Chapter 21

Chapter 21

90th Birthday:
Another big occasion was my 90th birthday at which again all my own children were able to come and a great many grandchildren and even some great grandchildren. The family is growing fast with still several grandchildren not yet married! We had lunch at a local hotel and then drove down to the shore in front of where St. Bride’s House used to be. St. Bride’s House had burnt down owing to a fire having got started in the attic through a gas cooker being left burning. No one was in the house and by the time a fire brigade had been summoned, the house was too far burnt for any hope of being able to save it. It was never rebuilt as the Insurers were not convinced that it was an accident. Only the concrete foundation remains, broken up; and long tussocks of grass overgrow the site. The cottage remains, belonging to different people from the owners of the house. So many people enjoyed wonderful holidays there, and I enjoy visiting the site to evoke long periods of happiness in my life. That 90th birthday party proved rather too much for me, so after it I spent two weeks in Bryn Aweion Nursing Home nearby to recover.

Random Reminiscences:
I have left out many important events which occurred over the years, so I am recording them in this separate interlude, as I cannot insert them in any sort of sensible way.

Grandma Widdrington lived alone in her house in Cheshire, Moore Hall, Grandpa not having survived the move from Newton for very long. But soon Moore Hall was too much for Grandma and she decided to sell it and moved right down to the south, looking for a rather warmer climate. She found a small house at Exmouth, which was large enough for her and her son Gerard and two very good women who entirely looked after them. Grandma used to describe it as a “workman’s cottage” and it was in one of a row, overlooking a sort of park. She gave away everything of value she possessed – even to all her linen -saying that she did not want people quarrelling over her things when she was dead. She gave me a beautiful chest of drawers and some very good linen sheets. I visited her in what she called “Chance House”, because it was by a lucky chance she came across just what she wanted. In the middle of Hugh’s birthday party dance one New Year’s Eve, Diana and Davie came, rather late, and I noticed them sitting with Hugh and looking very serious. It was not till the end of the party that Diana told me that Grandma had died and she did not want this news to come and disturb the party. Diana had kept in touch with Grandma’s “minders” with the understanding they would tell her at once. This was a very saddening piece of news, although we had seen little of her since our marriage. Grandma had been the saving grace through all my life, giving me the love, care and attention that was so completely missing from mother.

Diana and I drove down to Exmouth for the funeral, and on the way I bought some lilies. Mother was already there, and commented, when she saw the flowers, that her mother did not like flowers – to which I replied that she was now where flowers were part of the beauty surrounding her. There was nothing in Grandma’s will about bequeathing anything, as everything had already been given away. But there was a square cardboard box with my name on it, which mother handed to me. Inside I unwrapped the chain and medallion Grandma often wore, bought when they were in North Africa. Mother’s face, when she saw this, was a picture of bitter anger. She had not gotten on with her mother very well, but still the medallion was the one and only thing kept to give away on that day. When all my jewelry was stolen, it escaped being found, so I still have it as my most treasured possession.

After her death, Chance House was of course sold, and her two faithful retainers went to their own homes. Gerard went to live with a working class couple, very old friends of his, in County Durham, and I don’t think I ever saw him again. But Diana had always been quite closely attached to Uncle Gerard, and continued to be concerned about him and his affairs for the rest of his life. Grandma had arranged that he leave a small legacy to Diana, and it became a real blessing to her after Gerard’s death.

I myself had no further connection with the Widdrington family after they went to live in Buckinghamshire. In due course Francis went to live at Newton, having married, but with no children or prospect of any. So the Widdrington connection with Northumberland came to an end, as the Cresswell one had done through the disinheritance by my father.

Diana: Second only to Diana’s confirmation, at which I was the only family member in attendance, was her marriage. I was myself married at this time and very occupied producing my family. So it came as a complete surprise when Davie, the Welsh ex army chaplain we had made friends with so many years ago, asked my sister to marry him. By this time Davie was Vicar of a parish in Liverpool, so Diana would be looking forward to a very different kind of life from the isolated one at Hauxley. Diana and Davie were married by Archdeacon Mangin in Alnwick Church. Diana looked very young and pretty in a really pretty wedding dress, and seed pearl tiara type headdress. I saw very little of her, as I could not stay long away from home, and I do not think Mary and Thorlief had been able to get back for the wedding.

Diana was very happily married to Davie, and soon adapted herself to the parish life in Liverpool. She had two sons, Julian and Christopher, both by caesarian operation, which gave her rather a bad time. She had a very nice nanny for the boys, and I used to visit her quite a lot, taking John and Bridget with me. I enjoyed these visits to Liverpool, which had a really lively atmosphere about it, so different from stuffy old Birmingham. I put this liveliness down to the fact that Liverpool was a large and very busy seaport, with its great canal taking ships far up into the country. Hugh and Davie were also good friends, and we enjoyed Davie’s visits to us.

