Saturday, 7 October 2017

Saying Goodbye

Dear all, 

As promised I include below the eulogy I gave for Caroline, along with some pictures of her.

"I met my Aunt for the first time when I was eight years old.  On that particular day, I was very excited.  It was December 1988, the height of summer in Argentina, and my mum and I were living in my grandparents house in Buenos Aires.

 Theoretically, this was a big deal.  We had lived all my life in a flat which we had now sold as we were moving to England to live with my future step-dad.  However, these were not the reasons I was excited. 

 I was excited because:
  1. We finally had a pool in the back yard, and as it was nearly 40 degrees, this was a very good thing indeed and
  2. Because the mysterious Aunty I had last seen when I was 2 was on her way from the airport.

 I’m not sure what I was expecting, but someone grown up and sensible are probably a good bet. 

Surfacing from under the water (where all the fun swimming was done) I saw my granny and mum were back and standing on the lip of the pool.  With them was a lady in leggings with a loose shirt, huge 80s glasses and fabulous red hair. 

She told me years later that I was looking at her with wide, slightly apprehensive eyes.  Being Caroline, she took an instant decision.

 Rolling her eyes, she exclaimed: ‘Oh my god, is it hot!’

 And without another word, this crazy woman jumped feet first into the pool with all her clothes on! It was instant love!

Within days I was hugging her and calling her ‘tia’ – the Spanish word for Aunt – and demanding that she play her guitar for me on command and to make sure that when she did, she used all the funny voices in the songs.

If I had to describe Caroline, that is the image that immediately springs to mind. 

The feelings that follow any memory of her,  are of laughter.

Lots of it.

 I was a passionate devotee of Mills and Boons in my teens and she would have us all in stitches by grabbing latest romance out of my hands and in her most torrid, passion laden voice, reading out the most innocuous passages  about the heroine getting her breakfast ready in the morning.
Of course, there was a lot more to her than her irreverent sense of humour.

Caroline was born on the 15th June, 1953 in Buenos Aires to Kenneth Bridger, a well-known ceramics expert who thought wearing a flat cap was the height of fashion, and to Chela Schiele de Bridger, a headmistress at one of the most prestigious English schools in the country,  and a woman whose nickname was ‘the dragon’.  You can see she needed a sense of humour from an early age!

Once, as a toddler, when in deep trouble with her mum and under fire from the dragon for her infraction, little Caroline wagged her wee finger and said censoriously: ‘Mummy, you compicated.  Mummy don’t be compicated!’

By the time she was one, Caroline’s sister, Sylvia (my mum), who was 6 years old, was already at boarding school.  Caroline would follow at 5 years old, but while mum thrived on the rustic conditions at the little school in the camp and made friends that would last her her a lifetime, Caroline’s memories of El Carmen were always complicated and considerably less fond.  She was removed from there 3 years later, suffering from malnutrition. She later attributed this event for starting a lifetime’s love affair with delicious food.

In fact, for a variety of reasons, Caroline attended many schools over the years.  I imagine having to start over so many times is the reason she became so funny – it was a good way to make instant new friends wherever she went.

Her sense of humour was augmented with a sense of mischief.  I remember the twinkle in her eye when she told me how she used to sneak on the roof of her parent’s house with her friend Michelle to have an illicit cigarette away from the ever acute nose of ‘the dragon’.   In later life she would loathe smoking and develop a pretty acute nose of her own which John, her partner, was always trying to sneak around.

As a teenager, she also delighted in greeting my mum’s dates at the door and, while they waited for her, solemnly shaking their hand then holding her own up to her nose, to give it a sniff.  She would then wrinkle her nose and say disdainfully ‘Ugh! Old spice!’

I never knew her then, but she must have had quite an adventurous spirit, because at the age of 20 she boarded a plane with just her bag and her guitar to go and read Hispanic Studies at Bristol University, eleven thousand miles away from home, family and everyone she had ever known. 

