The celebration of Elaine's life: 12th October 2007
Choir sang "You can't kill the spirit" as people walked in.
Elaine Connell by Lynn
Elaine was born in Failsworth, Manchester in 1953. Her parents were Ted and Doreen, and she has two brothers, Steve and Andrew and a sister, Karen. The first 13 years of her life were happy ones – they were quite a close family, and Elaine, in particular idolised her father. He was a bookmaker, and a very clever man. His suicide was something that affected Elaine all her life, but the love and stability she had had as a child also gave her the strength to fight her many battles. In spite of living with various different people in the family, they pulled together as a team to help raise Elaine and her brothers and sister, and she was especially close to her Aunty Florence – someone she thought of almost as a second mother.
Elaine was one of the famous ‘baby-boomer’ generation – a post war, grammar school kid – the first of the working classes to be allowed out to show what they really could do. She was spotted as very bright, very early on, and at school they thought her their best hope for Oxbridge. She went to St. John’s College to do her A levels and she made friends there, Stella and Judith, that she has remained close to all her life. Her sociology teacher Aidan also became a friend and is still close to Chris and her family.
Around that time, she met Paul, and they married in the early 70s. Elaine was at Manchester Polytechnic and studying for a degree in English, History and Politics. She had Kate in her final year in 1976, and unhappily went into a severe post-natal depression for some time. I am not going to talk very much about that, as the people who knew her best will be speaking, Chris, of course, and Kate and Morgan will be telling us more about Elaine as their mother. But, she did get her degree, and went on to teach at Percival Whitley College of Further Education, Calderdale College as it is to you and me and Percy’s Palace of Education and Culture as it was to Elaine.
It was here that she met Chris, in 1981. They had a lot in common, both were political animals, they loved literature, had the same sense of humour, so, of course, they got off with one another. But there was something else too, a bit special, Chris still remembers the first time he saw her face – it seemed significant from the start, and indeed, it was to grow into the love of their lives. They didn’t live together for years – that’s the way things were then – Elaine was a strong, independent woman, a fierce feminist and activist, and both I suspect were somewhat idealistic. But they showed their love by living it out, every day, whatever happened and whatever the weather. They went on to share every aspect of their lives and to do many things together.
Elaine had already been living in Cragg Vale and moved to Hebden, Chris bought a house next door but one in Victoria Road – fortunately, their neighbour Audrey was friendly and didn’t mind the telephone wires strung up between their houses and all the coming and going. Hebden was a very different place in those days, half of it boarded up, but Elaine and Chris have always loved it and became founding members of the wonderful community we have today!
When Morgan was born in 1988, Elaine’s experience of birth was very different. They became a close and loving family, and with Kate coming home more often, things began to be resolved and the bonds between them all grew. Elaine loved her family very much, they love her and are very proud of the woman she was. They took great strength from one another, however hard times have become. And she wasn’t just proud of her children’s achievements, but she loved them for the p eople they have grown into.
They had some wonderful holidays in France, and Elaine would swim every day. In fact, she always swam, every day, no matter where she was – it was her passion and she loved it. Her other passions, of course, were literature, and Sylvia Plath in particular and she became an authority on her and her work and founded an important and internationally recognised website for Plath studies.
There isn’t enough time to go into all the many different sides of Elaine’s life, her academic life, her teaching and writing, and work on the internet, many of you will have been her colleagues or students or been in a group or on a demo with her. That’s one of the wonderful things about her – she had an energy and a passion for life that characterised everything she did.
As well as a very proud mother, Elaine was also kind of grandmother to the triplets – Tess, Jade and Star – she took great delight in them, one of the many things that lit up her life and kept her going.