During one of these visits there was, for me, a rather amusing episode. Somehow during a conversation with Davie, the existence of a spiritual world, inhabited by actual spiritual Beings, came up. Davie looked at me in surprised horror, “Surely an intelligent woman like you does not believe in all that?” Amused, I replied, “But you wear the uniform of this belief.” Some years later Davie suffered another shock during the celebrations of the centenary of Rudolf Steiner’s birth. One of the leading Anthroposophists was giving a lecture in Steiner House, and who should be taking the chair but the main spokesman of the Modernist Movement in the Church of England!

Before I sold St. Bride’s House, Diana, Davie and the boys used to go there for holidays and on one of these occasions Davie had a very serious heart attack. Nothing the doctor could do could save him and he died in Diana’s arms. This was a shattering blow for Diana, as Davie had really run their life for them. Diana’s nanny came down to stay with us, and she and I felt at one time that Diana could lose her reason through the shock. Mother came for the cremation over in Liverpool.

Diana and her two boys then went back to Halesowen, and Diana was given less than two months to leave the Rectory in Halesowen and find another home. We put her up in the “over the way” flat, at Caspidge, then she went to the cottage at St. Bride’s, but after a time she decided to get a caravan and live in it at Morfa Bychan. Here she made great friends with the Howsons. She also had friends who owned and ran a care in Criccieth, and she used to go and help them a lot. She gradually built up a life for herself, and we saw a lot of each other on my visits to St. Bride’s House.

After a few years in her caravan, Diana sold it and bought the smallholding in Suffolk. It was a very nice place, and I visited her when I could, but it was a long drive from Morfa Bychan. But Winifred Elin, who Diana had got to know through attending Anthroposophical study groups over at Green Island near Colchester, prevailed upon Diana to join them, and live over there. So she sold up and went to live in one of Win’s bungalows at Green Island. Here she had made great friends with the two Gibb sisters, Olga and Ingrid, particularly with Olga, and so began a very significant part of her life during which she was to take part in future activities and much study. Diana bought a smallholding in Suffolk, where she produced mostly strawberries.

It turned out to be the same for me, as during my frequent visits I made close contacts with some of the group’s members. This led to Winifred asking me to give talks to the group, which I did on various occasions.

The Children Now:
I have a very wonderful family and am grateful for every moment they spend with me. Alas, that I can see so little of my sons, but we communicate a great deal. Having had no family life in my own childhood and youth, it can be imagined just how much I value the life that has developed and grown up through my own family.

Idonea married Bill Heaton Armstrong, an ardent and totally unthinking Roman Catholic, who considered Idonea’s main job was to produce multitudes of children, even if it killed her to do so! She had four children, then left him to marry Tim Fetherston Dilke, a love from teenage days. They had two children, but the marriage didn’t work, and she left him to marry Colin Rogers. This was also a mistake and they parted, Colin going off with someone else. Idonea subsequently took a variety of jobs, including inaugurating a very successful home furnishing business in Brussels. She is at the moment (1995) living in Scotland, disastrously married to Martin Crossley.

Tiggy and Jeremy fell in love and have a most successful and happy marriage and four children. Having sold St. Bride’s House, Jeremy and Tiggy bought this small holding, Ysgubor Fawr, near Chwilog, and subsequently Rhosghrll Fawr beyond Criccieth. From that time on, Tiggy and Jeremy have looked after me in every conceivable way. I frequently walked up to the farm over the fields and they would come down to me. I was invited to join in all their festival occasions, Christmas and Easter Egg hunts. The grandchildren often visited me. It was of course Tiggy who came with me on the various occasions I had to go to hospital or see a specialist, and in later years when my hearing got so bad, she had to be my interpreter. Then the move came down to Min y Nant in Criccieth and with me having no car, this involved a lot of driving for Tiggy or Jeremy. They took me up nearly every Sunday after church to have lunch with them and I met many of their friends up there.

Tiggy was there for any crisis in my life and was a wonderful comfort. Not withstanding their own problems, they were always available to help me with mine. For me, it has been an enormous joy to be able to watch the arrival of great grandchildren. and get to know yet another generation. Generosity and kindness really flow from this family and a wonderful atmosphere prevails at Rhosgyll Fawr.

