Today Jackie and I drove to Helen and Bill’s in Poulner, near Ringwood; whence Bill drove us on to the funeral of the sisters’ Auntie Doreen. A celebration service was held at Christ Church, Frome, in Somerset. We went on to Bath for the cremation and back to cousin Chris’s home in Frome.
Helen and Bill were bird-sitting for their son David and his partner. Archie, their remarkable pet, given a free range in the sitting room, is a most exquisite turquoise colour and has a vast vocabulary. Dave and Jen must have spent hours teaching him some of his words, and he has clearly picked up some of his own accord. I commented that he offered more entertainment than the television. When we arrived he was talking to himself in the mirror. The family had owned budgies when David was a boy, one of which had been called Charlie.
When Jessica, Michael, and I had lived in Soho we had kept a parakeet, also called Charlie, given equally free range in our flat. Charlie’s cage was kept open, and he was free to come and go. He chewed the corner of the wooden box containing my facsimile copy of the Kelmscot Chaucer. One day in the 1970s Jessica answered a radio appeal. Jimmie Saville’s brother Johnnie, looked after an aviary in a psychiatric hospital in Tooting. Someone had undone its doors and allowed all the birds to escape. Donations of replacements were requested. Charlie was consequently offered and accepted.
After a moving service in the church, we were all struck by the splendid setting of the crematorium memorial chapel. A vast picture window framed a glorious rolling landscape.
Jackie’s Aunt, Doreen Barlow, was a very talented painter some of whose works were on display at the house she had shared in her later years with her son Chris and his family. Jackie, along with others, was invited to select some pieces for herself. She brought back some exquisitely painted flowers and chalk drawings. We were also shown early photographs of the Barlow and Rivett families; and the grand house in which Jackie had spent some of her childhood.
Sandwiches, cakes, tea, and sparkling French wine, were available in abundance.