It must have gone well, because one failed engagement to fellow student John Marshall and a degree later (the first in her family) she decided to make Bristol her permanent home.

It was around this time that Caroline met Simon Holder and fell in love.  They were married in the UK and in Argentina  in 1977 and Caroline acquired an extended family in the form of the Holder clan.  Although the marriage was sadly to end in 1984 those ties continued until her death.

With lots of time on her hands, Caroline began to look for more creative outlets.  She discovered photography, a hobby that she excelled at.  A member of the Blackwell Camera Club for years, she spent every weekend dragging her new partner, John, to whatever site provided the best opportunity to photograph that week’s camera club challenge. 

Roll upon roll of pictures were taken of hot air balloons, hundreds of photos of waves lapping up on the sand, all with John patiently waiting in the background, carrying all her cases, rammed full of lenses and other photographic paraphernalia.
In fact, she became so good, that the Bristol Rugby team hired her to be the photographer for their programmes.  She told me how conspicuous she felt trudging to the middle of the field, lugging her camera in front of hundreds of people to take the team photos, and how she much preferred standing on the side lines, taking action shots for the cover while John roared ‘Come on, you buggers’ behind her.       

John Humphrys was pivotal to Caroline’s life.  They met in 1987 and his infatuation with her was almost instant.  Attracted to her bright smiles and sense of humour, he pursued her for many years.  Despite Caroline’s uncertainty about their 26 year age difference, she was soon won over by his gentlemanly character and cutting asides.  John’s unquestioning love, devotion and admiration became crucial to Caroline, who often said that he had shown her what unconditional love truly looked like.  His loving indulgence, along with shared interests, led to a friendship which slowly blossomed into a love that was to last till his death 26 years later. 

Caroline called him ‘Humph’ and he called her ‘Titch’ on account of her size, and their relationship was filled with little in jokes that would delight them every time they shared them.  She would often tease him that if he didn’t do what she told him, he would ‘feel the back of my hand’ and then, when he pointedly defied her, would stroke his cheek with the back of her hand as promised.   

When John offered her a treat of some sort, she would pretend to refuse, unless he was twisting her harm.  He would take her hand and give it a gentle twist that had her surrendering instantly to whatever was being offered.  

John’s death in 2013 was a terrible blow for Caroline. She turned to her cat Banjo for comfort and once more found a creative outlet for her grief.  She had been writing a blog for some time in which she included short stories of family members and friends and little vignettes of things she overheard while out an about.  She developed a devoted following who would tune in regularly for her latest post and many of them have expressed grief at her passing online since she died.   So although she withdrew into herself during this period, she never lost all contact with the outside world.

Caroline was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.  She faced it with pragmatism, humour and unrelenting optimism.  She was not above moaning that she’d ‘had enough of ‘effing cancer’ when things got a bit much, but until she passed, she was convinced she still had ‘tons of time’ left.

If there is one shining thread through Caroline’s life that speaks to her character, it’s the value of her friends.  Sitting here today are her ex father and mother in law, Boggs and Maggs Holder.  Her executor is Rob Holder, her ex brother in law and her financial advisor was his son, Michael.  Years after her divorce she loved and is loved by them as if they are still family. 

Messages have come pouring in from friends from childhood – as you’ve heard – and in this room are Caroline’s neighbours, who, in the last years of her life, gave Caroline the care that mum and I were not always in a position to offer.  From cleaning house, to gardening, to endless lifts for hospital appointments, Val, Garfield, Claire and Claire’s family (John & Frank), have shown us what special people they are, and how special Caroline must have been to attract people like that into her life.

All the people in this room have come together to say goodbye and wish her a fond farewell.  As testaments to life go, that pretty good.