John attended Cirencester, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and then went to Southern Rhodesia to learn the tobacco growing business with cousins Fergus Chance and his wife. The dust from the barns set up the old inflammations, and he left, to go to the Crookes family in Natal. On the voyage out, Ronnie Hersov was also on his way home, and very friendly with the Crookes daughter, Betty, whose family were also on their way home. John quickly learned enough of the sugar growing business to be able to buy his own farm at Hibberdene on the South Coast – and also to marry Betty Crookes. After a year there, John was able to buy a much better farm on the North Coast, Shepley, near Gingundhlover and built up a very successful life. He and Betty had four children. They continue to see a good deal of each other in a friendly relationship that could never work as a marriage.

John has bought another house up on the Berea and has spent a lot of time and money making it into a truly attractive home. He is also very busy creating both a kitchen and a “pleasure” garden. John now has a very nice friend, having got divorced from Ingrid. She has her own business and does not want to embark on a second marriage. I am glad that as I write John is happy, both about his private life and his many work projects, with all his family in very satisfactory work.

John comes from South Africa for two visits a year to England on business which makes it possible to spend a week end of that time with us up here. He stays at Rhosgyll and we meet up either here or up there for meals and have occasional visits to other places.

Bridget eventually joined the Red Cross and was posted to the Bahamas. She came home to work in London, and met and married a clergyman, John Eastaugh (who subsequently became Bishop of Hereford). This was a most successful and happy marriage and they had three children. But John very tragically developed cancer, from which he died leaving Bridget to create a whole new life for herself, all on her own.

Hugh met and married Sue Holmes (a second cousin) and they bought a farm, which was a success. But the marriage failed, and they separated having two sons, Tim and Henry, and a daughter, Lucy. Hugh remarried, bought another farm in Shropshire at the same time taking a job designing farm implements. This marriage also failed and Hugh emigrated to Santa Cruz, California.

And Now:
My life now is of necessity uneventful and quiet. Tiggy and Jeremy come often to see me and have meals with me down here. Bridget equally comes and looks after me. She comes often up from Hereford, to stay weekends or longer. She has done a wonderful job sorting out papers, getting rid of mountains of unnecessary stuff and putting my filing cabinet, writing desk and work-chest of drawers in order. Suzanne, George Goldman’s daughter, helps me with all my clothing problems, apart from the two days a week she spends keeping the house in perfect order. Hugh comes from time to time from America. I miss my sons but speak often by telephone with them.

Here in Criccieth I think we old people are very well looked after. I, for instance, have a young social worker to bring me breakfast every day upstairs and someone else to do me a snack supper. I also have Meals on Wheels twice a week.

My life here would be scarcely possible without my friend George Goldman – a whole chapter could be written about him. It was he, as I said, who found me this house in the first place. From that time on, he has been caring for me, doing all the driving for me, which has involved trips over to Bangor. Earlier on, we were even able to arrange visits to Bridget, we going as far as Welshpool, where Bridget met us and took me on home with her. George’s wife, Lily, is also frequently involved in doing things for me, and I often think that I am a sort of appendage to the Goldman family.

The garden is now all George’s creation, as I cannot manage the work anymore. He is full of ideas as to how we can improve and beautify the place, and I think loves it all as much as I do. Apart from plants, the goldfish and birds have also to be looked after. We had one disaster with the goldfish. A seagull came one day and ate the lot – ten quite large fish. Since then there has had to be a net covering the pool. We have no exotic birds visiting the bird table only blue, coal and great tits, chaffinches, robins and hedge sparrows. Jackdaws and starlings are kept out by large-meshed netting — all fixed up, of course, by George, who can devise anything to cope with any kind of crisis! My gratitude for all this care and consideration is boundless, and one wonders how one has deserved such friendship!

On which note I will finish this story, except to say that looking back over all these 90 odd years, I see them filled to overflowing with a richness of blessings and happiness and love. Approaching my 91st birthday in May, I can truly say that since my first meeting with the teaching of Anthroposophy and so with Rudolf Steiner, through all that I have done, right or wrong, there has been the search for the true Christianity. The study, alone and with others, has been how to discover, in this age, we can effectively fight the increasing surge of materialism.

One of the most important teachings of Spiritual Science concerns Karma and Reincarnation. I can say that without a growing understanding of this teaching, I would scarcely have been able to cope with the many problems and crises of my life. Situations arise as results of Karmic necessity, and in this light can be dealt with and accepted positively.

My absorption with the teaching and work of Rudolf Steiner has been the Leit Motif of my life from the day Marna Pease explained it to mother and me on our visit to Otterburn. I want to emphasise as my last word that on no account is Anthroposophy to be judged by what I have tried to make of it throughout my life. It is a “path of knowledge” pursued entirely individually, and every individual will interpret and understand what is given according to his or her own capacity and freedom from prejudices.

Human effort combined with the ceaseless support of the Ninefold Choir of the Hierarchives has ensured that Good has always triumphed over Evil. St. Michael and St. George have always overcome the Dragon.