Jackie Ennals  (January 1928 – 2017)

jackie ennalsMy mother was an intelligent woman, sharp, and erudite. A generous woman of her generation, she enjoyed political discussion, movies, books, wine, food and Silk Cut cigarettes (No. 6 back in the day). My perennial image is of her sitting at the kitchen table, the smoke of her cigarette rising and mingling with the steam of a whistling kettle in the evening sunshine, and a pan of leek soup on the stove. My mum was a worrier, but she was attentive to detail, scrupulous and particular.

Jackie liked to educate. When I was a teenager, my friends would be welcomed, given a drink, and find themselves sitting around a table talking about world politics, the latest film or book. Their views were sought, considered, discussed and they would leave the table feeling as if their opinions mattered. Instead of fraught adolescents, they became conversationalists of the world with something to say, valued social commentators.

Mum gave me a strong sense of right, wrong, duty and honour. Writing this about her, I keep finding I want to add a but – is that the child in me still? Maybe it is partly because she encouraged me to look at all sides of an argument, find the two sides of an equation and not to be afraid to put an alternative view. However, it is also partly because she had standards that were rigorous and demanding. Her eye was a critical one and she had an acerbic acuity and humour which could be expressed with a tongue that could cut to the quick.

My mother was not a sentimental person and she was dismissive of arguments that fell back on such human frailty. Her compassion revolved around what she could see and knew but her knowledge was extensive. She was an educationalist, a thinker and an academic. She was a strong character, generous with her time and mind. She was keen to support people improve their ‘lot’ and believed strongly in the importance of education and human dignity. She was an honest woman.

Once, when I was a child of seven, I was asked to write about my parents in a school essay. I wrote that Dad, whom I adored in his absentia, was a human rights person who tried to free good people who had been imprisoned for their political beliefs. My mother, I wrote, she was just a mum. I think that was because she was my world and always there for me while my father was hardly ever at home – he was always off negotiating with dictators and governments, doing ‘important work’. Mum was horrified and hurt. She told everybody about my faux pas. Never again would I describe my mother as just a mum.

Mother was an intellectual, a thoughtful, educated person reflecting a generation of people who emerged from two devastating world wars into a world of change, progress, and the white heat of technology. She was a quiet woman, and because of her own up-bringing, (a difficult one about which she rarely spoke), she suffered from anxiety. However, Mum believed in the power of people, and had hope for a world that she knew was made up of much sadness. Like us all, she was full of contradictions and frustration.

Jackie Ennals was my mother, not just a mum, and I loved her very much. She gave me everything she had. And I hope I make it worth her while. May she rest in peace.

 

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