A hint of mischief in the smile ... only some things were to be taken seriously (for "some things", read family, close friends and some of the more needy of this world).
It would be impossible to let Judy just slip away. She left a lasting impression of loyalty and affection without compromising her belief in speaking out if she thought something needed to be said. Frisson between propriety and mischief, between duty and fun, between tradition and people underpinned the way she conducted her long life.
Named Judith by her father who evidently hoped that she’d one day become a Lady, she was more comfortable in the rôle of Judy, fun-loving Mum to Patrick (Packet), Martin (Mart), Kerry (Kinks) and Shelley-ann (She-ann). From this position she gradually assumed the mantle of matriarch to an extended South African Eriksen family.
I can say this as a welcomed impostor along with Sue, Cathy, Tim, Angie, Claudia, Adi, Judy and Joe, who regularly turned up to Eriksen day in the garden she shared with Bill Bosch in Hermanus, accompanying the other pukka Eriksen descendants, Lyn’s Mike, Charles and James and Peter’s Leif and Vicky. I feel certain that Craig and Guy would also have rocked up with Ann and Robyn if their occasional visits to the Southern Hemisphere had coincided with one of the successive December 27 family picnics.
Judy's grandchildren, Lane, Andrew, Mike, Sean, Kate, Grace and Max often also put in an appearance. As a bit of an old geezer myself, I have relished getting to know this newer generation, together with celebrity appearances by (in no particular order) Jess, James, Carl, Jo, JC, Nina, Valentina, Chris and Simon … and, being a tad sentimental in my advancing years, I am hoping there might still be encounters with Thomas, Oscar, Olivia, Greg, Nikki, Jess, Didi, Camilla and Mark to look forward to. And then there are four great grandchildren ...
But I digress with lists (a la Nick Hornby) and must return to the rich and varied life that drew relatives and friends alike into Billy's and Judy’s garden at Sun Cottage, 57 Mitchell Street in Hermanus.
Born Judith Elaine Eriksen in Durban on June 27, 1929, our Judy was shipped off at a cruelly young age to boarding school at St Anne’s Diocesan College in what was then the rather rural village of Hilton.
As a child she made lifelong friends including Joy, Bar, Shim, Pam, Feety and Marge. Childhood morphed into later teens and she was despatched to Boschetto Agricultural School for Women, near Harrismith in the Free State. It is thought she was allowed her own horse there but she was certainly allowed to ride and was part of a parade for the British Royal Family who had a flying visit to Harrismith for tea during their Southern Africa Tour in 1947.
Before you think that I might be embarking on a full-length biography of my late mother-in-law, this preamble is actually just a brief attempt to lay down a framework for some unreliable memoirs, some my own and others from the urban mythology that has reached me via Shelley-ann. I hope Judy would have enjoyed reading it, herself.
Bookending the 1947 photo above are two strong women who died in 2022. Judy, looking pensive on the extreme left, is waiting for a signal to run to the Boschetto stables where she would mount her horse to form part of a guard of honour for the royal party. She and the similarly dressed young people were to salute them on their way from the Harrismith Station where they would continue their 3-month tour of Southern Africa.
Above: (left) having ridden a horse since childhood, horse riding was still very much a way of her life in the late 40s and this picture was part of a series taken by a Durban newspaper photographer that appeared in the New York Times; (right) friends for almost all of their lives (l-r) Joy, Bar and Judy. Joy Robertson survives the other two, Bar having died in late 2021.
Notes from Shan
Before heading off on the aforementioned randomly assembled personal memories and anecdotes from relatives' and friends' fond reminiscences, Shan's thoughts provide an insightful background into the person the Deale siblings' mother was:
"Mum taught us, among many things, how to love, have compassion and have a sense of fun. Like our nightly washing-up routine done while trying to harmonise to the likes of Walderee with rictus grins when she suggested we try to smile while singing. We’d inevitably collapse into helpless laughter. There was always music and singing and larking about. Like our skiffle band with Mum leading on the piano accordion, Packet on guitar, Marty on bongo drums, Kinks on triangle and or washboard. I think my role was to fill in vocally on the missing, in between notes. Our door was always open and our home in Tividale Road was a magnet for young people strolling in and out. All the neighbourhood children would congregate there and play cricket on our “cricket pitch”, rounders on our “big lawn”, slide down the “foofy slide”, ride our bikes or compete in soap box races down the adjacent road. Or just to play around in our rather large pool that we’d all helped to dig (in the collective enthusiasm on this project, the hole ended up too large and had to be partially filled in. It was still 20 feet by 40 feet and 8 feet in the deep end! Mum said she’d wanted us to be able to swim lengths.).
