My mum's funeral will be on Thursday so...
I won't be able to be with my Thursday group, however they are going to continue without me - they have a worksheet and I will email everyone a lesson plan and I shall put up the results of their session after I next see them.
My mother was a very unusual person, here is the eulogy my twin sister and I will read at the funeral and above are a selection of photos, the way I think of her.
Elizabeth Musgrave Shepherd (née Wroughton) 23.03.1935 – 17.05.2023
Mum was born at Milton Court near Dorking, where her own mother spent part of her childhood. She was the second child of our grandparents and sister to Philip. She grew up at Woolley Park in Berkshire and by her own account had a happy childhood – even when Woolley was requisitioned during the war. The family moved to a house in a nearby village. Mum said that because they lived in a village and had chickens, they had access to village grown food and milk …and of course eggs, throughout the war.
Mum began her education with a French governess, Zelie, who remained with the family until her death in her 80s. At 8yrs old Mum went to the local girls’ boarding school in Wantage but was expelled because she, and her cousin Clare, would constantly escape and go back home for the shoot lunch. Things weren’t helped by Grandpapa throwing sweets and icecreams over the wall and asking passing girls (and nuns) to give them to mum. Mum went on to two more schools, Brondesbury and Harcombe House. She would take her horse with her, but it was usually expelled ahead of mum because no-one else could ride it (the deal was, if you took your horse, others had to be allowed to ride it). She was expelled from both these schools…or ‘asked to leave’. One misdemeanour was to be taken out by her brother in his sports car – didn’t look good for the school.
Mum loved horses (and dogs and cats and rabbits – they had them all). When Grandpapa collected mum from School for the Christmas hols he asked what she thought he’d got her for Christmas. She was so desperate for a horse, she shouted ‘A Cow!’. When she ran down to the stables, she found a pony in one of the stalls.
Gran took mum on a European tour to see the museums and galleries but mum would languish in the foyer saying she had museum-itis and couldn’t possibly move. It meant she wasn’t happy when she got a place at The Sorbonne in Paris so, without Gran knowing, mum took herself off to Chateau-d’Oex in Switzerland where she found a newly opening finishing school. Mum was the first pupil. Gran was so delighted that mum had landed in ‘education’ that she asked no questions, and mum spent six happy months skiing as Madame Siri who was running the school was unwell and too busy trying to attract students to do any teaching.
Mum was a debutante, presented to the Queen in a dress she and Gran called The Wedding Cake because it was made of many layers of white tulle. It was not the life mum chose in the end. She was clothes shopping with Gran in Sloane Square watching a post-boy go by thinking ‘how interesting he looks’. Later that year mum moved with her friend Philippa and cousin Clare into a studio flat in London. Mum got a Christmas job as a postman working with the same postman she’d seen previously. One day they had a parcel to post but as there was no answer at the door, they pushed it through a little window and heard the splash as it landed in a downstairs loo. She said that the postman tuned out to be quite boring.
Mum’s next job was at Bazaar, Mary Quant’s first shop on the Kings Road. That was serendipitous – she’d had an interview one morning for a French speaking job which she didn’t get. As she walked home, she saw an advert in Bazaar’s window -she walked in and got the (better paid) job. The French speaking job was offered to her later that day and she was able to turn them down.
Across the road from Bazaar was a café called The Fantasie and that is where dad was working. Mum and cousin Clare nick-named him ‘service with a smile’ but he got so fed up with mum ordering a glass of water that one day he brought her a glass of dish water. Dad had a horse in London, as did mum. They would ride together in Hyde Park and Richmond Park. It was in Richmond Park that dad thought mum was galloping along behind him in a race, but it turned out to be policeman who fined him for speeding.
Gran came to see mum in London and chased her around a book display in Harrods asking ‘Elizabeth, Elizabeth is that a ring on your finger?’ It was an engagement ring. Mum decided to take dad home to meet her father. She gave dad no warning about what to expect. They walked with mum’s horse Hamilton from London to Woolley where dad realised, while walking up the drive, where mum had come from – in so many ways. The first thing Grandpapa asked him was ‘where did you go to school?’
