The RNLI saves lives at sea.

Joyce Moule

Picture of Joyce Moule.

Joyce Evelyn Moule – nee Tufnail (30/04/26 – 24/12/09)

Our mother was born into a very different world to the one she has so recently left.
She would have agreed and then in the course of a single sentence would have argued the opposite.

Things are different; some things are different: people are the same. Those expressions on the faces of the bereaved relatives as their soldier sons, husbands, fathers are carried home from Helmand – she had seen them many times before. For a recurring second they were always her husband, her sons.

Not that she was ever partisan. She shed her own empathic tears for Arab and for Jew; for Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu; it was all the same. “What is the matter with them?” she would say, “We are all the same!” and her voice would catch and quiver and her eyes would fill. Sometimes when she was younger she would retreat for privacy, pulling at the handkerchief she kept tucked up her sleeve to wipe her tears and blow her nose. She was a great nose-blower, our mum. Earthquakes; floods; children stripped of their flesh by Napalm; pop-eyed, pot-bellied victims of famine; plane crashes; trapped miners; children as workers, soldiers and prostitutes; mistreated animals; victims of racism, prejudice, intolerance and ignorance; the mad, the bad, and the sad – all dampened those small clutched scented cotton squares with their stitched edges and their rose or whatever on a corner.

When we were really young we would follow and wait - reach out; touch; and she would hug and hold you so close that you could taste her tears – and when you asked her what was wrong she would say, “Nothing, nothing is wrong, it’s just me, I’m being silly, you mustn’t worry….” So we didn’t.

When we were a little older we would just watch her go and raise our eyes at each other – she’s off again - sorry for the world, saving the world! Males had to be quick, sharp, and cynical in our house – she did the emotional bit, the ‘ei’ as jargon has it now, for the three of us; the nose-blowing - and none of us cuddled her or held her close enough.

I say to you now: “If you still have a mother, make sure you cuddle her.”
Our mum enjoyed contradictions; satires of circumstance. Her recounting of being machine-gunned on a train and again at work in a shirt factory gave equal measure to her excitement and her horror. Her graphic account of running into the garden to witness the low-flying German bomber just feet above the roof and the helpless terrified eyes of its crew as it plunged towards the ground in the fields behind the house were inevitably followed by her admission that the war had been the most liberating and enlightening personal experience. A shy and retiring child whose only claim was to have been a contemporary at the same school as ‘Carry On’ actress Joan Simms, the Laindon Station Master’s daughter, whom she played with sometimes, was pitched, an innocent, into a completely new world away from home with another Joan – her more confident risk-taking elder sister.
She met Peter at Netheravon. It was an important time and place for them - they took us there, went back several times in later years. He rowed her up and down the river and proposed and she wore his ring when he set off for more than two years in West Africa. They were very young. She sometimes reminisced that a Canadian called Jeffrey with a ‘J’ threw the same said ring into that same said river in sometime hot pursuit, but she was adamant that she waited for her Peter all the same!
They were married for 53 years. She was a devoted and very loyal wife. That did not mean that she could not or would not disagree, but rather that difference was settled in private and in time. Our mother, always a pragmatist, took the longer view – and told our father so even to his ashes at the end of their garden.

There are Box-Brownie photographs of babies; huge black prams; mum with family and neighbours in their pleated skirts; head-scarved winter walks; an hourglass figure stretched on summer sand; a primus stove, picnic and a Triumph Mayflower; an A55 Austin Cambridge – all part of the new post-war mobility paid for by those new-age three-in-ones, the housewife/mother/ worker. – For how many years did our mum “do through” before 7am; go to work; go shopping; come home and cook, serve and wash-up; ‘tidy round’; do some washing – she was the last of all of us to have an automatic washing machine – finish the ironing; clean the toilet; handle the money; make us clean our teeth again; stop us fighting and put us to bed; then listen to our dad – readings to accompany lecture series 553 entitled “Literature and the misuse of Capital” - while doing a bit of knitting!

When we were young…
How thin could she spread the butter on your bread?
How thick could she tickle the Vick on your chest?

Her endless, selfless, honest labour colours the photographs; buys a house which over the years she opens to all. We live there, eat there, mostly sleep there; our friends live there, eat there, often sleep there. Her own mother lives there, eats there, sleeps there; to be followed by her mother-in-law, a niece, an eccentric Swedish ice-skater, a grandson, and a series of student lodgers.

Throughout this time she has launched into her own career. Cook, Supervisor, Car Driver, Mature Student at the University of Bath, Peripatetic School Meals Organiser, VW Caravanner, Dog Owner, and Grandmother- “It’s your Nanny!” She is highly respected for her dedication, reliability, and companionship and she has a circle of close and very supportive colleagues, neighbours, and friends. She loses much of her hearing quite suddenly; destroys Skoda clutches faster than McDonalds does rainforests; and calls most people ‘Skipper’. After the death of our father she begins a collection of damp biscuits to rival her brasses and door knockers.

And why when she got older did she empty everything out of packaging into identical plastic containers so that you couldn’t find the Weetabix without opening almost all of them? - In our family we used to call them ‘WeedyBigs’ by the way, after an Alan Coren story in “Punch” featuring a German au pair. – Our Mum would have laughed at that and shouted out “Oh, yes, so we did! Was she German? I thought ‘au pair’ was French!” rather loudly and completely inappropriately and without inhibition.

If she cried (and then blew her nose) with compassion, then she also laughed a lot – at wit, satire, in self mockery and deprecation, at her own aging, and at circumstance, but never at the expense of others. We laughed at her when she sat and smiled at the television.

She admired our father for his wit and words, but was not short of her own epigrams.
When I admonished her recently for leaving her lights on and contributing to global warming – shouting at her as one was sometimes forced to do since she wouldn’t wear her hearing aid - she agreed with me but then with her usual sense of balance added, “Anyway, it’s good for me to keep the lights on while I can - like all of us I‘ll be in the dark long enough!”

She did not expect to find herself under the neon strip light of the hospital ward nor in the warm glow of an after-life, though with characteristic contradiction she hoped to meet our father there. But she did know before she died that we loved her, were as proud of her as she was of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We are sure she waited around just to see and hold Martha.

She did know that we were grateful for her love, her energy, generosity, and the boundless light that she bought into all our lives because we each held a hand and told her so.

Jeffrey Moule
Stephen Moule

Added by: Jeffrey Moule on 5 January 2010.

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