea out of our finest china and listening to the birds. Celebrating the day before it cranked into the dull routine of chores and school. In the last few weeks of her life, I was so grateful for this legacy from her. Our last few mother/daugher chats were stolen moments when I should have been somewhere else - working, at a meeting, at an ante natal check up. Instead, by some miracle of chance I'd live for the moment - change my destination at the last minute and go via home. Only to find her quietly crying at the kitchen table, trying to put everything in order before she left us. She wasn't afraid, just very brave and very sad to leave so soon. As her eldest daughter, she's been a tough act to follow. I don't think she had a bad bone in her body. How can I ever be as good and as great as she was when I have bad bones aplenty?

If I'm honest, she's had a good life. But she deserved a better one. She was the Sun and Dad, Nick, Pip and I were the moons, circling in her orbit. Gravitating to her. She was so selfless, loving and giving that she allowed us all to do our own thing without making any demands for herself. Without creating a fuss that would inconvenience us in our own pursuits. I hope she didn't feel too overlooked and neglected. If I have any regrets, it's for her grandchildren, who, apart from Katherine, will probably never remember her properly and never know how much they were adored. Whose impression of their grandmother will largely rely on one dimensional, biased doting anecdotes provided by my father, Nick, Pip and myself.

I'd like to finish with a poem, which I think is fitting and ironically I didn't realise was written by Joyce Grenfell - one of her favourites of all time:

If I should go before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor when I'm gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell,
But Life Goes On,
So sing as well.

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