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Barbara A. Mobberley (1929 - 2006)

by Martin Mobberley

My Mother died at 9.43 am BST on September 8th 2006 leaving an unfillable void in the life of myself and my Dad. She had been a 100% devoted wife for 56 years and a 100% devoted mother to me, her only child, for over 48 years. My Mum was born on June 27th 1929 at No. 4 Pargeter Street in Walsall. (Coincidentally June 27th was also the birthday of Patrick Moore's mother). Her father, Albert Edward Brough (known as Eddie) was a Railway Engine Fitter. Her Mother, Nellie Summarsell had been an orphan in a Sussex orphanage until she was adopted by relatives in the Midlands. My Mum's parents had a son, Eric, in 1922, who died in the Diptheria epidemic of 1925. Four years later, my Mum was born, and, five years after that, a younger sister, Rebe. (Rebe died in Nov 1996, aged 62, of Cancer). My Dad first met my Mum in 1946, just after the War, before she turned 17. She was a telephone switchboard operator in Wolverhampton. When she was very young her parents moved to No. 2 Emerson Road, Wolverhampton, where she lived until a few days before her 21st birthday. In 1946 My Dad was a dashing young RAF pilot and she was a beautiful, kind, generous and very shy young women. Their marriage was about as good as marriages get, especially when compared to the modern "try it out for five years and then get a new one" morality. Through good times and bad they were totally committed to one another....for better for worse, in sickness and in health etc... They married on June 24th 1950, 3 days before her 21st birthday. The picture at the top of this page was taken a few years later when she was 25. With my Dad's job in the RAF my parents moved around the country quite a bit. He was an RAF pilot during the peak of the Cold War years and was often flying Victors, or on standby as part of the Nuclear Deterrent against the Soviet Union. They had their honeymoon in Bournemouth and lived in the Parkstone area of Bournemouth/Poole in 1952/53 (in Mansfield Avenue) when my Dad was posted there by the RAF. They developed a love for that seaside resort that would last for my Mum's whole life. Their 1950 honeymoon in Bournemouth was perfect according to my Dad, with endless sunny weather, with just a gentle sea breeze. The year before they had moved to live in Bournemouth (i.e. 1951) my Dad had escaped a mid-air collision, unscathed. He said his only thought as his plane plunged downwards was getting out alive 'for Barbie'. After a miscarriage with my Mum's first pregnancy, I was eventually born, albeit a month prematurely. My earliest strong recollections are of RAF Honington, where we lived, at 89 Honington Rise, from 1962 to 1965. From 1965 to 1968 we lived at 108 Windy Crescent, RAF Marham, where I first developed a real interest in Astronomy. My Mum was a devoted mother and wife. Wherever we lived everything was spotlessly squeaky clean. She was a traditional housewife who washed, cooked, dusted and hoovered. She was also a naturally happy and very kind person for all of her life. There was not a sarcastic or envious bone in her body. She had a fairly unpleasant childhood, as her mother was quite cruel and stressed-up much of the time. Her father was a nice chap but dominated by his wife Nellie. Despite, or because of, this cruel upbringing my Mum turned out completely the opposite. She was totally devoted to me and my Dad and would never hear a word said against us. She lived to look after us and give us pleasure. Doors were, pretty much, closed to other people after the 1960s. As far as she was concerned, all she wanted was me, my Dad, good health, a sunny day, a clean house and happiness. She was not interested in loud, envious, aggresive, drunk or sarcastic people...only nice, kind people. Wherever she went, people liked her, because she was always happy and kind and friendly, but never envious. People like her just do not seem to exist these days. If anyone made a nasty comment to her she would never forget it and even mentioning it would make her very tearful. We were a rock-solid family trio from 1958 to 2006. I looked at my parent's marriage and our family life together and I never saw the point in marriage, unless I could find something as harmonious as we all had together. Even when I was away from Suffolk in my University or work years I always wanted to visit them as often as possible, i.e. most weekends. I looked at friends, their second-best relationships, divorces, rows, interfering mother-in-laws etc....and I knew what I wanted. I already had the best and it would take a great woman to provide me with more than I had. My parents supported whatever I did and encouraged me in my hobby 100%. Why choose second best? In 1963, when I was aged 5, we started going on regular holidays to Bournemouth, and, from 1965, to the same hotel: the Burley Court Hotel, in Bath Road. Throughout my childhood we all loved these holidays so much