When Elaine was diagnosed with the cancer that has finally taken her life, she and Chris tackled it with all their considerable resources, doing the research, learning about the disease and all the many ways in which it might be taken on, discovering and following treatments and regimes – from mistletoe to chemo - they did everything they could. Elaine was furious, of course, that this was happening to her, but typically she set up a blog on which she recorded their struggles and experiences in great detail, sparing no-one, and with a great deal of humour. It should be a dread thing to read, but it isn’t, its witty and clever, and well written, and above all moving. I also encourage everyone to go and read the many responses people have written to her death – it says far more than we can in this space we have today.
The way that everyone has been there for her and Chris, and Morgan and Kate, friends such as Julie and Rosie who have been a real help, but so many of you. Elaine never spent long without a visitor. It meant a lot to her, and more than they can say to her family.
Elaine died with Chris and Kate by her side. Morgan was at Cambridge, which is exactly what Elaine wanted. She was held in love, and died peacefully in her home, knowing how much she was loved.
Elaine's last three years were very tough - 2 major operations and what seemed like hundreds of hospital visits, often in the middle of the night by ambulance. And the very slow and gradual loss of hope, knowing the inevitable was approaching. The end came very quickly. Just a few days before she was downstairs watching tv like we would do most evenings. And she was receiving and entertaining visitors everyday until the Thursday before. While not forgetting the pain of the past 3 years, lets try today to remember and celebrate the whole of Elaine's life.
Elaine grew up in Failsworth and was part of a large, supportive and interesting, extended family who I often described as Elaine's 101 aunts.
Her grandfather, an Irish republican came to Britain after escaping from a Dublin jail in 1920 where he'd been sentenced to death. He said he was descended from Daniel O'Connell the great Irish Liberator, the one who O'Connell Street is named after and who brought about Catholic emancipation. Certainly, when we visited his stately home in Kerry a few years ago, the family portraits were the spitting image of her brothers, Steve and Andrew.
Elaine's had to endure far more than her fair share of tragedy and suffering, and I think this needs remembering too. Many of you will be well aware of some of these slings and arrows because Elaine practiced her belief that talking about problems was good therapy. And she liked talking.
Probably the worst and most profound thing that happened to her was her father’s suicide when she was just 13 in June 1966. She never got over this. And any setback, argument or loss during her life could be made all the worse because it either re-awoke this tragedy or echoed and multiplied it. She knew this very well and wrote in the poem about her father:
Like Hamlet's Father you haunt me,
Returning in dream after dream
One hurt and you surface to deepen
The void of my unsaid scream.
But there was more tragedy. In December 1967, she was knocked down by a car - her leg was broken and she was off school for a long time. After her father's death, her mother became an alcoholic and married Harry who she'd met at the alcoholic treatment unit. Harry was physically abusive to Elaine's mother, Doreen. When Harry attempted to rape Elaine who was 15 or 16, there was a very violent struggle about which Elaine has written very vividly. (and she saved herself by smashing a candlestick down on his head). Her mother died not long after - probably from the blows from Harry. Elaine always referred to her murder. If all this wasn't enough, she suffered a very serious post natal depression following the birth of Kate. So bad that she was in hospital for eight months. When she returned home, Paul, her husband had changed and often become violent. There will be friends and neighbours here today who remember having to rescue Elaine. Even in the past ten years, Elaine has had to endure congestive heart failure (from which she did recover against the odds), Morgan having ME for a year when he was ten and finally, the cancer, diagnosed in late 2004. She had understandable periods of anger against the world, which could sometimes make it difficult for those who loved her. Elaine wrote on 12th July: "Though the worst of the anger has subsided, I haven’t and still can’t accept it. Everyone thinks I am being so brave but they don’t know I’m still screaming internally at the injustice of it all. It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair."
But in spite of, or maybe even because of all this, Elaine became the remarkable person we all knew. She had no truck for those who blamed their backgrounds for bad behaviour. Look at all what has happened to me she would say.
She had o course a relentless sense of humour. Once, when she was moderating GCSEs as a senior examiner, one of her team arrived late and was looking for her. He was told to go down the corridor until he came to the room where all the laughter was coming from. She found humour in whatever situation she found herself. She did have an endless stock of anecdotes including adventures with the Skoda, running the telehone wire between houses when we lived next door but one and many that are too rude to even hint at today.
