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M'Lady

In Memoriam

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Although 15 years have now passed and the pain of Bereavement has subsided, my Italian Mother’s passing away still leaves a huge chasm in the lives of myself, my 2 Sisters and her extended Family.  

Our Mother wasn’t famous or had any celebrity about her (only to the “Locals” that bumped into the “little Italian Lady”, when she met them on her trips to her local parade of shops.) 

Mum was our “guiding light” and stepped “up to the plate” big time, when our Father could no longer work, due to bouts of severe Manic Depression. I’m sure that my Sisters would agree, that our Childhood wasn’t a particularly happy one. I think this was mainly due to a clash of their totally opposite cultural, temperaments. Dad was half-German (very domineering and a strict disciplinarian.). Mum a soft natured, Southern Italian, who let bygones be bygones and had a “Manana, Manana” (tomorrow, tomorrow), attitude about her. Domani, Domani (in Italian). But there's no doubt that they loved each other, deeply.  Our Mother's "stickability" had to be admired when perhaps other women would have walked away, from such a difficult Marriage. Mum believed strongly in her Marriage vows and being "there" for her children and keeping the "Family Unit", together.

Mum took on all manner of jobs to help keep “The wolf from the door”. Scrubbing floors, looking after Professionals’ children, etc. She worked passed her retirement age, when working in the Canteen of Shoe Company, Russell and Bromley, in their Head Office, locally to where we lived. The Managing Director even personally requested that Elisa (Mum’s shortened name), make his Tea and Sandwiches, as her culinary skills were held in high regard, at R and B. 

Our “Parents-to-be" had met, after Dad was wounded near the “Gothic Line”, in the North of Italy, when part of the Allied Forces that forced the occupying German Army, north through Italy. He was then flown south to Bari, on Italy’s Adriatic Coast.  

During his recovery, Dad was placed on the Military Police at the Royal Palace of Caserta(Mum’s home town), some 25 miles north of Naples, which became Allied Headquarters after the Germans, were ousted. One day Dad was detailed to patrol a local Bakery in the Town, as the female staff were being harassed by local Youths, who were stealing the takings and the produce. 

Dad’s eyes must have popped out of his head when he first saw the Raven haired, Neapolitan beauty. Evidently, Dad had a “thing” for Italian Actresses, Claudia Cardinale, Gina Lollobrigida and Sofia Loren, in her prime my Mother would have given all three, a “run for their money” (I know I’m biased but.........) 

So taken was Dad with Mum, that he told her quite a “porkie”, to impress her!! He told Mum that his Family owned a Dairy, back in England. Truth be told, that before he joined the British Army, he’d had a Milk Round on the local housing estate!!Pfft. But my Mother wasn’t at all material, just as well as were were never well off. Mum thought that Dad resembled American Actor, Burt Lancaster. Think she should have gone to Specsavers!! Although she was almost right about the Burt bit. Dad was actually a Bert!! 

Dad and Mum soon started courting, closely chaperoned by her Brothers (Ernesto and Sisto), in true Italian fashion. Dad stayed on in Italy after the end of the 2nd World War, to marry his Italian girlfriend. Dad and Mum were given a “guard of honour” by the Military Police, at their wedding in Caserta, in April 1947. They were then invited by Lancastrian, Gracie Fields, to spend a day of their Honeymoon on Ms Fields’ private beach, adjoining her Villa, on the Isle of Capri. Dad and Mum, accompanied other British Soldiers who’d married Italian girls, that day. Dame Gracie Fields had married an Italian born Film Director, during the War and settled on the Isle of Capri. Mum and Dad's wedding photo, below:

image.thumb.png.9c4ca3b8ccb80d5eb26b0d963635181b.png

Dad then brought his Italian bride back to England and they had 3 children, myself and my 2 Sisters. At first, she missed her Italian relatives greatly plus the warmth of the Neapolitan people, no doubt the cuisine and weather of the area, too!! 

Mum, threw herself into being an English Housewife. She soon learned how to cook, “English Style”, from her Mother-In-Law and Sisters’-In-Law. Her Roasts, Stews, Dumplings, and Rice Puddings,   were to “die for”. But our Mothers’ specialities were her Italian dishes, she taught myself and my Sisters how to cook Polpette (Italian meatballs) and various pasta dishes. 

She could never quite understand her Sons’ fascination with the Weather, even less so his annoying habit of retuning her Radio, to Radio 4 longwave, to listen to the Shipping Forecast. One day, she came out with the following, “classic line”: 

"Toma, whya youa wanna listena toa thata s...a, wenna wea donna even ava shipa ina Bromleya!!" (Italians will more often than not, add an “a” to the end of every English word, even when it doesn’t exist!!).

Myself and my Sisters would sometimes be in “stitches”, at our Mother’s attempt at English pronunciation, intonation and stress of syllables. It was so bad at times , I nicknamed her the Italian Hilda Baker. My current Wife Colette (who was a school friend of my younger Sister), would often "bump" into Mum, whilst out shopping with her own Mother and tells me she could hardly understand a word Mum said, so strong was her Neapolitan accent!!