"We all adored Mum and vied for her attention even if we were a little scared of her at times (she could be very strict!). I remember once feeling aggrieved that my older siblings didn’t want me around while with their friends (why would teenagers want a child under 10 hanging around?!) and I ran sobbing to Mum. She immediately pulled me onto her lap and comforted me. I felt very loved and actually a bit smug. I asked her, thinking I knew the answer, which one of us she loved the best. Her reply? “Whoever is closest to me at the time.” Even as a child I appreciated the brilliance of this answer even if it wasn’t the one I wanted.
"Mum was meticulous about attending every sporting event any of us did and always dressed in the colour of our school house. Her glamorous and elegant presence, in our house colours, was a source of huge pride to us.
Above: The "DIY" pool; perhaps the surfer-dude lads weren't quite so excited to be chaperoned by their Mum on Durban's Addington Beach but the girls seem perfectly relaxed with the attention.
"She was a stickler for etiquette so we grew up eating off the best plates and drank our milk out of crystal wine glasses. Silver service including the whole array of cutlery. Clean hands and face, brushed hair, backs straight, elbows in - “no flying!” - no shovelling, mouths closed while chewing, no stretching for items on the table. Bread rolls could only be eaten by breaking off bite size pieces that could then be buttered and popped into one’s mouth. Toast for breakfast could only be torn in two, never cut, and one half buttered and eaten before the other half could be buttered and eaten. And heaven help you if you used your own bread knife when helping yourself to butter from the butter dish! A problem we had were the dinner plates: they had a wide, raised border where mustard or salt was supposed to sit. Let no food ever touch this border. Ever. This meant the area for the food was reduced to probably the area of a side plate. We could never, ever turn our forks over (while holding the knife) so the end of meals entailed painstakingly piercing each and every pea and trying to slide rice up the back of the fork with the knife without everything landing in one’s lap. When all else failed, we were allowed to rest our knives along the right side of the plate, turn the fork over and hold it in our right hands and sort of mash the rice on the back of the fork. We had to eat everything.
If there were any serial or serious digressions in the rules or if there been an infringement preceding the meal, the culprit had to eat alone at the ironing table in the kitchen.
We were also strongly encouraged to converse at the dinner table so Mum came up with the idea of “conversation starters”. Each of us had a night where we’d introduce a subject that everyone would then discuss. I seem to recall one of my subjects was ants.
"Mum was always such a healthy, active person and was rarely ill. And then she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her late forties. Rather than giving in to the awful pain that riddled her body, she was determined to “keep moving”. She took to running around Durban's Greyville racecourse in the early mornings armed with a screwdriver when we admonished her on the dangers. When that drew more cries of alarm from us, she walked (at a more sensible hour) and attended yoga classes. She did yoga into her 80s, sitting in a chair in her classes because of the pain in her knees and feet. Even with her pain, she always maintained a beautiful posture: she never slouched while sitting. Ever. And every single day up to when she was 90, she did leg ups and had a washboard stomach any teenage girl would have envied. This meant she could sit straight up from a lying position without aid right up until she died."
Above (clockwise from top left): Judy with Arthur Deale, father of all of her children; with a very young Shelley-ann (a.k.a. She-ann, Shan etc.); en famille in the mid-60s with a bare-chested Mart, floral-shirted Packet, bikini-clad Kinks and Shan in what must have been an early one-piece ... Shan has said her Mum was occasionally a frustrated hippy and the sunglasses and orange floral tent dress do nothing to contradict this; a few years later Judy decided the children needed a holiday and took them skiing - she is seen here getting accustomed to the nursery slopes; out for a walk in the Drakensberg looking très chic and armed with a stylish handbag; halter chic, we know not where or when but loved the pic.
Random accounts of a life well spent
I can't say I'm sure when I first met Judy but it would have been somewhere in the close vicinity of 1970 (yes more than 50 years ago), either in her kitchen where her children held soirées on Sunday evenings or perhaps at the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg - where I was accosted by her sister Lyn. I was wearing a suit and clutching a cub-reporter's notebook and pen, earnestly attempting to decipher the results of the show jumping ...
"Mark Harrison," Lyn summoned. She was tall and imposing and dressed for the Members' enclosure, "Join my sister and me for tea." Evidently I was deemed respectably enough dressed for the Royal Agricultural Society's tea garden.
"Mark Harrison is a friend of Charles (Phillips, Lyn's son)," she introduced me to her equally glamorous sister. I do remember Judy being gentler of tone and thoughtfully enquiring about my occupation.
Fast forward 8 or 9 years to when I "bumped" into Shelley-ann and was pretty much immediately smitten. After my first random meeting I asked her out for a date. She acceded provided that I joined her and her mother for sundowners that Friday. I duly pitched up to be met by Judy in an imposing red suit. I was invited into the sitting room where a small gathering was taking place. Turns out it was Shan's 19th birthday. I was invited to sit beside Judy and was interrogated in the nicest possible way.
I must have done something right because it wasn't long before I was promoted to son-in-law.
