Rosemary (also known as Rosebud, Rosie and Mim) was fortunate to be born in 1919 to quite affluent parents who had their own house ‘Corners’ built in what was then a quiet area near Hove called Portslade. She and her older sister, Peggy, had a governess in their early years and then attended private schools and art school. They often swam daily in the sea at lunchtimes when their mother brought a picnic. Her father, Charles, was a civil servant in London commuting daily and mother, Grace, supervised a maid and organised their social lives around bridge and a tennis club. Though this might sound idyllic, a fierce headmistress put Rosemary off Shakespeare for life and her mother could not stand the sound of practising so she never learned a musical instrument.
She only attended art school for one year – she found the course tedious – which was a pity in view of the interest she later took in painting but then went on to do secretarial training and an enjoyable job at the county court in Brighton. At this time she and Peggy belonged to an amateur drama group and had a lively social life.
People sometimes talk of having ‘a good war’ about the Second World War. Well, Rosemary was stationed in Knightsbridge and Windsor and met the love of her life which probably qualifies her too. Her lifelong interest in snooker dates from being taught the game by a certain Major Frederick William Collins (known as Mike). He even had dancing lessons so that he could woo her!
They married in 1946, had Catherine (Kate) in 1947 and Victoria (Vicky) in 1949. Like many others, they had utility and homemade everything and army things like blankets all through the 1950s. Rosemary never dwelt on those early years but it seems they involved very hard physical work and a lack of choice. It is hard to imagine caring for young children with no modern labour saving aids, no easy social contact through the internet and mobile phones with cheap calls, very limited child entertainment and limited availability of interesting food. Understandably, Rosemary associated all these negatives with raising young children and was never sentimental about it.
They moved about five times whilst bringing up the children and Vicky’s main memories are of them decorating. Rosemary said she was not permitted to paint the top coats and used only to clean the inside of the car! Other memories of her are mincing lamb with a hand mincer to make shepherd’s pie, ironing on an old grey army blanket on the kitchen table, cleaning the front step with red polish and cleaning various bronze and copper items. She had a very stoical and even tempered attitude to life so just got on with it, whatever it was. She and Mike did allow themselves to laugh at Tony Hancock and Giles the cartoonist and did show pride and pleasure in the garden and Vicky learning Latin (which she seemed to embue with a mystical status).
As part of their attention always to maintaining standards, she used to tidy her hair and put lipstick on just before my father came home. Another great blessing was to be very good looking, petite and well proportioned with dark curly hair and great teeth and nails. This good fortune always attracted other people but she wasn’t vain. She loved colour and liked to dress colourfully and was able to indulge this a little in latter years when Kate encouraged her to buy some more expensive and unusual clothes like red bovver boots.
The other main attribute Rosemary had was to be a good conversationalist. She was interested in people, asked appropriate questions and listened attentively. Her gradual loss of hearing was a nuisance especially in situations like being on a table on a cruise. She related quickly and easily to many people as has become apparent in the messages received. She was active in the Mothers Union and WI and the parish council which stood her in good stead when she had several years alone at the marital home in Barnham.
She spent her time after Mike died on these activities and was brave enough to go on several cruises alone. She also went on a number of holidays with Kate and family. When Kate died Rosemary had a fall the next day and broke her ankle. Whilst she was still in plaster she went to see a new flat at Windmill Court in Barnham and that started a new phase of more communal living and new friendships. By this time Vicky and her husband Frank had moved to nearby Middleton so shared a lot of outings (such as fundraisers for St Wilfrid’s and trips to Slindon to see pumpkins and bluebells).
Finding housekeeping becoming a chore, she moved up the road to Abbey Dean Care Home and had a room with a view of the Downs and spent many hours in the garden there. She liked her jigsaw puzzles and Scrabble and could share in gardening with others.
When the lovely owner of Abbey Dean sold she moved to Byway House in Middleton where she had an ideal room with French windows and garden view. Here she read poetry and John Grisham novels, fed the birds with her breakfast toast, painted many cards and pictures and initially joined in all the activities with great enthusiasm. She had many visitors from family and friends and rich relationships with the staff and a few other more able residents.
The Punch and Judy show in the garden in August in the sunshine with all the residents and a superb cake made by Carol the cook is a fitting way to remember Rosemary. She gave so much to other people.