|Hilda and I about a year ago|
|Hilda, K, me and Bob (my 95 year old grandfather)|
|Hilda with the children|
Hilda had died in the night.
She'd been poorly for quite some time bless her. I managed to get down to see her in hospital a couple of months ago. It was great to see her again and hold her hand. In fact she'd come out of hospital recently. She phoned me about a week ago. I really had thought, had hoped that she was going to pull through...
As far as I know she'd worked for most of her life for my grandfather Bob's sister, in her fish and chip shop in South Shields. She was a hard worker. She didn't have just one job, she had several jobs to make ends meet.
She married twice. She had a son and a daughter from each marriage. Her second marriage was to a chap called Jacky. I didn't know him that well. He died some years ago. He was best mates with Bob and another important man in my life - my great uncle - Thornley (Bob's brother-in-law). There's a fantastic black and white photo, which I am still trying to hunt down, of them all in the pub during their heyday. (What is amazing that these working class men had many loves including their love of opera music.)
Jacky worked on the river (helping to guide and moor boats/ships). Bob had his successful fish and chip shop (so had his dad and Bob's sisters each had one) in South Shields. Thornley left South Shields after the war and lived in Lewisham. Lots of bombs dropped on South Shields during the Second World War because of the ship building industry. Thornley decided to leave those sad memories behind him but he still came on holiday to South Shields (and stayed with us) twice a year. He never forgot us all either. He'd do the rounds of his friends. He'd often be off, for a drink, with Jacky and Hilda.
Hilda was a very caring, warm, affectionate, intelligent lady. I came to know her better when I'd moved back North in 2003. Jacky had just died. She called my parents. I picked up that phone call and started chatting to her. It went from there.
I'd always known of her. Both sides of my families come from South Shields where I was brought up. Lots of people were always milling around when we were little...family, friends, friends of friends. Slowly you would figure out who was whom and how they all related to one another. So I'd always known of Hilda.
She always had a smile on her face. She was a huge sports fan. A Sunderland supporter. Bob, Jacky et al had season tickets. Lifelong Sunderland supporters. Hilda went with them to see the matches more often than not...which, I think, was quite unusual in those days. Cricket, tennis, golf. You name the sport - she'd watch it. She knew every player, every game backwards.
She also loved people especially children. All children. She couldn't wait to see them and give them a hug. She was a much liked and loved lady. Every time we went down to see her there'd be someone leaving or arriving: her extended family. She kept in touch with everyone. She regularly rang to check we were all...all right. There wasn't a bad bone in her body.
I'm crying again now. Thinking "Hilda I miss you!" Another one of the old guard gone.
Her house was built on the vicus - the old Roman village - part of South Shields. Apparently Time Team dug in her back lane and she chatted to Tony Robinson. Whether she did or not - I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me. Like many of the old guard she always had stories which would pop out and catch me off balance. They still had a trick or two up their sleeves.
There's lots more I could tell you about Hilda but I feel that it is now time to draw a veil.
Besides, I need to go now to dry my tears: "Atque in perpetuum, soror, ave atque vale!" "And so, forever, sister, hail and farewell!"
It has been an abiding pleasure, a deep honour to have known you and to have called myself your friend.