Anecdote – My mum the philanthropist


That’s my mum and me (I haven’t changed much)

My mum the philanthropist

My mum came from an ordinary working class background. She was brought up in the 1930s. Times were hard. She talked of children playing in the streets with tops, hoops, marbles and flick cards. There were skipping ropes and hop-scotch. In the conker season there was keen completion with all kind of dirty tricks from soaking in vinegar or baking in the oven. There wasn’t much in the way of traffic to bother them.

Times were tough and she talked of families of eight having a Sunday lunch of mash potato with one tin of spam sliced up between the ten of them. Children were sewn into their clothes for the winter and some had no shoes.

In the war a doodle-bug (V2 rocket bomb) landed a street away from her. The explosion smashed every window around, killed a whole queue of people waiting at the butchers and wiped out a lot of her friends who were out playing in the street.

My mum’s philosophy was to help those who had less than yourself.

It was admirable.

She did not do that by giving to charity. She did that by giving directly to poor people. That was how she’d been brought up. We were not rich. We didn’t have much money but we had more than a lot of people.

We lived on a new estate of bungalows in a middle class area. My parents were aspiring middle class. My dad worked on the newspapers in Fleet Street. It never sat easy with my mum. She felt that the neighbours were snooty and stuck-up and would have nothing to do with most of them.

My mum loved a bargain. Her passion was jumble sales. She would spend her Saturdays going from jumble sale to jumble sale hunting out bargains.

She put this passion to good use. She ‘adopted’ two struggling families and ‘helped out’. She taught the children to read and went round with food and bags of clothes.

At mum’s memorial service one of the young girls, now in her fifties, came along and read a poem she had written for my mother. She said that mum had changed her life.

I think she changed a lot of lives.