Sadly we lost my great Auntie Pauline at the weekend.
She died very suddenly at her home near Weymouth and will be sadly missed. She was a feisty lady who tended to say what she thought and thought what she said, but enjoyed a laugh and was always glad to see us.
Our family has been going down to Dorset to visit “Great Nan in Weymouth” and “Auntie Pauline” for all of my life. I’ve been to Weymouth more times than anywhere else – it was just something we did a few times every summer (and sometimes in winter). We’d be piled into the car one weekend morning and driven to the coast. It was just one of those things that regularly happened to us as kids. So Great Auntie Pauline was a part of the furniture: yes, a piece of furniture that we stored in Dorset, but a part of the furniture nevertheless. She will forever in my mind be associated with a traditional English tea after a beautiful day on the glorious beach at Weymouth. The kind of wonderfully English day out that is forever sepia-coloured in the minds of most of the population of England.
She would always regale us with tales of the Second World War, a time that was – for her – the richest, most exciting time of her life, and whether the Allies won or not seems to have been almost superfluous. As well as the war there would be news of friends and neighbours, and even of distant members of our family who I’d never heard of and would never meet, their existence and latest exploits tantalisingly hinted at.
The house she shared for so long with my Great Nan was always fascinating to my brother and I – just my like Nan’s house in Swindon it seemed old and stuffed with history. But it was less familiar and therefore more exotic than Nan’s house. There were chiming clocks and a real fire in the fireplace; a coal scuttle outside that not only contained coal but pieces of shrapnel from WWII bombs; a huge garden that in my mind was always bursting with gooseberries, and the mysterious upstairs that we only ever got to see once, when we stayed there for a summer holiday…
“Great Nan in Weymouth” died a long time ago, but Pauline was always there, seemingly never aging, always stuck somewhere between 50 and 100, forever waiting to offer us some bread and butter and cups of tea.
And now she’s not.
Without wishing to get too maudlin it seems now that a whole older generation who I grew up with are now clinging on by their fingernails, that they won’t be around for awfully much longer. That seems far scarier than the occasional loss of a dear relative: it’s the extinction of a whole generation, and a reminder that all generations eventually become extinct…