A few weeks ago it was my mother’s birthday (she would have been 83) and in memory of her I made a donation to Oxfam to help stock a library in a school. It seemed appropriate, in part because she valued education so highly, not least because she chose to leave school at sixteen and regretted it later. She was thrilled by my educational achievements and those of my brother and came to all our degree ceremonies.
But also, she loved reading and in my mind’s eye that is how I often see her, in the sunny sitting room of her top floor flat in Scarborough. Quite a number of her crime novels were passed on by me – I used to take bagfuls when I visited and I can see her now, looking through them and exclaiming. I even remember where I bought some of them. That copy of the THE SWAYING PILLARS by Elizabeth Ferrars with the wonderfully lurid cover was bought about 20 years ago in Chiswick when I was working for the Victorian Society, for 50 pence, I note.
In my earlier blog about my mother’s books, I wrote about the difficulty of knowing what to do with them all. A couple of months after she died, I joined my brother at her flat to help him sort through her things. He was keen to get rid of as much as possible – the charity that runs the hospice where my mother died was coming to collect. What to do with all the Dick Francis novels? I had a hunch that my mother-in-law, also an avid crime-fiction reader, might like them. I rang her and she said she would. My brother decided to take the Robert B Parkers because my mother had thought he might enjoy them. I’d already taken the ones I especially wanted, either because I might read them again or because I associated them particularly with my mother. But there still remained several hundred. I did another trawl and then at my brother’s behest I bagged up all the rest in black, plastic bin lins.
On the way home I knew that I had made a mistake and I couldn’t let them go – not all of them,anyway. I rang my brother, who was still at the flat and told him so. And that is why there are boxes on my study floor containing dozens of copies of books by Elizabeth Ferrars, Anthony Gilbert, Patricia Wentworth, Sarah Woods and others. More about this another time.
It’s time to resume my blog.
When I signed off around 18 months ago, it was because my mother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and I wanted to cut down on my commitments so that I could spend time with her. We had trips away, went to the theatre, spent evenings sitting reading together. She was able to have some lovely times with her beloved grandaughter. She faced her illness with courage, good humour, and optimism. She spent her last weeks in a wonderful hospice in Scarborough and died on 13 March 2008. We miss her terribly. I’ll be dedicating my next book to her.
Rest in peace, Avis Dorothy Poulson.