Sunday, 15 March 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Part of a series: "A Life of Less Liberty" by Jeremy Bamber. 

I wanted to dedicate some time to think about my Mum, owing to Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday 15th March. I think about Mum all the while as she had such a huge impact upon every aspect of my life and who I am today. It would be possible for me to chat about Mum for hours, but it’s better if I stick to three topics that I am hoping will show you how eclectic and diverse Mum’s interests were.

Before I start, on the News tonight, someone had taken a photograph of a weasel clinging

to the back of a woodpecker. It had jumped onto its back and the bird had taken flight with Mr Weasel clinging on. Mum would have loved seeing such an amazing sight, but like me she would have thought, “looks more like a stoat than a weasel”. This is just the kind of thing that Mum and I would have spent ages chatting about.

I’ve spoken before about Mum’s love of wildlife and all things ‘countryside’, which meant more to her than any of her other interests. There was a programme I watched on BBC 2 “Natural World” about Owls. It was a beautifully filmed piece that described the powers Owls have. I can recall as a little boy, of about seven years old, Mum saying to me that we had something exciting to do. She had already inspired a love of nature in me. We shared so many intimate and exciting moments together. Often being quiet as mice and peeping at some wildlife doing its thing, both of us would be fizzing with joy of that shared moment, for instance, watching Mr and Mrs Fox and their cubs. When we enjoyed that time of wonder together, it would often end in us giggling and we would take furtive glances at each other, as if to say, “Did you see that?” and of course each of us had, but we still did the glances and this would cause us to giggle – the slightest noise and the wildlife would scatter but trying to keep our poker faces made us laugh.

So Mum was always enthusing over something. On one occasion we got our torches and Mum had some off cuts from our rabbit stew lunch she was preparing. She put them into a little bag and off we went into our straw walled Dutch barn. The walls of the barn were made of stacked up straw bales to help keep the frost off the potatoes when they were in
store. Mum had my little hand in hers as we climbed onto the steps and up to the walkway. I wasn’t allowed up there on my own as it was too high and too dangerous. Mum kept shushing me ‘cos I wanted to know what it was that she was so excited to share with me, only to be shown two baby Barn Owls. They were perhaps five or six weeks old, balls of white fluff, with heads that were all eyes. We had often watched their mum hunting at dusk, when we were out on our evening walks. I’m not sure if it was okay for us to do what we did as we fed the chicks bits of raw rabbit meat together – it was so cool to watch them feeding. The most fun was gathering up the owl pellets to examine so we could investigate the food Mrs Owl had been feeding them. We often went to look at the young Owls until they fledged. They stayed for a short while before they flew away. The adult Owl stayed on for a few years. These are amazing birds – silent fliers, clever and a joy to watch.

One of Mums other interests was her love of movies, something which she explained to me had come from her being posted to India during the War as a member of the Auxiliary Nursing Yeomanry. She’d been stationed in Calcutta. Mum explained that it was so hot and humid that to escape the heat the girls would all go to the cinema, one of the few places with air conditioning – that way they could have some respite from that infernal, relentless heat.

Mum was never one to splash out money on herself, it wasn’t about being frugal, she
simply found being selfish impossible – but spoiling the children was fine. Mum didn’t go to the movies on her own, but taking Sheila and I and a couple of our mates to the pictures, with interval ice creams and toffee popcorn, was all fine and dandy. Thing is, looking back now I realise we went to see lots of films that were right up Mum’s street rather than out and out kids stuff. We saw children’s movies too but also lots of Westerns I seem to remember, and Mum would enjoy discussing the films with us afterwards, over milkshakes and banana splits in a small tearoom over the road from the cinema.

I think Mum should have been a teacher as she loved explaining about Geography and History and the moral aspects of films. She was genuinely interested in what Sheila or I thought about a particular issue and we had many discussions after our visits to the cinema.

We continued to catch a movie or two with me, Sheila and Mum, but by my twenties it
tended to be just Mum and I. We would pick what we would go to see carefully as Mum didn’t like the explicitness of many films. It wasn’t because she was in any way a prude; it was because she couldn’t stand lazy film directors who put in unnecessary sex scenes. Mum had watched so many great films by amazing Hollywood directors that she reasoned she could tell the difference between a good movie and a movie using lazy techniques. We’d laugh about it, as it was incongruous with her farmer’s wife image that mum was this high-brow movie critic, but it was something she did know a great deal about. Mum loved Robert Redford, I was into Clint Eastwood, but not in the same way!

And so to baking. 

Mum loved baking and was very good at it, cooking on an Aga which can take some adjustment, but Mum took it in her stride when moving to White House Farm and always produced delicious sponges. She could make cakes to die for and taught Sheila and I how to bake. Bless my dear Mum, Happy Mother’s Day. I shall bake a Victoria sponge on the day in her memory and remember her with real love.


Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber
Innocent Jeremy Bamber