Mabel the friend

Despite the demands of a busy family life and supporting me in my job, Mabel found time for Church, friends and her own interests. In all our years together I knew she dearly missed her mother, and this was shown in the kindly, loving and very special way Mabel befriended four older women during our life together. The first in Edinburgh had never married and when she first came to Scotland from Ireland her crossing was in a sailing ship! Frequent visits to each other’s home and when we moved to Coventry she took a flight down to the Midlands to spend some time with us. When she moved into a care home in Edinburgh, Mabel always made a point of calling in to spend time with her. She was a great companion and friend of the family. When we arrived in Coventry and whilst looking for our own house we were for a short time in a company-owned property and we lived close to a couple in there early sixties. We became friends and they quickly became surrogate grandparents and ‘baby sitters’ to our young family. Sadly, they had lost their only child when their baby girl died during childbirth. We were to learn that during the heavy bombing of Coventry they courageously gathered their cat in their arms and walked many miles out of the city to shelter with their relatives in Measham, Leicestershire, a distance of about 30 miles. Over time Mabel had a close and affectionate bond with her and after we had moved a distance away Mabel would call in on her and every time there was a hospital appointment would go with her and latterly this was quite frequent. When at Barnt Green we attended the Methodist Church at nearby Blackwell and very early on we came into contact with a girl in her early twenties who taught in the Sunday School but tragically died of cancer. Mabel became very close to her mother and the family and paid regularly visits. Often afternoons were spent with her and when the grandchildren were at ‘Westerly’ on holiday they would go down to meet her. She was an excellent knitter and gave many gifts of knitwear to raise funds for St Mary’s Hospice. When she and her husband died, Mabel kept in contact with their son who had moved down to Devon. Another lady, Muriel, again not married but living with a sister, in the Barnt Green area. When the sister was ill Mabel frequently went to help care for her and roped me in to help her carry the bed-ridden sister down from the upstairs bedroom to a more comfortable room on the ground floor but sadly in a matter of weeks she died and Mabel helped to attend to her burial arrangements. We kept in constant contact and Muriel often stayed with us when Mabel would tenderly look after her as she badly suffered from acute arthritis. It was an endearing instinct, inheriting the character of her Mother, Sarah Ann, and I loved her for it.Equally endearing was Mabel’s practice to ensure a retired Methodist Minister who was a very good friend, when invited with his wife to lunch would have a bedroom at his disposal so that he could retire to rest after lunch. Mabel invariably arranged this knowing that the Minister having preached that day would need to be able to relax. 1949: ‘Courting’ 
in the Lake District It would only be done on Sundays, and not when being entertained to lunch at ‘Westerly’ during week-days! Although I am sure it dates back what her parents did, to me it lovingly reflected her great sense of generosity and hospitality. All her married life she kept in touch with an ever-widening circle of friends, including mine from my War-time days and my many business acquaintenances. She loved writing letters and it was never a chore. Whenever we travelled she liked to send postcards and it was a tease between us about how many cards she needed to buy. She was most particular in sending a postcard to those whom she knew did not get out and about. As each year ended she dealt with something like 150 Christmas cards and all with a letter and often a request to me to ‘write something at the bottom . . . after all its your friend!’ When she died I readily kept up her loving practice – and still do, although ‘time’s rolling stream’ have taken many of our friends away! – resorting to typing whereas she loved sitting with her writing pad and scribbling her spontaneous thoughts to her friends. In 1976-77, I was The President of The Newspaper Society (the Association of all the provincial morning, evening and weekly newspapers in the United Kingdom). During the year Mabel would always send a card to the Staff at The Newspaper Society Offices in London keeping them in touch with how things were going and often when in London accompanying me to some meeting or other, she would drop in to see  them. Her thoughfulness was greatly appreciated, as can be read in the extract of the letter she received during our year of office. It illustrates her great personal warmth and charm. With the marriage of Ann and Andrew and Pearson and Caroline our lives were greatly enriched with five lovely grandchildren: David and Sarah born in Redditch (Worcestershire) and Kathryn, William and Sophie born in Lyon. Mabel loved them dearly and it was always a great joy for her when they were with her and especially when they all met up in Westerly in Barnt Green for the month of July when they took over our large house and gardens and Mabel couldn’t do enough to show her love for them. Christmas time, too, was just wonderful when with them we relived all the Christmases Mabel and I ever had as we share in their the joy.