Happy 90th, mum

There was a piece on Start The Week today. They talked about housewives, which is not a word you hear much these days. Growing up, it meant my mum stayed at home and dedicated herself to looking after me, her husband and the house. I am grateful that you did this. There is nothing more important than being there for your kids. It was boring sometimes, and Poppleton was so different to where you were before. I felt secure and happy. You joined the National Housewives Register, or the Cabbage Club as it was called.

Curtains, dresses, patterns, the Singer, Spaghetti bolognaise, fondues, wine & cheese, Sunday roasts, Cleo, Milly and Oscar, open fires, Granny’s Mini, Brimham Rocks, Scarborough, six in the car.


It was the 1970s, so you gave us Alphabet Spaghetti, Smash and choc ices from the Freezer Centre. Doctor Who, The Generation Game, Basil Brush and The Clangers. Travelling abroad, another world, and some idea of your life before moving to York.

It was great when you got the job at Mcdowell & Stern, it was obvious how much you enjoyed it. It was as if you were in your own version of paradise. Working for dad’s businesses always had a little more worry.

The garden. You grew up near central London, maybe you were waiting for the garden in Poppleton. Flower beds in the front, while the back was still a badminton court. When I became a teenager, the transformation of the garden started, and it continues to this day. Plans with dad, endless hours out there, discussions with Gerry, the shed, shall we plant it here or there?

The Music Centre, another great thing from the seventies. Radio 4, Woman’s Hour, Blossom Dearie, Charles Aznavour, Manhattan Transfer, Abba and my strange music too. A cosy lounge, a tidy home, good food, some nice ornaments, interesting friends, Brazil nuts at Christmas. You made an effort.

You are happy with not much, you care for the underdog, Labour through and through, love of the Arts, and you could paint as well. Bloody Thatcher, Bloody Tories.

USA in 1980, Canada, Australia, Istanbul, Milan, Madrid, Hong Kong, Cote d’Azur, you saw the world. But, what was my mum like in the 39 years before me? A story here, a memory there. You were well supported by the Earnshaws, but every day you did it all yourself. Well done.

‘Throw the satsumas at Brian when he snores’, Jane reminded me of the story from the shared hotel room in Venice. Dad, Jane and I woke at about the same time, disturbed by a loud rumbling. Should we aim the satsumas at a different target? I think Brian gently shook his wife, and we laughed about it in the morning.

Older age, whatever that means. Eyes, ears, a few other things, affect what you can do. It’s frustrating sometimes. Then, the garden comes to the rescue. Or The Guardian crossword. Sheila and Gerry, neighbours of fifty years, help, with patience and understanding. We should write a book about this time. Your only son, that’s me, starts to limp, and none of us can believe what unfolds in front of us. How must it be for you? You see Valentina and Sebastian flourish. The cycle of life.

Throughout, you’ve had your Brian, and what a man he is. In the end, life’s quite simple, and we don’t need much to make us happy. I think that you understand this very well.

So, mum, happy 90th birthday. Thank you for everything. Pick up the secateurs, Spring is coming and the garden is waiting.

With love, Andrew





Author: Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

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