So it with a light heart, that I can say: So long Tia.  Thanks for all the laughs.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

Dear All,

I'm sad to announce that Caroline Holder, my aunt and the author of this blog, has passed away on Wednesday 6th September, 2017 at 7:30am after a long battle with cancer and non alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

As you will be able to see from her previous posts, as her illness grew worse, her energy and ability to post diminished and so it has been a long time since you had an update.  However, though she was unable to write the way she wished, the many friends she made on this blog were still on her mind and she asked me make an announcement after she passed to explain her silence.

She considered this blog one of the achievements of her life she was most proud of.  From the few comments I've seen on Facebook from those of you who crossed over into other forms of friendship, she was loved and appreciated.  She would have been touched and delighted.

Her funeral will be held on Friday 6th October, 2017 in Bristol, where she lived.  For those of you who might be interested, I will upload her eulogy the day after.

I wish you well and thank you for making my aunt very happy.

Caroline Frances Bridger de Holder

Saturday, 1 March 2014

1201. What we mean is what we don't say (116)

We say"This computer programme is really intuitive."

We mean:  There are no instructions, you've just got to work it out for yourself.

What we really mean:  I'm not going to spend hours nursing you through it, haven't you got a brain in your head?


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

1198. Grumpy Old Quotes (44)

I get in a complete rage with the computer.  I get all hot, my hair is standing on end, I look like a clown trying to control myself... Then I get up and walk away and the bloody egg-timer on the screen is still there.

Nina Myskow (Grumpy Old Women)


The series of Grumpy Old Quotes comes from "More Wrinklies' Wit & Wisdom", Compiled by Allison Vale and Alison Rattle, ISBN -13: 978-1-86200-331-6, published in 2006 by SevenOaks, which I thoroughly recommend.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

1197. Schoolboy Howlers from 16 year olds (9)

Q:  What is artificial insemination?

A:  When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Sunday, 23 February 2014

1195. Out of the mouths of babes... (11)

Little Boy (5), in his bedroom looking worried when asked by his mother what was troubling him.

"I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married.  How will my wife fit in it?"

Saturday, 22 February 2014

1194. The many uses of a mobile phone (2)

‘Conversation’ with dentist, while patient’s mouth is full of metal implements.

Dentist: Our daughter-in-law Sandra’s from London you know. Good family, went to a frightfully good school…

Patient: Aha!

Dentist: She has funny little ways sometimes, never ceases to surprise us.

Patient: Nng??

Dentist: They came to stay the other weekend and she disappeared upstairs to freshen up and put some things in the spare room while we chatted to our son George and the children downstairs. Then we hear the phone ring. We didn’t hear it at first, as it’s out in the hall, and the children were being noisy, and my wife and I tend to shout at each other “will you take the call?” “No, you take it”, and so on. Finally I drew the short straw and got to the phone, and I hear a voice saying “Is George there?” I reply politely “Certainly, who’s speaking please?”, and hear the voice say “It’s Sandra”. “Sandra?” I say “What Sandra?” “You know, your daughter-in-law” she says, a trifle impatiently. “But you’re upstairs!” I protest rather stupidly. “Yes….”

Patient: Wa a heh? (What the hell)

Dentist: Open wider. That’s right. Well, George comes on the phone and says “Yes dear” and hangs up. It turns out she wants a softer pillow and wants George to bring one in from their car…

Patient: (Sounds of coughing and spluttering, necessitating a rinse with pink fluid)


Friday, 21 February 2014

1193. What we mean is what we don't say.... (115)

What we say"We will learn from this"...

What we mean:  I'm a person in public office whose department has been caught out being incompetent. BUT IT'S NOT MY FAULT!!

What it says about us:  I'm a person who doesn't like being caught out, and my statement is intended to sound reassuring and innocent at the same time.  Should make the dust die down quickly, hopefully.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

1192. Welsh Idiosyncrasies - Nickname Series (129)

Growing up in Phillipstown, creative names were a way of life.  Here are just a few I can remember:

Ricky Tin - metalwork teacher
Tommy Stamp - post office owner
Dai Half-Inch - Headmaster (smaller than most of his pupils)
Dai Green Machine - local motorcyclist
Lenny Plank - woodwork teacher.

