So, on Thursday 2nd August (approximately halfway through the Olympics) my friend Gar Gar died.
Gar-Gar and I were pals (apart from when she told me off in the purple bathroom for writing a note to the ‘Whiny People’ : “you are fat and thin”). I was very fond of her.
We had her funeral recently, here’s my eulogy.
Margaret Audrey Seabrook had many names: Snooks, Shabba Ranks, Sparrow Legs, Tub, Peggy. Known by many names, loved by many people, a woman with many talents. To me she will always simply be ‘Gar-Gar’.
Born in 1920 to Marie-Louise and George Fishenden, she never moved far from her beloved East Sheen. She was a local lady, so it was only when duty called during World War 2 that she left South West London.
During the war she was based in The Cotswolds near Moreton-in-Marsh. Drafted into the WAFS, she showed her characteristic energy by driving 3-tonne lorries. A feat that would be impressive nowadays, let alone in the 1940s when power steering was a pipe dream for some automotive engineer. It proved good training, as she was still driving after her 90th birthday, one of her many accomplishments that would amaze and impress…
It was during the war that Peggy met Raymond Albert Seabrook, a Navigator with the Royal Australian Air Force. A charming fellow with an earthy sense of humour, they were married soon after and by the end of the war had started a family in the form of Penny. Their only daughter.
It is testament to my grandmother’s character (or indeed Grandpa’s lack of ability as a navigator) that they did not emigrate together to Australia after the war, but settled in East Sheen.
Here Peggy’s love of her husband, family, friends (and dogs) blossomed. She had her family close by, and I think most of us here can remember (or have heard about) the remarkable Christmas and Boxing Day spreads she put on @ 17 Clydesdale Gardens throughout the 70s and the 80s. Cooking a turkey dinner for 24 people whilst on your 10th sherry is no mean feat.
Sadly she lost her husband too early, but Peggy was not the type of woman to slide into the solitary life of a widow. Lodgers (already a full-time fixture) became companions, the house and garden were maintained immaculately. Her ability to summon a tradesman at the drop of a hat remains a secret that she sadly didn’t pass on to the rest of us.
She also displayed great entrepreneurial spirit, by starting her own Dog-walking business well into her 80s. But it was more than something to pay the bills. She loved the dogs as her own and over the years made many friends from it. I am sure she will be missed by both Sheen Common as well as her four-legged friends.
She did this all whilst caring for her mother whose health worsened through the 90s, and showed immense loyalty, patience and love throughout. Her care extended also to people outside our family. Pretty much every Thursday for over 40 years Peggy attended The Avenue Club in Kew; where she cared for, gave companionship to and cooked for the elderly in the community… We would often joke that she was in fact older than most of the members there!
In keeping as busy as Peggy did she kept herself young. Her energy was always impressive, and helped when coping with 2 grandsons who never really grew up. She was always happy around younger people, and they equally felt at ease with her. Many of my friends still recall her 75th birthday where 20 of us turned up unannounced at her house, had a good drink-up and then ordered a Chinese takeaway. She took this and many similar occasions in her stride. In fact she revelled in it.
As she moved into her 90s, still driving around in her Vauxhall, walking the dogs, cooking a mean pork chop, and a legendary apple pie; we all looked and wondered at this lady: surely she was going to make her century?
But by the age of 91 Cancer had set in. We almost lost her last Summer. Unsurprisingly she did not roll over, and made a remarkable recovery that left even the medical community scratching their heads. Her energy & resilience impressed us all. She demanded a physio and learnt to walk again. Supported by Penny, she bore the treatments well. She always took pride in her appearance: it never ceased to impress us that she continued with her make-up and still had her hair done. She re-discovered her passion for Chinese food, Cricket, Rugby and her family; made stronger still by the birth of her first great-granddaughter Lily earlier this year.
Sadly she did not make her century, but passed away peacefully in her sleep on August the 2nd. Not a bad innings. She led a good life, was well-respected and much loved. I for one will miss our chats: she was my grandmother, but also my friend.
On behalf of my family I’d like to finish by thanking all of you here today for coming, it’s testament to Gar Gar (who often complained that most of her friends were dead) that we should have so many here today! Special thanks to the team at Parkside Hospital, especially Dr. Philips for his incredible care & support. Also to those who visited Peggy over the last year; and finally to the team at Galsworthy House where she was looked after in a comfortable and dignified manner.