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 Hargreaves' Old 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.