The photograph posted here has been in my mind this week as I had a visit from my aunt Clare, (always known as big Clare in our family,making me baby Clare),the one in the picture. She is my mother’s youngest sister and of the four daughters and one son that made up the Jennings family, she is the only one who never married or had children. She has made up for it by being the most extraordinary aunt to her 31 nephews and nieces and their numerous children and grandchildren and now approaching her 80th birthday shows no signs of slowing down or becoming less interested in our lives. We were talking at breakfast last Friday and I was telling her about this blog and showing her the bits and pieces I have contributed over the past few months. Like my mother she has kept some of my letters from far-flung places (how flattered I feel) and is going to look them out to send to me.
She then told me a poignant story of how in September 1975 she was driving her parents down to London from their annual visit to North Yorkshire where she has a cottage. At the time she was living and working in London, at the House of Lords, and my grandparents lived in Sussex, so after doing the first leg of the journey, another daughter (not my mother who had an awful cold at the time) was deputed to drive them home from Barnes, where Clare lived. The conversation in the car as they drew closer to Barnes turned in no particular seriousness to death and Granny said “Oh, just bury me where I drop, I don’t mind where.” Later that night, upon getting home, Granny collapsed and died early the next day in hospital, so Clare was never to see her or speak to her again. The last conversation between them had been suddenly and very sadly prefigured and when Clare told me last week I could well imagine how extraordinarily coincidental, if not prescient it must have seemed, and still does, to be remembered nearly forty years later.