Once they were married, mum and dad decided to head west and look for somewhere to live. In mum’s words, they looked down into the Vale of Taunton and felt they were looking at the place for them. On the High Street in Taunton, they acquired 29, High Street, a small shop with tiny flat above and small garden accessed along a narrow alleyway. They set about creating The Merlin Café and that is where they brought the four of us up.
Clare and Kate came first followed within two years by John and another two years by Jane. Four kids under the age of five in a tiny flat while running a busy café open from 10am to 11pm six days a week and 6pm – 11pm on Sundays, with a juke box throbbing away much of the time and top of the milk on our breakfasts every morning (the rest of the bottles went down to the café) …life seemed very normal to us! They made the flat lovely, building bedrooms into the roof and a playroom across a balcony. The café was filled with art students, bikers and hippies - and the Taunton, Kings and Queens School boys who would sit in the back room out of sight of any tutors, teachers or masters, and smoke cigarettes.
Mum and dad ran the café for 17 years. During that time, mum owned and ran a boutique, drove a taxi into the early hours and worked behind the bar at a squash club (where she also played squash). Mum’s perfectionism was such that, in the boutique, if someone tried some trousers on and then put on their own trousers over the top and attempted to walk off with the item, mum would look at her very neatly folded piles of clothes, know instantly that something was missing and would chase the unsuspecting shop lifter down the road until she’d got them and dragged them back to the boutique. In her taxi, mum drove several of the Somerset cricket team – she was asked out for a drink by Viv Richards and she mistook Hallam Moseley’s name for Moses. She thought he was claiming to be Moses. Once she was asked, well after midnight, to drive a heavy trunk in the boot of the taxi to a peculiar destination. She was convinced it was a body being disposed of but was too scared to ask.
When the café finally closed we all moved to 1, South Road where mum opened her sunbed business and began her flying course. The sunbeds made a good income and she always said it’s what funded the flying lessons. Mum had tried parachuting but decided it wasn’t enough – it had to be a pilot’s licence for her. Mum and her friend Peter (who owned the little plane they flew) then began an odyssey of travel, particularly flying to and in Africa where many adventures happened such as being banned from Malaga airport after a close shave with a Jumbo and being escorted down and interrogated for a day by the Moroccan air force for inadvertently flying over the prince’s palace.
At South Road mum achieved one of her early ambitions. Her brother had been given an MG for his 21st birthday and mum waited for hers…but it never came. In the garage forecourt, across from 1, South Road mum saw a bright yellow, black-rubber-bumpered, soft top MGB GT and of course it was irresistible – she bought it!
Mum and dad decided to part but mum said she wouldn’t split the family until the youngest child was 21. When Jane was 21, mum and Frank moved in together (and later married) so dad was then free to go to University and travel. Mum took her sunbeds with her and was still taxi-driving at that time but, adding a new string to her bow, she trained to become a community care worker. While it was a local authority job she loved it. She was often the only one who would go to certain houses and have a cup of tea, such as the house where they kept a jackdaw and a donkey indoors. Mum was incredible in her capacity to take people as she found them without judgement or criticism. She found her clients very interesting and often very funny. Once the community care work was privately out-sourced, she gave it up as it was no longer fun. She and Frank had their beloved dog Sproggins but when Sproggins died, rather than getting another dog, they became dog sitters – finally taking in only their few favourite dogs who we suspect were well spoiled when they came to mum and Frank!
All her life mum loved horses. She took great pleasure in hearing about Kate’s horses and, much nearer to home, having plenty of interaction with Sadie’s horses. Sadie has a field called Shepherd’s Meadow where she stables her horses. It’s in that field that mum wishes her ashes to be buried, with Sproggins and, one day, Frank. Mum and Frank were soul mates. Frank was by her side and cared for her every day until the end.
Mum died leaving thirteen great-grandchildren, fourteen including Frank’s great-grandchild. Sadly she never met two of her great-grandchildren who were born abroad during lockdown.