that we started counting down to each July almost as soon as the last holiday was over. Quite often my parents would pay for my Mum's parents to be in that hotel too. Her mother had mellowed by then, so she was just bonkers but not cruel! For many years my parents and I always stayed in Room 49 at the Burley Court. From early childhood my Mum had maintained a wish to visit, and see the inside, of Buckingham Palace. This wish was granted in 1965 when we were all invited to an investiture at the palace to see my Dad decorated by the Queen. He had been awarded the Air Force Cross in the New Years Honours List. When I was 15 - 18 (1973-1976) we experimented with a few other holiday venues, like the Lake District, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. From late 1976 onwards, with me at University, and then in employment, my parents continued going to Bournemouth, and to the Burley Court Hotel, now in Room 47. Many years later, from 1996, I started joining them again on short breaks at the Burley Court. After such a long gap it brought my happy childhood summer holiday memories flooding back. The hotel itself, the sunny weather, the pier, the parks, Compton Acres, the crazy golf and the pitch & putt golf, the 'Chines' the shops and the long walk back up Bath Road to the Burley Court. Very happy and relaxed times both in my childhood and in later years. The best of times. I will never forget when we all went together to see Ken Dodd perform at the Winter Gardens in the late 1990s. It was an incredible stand-up performance by the master of clean stand-up comedy and we were all amused and impressed by the stamina of a man of 70(?) who could be on stage for almost five hours!! My Mum was a permanently happy person, almost child-like in her outlook; but various events in her life conspired to knock some spirit out of her as the decades went by. She hated these bossy, school-bully Womens Institute 'Bullock-like' socialising 'Cheese & Wine Party' bags who often wanted her to get involved in social events. In 1968 she became so upset by such bossy RAF bags that my Dad decided to take up an offer going at that time and leave the military. He was sad to leave but, as it turned out, it was a brilliant decision. House prices and inflation would rocket in the 1970s and he bought a large new house with 1/3 acre of land in Suffolk for 7,000. With the RAF giving him 6,000+ as a pay-off to leave, he was able to put a 3,000 deposit down and have the remainder for possible furniture, garden equipment, a new car and emergencies. We moved to the brand new detached chalet house, in the village of Cockfield, in Suffolk in October 1968. As a child I loved Cockfield. It had dark skies to see the stars at night and a stream 100 yards down the lane. I later discovered a famous rector/astronomer had lived in the village in the 18th century. Shortly after we moved there in '68 an oak tree was planted on the local Cross Green (one of 8 Greens) and, over the decades, it became a big tree and a centerpiece of the Green just a couple of hundred yards from us. More on this later..... My Mum would die in Cockfield, in her beloved house, 38 years later. It will never seem like the same house without her, as she is ingrained in every aspect of it. We moved to a village in Suffolk because we all liked peace and quiet, the countryside, Bury St Edmunds, and because Suffolk was just within London commuting range and easy range of Stansted airport where my Dad planned to eventually work. (He became a Civil Aviation Authority senior flight operations inspector at Stansted for testing executive jet pilots). Throughout most of the 1970s and 80s, and until 1994, my Mum took a job as a part-time/full-time telephonist or telephonist/receptionist at the Ministry of Agriculture in Bury St Edmunds. She was a very popular employee there and just the right person to have dealing with the public. This job did not prevent her from keeping the house immaculate, cooking, cleaning and looking after my Dad and I in the way she always had done. As my Mum entered her seventies she suffered more and more from serious anxiety and panic attacks. Also, she could never understand how anyone could be sarcastic to her. She realised that most of her friends had used her over the years, whereas she had given but never expected anything in return. Most of her so-called friends had been envious of her, her looks, her husband's career, and our stable family life. So, she never wanted visitors in the house after her retirement; all she really wanted was me and my Dad. Increasingly, she worried about all manner of trivial things and it became sad to see her stress herself up so much. In the late 1990s she started having mobility problems. A total (and justified) fear of the local West Suffolk NHS hospital in Bury meant she delayed and delayed any talk of hip replacement until she was hardly able to walk, and, in a wheelchair on her Bournemouth holidays. Finally, my Dad took her to see the imacculate and clean Nuffield Hospital in Bury, and paid for her to have both hips replaced in 2000. By then she was almost immobile. (During 1998 and 1999 my Mum was absolutely overjoyed to see me on TV on the Sky at Night with Patrick Moore. It made her seem young and reborn again with pride.) The new hips gave my Mum a brand new lease of life and she was invigorated. 