- Anthony Perkins in Cascade

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

1191. Grumpy Old Quotes (43)

Unlike most women of my generation I do love computers, but I get terribly angry when it freezes - you know - it freezes and sends  you messages saying you have committed an illegal action.  Sorry, I'm sitting here minding my own business. I have done nothing wrong.  It's you that has frozen.  Something has gone wrong in your innards.  How DARE you blame me?

Sheila Hancock    (Grumpy Old Women)


The series of Grumpy Old Quotes comes from "More Wrinklies' Wit & Wisdom", Compiled by Allison Vale and Alison Rattle, ISBN -13: 978-1-86200-331-6, published in 2006 by SevenOaks, which I thoroughly recommend.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

1189. Benny Hill Quote

"Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect."


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Friday, 14 February 2014

1187. Blackmail in Buenos Aires

At youngest's kindergarden

Little Boy (4):  I want a choccie bar.

Mother (30):  No, we're late

Little Boy:  If you don't buy me one I won't go with you to have a hamburger at "Madonna" after school.

Loosely translated from Blogudeces de la Vida Cotidiana, with thanks to Gustavo.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

1185. Overheard at the hospital canteen

Younger female employee: The cow has put in a formal complaint about me, can you believe it?

Older female employee: How can she possibly do that? That’s ridiculous!

Younger...: Well, apparently she has chronic sleep apnoea, and until they sort it out, the doctors have said she must be allowed to sleep if she drops off at her desk, and no one must wake her.

Older...: How can you do that when you’re all in there working in the same office?

Younger...: We’re supposed to tiptoe about and not wake her up. Well I needed information about a patient and I had to know it right away, I mean I can’t hang about waiting for people to finish their siestas…

Older...: Don’t blame you, what happened next?

Younger...: I woke her up and asked her for the information, and you wouldn’t believe how bad tempered she was… Then she reports me. The cow.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

1184. The many uses of a mobile phone (1)

Overheard on the train

Lady 1: Well I ask you – young people these days…

Lady 2: So how did it come about exactly?

Lady 1: My nephew in New Zealand rang to wish me a happy birthday – there’s a 13 hour difference so it was midday for me and one in the morning tomorrow over there, if you know what I mean.

Lady 2: With difficulty… but carry on.

Lady 1: …And just as we had started speaking I hear his mobile ring and he’s saying to someone “can you take this, I’m on the phone to Aunty Sue in England…” He comes back to me and says “sorry about that Aunty, it was Emma, but we’ll call her back”.

Lady 2: Isn’t that his teenage daughter? What’s she doing ringing at 1 a.m.?

Lady1: I’m getting there. I thought it best to ignore, and we carry on chatting for about 10 minutes, and when the call is winding to a close I say “You’d better ring Emma back”. Well, I could hardly believe what he said next.

Lady 2 (breathlessly): what? What???

Lady 1: He sounded embarrassed and well he might be. “Thing is, Aunty”, he says, “this is quite a big house and as we all have mobile phones, when we want to communicate we often ring each other. When food’s on the table, when we want to know what they want for a take-away – that sort of thing.” Well, I said laughing, she wouldn’t want a take-away at 1 in the morning, would she?? “Er no,” he says – all hesitant – “actually she was in the toilet and she’d run out of toilet paper and wanted me to take her up a new roll…”

Lady 2: Lucky her – I could sit there all day and I still wouldn’t get a spare roll…


Monday, 10 February 2014

1183. What we mean is what we don't say.... (114)

We sayNo offence, but...

We mean:  I got somethin' to say, and I'm gonna get it out somehow... maybe prefacing it with 'no offence' will soften it a little...??

What it says about us:  Notice how I gabble the 'no offence' bit, that's cos I just want to say something rude. 