She always wanted things to be fair and regularly took a stand against injustice, war and the threats to our environment. At just 16, she was arrested on an anti-apartheid demo in Manchester while trying to stop police beating a black demonstrator. She fought it in court and was acquitted. In 1969, 12 years before we met, she and I were both damaging cricket pitches at different ends of the country as part of the Stop the Seventy Tour led by Cabinet Minister Peter Hain. A passionate feminist, she started the first Women's Group in Hebden Bridge in the seventies. I won't go through all the campaigns she and I were involved in - we'd be here all night. In the 80s, she lay down in front of police vehicles in Oxford Street, London, was arrested cutting the fence at Menwith Hill, was active in the Miners' Support campaign and as Kate remembers only too well went on quite a few demos.
Elaine had a memory unparalleled among anyone I know. She could recite from much of the work of English Literature and poetry. Just like that – it was just there. Many times, doctors and consultants were surprised she wasn't medically trained because she knew the details of her illness inside out, and could recite the complex names of the many different drugs she was on, or had been on. Once a consultant arrived at her bedside with a team of students, explained Elaine's problem and asked a specific question. None of the students knew, but Elaine's hand shot up, and she gave the correct answer to the amusement of all. Every Monday night, even the week before she died, Morgan and had to join her for University Challenge to see who could answer the most questions - we never stood a chance!
She loved talking and had an endless store of anecdotes. People found her caring and empathetic – those with problems knew without knowing Elaine they could talk with her. She often made people feel special, almost as if they were the only person she could confide in. The number of times I have heard from people "Elaine and I had such good discussions"
This refusal to accept things as they are pervaded her whole life. When she became pregnant with Morgan, she was terrified of another post-natal depression. Even before the Internet she thoroughly researched and made herself an expert on post-natal depression and made contact with a Harley Street expert, Katherina Dalton who instructed our initially reluctant, local doctors to prescribe the hormone oestrogen. It worked. And without the post-natal depression, Elaine was able to be the kind of mother she had wanted to be with Kate. For the past 19 years, Morgan was a source of great pride and pleasure for her.
Reading became her first love - like Morgan she could polish off a long novel in no time. Once at the local library, they refused to believe she'd read the books so quickly and had to answer detailed questions on Jane Eyre.
As a teacher, she has left her mark on hundreds of students and colleagues. This is from a message Elaine received on 2nd September. "If you had never taught me for that year at New College, asked me to consider myself as having a talent and ability and, through your teaching, opened another world up for me, I probably would never have become so academically-minded, never done my MAs, and never even thought that I could possibly write. In short, I would not be the person I am today. You set me on my path, and I am so very grateful for that.”
As a writer, Elaine has left behind a significant amount of unpublished material as well as her books on Plath and the Cathars. In the few weeks before she died, we had recorded a dozen audio interviews about different parts of her life, which Morgan has typed up, and she had already started editing. So there may be a book! But of course, her writing is also scattered all over the Internet where it continues to be appreciated, especially on the TES and Sylvia Plath forums.
Here's Elaine reading her own poem which combines her humour and love of literature. It was written in the 80s so some of the references are dated.
Groupie by Elaine
Some women fancy pop stars,
Manilow or Elton John,
Some women long for he-men,
but it's poets turn me on!
Oh to be a nymph
with Herrick as my swain
Or Andrew Marvell's mistress,
giving in again and yet again.
I'd wander fells with Wordsworth,
take opium with STC
And if only Percy Shelley wrote
Eipsychidion for me!
I'd gladly be one compass foot,
if John Donne made the pair.
If he were mine no tears I'd shed,
the partings I could bear!
Now if Robert Lowell had just met me,
no Milltown he would take.
I'd even start to crow watch
for Ted Hughes' sake!
Most women long for Rambo,
or a rich man to set them free.