2001 was a great year for her...almost reborn with new mobility. When my job at Marconi finished on August 16th 2002 and I came home to live with my Mum and Dad permanently my Mum wrote in her diary "Martin home for good....Best Day Ever". I was so lucky my job came to an end in August 2002, as I had four years at home with her before she died, driving my parents to Bournemouth on many occasions. 2002 was another great year for her. In 2003, all went well until the end of April. While in a restaurant, a particularly loud, drunk, and insensitive man, at a birthday party meal, traumatised her when he was sitting near her table with his friends in the restaurant. His language and volume upset her greatly. She was very distressed and, two days later, developed facial Shingles. Although she survived this and was 90% recovered after a few months, she never recovered 100% from this horrible illness.....all caused by one loudmouth alcoholic. However, late 2003, 2004 and early 2005 were fairly happy times for her, although she just hated getting old and her anxiety and panic attacks were starting to rule her life unless every day ran smoothly. She became very fragile, mentally, in late 2005, and would often cry for almost no reason. It was sad to see, but we were still a happy trio most of the time, even though things did get a bit stressful now and again. However, she always enjoyed watching TV during these years with her favourite programs being the childrens program 'The Tweenies', the BBC 1 regional program 'Look East', 'Last of the Summer Wine' and detective programs like 'Midsomer Murders', 'Miss Marple','Poirot', 'New Tricks' and 'Dalziel & Pascoe'. She also enjoyed repeats of the comedy 'Open All Hours'. She loved nice, expensive clothes and became a very popular visitor to 'Country Casuals' in Bury St Edmunds and all the clothes shops in Bournemouth. She was always very particular about her appearance and only felt civilised in the best clothes, unlike the typical 21st century morbidly obese slobs that are everywhere now. She hated the modern world and its low standards. In April 2005, again, while on holiday, she started to get flickering/migraine-like symptoms in her left eye. After some very tearful visits to the local West Suffolk Hospital they thought she might have had a mini stroke and, noting her cholestorol was slightly high, she was put on the dreaded cholestorol reducing Statin drug known as 'Lipitor'. From the first week she went on Lipitor she was a different person and, even though the dosage was reduced, she was never the same happy person she used to be. But, we all thought the choice was 'side effects' or a real stroke. So she kept taking the Lipitor. As 2006 came her appetite slumped and she felt increasingly tired and listless, although there were still flashes of her old happy self from time to time. Various trips to the Doctor took place to vary the Lipitor dosage.....At the end of 2005 my Dad had a medical scare with his prostate, which was satisfactorily resolved. However, this worry just increased her tearful state. My Dad and I found it increasingly difficult to spot the happy, sunny person she used to be. Old age and fears about old age were starting to rule her life, although she was, physically, pretty healthy for her age. She had always looked much younger than her actual age until the Shingles attack. From that point on she started to age noticeably which depressed her no end. In early May 2006 my parents made their last ever joint trip to Bournemouth and the Burley Court hotel. I had not long returned from the 2006 Eclipse and we decided it would be better if I stayed at home in my Mum's beloved house so she would not worry about leaving the house unattended. A week or so after returning from Bournemouth my Mum felt increasingly tired and, to cut a long story short, after a seemingly infinite series of hospital tests she was diagnosed with Liver tumors on June 14th 2006. She was totally devastated. She had never smoked, rarely drank and always eaten sensibly. Her worst conceivable fears had materialised. Further, stressful, tests and scans showed the cancer was very advanced, having spread from bowel to liver and lungs. There was every possibility that the effects of Lipitor had obscured the bowel cancer symptoms...and, after reading about Lipitor on the web, we wonder if this horrendous drug may have caused the cancer in the first place.......... I have added a page describing the grim last few months of my Mum's life on the link below. It is not a ringing endorsement of the Bury St Edmunds West Suffolk Hospital.....

