A Brief Tribute to My Mum

9 Oct

I read a brief tribute to my mum, Jane Allain, at her funeral at the Woodlands burial site in Wrabness on Sunday 4th October, 2015. It was a beautiful sunny, faintly misty day on the north Essex coast. She is buried not far from Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex. Mum loved Grayson. She was an Essex woman, who also loved the estuaries and marshes of this beautiful, strange, unorthodox, irreverent county. A silver birch will be planted on her grave, within earshot of the curlews out on the mud flats. Despite the sadness, it was a joyful and happy day celebrating her life. These are my words…

I’ve been reflecting on mum’s legacy, her effect on me, in particular, and I think there are two primary things that emerge, and they’re both related. These are Art and Laughter.

The first is art. As you all know mum loved to paint and draw and to write – poetry and drama in particular. I think she knew that she was not what you would call a great artist or poet – I think she was something more valuable and fundamental. To be creative was just the natural thing, it was the purpose of being human. She painted and wrote throughout her life and hung on to it as long as she could. Even towards the end she wanted to discuss her latest drawings with me, their successes and failings. She was always striving to improve, but mostly it was for the pleasure of doing and just simply because that’s what you do.

This is something I have inherited from her. Being creative is the way I want to spend my time and the idea that you just make things for other people to enjoy seems a simple part of being human and something that I am delighted that my children have also inherited.

Beyond that she exposed us to creative people all the time, so that when we were in Southend as young teenagers we were regulars at PMG (Poetry and Music Group) with its strange and wonderful collection of characters: Jack Cannon, Laurie Nelkin and Bimbo in particular are fixed in my memory. Mum also took us to amazing avant garde music gigs. She had no sense that it would be too much for us, or that it was inappropriate in any way. It was just a fantastic cultural education.

The other aspect of mum which is very strong for me is a love of laughter. When I’m not creating something I am happiest being with friends and family – chatting, eating, drinking and making each other laugh. These are simply the happiest times and I don’t want much more from life than that. And that is something I will always associate with mum, even from being a small child listening to the adults talking and laughing together was the greatest thrill, and as I grew up I began to turn from a listener to a participant, and that was even better. Karen [my wife] has described our family get togethers as having a slightly dangerous feeling – you never quite knew what was going to happen – you could more or less guarantee there would be the odd flare up as well as gales of laughter – but it would always be exciting and fun, and mum would be there at the centre of things, laughing.

And I was thinking about another aspect of mum that I always took for granted but I think was quite remarkable. She was frequently the butt of our jokes, we teased her all the time, and Paul [my brother] and I in particular used to lampoon her mercilessly at Alsager college poetry and music evenings. And yet she never once took it badly, in fact she was always the first to laugh along. She just loved it, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on how this could be so. She took her writing and her art very seriously, yet she never seemed to mind us taking the micky. I think what it boils down to is that she just had an enormous sense of fun and that was something that spread to all around her. There was one aspect of this which was always the cause of great embarrassment to me, but for which I admired her completely – she would chat to anyone, was always interested in what other people were up to and had no hesitation to mix in with strangers’ conversations, wherever we were. I would cringe with embarrassment, beg her not to, fool that I am. The fact is that she had an insatiable curiosity about other people, and it was deeply rooted in love for humanity, which I think has imbued all of us with a political sense of compassion.

These are all qualities which I aspire to and are essential to who I am, and values which I cherish in my loved ones and see in the next generation of mum’s grandchildren as her legacy continues.


One Response to “A Brief Tribute to My Mum”

  1. janh1 October 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    Lovely. I would have liked her a lot.

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