Last night, Robert Hughes told me that his mother, Flora Hughes (née Britton), died yesterday morning. She was the daughter of Reginald Percy Leopold Britton (a.k.a. Bob to his family but usually Keebah to Robert) and Maisie Britton. This is Robert's comment:
'She was a wonderful mother to us and she will be sorely missed.
The attachment I am sending is a cutting from the Daily Sketch of April 1937.
My mother fell ill shortly after eating a bite from a packet of nuts and raisins which she bought at the cinema. Realising there was something wrong with the taste, she had a close look at the contents and saw that there was evidence of gnawing by a mouse.
Within a few hours she had lapsed into fever and delirium.
However, she vividly recounted to us how she had fought for life for the sake of her parents who had earlier lost Rob her little brother: she could not bear the thought of them losing her as well.
The illness was subsequently diagnosed as Mouse Meningitis.
She defied death that time and lived for seventy more years, giving us life, and despite many hardships, leading a very fulfilled life herself.
But she never forgot Rob.
As her mind progressively failed over the last few years, many things slipped away from her, but she would point to his photograph on the wall opposite her sofa and ask "Do you know who that is?"
"I do," I would reply, "but do you?"
The withering look she gave me was pure RADA, pure her; transcending amnesia, laughing to scorn the passage of eighty years since this searing event.
The bombing to smithereens of the family home in 1941, the loss of Granny, Keebah, my father; her own struggles with the debilitating condition Polymyalgia, which struck overnight just as she was trying to make a living selling windows in her sixties, (she conquered it and went on to be a prize-winning member of the sales team); her motor accident in 1998 where she came within one inch of death: none compared with the heart-rending loss of her little brother and playmate.’
The following paragraphs are from Flora Hughes’s website, where several more of her poems are published:
'Born in England and trained at RADA as Flora Britton, Flora abandoned a promising career as a classical actress on the West End stage for her husband and, in time, her two sons. Her dramatic instincts have remained with her. These and her love of people, animals and the natural world shine through these entertaining collections, written over many years.
Flora enjoys painting, gardening and verse speaking. "I started writing poetry as soon as I had discovered it because I love words and rhythm," she remarked. "My work is influenced by my observations and my style is varied between classic and humorous. I would like to be remembered as someone who was kindly, entertaining, understanding and sympathetic.
Flora is a widow with two sons, Robert and David. "My biggest fantasy is to be transported by magic to visit fabled places and people," she said. "I have written over 100 poems and had many published but I am most proud of these two books". Flora now lives near Ross-on-Wye, entertaining family and friends whenever the opportunity arises, and tending her beautiful garden teeming with flowers and wildlife.'
Flora's father was a younger brother of working-class writer Lionel Britton. From time to time, Robert would feed me snippets about Lionel which he'd gleaned from Flora – mainly concerning his craziness or his scruffiness. I shall miss these. Robert and his family, of course, will miss much, much more.