My Mum's final months

My Mum was totally distraught during this period and the happy heartwarming person she used to be disappeared totally. She became a terrified old lady just crying for someone to help cure her. It was heart rending to see. From August 4th onwards, with the cancer too advanced to treat, she was permanently sedated. Mercifully, the cancer caused her no physical pain. My Dad, with a little help from me, looked after her throughout June, July, August and early September as she became weaker, sleeping for most of the day. Life in a hospice would have killed her instantly. My Dad loved her, and cared for her in her house of which she was so proud. I guess the last times she was truly happy were in Bournemouth at the start of May 2006 and when we had a new, sparkling large kitchen window fitted that month. But after June 14th the cancer diagnosis ripped the heart and soul out of her. The last coherent sentence my Mum spoke to my Dad, was to tell him that on the day they married, 56 years earlier, she knew even then that he would always be there for her, right till the very end. How many modern so-called marriages could stand comparison with that? The late evening of September 7th 2006 saw a clear sky and a partial lunar eclipse over the UK at moonrise. After spending some time with my Mum, and getting a good indication that she could hear me...she squeezed my hand as I spoke to her...I watched her drift back to sleep and pointed a camera out of the house window to capture a snapshot of the eclipse. After the shadow moved off the Moon, and my Dad was back, permanently, at my Mum's bedside, I went back to see her. Her arms were now quite cold and her breathing laboured. Somehow I felt I would never get a response from her again. She survived that night, but never showed any response to our voices again. Her whole body seemed devoted to breathing that morning. Gradually the breathing became more shallow and, at 9.43 am BST, on September 8th, her breathing stopped. Unbeknown to us at the time, precisely as she died, two hundred yards away, tree surgeons cut down the now ailing Oak tree, whose trunk had recently split on the nearby village green. It, like my Mum, had been a unique part of the village for almost as long as we had lived there. It somehow seemed appropriate that these two sad events happened within minutes of each other. Various other, very unusual things happened in the days and weeks before her death, but I will keep those events to myself. As I type this, my Dad and I are stunned and saddened at what we have lost. We will not remember her as she was in her final months, but as she was before 2005; before anxiety, panic attacks, worrying and anti-cholesterol drugs stole her life from her and before old age knocked the spirit out of her. My Dad has lost his soul-mate of 60 years and I have lost the best Mum in the world for the past 48 years. Life will never, ever be the same........... But she was too good a person for this Earth and had started to hate the modern world and the ravages of the ageing process. I had started writing a book on total solar eclipses when she died and, coincidentally, her last night on Earth was one which featured an eclipse. I will be dedicating that book to her, something I had planned to do months earlier. A bench in the upper gardens at Bournemouth, one of my Mum's favourite places, has been dedicated to my Mum. If you are ever there please search it out. Her ashes are scattered there too. The bench is not far from a tall tower, a Victorian folly, and is on the opposite side of the river to the tower, not far from the entrance to the upper gardens (after the entrance under the flyover bridge). We'll never forget you Mum.
The words of Mary Frye's bereavement verse seem particularly appropriate at this time:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

My Mum in her kitchen in July 2002, aged 73


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