I’d always blamed my Father, for my Brontophobia. But some Years ago realised that it was my Mother who had implanted a fear of thunder/lightning, on to Yours Truly. At the first sign of lightning, Mum would make the “sign of the cross”, and invoke Santa Barbara(the Patron Saint of Lightning/Storms in general, in Southern Italy). Italians are a very superstitious people. So when I was about 10 years old, I grew to fear thunder and lightning but in no way could I hold that against Mum, she was such a good Mother in so many ways!! 

A few years ago I did some research on Mum’s side of the Family. The Family trace back to a chap called Bernardo, who was a rich Merchantman that gave away all his wealth (sounds like my Family!!), to follow St.Francis of Assisi (Italian Patron Saint of Animals). Bernardo became the Primo Monaco (First Monk), to St.Francis. That’s probably why I developed a “Monk-shaped” bald patch on the Crown of my head, in my early 20’s!! :oldgrin: 

It would also explain my Mothers’, love of animals. Mum’s Family trace back to the North of Italy and probably explains why Mum had “piercing” blue eyes, rather than brown which is more the norm, of Southern Italians. Mum’s maiden name of “Quintavalle”, literally means Fifth Valley and suggests the Family originated from the Valley’s of the Apennine Mountains, in Northern Italy. 

It was this time in August, that we finally laid our Mother’s body to rest but not before myself and my Niece experienced some “Black Humour” moments, when we came to register my Mother’s death, at Lewisham Registry Office, which is next door to Lewisham Hospital, where Mum had died. First black humour moment came when a member of the Admin. Staff tried to give my Niece a letter releasing the body of an Irish gentleman. Fortunately, my Niece spotted the mistake in time, otherwise this Irishman could have been on his way, to Southern Italy!! More on that in a minute. Next black humour moment, we’d arranged to meet the local Roman Catholic Priest attached to Lewisham Hospital, in the Hospital’s Cafeteria. Myself and my Niece looked up to see an Indian gentleman walking towards us, dressed in Religious clothing. We turned to each other and quipped “wrong body, now wrong religion!!” But Father Raj, was indeed the local Roman Catholic Priest and a very nice and comforting chat we had with him.  

It was now time to register my Mother’s death. The weather had been very warm and humid up until this point but the forecast suggested a risk of t/storms breaking out, although as we entered the Registry Office there was still plenty of blue sky about with just a bit of wispy cirrus. We filed in to meet the Registrar, I had just asked the lady what were the practicalities and cost of sending my Mothers’ body back to Southern Italy when “out of the blue”, there was a huge flash of lightning and instantaneous, “gunshot” thunder. My Niece turned to me and said, that was Nan saying NO, she wants to stay here in England, with her Family. My Niece had already had a dream the night before, in it, her Nan came to her and insisted that she stayed in England!! An almighty t/storm was then unleashed over Lewisham, before moving away N.W. and causing flood damage, over W.London. Now, I’m not superstitious but a lot happened that Afternoon to cast doubt, in my mind. We later found out, that a bolt of lightning had struck a wing of the Hospital next door, damaging some electrical equipment. Possibly that first bolt of lightning that myself and my Niece, witnessed. 

Myself and Sisters then made the Funeral arrangements, at nearby Hither Green. The Undertaker had just taken delivery of a beautiful Italian coffin with scenes of the “Last Supper”, carved on the side. It was very expensive but only the best for our Mother and I’m sure she would have appreciated her last resting place.  

The Funeral went ahead in mid-August 2004, fortunately without further mishap. 

As I stated at the start of this Tribute, this lady was a wonderful Mother and Grandmother and is still greatly missed by all of her extended Family.  

The following is inscribed on her beautiful Italian marble headstone, 

 “Forever in our hearts”. “Riposa in Pace” (Rest in Peace).  

image.thumb.png.2a3dde69120718d29ffe0e3bce7126e5.png Luisa (Elisa) Quintavalle (b.Jan 1924 - d.July 2004).

Mamma, rimarrai per sempre al centro dei nostri cuori. (Mum,you will remain forever in the centre of our hearts.)

Riposa in Pace. (Rest in Peace). In the words of Tina Turner, "Simply the Best".

Apologise to Mods, it's very "War and Peace" but it's not possible to foreshorten a Tribute, to such a wonderful Mother.

Regards,

Tom. :hi:  

 

 

Edited by TomSE12

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2 hours ago, Beverley Lass said:

Gary Rhodes, celeb chef and TV presenter has died at just 59.
That's sad news.

Just 4 days ago he was filming a new show in Dubai where he lived and ran 2 restaurants

😞

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Clive James, poet, critic, broadcaster, has died aged 80, a statement from his agent has announced. He had been battling cancer for a number of years.

Edited by Bristle boy

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