Audrey’s story – “Mum was very happy to move here”.

By HBH - 7 March 2023

Audrey’s story – “Mum was very happy to move here”.

Audrey is in the hospital at HBH Howick Views and, after a long and busy life, is now suffering from dementia. Her daughter Karen shared her story with us.

Audrey was born in England in 1928 in Newcastle-on-Tyne. She’ll be 95 years in August and up until recently has led an active and fascinating life. “Mum has always been one of those very capable people who could turn her hand to anything,” says Karen. “She was the youngest ‘surprise’ baby in a family of eight children. When she was born, some of her older brothers had already left home and started their own families!”

Newcastle-on-Tyne was a shipbuilding city and therefore a target for the Germans during the war. Audrey was evacuated to the country, which she initially referred to as a ‘holiday’ in the countryside. However one of her siblings died during this time and she was returned to Newcastle to keep her grieving family company. Karen recalls Audrey talking about how exciting it was to go into the local bomb shelter. “Mum said all the kids in the neighbourhood loved it – they’d be together, eat sandwiches and have a jolly good time.”

A gift for music and languages

Audrey displayed many talents from an early age. She was a gifted pianist – so much so, that when she was only 12 or 13 years, her piano teacher said she couldn’t teach her anything new. This love of music has continued in the family today, with one of Karen’s cousins being a concert pianist. “Mum loved the piano and has played all her life until recently. When she first moved to HBH Senior Living she’d play at the church services and Christmas carols.” Sadly, Audrey’s worsening dementia has left her unable to play any longer.

As well as an ear for music, Audrey also had an ear for languages and spoke fluent French and Spanish. It was her fluency in French that landed her a job at just 16 years of age when she left school. She joined the RAF (Royal Air Force) and moved to their base in Salisbury. Many of the prisoners of war there were from France and Audrey was required to translate their communications to determine if they were suitable to be posted.

There, Audrey met her future husband and they were married on the same day and year as Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. “On the Queen and Duke’s 50th Wedding anniversary, all of the other couples married in England on that day went into a draw to go to a garden party at Buckingham Palace,” says Karen. “Unfortunately Mum and Dad weren’t one of the lucky ones, but they did receive a lovely letter from the Queen, which is very precious to the family.”

Combining family and an exciting career

Audrey returned to work after Karen and her brother were born. “Mum was a rarity in those days as she worked throughout our childhood. We were ‘latchkey’ children, which worked out just fine,” remembers Karen. “Mum and Dad worked hard to provide us with a lovely home and we had some wonderful holiday adventures together as a family.”

A large part of Audrey’s working life was with Miele who make German household appliances. “She was a fantastic cook, so this was the perfect job for her. She travelled around demonstrating the products and cooking fabulous food during these demonstrations. During this time, she became friendly with Mary Berry, who was doing similar work for another brand of appliances. “Mum loved her job as it combined her love of cooking, travel and people. She often travelled to the Miele head office in Germany and could speak German by the time she finished with them.”

Audrey continued working until she was in her 60s and, once retired, she started a craft business. “Mum was a wonderful seamstress and loved crafts. She taught me how to sew, knit, and crochet and much more. She involved me in the business and we would go to craft markets held at stately homes – her wares always sold out first. She created beautiful, unique homewares and her brand became highly sought after.”

“Mum made most of her own clothes and ours while we were growing up,” Karen reminisces. “She was always beautifully turned out – it didn’t matter whether we were on holiday or at home, she always took care of her appearance. She seemed to make time for everything, even while she was working fulltime.”

Fun family adventures and a move to New Zealand

Audrey’s love of travel took the family on many holiday adventures – either camping or in a caravan. “We had so much fun, and it was made all the more easy as Mum was fluent in so many languages. From a young age we were eating lasagne and other ‘foreign’ dishes that were unheard of at the time in England.”

When Karen’s father had to go into care after developing dementia, Audrey remained by his side. “Mum was there every day for a full day. She didn’t just care for Dad, but for everyone – she was like an unpaid member of staff. She organised craft fairs and activities for the residents and cared for so many.”

Karen settled in New Zealand, but would travel to the UK every year to spend the summer with Audrey. When she was 80, after her husband had passed away, Audrey decided to immigrate to New Zealand. “Mum sold the house and came to live with us. It was a lovely time – we have a reasonably large family now, so there was plenty for her to be involved with. She helped with the grandchildren, cooked and baked and knitted but mostly enjoyed spending time with the family. Unlike at other times in her life where she gave to others in the community, she just wanted to be with family and we loved that.”

It was Audrey who decided it was time for her to move into a rest home and she chose HBH Senior Living for its high-quality care rest home and hospital. “We had heard wonderful recommendations about HBH,” says Karen. “Mum was very happy to move here and she has been very well looked after.”

Lisa Waldren