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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Dorothy Reynolds - her funeral

It's raining and grey this morning but it feels lighter. Yesterday the family and some of our neighbours said farewell to Dorothy, my mum-in-law, at Perry Barr Crematorium. Her coffin was a pleasing willow basket with her name on a small tablet of wood. Lin had arranged the flowers to go on top. Guy, my son-in-law - who'd brought our Remembrance poppies - and our son Richard, with two undertakers, drew the coffin up the aisle of the small chapel. Ian gave me directions for starting and stopping the music, closing the curtain at the end and the light on the lectern for what I had to say. 

Welcome everyone. It’s good to see enough people who Dorothy knew, but not so many I can’t keep your names in my head - Barbara, Janice, Michaela, Emma, Liz, Amy, Guy, Richard, Les, Gill and John. Thanks to those at Perry Barr Crematorium, David, Paul, and Ian and to Melanie and Angie and colleagues from Hadley’s and to our son Richard for Dot’s service sheet.
Dot’s husband Arthur Reynolds died in April 2016. We were here at his funeral weren’t we? But poor Dot was in hospital and could not be there to say ‘Goodbye’. He and Dorothy had been married for 70 years. Dot longed to join him. She was entirely unfrightened of dying, but, despite being bedridden her strong old body bound her here against her will. Though she rarely complained, Linda who was her chief carer knew her mum hoped that she could go to sleep one night and simply not wake up.
Now Dorothy has her wish, passing away peacefully, with her grand-daughter, Amy, at her side. So she’s not here now with us. She’s gone to where she wanted so much to be - ‘with my Arthur’
It’s said that the memories you have of happiness in childhood stand you in good stead for all later challenges, perhaps most when it comes your turn to die.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know Dorothy has left me the most bountiful and indelible of such memories. I suspect that goes for the rest of us – for Linda, for Richard and Amy especially, but also for her sister Barbara.
- I recall being able to hear our children before going to sleep being entertained by Dot’s stories – made up each evening – about Jimmy Green and Johnnie Brown
- I recall being with her as we got our fingers pricked and stained harvesting blackberries along leafy lanes in the Forest of Dean, and later, enjoying her blackberry crumbles with cream and custard.
Richard and his Nan in the Forest
- I recall Dot’s trifles - full of sherry, You wouldn’t want to drive after one of those!
- Suffering from a breakfastless marriage, I specially recall the delight of Dot’s breakfasts, made for me whenever we were together - her mugs of tea, poached eggs, her bacon and tomato on toast, which she’d sometimes burn at my request.
- I recall many sunny ferry crossings of the English Channel and arriving in France.
- I recall the long and often empty beaches there, where we enjoyed the picnics made up by Dot and Lin - crispy baguettes for us, sliced bread for Arthur.
- I recall strolling around busy markets, quiet churches and country lanes in Brittany. If Arthur, who was no wimp, hadn’t decreed that if we were were meant to fly we’d have wings, Dot would have travelled the whole world with him. Even so I and the family have reaped the happiest memories, of being with her and Arthur in the loveliest parts of England and France.
- I recall that she failed utterly in a mother-in-law’s duty to be at least mildly critical of her son-in-law.
All these memories and more.
Now we chose the great aria from Turandot because Dot and I would enjoy searching the internet for her favourite songs and tunes, one of which was Deanna Durbin singing Nessun Dorma - None shall sleep (a version sung in English in which 'she' has been changed to 'he')
I'll keep a vigil 'til the glow of sunrise when he'll be mine. This everlasting hope for love bereaves the night of silent rest. Oh night depart ere the morrow. Stars on high grow paler … at daybreak he'll be mine … mine at last… at last