Some women yearn for athletes,
but it's poets, poets, for me!
(Listen to recording)
Chris's eulogy (continued)
Writing led us into publishing. We created Pennine Pens in 1991 and she was always so proud of our successes. Those of you who came to the Little Theatre for Ten Years of Pennine Pens in 2002 will remember Elaine recounting our excitement when the Hebden Bridge Times banned A View from the Bridge. What great publicity. Or arriving home, and finding some scruffy poet, lurking in our doorway clutching his scribblings looking for a publisher. Or the time the real Biker Dave turned up at our house claiming the lads weren't happy and what had been said about him. "Ah'm very upset by this 'eer book. I walked into the Hole In The Wall (only possibly The Grievous Bodily Arms) and I noticed veryone were laughing at me. They sez, 'ere Dave, yer famous, yer in a book. It's younger Slaves. Theer saying, "Hey Dave what yer gonna do about this writer. He's teking piss. Younger slaves can be reet violent.'
One of Pennine Pens most consistent sellers is her book on Sylvia Plath. With her background, it was inevitable she would be drawn to Plath. Once she had started the Plath Forum on the Internet in 1998, she soon became recognised as the leading authority on Plath, I was going to say in the UK but really, in the world. Later this month, she was to be a key speaker at a symposium at Oxford University. One messager has written: "The Plath Forum is one of the most authoritative sources on the web, and Elaine showed true dedication and vision in running it." Another wrote: "For me Elaine Connell's greatest legacy would be her website for Sylvia Plath which stands unique among Plath sources on the Web. Her work in this field was unparalleled."
Publishing led us to the Internet, and I don't think it's an exageration to say that Elaine was one of the UK's Internet Pioneers. Not only was there the Plath Forum but there was also:
The Hebden Bridge Web which she co-founded in 1995, the first community website in the country.
The Teachers’ Forum on the TES site where she made so many online friends. One has written “I shall sorely miss my emails with Elaine, our debates, our jokes, she has been a part of my life for so long.” And another “She was a fantastically inspirational woman - kind, wise, funny, compassionate.”
In the third year of her illness, still innovating on the Internet, she signed up with Brite School to teach students online from her bed at home. One her brightest students was Yu who lives in Japan and who wrote on learning of Elaine's illness: "I want to thank you for teaching me, and tell you that there will be no teacher as good as you."
Finally, over the past 18 month she recounted the progress of her illness, our dealings with the hospitals and her emotions in her blog, UpShitCreek, and still paddling.
We weren't married but had a fruitful and fulfilling relationship which lasted longer than many marriages. We had so much in common - Languedoc, Shakespeare, French films, Dylan Thomas, folk music, Leonard Cohen, appellation controllee, Radio Four, aversion to bright lights, old bangers for cars, meditation, that moment under the oak tree in the Pyrenees in 1987, dislike of needless shopping, Dublin, Have I got News for you, Calvados, The Guardian, Montsegur, Thomas Hardy, much, much more. Had she lived, we may well have spent our retirement travelling as that was always something she regretted not doing more of. I was so lucky to have met her and spend 26 memorable years with her. I already miss her so much.
In the past few weeks, she became very close to Kate and only 3-4 weeks ago when I was away at Jem and Alice's wedding, Elaine and Kate stayed up till four in the morning. And most of you know how much pleasure she took from Morgan's A level success, and his going to Cambridge.
Finally, there was swimming – for most of the past 25 years, Elaine would go swimming every single day. She loved swimming with as much passion as she loved literature. But it could get her into trouble. This is from her stock of anecdotes. She would tell it better but it goes something like this. We were visiting my Mum who lived on the Norfolk coast at Winterton. Morgan was about 6 or 7. We went to the beach. I played with Morgan and Elaine went for a swim. I remember saying that I thought you had to swim outside of the warning posts, but she explained that it was always inside. After a while, I realised Elaine hadn't returned. And started looking around for her. She was a long way out. A local couple saw me looking a little concerned. "I don't mean to be rude but we thought it was a seal". He explained that it was unlikely even a strong swimmer would by able to swim back against the currents found between the posts. The life-boat arrived just before the helicopter. She was brought back in the boat with a silver blanket round her. "Why has she got that silver thing on?" asked Morgan Apparently, I replied so everyone on the beach can see who the idiot is. She loved this song which I played to her a few hours before she died, in the hope that she might hear it.
