Pat – remembering her

I remember Pat as being a constant in our family. She was Claire’s friend. She came every Sunday evening and would arrive, dressed in blue, never trousers, her long legs in blue tights, with buckle shoes, a pressed shirt with a brave usually interesting broach holding her neck collar tight. She’d sit in the wing backed chair – her chair – and light a cigarette that she got from a snake skinned cigarette case. From the moment of her arrival, and some time in anticipation before, she was the point around which we revolved. As a child, this was unwelcome and serious competition. Ursula would customise her cooking to Pat’s taste – no onions or garlic – although sometimes an onion may be disguised in complicit secret. With Elliot Oppel, there would be animated discussion, usually around education or politics.

She loved her art and culture. I can still see in my minds eye, the blue collage of Pat’s hanging in the hall way of 14 Queensway. She came to Norfolk once, and took me around my local church, introducing me to Ogee window tracery, a word I still associate with Pat, along with Perpendicular, and Rood.

In my 20’s visiting Cottingham, I once said to her, with some pride, that all my clothes I bought at second hand shops.

‘Yes, I can she that’, she said laughing at my fey naivety, looking around the room with amusement, pricking the ballon of my pride so effectively.

The close relationship with Claire intrigued us as children, who watched from a distance of age and conventionality. Oh there were battles and jealousies, and everything had to be just so for Pat. Both teachers, both unmarried, both lovers of art and history, theirs was a strong and lasting friendship. They’d met when Pat was training to be a teacher.

‘Go into Claire Wrights class’ the head teacher said to Pat, ‘and you will learn from her.’

And that’s what happened, said Pat. ’She was a brilliant teacher. Yes, disciplined, but more than that she held the class with her ability to inspire them’.

Along with photographs of Claire, her mother, and Pat’s small women centered family was one of Gismo, the cat. She loved her cat Gismo.

‘It wasn’t a name I chose, you understand. But I could hardly change it. He wasn’t my cat, you see – he belonged to a neighbour up the road. But he used to come to me. Oh he loved me. And I him. I’d feed him and he sat with me all evening. When I had to take him to the vet I had to pretend he was mine. It was the post man who told me he’d been run over. He knew.’

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