Sunday, 9 February 2014

1182. Welsh Idiosyncrasies - Nickname Series (128)

Loose women in Tredegar were called Marge because they spread easy.

J R, New Zealand


Saturday, 8 February 2014

1181. Grumpy Old Quotes (42)

My granddaughter came to spend a few weeks with me, and I decided to teach her to sew.  After I had gone through a lengthy explanation of how to thread the machine, she stepped back, put her hands on her hips, and said in disbelief, 'You mean you can do all that, but you can't play my Game boy?'



The series of Grumpy Old Quotes comes from "More Wrinklies' Wit & Wisdom", Compiled by Allison Vale and Alison Rattle, ISBN -13: 978-1-86200-331-6, published in 2006 by SevenOaks, which I thoroughly recommend.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

1178. Travel Stories (10)

It happened at a New York airport.

A crowded United Airline flight was cancelled.  A single agent was re-booking a long line of inconvenienced travellers.  Suddenly, an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk.  He slapped his ticket on the counter and said

"I HAVE to be on this flight and it HAS to be first class."

The agent replied "I'm sorry sir.  I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first, and then I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."

The passenger was unimpressed.  He asked loudly, so that the other passengers behind him could hear -


Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone.  "May I have your attention please?" she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal.  "We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who does not know who he is.  If anyone can help him with his identity, please come to Gate 14."

As the passengers behind laughed hysterically, the man gared at the United Airlines agent, gritted his teeth and said "F*** You!"

Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to get in line for that too."


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

1177. Schoolboy Howlers from 16 year olds (7)

Q:  What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?

A:  He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.


Monday, 3 February 2014

1176. I'm Spartacus!

A friend of the family used to fly for US Air, and told us this tale of how one day his plane was one of many trying to land at a busy airport.  One of the controllers came on and reported something happened to cause a further delay and that those planes in a holding pattern would need to stay there.

Almost immediately, one of the pilots responded with "Bullshit!"

The controller then said something to the effect of "Sir, the use of profane language is prohibited on this channel by FAA and FCC regulations.  Please identify yourself."

After a moment, one of the pilots reported, "This is flight 123 and we are negative on the bullshit."  A moment after that, another flight reported in, "This is flight 456 and we are also negative on the bullshit."  One by one, each and every one of the flights reported in as being "negative on the bullshit."


Sunday, 2 February 2014

1175. Out of the mouths of babes... (9)

Susan (4, drinking juice through hiccups):  Please don't give me this juice again.  It makes my teeth cough."


Saturday, 1 February 2014

1174. Mothers are so boring...

Little boy (4):  "Mummy, how does Daddy give you seed to make a baby?"
Mother (taking a very deep breath):  "Well, you see, darling, it's like this...."
A few minutes later
Little boy:  "OK, but what time is Granny coming to fetch me?"

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

1173. What we mean is what we don't say.... (113)

What we sayI'm sorry, but I just have to say this...

What we meanI'm dying to voice my opinions, to show what a feisty woman/man I am.

What it says about us:  I'm not sorry, and I don't need to say it, but I'm going to say it anyway because I want the attention.


Monday, 27 January 2014

1172. Overheard on the London Underground/Tube/Suway

Overheard over the PA system:

"Beggars are operating on this train.  Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars.  If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity.

Failing that, give it to me."


Sunday, 26 January 2014

1171. Grumpy Old Quotes (41)

No cowboy was ever faster on the draw than a grandparent pulling a baby picture out of a wallet.



The series of Grumpy Old Quotes comes from "More Wrinklies' Wit & Wisdom", Compiled by Allison Vale and Alison Rattle, ISBN -13: 978-1-86200-331-6, published in 2006 by SevenOaks, which I thoroughly recommend.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Thursday, 23 January 2014

1168. Travel Stories (9)

Waiting in line at an airport in Egypt, standing behind a couple of Australian women.  One says to the other:  "I'm not happy.  I thought we paid extra to fly direct to London?  How come we're stopping in some place called 'Londres' on the way?"


