Monday, 25 October 2010

A Pair's Two

Sunday, 24 October

My Lovely Eileen

Last week wasn't an easy one.

On Tuesday there was only one item of post - a small white envelope. 

Inside was a card from Lindsay and Roger, to say that Barbara had died the previous Sunday.

She was 88 and hadn't been well recently, Lindsay said.   

As I sat in the lounge in the sunshine, the card in my hand, my mind went back to the first time we met Barbara and Ken.

It was a Friday evening sometimes towards the end of 1977.

While the vast majority of people were heading home for the weekend, the small group of us - who were moving to the new 'international' office in the Hague - had been invited, along with our wives, to a 'getting-to-know you' reception in the penthouse suite at Moore House.

Ken, I already knew as a colleague, but from within minutes of being introduced to each other, the four of us were chatting away like old friends. 

Like us, they were excited, if just a mite little apprehensive, about the challenges facing us. 

Even though it wasn't the other side of the world, for the four of us it meant moving away from family and friends and an established way of life.     

Looking back now, we need not have worried.  

Our stay in Wassenaar - even though it only lasted five years - became something of a high-point in our life together and one we would look back on with pleasure as the years went by.

Once settled in our house on Deijlerweg, we and the children took to life there with relish.  We loved the Dutch environment and our time 'abroad' gave the two of us and the children a broader perspective we would never ever lose. 

It was a really special time in our lives - and Barbara and Ken had much to do with making it so special. 

They became the best of friends.  They adopted Charlotte and Adrian as stand-in grandchildren.  

They taught us how to play 'Crib' - and we enjoyed many long, hilarious and often raucous 'card' evenings at 'Storm' or '144' playing Crib, Newmarket, Noses, Pontoon, Pit, Yahtzee and Bulls**t.

And if Ken could not be found he was usually upstairs in the Den watching 'Tom and Jerry' with Adrian.

They mixed and melded with our friends and relatives - as we did with theirs - when they came to Holland. 

You and Barbara spent many happy hours together: playing tennis and coffee mornings at the British Women's Club; shopping at the Beijenkorf or, more mundanely, at Albert Heijn; as well as swapping ideas and inspirations for your roles as tourist guides when visitors came.

With them, we walked in the Meijendel; enjoyed 'coffee and gebak' in the restaurant there; rode 'op de fiets' to the Whitte Brug to collect the Sunday papers; and discovered delectable 'kleine tong' at the beach restaurant in Katwijk.  

All these memories, thoughts and more came flooding back as I drove down to Barbara's Memorial Service last Friday morning.

It was the sort of day I know Barbara - and you - loved so much.

A sunny crisp morning, high blue skies and the leaves taking on their Autumn colours.

If you have to say 'goodbye' to someone it was as good day as it could be for doing so.


It was a lovely service.

Inside the Order of Service Barbara's grandchildren - Kate, Jo, Rich, Lizzie and Ellie - had written a lovely tribute to 'Our Nan'.

Here are just a few of things they said.  Things you and I will recognise immediately, remembering Barbara as we do.

'Think of a lady who is kind, caring, loving and fun, whose first question is always "Hello dear, how are you?", who listens to and is genuinely interested in the answer.

'Gramps (Ken) cheating at cards and Nan's (Barbara)response of "Oh Kenneth!"...(and)the tut and raised eyes behind Gramps's back as he made silly comments!' 
'(On)pouring her a glass of sherry or wine: "Just a small one dear ...Don't you have a larger glass?... Better fill it up then!"'
As I read these lines and others, I could clearly hear Barbara's lovely voice and that soaring chuckling laugh of hers.  


At the reception afterwards there was a long display of photographs covering Barbara's life. 

One caught my eye, particularly.

It was obviously taken at a wedding and there is Ken in his tails hamming it up for Barbara, both of them laughing uproariously at their shared enjoyment.

In the middle of the displays were two photograph albums.

In the 'Holland' one I was taken aback to discover this page of photographs of us enjoying lunch with them at 'Storm' one day.

Gratifying to know that we were as much a part of their memories of Holland as they are of ours.

Haven't been through all my files but did come across these photos, which I thought you would like to see again...

Walking near the Golf Course, when Barbara
and Ken came to visit us in Guiseley.

Several years later we visited them when they had moved to their new house in Crowborough...



At the reception afterwards, I spoke to Lindsay.

She said that when she was going through Barbara's papers a few days earlier, she came across the cards and letters I had sent Barbara in the last two years, telling her about what had happened to you.

As she read them, Lindsay said it brought everything back and how sad they both had been.

Now, sadly, Barbara has gone too.


The other album on display was the one they had compiled celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary.

This photograph was one of the many taken that day that were in the album...

Once there were four very good friends who shared many happy moments, lots of laughter and a very special relationship.

Now three are gone and the phrase in the title at the top of the page -'Learning to live with Memories' - has taken on even more poignancy.

At moments like these, I miss you more than I can say.

Love you so much.

For ever,