This Summer I went Swimming by Kate & Anna McGarrigle
Be absolute for death from “Measure for Measure” Act III lines 5–34
Read by Glyn Hughes
Be absolute for death; either death or life
Shall thereby be the sweeter. Reason thus with life:
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing
That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art,
Servile to all the skyey influences,
That dost this habitation, where thou keep'st,
Hourly afflict: merely, thou art death's fool;
For him thou labour'st by thy flight to shun
And yet runn'st toward him still. Thou art not noble;
For all the accommodations that thou bear'st
Are nursed by baseness. Thou'rt by no means valiant;
For thou dost fear the soft and tender fork
Of a poor worm. Thy best of rest is sleep,
And that thou oft provokest; yet grossly fear'st
Thy death, which is no more. Thou art not thyself;
For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains
That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not;
For what thou hast not, still thou strivest to get,
And what thou hast, forget'st. Thou art not certain;
For thy complexion shifts to strange effects,
After the moon. If thou art rich, thou'rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear's thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;
For thine own bowels, which do call thee sire,
The mere effusion of thy proper loins,
Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,
For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age,
But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,
Dreaming on both;
Elaine by Kate
I want to talk about the Elaine I knew, not the Academic, the writer or the Teacher but my Mum.
I have found writing this to be very hard, I wanted to capture some of the earlier memories that I have of her, some perhaps that only the close family will be aware of.
Some of the funniest memories that I have of her, I can’t really share because they are Mother and Daughter type conversations, but here are a few:
I remember in the 80’s, we seemed to go on Demonstrations all the time. I remember thinking “Oh no, not ANOTHER demonstration, what about this time?” as I trudged up Birchcliffe with yet another placard, chanting songs.
We went on “Demo’s” together for CND, Greenpeace and probably Save the Whale, I can’t remember them all.
I did like the feeling of excitement in the air and a sense of purpose at these Demonstrations.
CONTACT LENSES MOMENTS
Coming home from School, getting one foot in the doorway of the living room at Victoria Rd and being greeted by her shrieking “Stop where you are! Don’t move!! Do – not – move!”, my heart in my mouth I’d peer around the door and she’d be on her hands and knees on the floor and I’d breathe a sigh of relief. “Have you lost a contact lens again?”.
She also had the habit of stopping slap bang in the middle of the main road through Hebden, in the middle of traffic whilst going “oh,oh,oh”, winking her eye over her hand, it’d be another contact lens moment, where it moved and it’d got stuck. I’d be panicking “Elaine, Elaine, we’re in the middle of the road……….” As cars zoomed past us, drivers shaking their heads in disbelief..
Years later she asked me if I’d ever considered trying contact lenses, I told her she’d given me a phobia of them and reminded her of these stories and we had a good laugh.
LOSING THE KEYS
Losing the House Keys or The Car Keys was a fairly common event in Victoria Road. I used to call it “The Great Hunt for the Keys”
We’d be getting ready to leave for School, or Shopping, or Swimming and I’d hear those words “Oh, where are my keys” and lots of rooting in handbags.
“Here we go again” I’d think. Every time I’d point out to her the benefits of putting all keys in one place, so we wouldn’t have to go through this every day. But she’d ignore me.
When, after turning the house upside down, we did eventually find the keys, it meant we could leave the house and get into the Skoda, which inevitably, we had to push up the road because it wouldn’t start, me silently praying that it’d break down again just before we got to Calder High School, so I wouldn’t have the humiliation of getting out of a Skoda, the brunt of everyones jokes.
