I realised last week when I was in Stratford that it was exactly 50 years since my father died, and 25 (almost to the day) since I lost my mum.
Because Dad was in the RAF, the grave is at Henlow Camp in Bedfordshire, in a very beautiful churchyard. There isn’t much you’re allowed to do with it because it’s an RAF grave, but back in 2001 I went down with the kids and my DH and had a memorial tablet dedicated to my mother added (her ashes were interred there in 1983).
From where we live it’s not a very straightforward journey so I don’t go back there often. I thought, given the anniversary, I would make the effort. This involved renting a car for the first time in my life, because the only way you can get from Stratford to Henlow on public transport is a complicated journey involving London. I’m sure most of my flisties rent cars all the time and think nothing of it, but my determination to make the trip only just outweighed my anxiety – would I get lost? Would the M1 be involved (it was, but I’m still here)? Would I crash and have horrendous insurance issues to unravel?
Ah well, I felt I owed it to my parents so I went ahead and in fact everything went pretty smoothly. I probably didn’t find the most straightforward route but I got there. On the way I bought a rosemary bush from the National Herb Centre near Banbury. I reached Henlow around 2.35pm on a glorious sunny afternoon. I found the grave and cleaned off Mum’s tablet, which had disappeared beneath grass and weeds. Then I planted the rosemary bush and left a photograph and a card with a line from "Hamlet" – "There’s rosemary for remembrance, pray you, love, remember."
And that was it. The whole thing had taken about fifteen minutes and there I was standing at my parents’ grave wondering what to do next. Three hours there, much the same back, but I felt better for having done it. Not only because of the anniversary but because I’m contemplating one of the biggest life changes for years, no less than starting a further degree and dividing my time between Manchester and Stratford.
I made another decision. My first name, which I’ve never used, is in fact Miranda. It was given to me in memory of my father, who loved Miranda’s intelligence and wanted her qualities in his daughter, the child he never knew he’d fathered. None of my fairly solidly lower middle class Lancashire family could handle the name, and my mother backed down and I was known by my middle name instead. It’s hardly practical to change everything now with the family and friends I have here. But in Stratford, why not claim the name given to me by both my father and, less directly, the Bard himself?
So in Stratford I shall be Miranda Waterton, which is a very Shakespearian name since there’s a Lord Waterton mentioned among Bolingbroke’s followers in Richard II.