Saturday, 20 October 2018


There comes a moment in the passing of time when the days of our stay in the village feel numbered. A flight is booked. We must check-in on line and get boarding passes, jot down lists to do, things to bring back when we return.
“Jigsaw blades, sanding disks, multicutter blades, marmite”
“If I hadn’t got so much to do in England I’d cancel going back” says Lin.
We’ve been making notes for Dot’s funeral in Birmingham, for Richard to design a service sheet with photos.
DRAFT: Dorothy Reynolds  was born in Little Norton on Sunday 30th March 1924, the daughter of William and Sarah Bentley, one of six children - sisters Edith, Violet  and Barbara, and brothers William and Jack.
Dot went to Norton Canes school and left at age 14 to start work. She had many and varied jobs during her long life. One of these was working in a grocer’s shop. The grocer asked Dorothy if she would like to do the grocery deliveries, to which she replied that she couldn’t drive. The grocer offered to teach her. At a time when a driving test was not required, Dot was soon doing deliveries in a van with ‘three forward gears and no reverse’.
On Saturday 8 September 1945 Dorothy Bentley married Arthur Reynolds in St James Church, Norton Canes.  Arthur died on 5th April 2016.  They’d been married for 70 years. Their daughter, and only child, Linda, was born in 1951 in Ivy House, previously the local ‘workhouse’.
When Linda was young, Dot worked at a plaster factory belonging the Oakley family, with whom she established a life-long friendship. Later she worked in the Walsall leather trade as a leather stitcher for the Olympic Riding Saddle Company. She brought ‘out-work’ home and taught Linda to stitch to earn pocket money, making her ‘the richest kid in the class.’ Linda remembers, as a child, enjoying long Sunday walks with her mum and dad on Cannock Chase to Milford and Sherbrook Valley.
Dorothy was grandmother to Richard and Amy; and much later, great grandmother to Amy and Guy’s children, Oliver and Hannah. Dot and Arthur regularly stayed with us when Richard and Amy were young. They would, for many years, come with us to Rock Cottage up Bell Hill on the border of the Forest of Dean.  Dot loved our long walks in the Forest of Dean – especially along the River Wye, around Mallard’s Pike and Cannop Ponds - and Handsworth Park. In summer she made wonderful puddings, from the hedgerow blackberries we harvested together.
For many years Dot and Arthur’s favourite summer holiday involved going by coach for a fortnight in Torquay, but at the end of the 1980s we began taking family holidays in northern France.
Starting with sunny ferry crossings of the English Channel, Dot loved our holidays in Brittany.  She and Lin made up the many picnics we enjoyed, sitting on a deserted beach, on the city walls of Saint Malo, on benches in the Jardin Anglais in Dinan, overlooking the oyster harbour at Cancale, or below the heights of Mont St Michel.
Dot had a variety of interests - walking, singing, reading, doing crosswords, collecting small antiques, sewing, knitting, crochet.  She took to the modern craze of  adult colouring, although her choice of colours was sometimes somewhat garish. Dot loved poetry. In her last year she would still recite her favourite poems to family, and to the craft group she attended until just before she died. She read stories to her grandchildren, but they liked it best when, at bedtime, she made up stories about the adventures of ‘Johnny Brown and Jimmy Green’. She learned to swim at age 40, because for many years she got fed up watching Lin and her dad swimming in the sea while she paddled in the shallows. She went to piano lessons at age 50. She exercised with the Women’s League of Health and Beauty at Chadsmoor and went to regular exercise classes in Bridgetown.
For the last two and a half years of her life, having lost her beloved Arthur, Dot was confined to a wheelchair. She wanted, more than anything else, to join ‘my Arthur’. She died at City Hospital, Birmingham, aged 94, on the morning of Monday 3rd September 2018. Her grand-daughter, Amy, was at her bedside.
I will speak her eulogy as I did for Arthur in 2016 and my mum in 2012.  I’ll probably wake up knowing what to say, but for the moment my mind’s blank; how to encompass Dot in a way that helps engrave our memories of her life. In the crematorium there’ll be two neighbours, John and Les, and our family – me, Linda, Richard, Amy and Guy; Dot’s sister, Barbara and niece, Janice and great niece, Michaela with Dean and our best friend, Liz.  The undertakers are Hadleys, Melanie and Angie attending. Lin’s wish is to circumvent the potlatch that insinuates into funerals where attention to cost is unsubtly treated as unseemly, even a sign of disrespect. She’s making arrangements as for buying a seat on Ryanair, alert for craftily hidden extras. Dot would approve. After the ceremony’s over we’ll go to Toby’s Carvery in Sutton and have a meal together.
Linda, Arthur, Dot, Hannah and Oliver in our kitchen 

*** *** ***
Network on Air have just announced the arrival, on 12th November 2018, of an 8-disk DVD box-set of all sixty episodes of Jack HargreavesOld Country series on Channel 4 in the mid-1980s, sleeve design by Richard Baddeley - product of a joint work negotiating my rights in the programme, with help from Dave Knowles, Simon Winters, Ian Wegg, Simon Coward, Phil Wade and Network's Steve Rogers and Juan Veloza. Tim Beddows began thinking about this publication at the start of the year.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

A chance to talk about my stepfather

Michael Livesley asked me, out of the blue, to come up to Liverpool, and talk to him in 'The Livo Lounge' about my stepfather, Jack Hargreaves and the work being done to serve his legacy and make his films and books available. This is on Youtube too by the way.

I am quite pleased. I even enjoyed watching myself. Lots more to do of course.
Jack and Simon c.1951 (photo: Barbara Hargreaves)
Michael Livesley and Simon Baddeley in the Livo Lounge  (photo: Mark)

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