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

1167. Schoolboy Howlers from 16 year olds (5)

Q:  What happens to your body as you age?

A:  When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

1166. Welsh Idiosyncrasies - Nickname Series (127)

I used to work in the Customs Office of the Swansea-Cork ferry, and one of the regular Irish lorry drivers came into our office for his return journey to Ireland.  He related an incident from the previous day when he was delivering in the Valleys and was scouting around looking for a bed-and-breakfast to stay the night.

He called into a cafe where he had a cup of tea and made enquiries about lodgings in the area.  Everybody was very helpful, said Paddy, and they all agreed that his best bet was the bed-and-breakfast at Nellie Painter's.  they gave him directions and he set off up the hill to what he believed to be Nellie Painter's house.

When a woman answered the door he asked if she was Nellie Painter, and whether she did Bed-and-breakfast.  The woman replied that she did bed-and-breakfast but her name was Nellie Jones.  She then went on to explain that her husband was a painter and decorator, hence the name Nellie Painter.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Sunday, 19 January 2014

1164. British Humour (3)

I found a Justin Bieber concert ticket nailed to a tree, so I took it.  You never know when you might need a nail.

Unknown origin.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

1163. What we mean is what we don't say.... (112)

What we sayI'm not being funny, but...

What we mean:  Actually I AM being funny - that's your queue to laugh.

What it says about us:  By using key phrases before I say what I want to say I prepare everybody to sit up and pay attention to "moi".


Friday, 17 January 2014

1163. At the mother-in-law's birthday party

Guest (female, 28):  I voted for him because he's so cute...

Gustavo (son-in-law, 40):  That's a good policy.  If you had voted for him because of his manifesto he may have let you down, but he'll always be cute, so it's win-win...

Loosely translated from Blogudeces de la Vida Cotidiana, with many thanks to Gustavo.


Thursday, 16 January 2014

1162. Grumpy Old Quotes (40)

Ageing is when you hear 'snap, crackle, pop' before you get to breakfast.



The series of Grumpy Old Quotes comes from "More Wrinklies' Wit & Wisdom", Compiled by Allison Vale and Alison Rattle, ISBN -13: 978-1-86200-331-6, published in 2006 by SevenOaks, which I thoroughly recommend.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

1160. Schoolboy Howlers from 16 year olds (4)

Q:  In a democratic society, how important are elections?

A:  Very important.  Sex can only happen when  a male gets an election.


Monday, 13 January 2014

1159. Travel Stories (8)

A young tourist on a tour in Berlin, at Hitler's Bunker site:  "Hitler's first name was Adolf?  I thought it was 'Heil'..."


Sunday, 12 January 2014

1158. Out of the mouths of babes... (10)

Little girl (4) with ear ache, wanting a pain killer and unable to take the lid of the bottle:  Why won't it open, Mummy?

Mother:  It's childproof darling, I'll open it for you.

Little girl(eyes wide)  But how does it know it's me?


1157. The secret is out...

Q:  Why do men get married?

A:   So they don't have to hold their stomachs in any more.

Unknown Origin


Saturday, 11 January 2014

1156. Welsh Idiosyncrasies - Nickname Series (126)

Harry was the eighth person I'd met with the surname Jones.  Everyone seemed to be called Jones, Williams, Davies or Evans.  To prevent confusion, the Welsh use nicknames, and nowhere is their teasing wit and love and language more apparent.

Most nicknames derive from a person's occupation, such as the builder I  heard of called Will-Five-Bricks, or the baker Dai-Bread, as in Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood. 

My favourites were the two Evanses from a village in Carmarthenshire.  One was an undertaker, the other a travel agent.  The travel agent was known as Evans-There-and-Back, the undertaker as Evans-One-Way.


Friday, 10 January 2014

1155. Out of the mouths of babes (7)

Steven (3), hugging and kissing his mother good night:  I love you so much that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window.