I do recall them inventing a key locater that you could attach to your keys and a fob to press to locate them if you lost them. When she heard about this, she said “Oh, I’d lose the fob”.
Now that the memories are there, I’d like to talk about what She meant to me:
I always admired her complete honesty about the usual questions that children ask, she didn’t shy away from the truth or sugar coat. I hope to be the same with my own children.
Over the years we became not just Mother and Daughter but also the greatest of friends. Her candour, insight, humour and politics were and still are valued so much by me and I enjoyed our conversations so much. She was the only person that I could speak to freely about any subject and for hours at a time (and believe me, we did!)
I am sad for all those years we missed in the past and for all those years we will miss in the future, her vast wealth of knowledge, her intricate family history, her fantastic memory & our long conversations and most of all I know I will miss having her there when I start a family myself, she said herself she would miss being a Grandmother.
When life goes back to normal there will be a huge empty space in all of our lives and I am so unbelievably sad that she will be missing out on so much in the future.
Here are some words that she wrote to me in one of her final emails:
“How much I want to be here to see him develop and have
discussions about his time at Cambridge.
How much I want to be able to
carry on with reading, intellectual discussion and the like.”
“You've built such a potentially good life for yourself that I
only wish I could be here to see it.”.
My parting words to you now Mum, will be the ones that I used to always say as a child, “It’s not fair” and you used to say “No Kate, Life never is”.
You were right.
Fruitgathering by Rabindranath Tagore, read by Julie Cockburn
I have kissed this world with my
eyes and my limbs; I have wrapt it
within my heart in numberless folds;
I have flooded its days and nights
with thoughts till the world and my
life have grown one, - and I love my
life because I love the light of the sky
so enwoven with me.
If to leave this world be as real as
to love it - then there must be a mean-
ing in the meeting and the parting of life.
If that love were deceived in death,
then the canker of this deceit would
eat into all things, and the stars would
shrivel and grow black.
I’m not sure how to express in a few short minutes a bond that had lasted eighteen years. The memories I have of Elaine are still very painful to think about which makes it harder.
I suppose what I want to talk about most of all is the incredibly close relationship Chris, Elaine and I shared, especially in my early childhood. When I began school, I never really wanted to go because I had all the friendship I needed back home. For years, me and my family did everything together. I remember the countless camping holidays in France, her dropping me off at school on my first day and her constantly trying to teach me to swim and me constantly failing. A particularly fond memory was when we were in Amsterdam on holiday. Elaine was never a master of technology. Whilst she loved cycling, she couldn’t really master the idea that some bikes were different from other bikes. The fact that the bikes we hired in Amsterdam used back pedalling for the break just completely passed her by. Elaine simply could not deal with the alternative breaking system, so whenever we came to traffic lights, Elaine was unable to stop, and hurtled head on into traffic, screaming in panic and causing dozens of cars to force emergency stops. I have so many cherished memories like these of Elaine.
One of the things I am very grateful to Elaine for is instilling in me is a love of books. Thanks to both her and Chris’s encouragement, as a young child I became completely obsessed with reading. I remember one half term in primary school, rather than go out and play, I buried myself away in a corner and read as many books as possible. I know that throughout her life, Elaine was the same.
As I got older, this close relationship continued. Of course, now that I was a teenager we’d squabble and bicker from time to time, always about stupid little things, most of the time about me failing to put the washing on. But I always knew that I could talk to Elaine about anything and everything, because there was very little she didn’t take an interest in. We’d talk about politics, completely trivial things and make juvenile jokes with each other. She’d try to prize little details about my love life and I’d stubbornly resist. She would never let a day go by without hearing in minute detail what I’d done at school that day. And I knew that if I ever had any problem, she’d have the answer, most likely because she’d helped so many people through so many situations in their lives before. I had every confidence that Elaine could always help.
