Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Page 47

n 25 November 2018,
my mother passed
away. Only two
weeks previously she
had received the
Légion d’honneur,
France’s highest order of merit, from
the French ambassador, for her work
as a wartime code breaker at Bletchley
Park. It was a moving ceremony:
Bletchley Park was very important to
her, and she campaigned hard to get
recognition for those who had worked
there. She would be thrilled to know
that Alan Turing will be appearing on
£50 notes in 2021. I recently gave all
my mothers’ awards – Order of Merit,
Légion d’honneur, DCVO, her
Bletchley medal and papers – to the
Bletchley Park museum.
My mother left me with detailed
plans in her will of what to do after
her death and in scribbled notes I
found throughout her flat. First there
was the funeral at Mortlake
crematorium, which I almost missed
after getting stuck on the M25 – she
would have been amused by that.
I read out letters I’d received from
Clare Balding, from George Morley –
the editor of her memoirs, Coming up
Trumps, and from Lord Dodds, the
House of Cards author, who wrote:
“She was a joy, she was courageous,
she was inspirational, she was fun.
She was a man-of-war under full sail,
firing broadsides in every direction.
Thank you for letting us share your
mother for so long.”
He went on to describe an event that
occurred when he was newly in the
Lords. “I found her filling the corridor
ahead of me. ‘I am told,’ she said in her
magnificent voice, ‘that there is a
character in your latest novel, who
looks and sounds a lot like me?’ I was
aghast in agony, how to respond? But
before I could get a word out, she
continued: ‘It better bloody well be me.
I’ve told my family so!’”
The next day we scattered her ashes
in Kew Gardens near the tree where my
father’s ashes had been scattered. There
is now an Alan Barker tree and a
Trumpington tree.
The next instruction was to have a
party for the staff of the House of Lords
– with no peers invited. She explained,
“It’s so that all my friends who have
She thoroughly
enjoyed her time
with Arnold
Schwarzenegger at
Boisdale’s Cigar
Smoker of the Year
been so good to me over the years know
that I appreciated the fun and many
kindnesses we shared. This means a lot
to me and nobody has ever done it!”
At this great event there were
speeches from Black Rod and the Senior
Doorkeeper, who recalled my mother
being very pleased to have been invited
to be a special guest one year at the
Doorkeepers’ Christmas dinner. During
the dinner the Senior Doorkeeper asked
her to say a few words. My mother
turned to him and said, as only she
could, “You never told me that, you
little shit!” There were many other
amusing stories, including how the
doorkeepers had to ensure the TV was
turned on for her favourite programme,
Neighbours, even during a Test match,
much to the dismay of other peers.
The final event was her memorial
service at St Margaret’s Westminster.
Lord Elton and Lord Deben were tasked
over 20 years ago with speaking, and
the entire wonderful service had been
choreographed by my mother.
Present were two former prime
ministers, five Royal Representatives,
200 peers and 400 friends. Lord Deben
started his address by noting:
“There can’t be many memorial
services filled with the unfettered
warmth that we all feel here today. Even
if Trumps hadn’t told us to be joyful
and not to mourn or wear black, but to
sing out loud and be merry – we should
want to.” It certainly was a joyful event
– I kept control until the end, when the
trumpeter played her favourite song,
the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.
eing my mother’s business
manager during her later years
was made easy since the media
were always so kind. My only argument
with a reporter was when she was
quoted saying she had neither written
her memoirs, nor read them. Well she
dictated them, and because she was
nearly blind, I had to read her the drafts
about ten times!
She loved cigarettes and cigars,
and thoroughly enjoyed her time with
Arnold Schwarzenegger when she
received her Lifetime Achievement
Award at Boisdale’s Cigar Smoker of
the Year event in 2014. In fact, she kept
a copy of the picture of her with Arnold
in her handbag until the end.
My mother was a huge character.
While she clearly enjoyed her late-inlife media career, it’s ironic she became
a star thanks to the now-infamous V
sign she flicked to her friend Lord King,
which was caught on camera and went
viral. While “doing a Trumpington”
may become a long-lived term,
Lord Deben in his address explained
what actually went on: “For all the
outspokenness and constant humour,
she had a real sense of decorum,” he
said. “Indeed, it was only because she
knew what was proper that when she
decided to act improperly, it was so
effective. The two fingers to Tom King
worked because of the wonderfully
wicked look on her face and the fact

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