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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Life is made of memories (in memory of Russell Bennett, and Margaret Lowman)

A year ago tomorrow, we sent my dear old Grandmother (Mama as named by me!) on her next journey to whatever afterlife, or not, there may be.  It seemed appropriate that it happened on Bonfire/fireworks night. Always one for mischief she had often told me and my sister (and I expect my cousins too) that thunder and lightning were just parties happening in heaven for new angels, and when it was her turn we would hear a piano playing as well!  As it turned out that wasn't the case (still can't understand why not!) but our journey home after her funeral was punctuated with fireworks, bangs, claps, and pretty bright lights.  Not a bad send off and I think she would have appreciated that fate dictated that we will always remember her on fireworks night.

During this week my sister has somehow ended up making our family "loop de loop" (a leftover soup from a lamb roast) and I have felt compelled to make toad in the hole, complete with well mixed up yorkshire batter.  Why? well, I am sure for both of us it was subconscious, and at 4 years apart our memories of our grandmother are "the same but different".  I was always (but ALWAYS!) given the job of mixing the batter for puddings whenever we were at Mama's for a Sunday or Christmas dinner. - Possibly just as a way of keeping the oldest grandchild occupied, because apparently it had to be whisked with a fork ........ for hours....... (or so it seemed!). My sister's memory is of Monday mornings when, in the school holidays, we would often go to Mama's for a few hours instead of being in Mum's shop. And if Mama had a lamb roast leftover then she would be chopping, mincing, grating for the soup. So we make these dinners now, with love for our current families and with intense and wonderful memories of our past families.

I am grateful, honoured and blessed that i had a vivacious and strong grandmother in my life for 46 years. Even in the last few years, as her health deteriorated.... you wouldn't argue against her! I cannot begin to recount all the memories, of course, but they are plentiful and wonderful and there is barely a thing that happens in a day that doesn't remind me of something she taught us, or said to us, or did with us.

Last week, I went to the funeral of a far younger friend. As one post has put it "A jazz legend in his own lifetime"  Russell Bennet (Russ) was only 43 and died as a result of a brain haemorrhage. We travelled to Bude for a funeral service last Friday, and there was a smaller family service on Saturday (Hallowe'en!!!!) .  I stood in the pub after listening to his friends play wonderful music, and we laughed and danced, and sang together..... and as i pushed through the crowds to the ladies, or the bar, all i could hear was "I remember when....." "Were you there when......" "Do you remember that joke he told"

And here are where these two stories join.

I've known the Bennett brothers for 15 odd years. We have been to festivals, and gigs, just because these boys would be there.  In those 15 years, we have taken Mama to a few of the festivals, and like the rest of us, though at the sprightly age of 85, she stayed up til sunrise at the jam sessions, she clapped and smiled and sang to the music.  I watched my parents dance, and we all sang and cried and laughed at many many many of their songs.  We sat on the steps of the Glenburn hotel on the Island of Bute, when there were no seats left, we stood at bars, we danced in the tiniest corners of rooms because sometimes you just can't help but jiggle.  We camped with them at Dove Holes and watched them for all the past years, as they have grown, at the Preston Cross.

And the very best memory of all....... on 5th January 2014, a year and a fortnight after Mum had her brain haemorrhage, Mum, dad and I went to the Preston Cross and Mum and Dad danced - quietly and carefully in the corner of the room. And that is a sight I will never forget in all my life, and it was given to me by this band.

I will never forget that Russ is pretty much the only person I know who could make MrNoo belly laugh....... the stories, the mischievous acts, the "joie de vivre".  That Russ would run across a room (or a campsite) with his arms outstretched, that he never forgot our names, (although had significant difficulty in remembering where I lived - phoning me once to see if I was "popping down" to a gig in Great Yarmouth ..... I live in Surrey!!), that almost everything was "Splendid" and that when he sang he had no idea of his own ability or presence.  That he did an uncanny impression of a pigeon carrying home his fish and chips, or that he told the same jokes time after time and they were still funny.

So, Russ, and the rest of the band gave my family some of the most precious gifts we can ever have. Memories.  And now my parents are both in a care home, and to be honest, their mobility suggests that we may not be going to many more jazz afternoons and it is unlikely they will be dancing in public again, but by the grace of whichever force of nature you care to believe in, we do still have all our memories.  We can talk about holidays, festivals, and songs. We can sing and remember where we heard something played. We can laugh at jokes that we heard so many times we know them word perfectly. And, in the safe confines of a care home lounge, we can stand together and hold hands and dance/sway to the CD's we have collected and each of us will be in a different place in our heads, but all of us will be together.

Thank you Russ, for mending our hearts, for giving us laughter, music& dance,  and our dear, beautiful man....... for the memories.

Margaret Lowman 1920-2014

Russell Bennett 1972 - 2015