Even when she got diagnosed with cancer, my home life was the best I could ask for. Though the cancer was clearly awful and she was often terrified by it, she always found a way to carry on with as much normality as she could. Her sense of humour always shone through. She was the strongest person that I am ever likely to meet.
However much she meant to me, she made such an impact on everyone here today. I don’t know anyone who knew Elaine who didn’t feel richer for having known her. I’ve read the messages that people have written about her and the themes that shine through again and again are her wisdom, her compassion and her incredible wit. I feel incredibly privileged to have had Elaine as a mother and to have had her be such an important part of my life. Without her and without the upbringing she gave me I would not be the person I am today. Perhaps the most important thing she taught me was that it was never enough to just be intelligent and that I shouldn’t use my intellect as a weapon. In her last note to me, she wrote “tread softly, for you tread upon my dreams.” Such a close and more importantly equal relationship between parent and child is a rare thing and it is only in recent years that I have realised that not all parental relationships are like that. I never thought of Elaine as just my mother. She was my friend.
My sister and Chris's daughter, Rosie, unfortunately could not be here today. She has been a fantastic support for Chris and has rung him every day from Australia. She sent this message to be read out at Elaine's funeral.
Message from Rosie, read by Morgan
Elaine will be deeply missed by many and her absence will be
particularly felt at Windsor Road. She was like my step Mum for 26
years, although she refuted this title with a vengeance not liking
all the negative literary connotations. She was by no means the evil
step mum and always honoured my relationship with Chris. She had a
unique openness and often wore her heart on her sleeve. This allowed
others to do the same. Elaine and I had a very easy relationship and
there were many things that I loved about her. I loved drinking wine
with her ( Although we often had to fight for the last drop) I loved
her humour. I loved her cooking. I loved our conversations. I loved
that she would help me with my English essays and finally I loved how
people felt at ease around her.
There is however a couple of passions that I did not share with
Elaine… one being (dare I say it?) a dislike for university
challenge. She would often try to coerce me into watching an episode.
I would refuse and take the preferred option of reading the paper in
the kitchen.The second being a passion for very strong black tea with
the tea bag left in.( Maybe it's a northern thing!)
Elaine embraced Andy and my girls with affection. She would often buy
Tess, Jade and Star clothes and tell the tale of the triplets to all
and sundry. She always had a gift for words and I felt honoured when
she found the perfect poem for our daughters birth and for our
wedding. However I'm not sure that the girls will remember the
Anarchists ABC even though Elaine recited it frequently.
Elaine was warm, vivacious and generous and will be deeply missed by
us. Our thoughts are particularly with Kate, Morgan and Chris during
this time. We are sad not to be there today but our memories of Elaine
will live on.
Soaring Skywards: Choir
A Valediction Forbidding Mourning by John Donne
read by Chris Reason
AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers' love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
Silence and invitation to speak: Elaine requested this space for anyone to get up and say something about her, play an instrument, sing a song or read a poem.
Basir and Aidan spoke
Sax: Mike Barrett
Edge by Sylvia Plath
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
As people left: Always Look On the Bright Side of Life by the Pythons
Graveside: Cold Stars by William Bedford
I’m thinking about you.
The sky is very full of stars.
The Aranda say the stars are holes in the sky to let the light in.
Crows made the holes, pecking at the dark tin to escape this
world. Other tribes say it was the magpies.
I miss you.
A white mist rolls across the hills and I’m also thinking about
Sylvia Plath because she wrote about sheep in fog
and you wrote a book about her grief,
following her with your own grief.
All night, this morning has been coming.
It has been heading our way, you in Yorkshire, me in Wiltshire,
the Aranda watching the stars, telling stories to quieten their fears.
Are we the only people awake?
The only people who watch for the morning?
It’s 3AM, and I know you are listening, but I am alone with
Sylvia Plath, and she is not listening, she is sitting round the
fires with the Aranda, inventing new stories about the stars.
Making holes in the sky to let the light in.