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Appreciation For Gladys Sharp By Robin Sharp

My Mum

How do you describe a Mum – any Mum? She was simply the very best, of course. I’ll have a try, however, to explain why my Mum was so special, so unforgettable.

She was born on leap year’s day, 29th February 1920, the youngest of a family of 11, some members of whom had died in childhood before she was born. She married young, a wartime bride just 20, to William Sharp six and a half years her senior, on 15th June 1940 at St Mary’s Church, Plaistow, just as the troops were being evacuated from Dunkirk. Mum and Dad celebrated 66 years together just 10 days before she died. In all, she was ‘Nan’ to 8 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

She and my dad withstood all the rigours and challenges of war in East London – the Blitz, rationing and shortages, doodlebugs - and came out the other side with two children, my war-baby brothers, Brian (born in 1942) and Alan (born in 1944). I came along in Coronation year, 1953. Life was never easy, not until the sixties and seventies, perhaps, but she and dad made sure that we, their children, were put first before themselves. She always wanted the best for us – in ‘looking after us’, in health-care and in education.

My earliest memories were of security, care and confidence. My Mum didn’t go out to work, not until I was 9 or 10 and then only part-time, when I was at school in the afternoons. Mum was steadfast and tenacious, hard-working and consistent, true and dependable. Dedicated to caring for us, she was like a lioness with her young – sometimes she didn’t stand up for herself, her own interests; she was a bit of a pussycat – but if we, her children, were ‘threatened’, then you’d see her teeth and claws!

In some ways, we may have thought her over-protective – we all three boys suffered the embarrassment and ignominy of wearing all-enveloping leather helmets to school – and even in later years when we complained and teased her about this, she still defended her caution against potential ‘ear-trouble’, but always with humour and a smile.

She was good humoured and carried with her always a joke or quip and her own Vyse family sense of humour was imbued in us all – nothing could be completely serious, not for too long.

Even when we made her angry, she couldn’t keep it up for too long. She had a strong sense of fairness and disliked injustice and bristled against anyone who tried to take her for a fool. She didn’t bear grudges, but neither did she forget those incidents when she had been treated badly and those who wronged her. She could forgive, but didn’t forget.

She was truly kind-hearted and would invariably respond to charity collectors in the street or at the supermarket. Two charities I recall for which she had a special fondness were ‘the blind’ and lifeboats – and that is why we have chosen the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as nominated charities for donations in lieu of flowers. Mum was very clear: no flowers at my funeral – I’d rather see them when I’m alive!

She could be described, fairly, as an animal lover – but not a dotty one. People came before animals, but there were few years in her 86 when there wasn’t an animal in the family household: dogs, cats, rabbits – even guinea pigs, hamsters, goldfish and a few netted sticklebacks, too.

As for hobbies – well, she didn’t have much spare time for those. She used to be a fair old knitter (out of necessity, in the forties, fifties and sixties) – pretty good tension! She did have a fondness for the work of Charles Dickens, aroused in childhood by her father (whom she loved and sorely missed, as he died when she was still in her twenties). And she also loved flowers and trees and plants. She lived much of her early married life in flats and shared houses and she felt trapped in the council flat, in Blaney Crescent where I was born. She always wanted a garden and she was so happy when she moved to a house, with a garden, in Dagenham in 1972, the house in which she spent her last 34 years.

She disliked the winter and cold weather and we always rejoiced together that from the 22nd December, the ‘nights were drawing out’ and we eagerly told each other of our first sight of the spring snowdrop or crocus.

She bore the news of her recent illness so philosophically, so stoically and so bravely – better than us. She was practical and was keen to make sure ‘all was in order’. She wanted to spend her last hours in her own bed, at home. But this was not to be. But she died with dignity and her own pride intact and surrounded by her family, her boys; those who loved her so much.

She was, she is the best Mum. She cared, she had complete faith in us – and nobody NOBODY cooks like your Mum.

Thank you Mum for giving us so much, for so long. You are unforgettable.

Robin, No. 3 son

Added on: 26 February 2008


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