Before that happened, I'd done a bit of my own investigating. One of Shan's earliest suitors had been met on the driveway by her mother clad in Packet's wetsuit and holding a surfboard. I don't know if the fella was intimidated but if he was, thank-you Judy.
It turns out that Judy also kept a soft rein (maybe being a top class horsewoman had influenced this) by writing notes to her children when they were out. These notes were affectionate and full of fun, riddled with stick figure drawings and P, M, K and S used to look forward to getting home from wherever they'd been to read the latest note. Her love for her brood exhibited it in her pride in showing them off to her own contemporaries and we have a whole archive of photos of times spent intermingling with Judy's friends. Very often embracing food of some description ... she prepared many a great cross-generational feast. My parents, Shirley and Woody, were frequent benefactors.
WAbove: (top row, l-r) French dinner party; aftermath of French dinner party; Rasta Christmas; (bottom row, l-r) Mart's 50th; normal Christmas attire for Hermanus; Her Maj, on tour.
Shan and I hosted our first major dinner party. About 20 people around a long table sharing an authentic cassoulet and wearing appropriate clobber (see first two pics above). Judy was guest of honour but she really didn't appreciate my beard.
"Markus, why don't you shave one side of your face and we can judge which we prefer," she quipped. Actually, she was concerned I might have a receding chin and wanted an escape route should this prove to be true. The aftermath is in the second pic.
Years later the family was in Hermanus for Christmas and Judy bought the men Rastafarian headgear in the covered market. We had to wear them for dinner.
For Mart's 50th we headed off to Boston for a hippie knees up. Costume was essential as was what was probably another Judy contrived Christmas get up.
The last picture in the sequence above is of Judy having a bit of fun waving majestically from a ricksha. It disguises the arthritic pain that Shan has mentioned she endured for decades. There were times when her glamorous persona disguised the almost unendurable pain. In Shan's notes she describes how her mother came to suppress the pain but it never quite left her.
It didn't stop her larking about, though. She and Kerry pitched up in the UK for for Shan's 40th birthday. A wheelchair was procured and travelled with the three of them to Paris for a weekend. Many an anecdote emanated from that excursion but the most lasting one for me was the picture the two younger women painted of parking their mother at the foot of the Eiffel Tower while they legged it to the top to take in the view. They had just reached the top when it started to rain. Wracked with guilt, they legged it back down again, eschewing the view, only to find that the matronly parking place was sheltered from the rain.
I believe there was a dig from Maman about dodging the pigeon shit. I think one might even have perched on her head at some stage.
Perhaps it had been a harbinger of things to come when Judy's prowess at club tennis was curtailed by pain. Never one to stew in self pity she decided to take up bowls instead. She joined the local club and before long was dominating all the tournaments. She was asked to leave the club. The only plausible excuse: she was too young.
Before and after the onset of arthritis, Judy had to be doing something. She played league tennis, raced pigeons, took excellent photographs, did voluntary work for Tape Aids for the Aged (TAFTA), Lifeline and child welfare, played the piano accordion, held dinner parties ...
She was also a confidant, which severely pissed off my wife. I would confide in my mother-in-law and Shan couldn't wheedle out what I'd said to her for love nor money. This meant that lots of friends, including her children's friends, went to her to bare their breasts. As a journalist, and because some of the people who did this were "personalities", even I occasionally felt frustrated.
Of all these extramural activities, I believe it was her art that was the most enduring. Her gardens ran a close second.
Billy entered Judy's life not very long after Shan and I were married. A year or so?
They, themselves, were married in Oxfordshire in 1995. There had been a fair amount of talk about Shan organising for them to get spliced at Gretna Green but she managed to talk them into the far more pedestrian registry office in our neighbouring town of Wantage.
During those years, we saw quite a lot of the intrepid pair in our home in Faringdon. The chronology of it all is beyond me but there were definitely two extensive hippie adventures in Europe. In one of these they did the full Monty, buying a Kombi in Amsterdam and heading off to Italy and beyond for six months. For another they shipped their beloved "tin tent" to Europe for another escapade.
Judy was in her element and her delight delighted Billy. At some point, we suspect in Greece, she was delighted with all the little mountaintop Christian churches. After many, they came across a particularly quaint church surmounted by a cross that Billy claimed for years afterwards that Judy had exclaimed: "This one is so old, it must be BC."
Travel in the tin tent was in no way exclusive to overseas adventures. There were many safaris in Africa, Namibia and probably Botswana. The Deale offspring (and I suspect the Bosches, too) used to hold their collective breath when these adventures took place. The tin tent was a converted Toyota HiAce van, a vehicle that was also the favourite taxi in South Africa and had the status of hard currency with often violent car thieves.
At some point after that they moved to Sun Cottage in Hermanus in the Western Cape. This was a bit of a metamorphosis for both of them
Above: Judy's and Billy's wedding was a small but happy affair attended by two of Billy's longest standing friends from their immediately post-war lives at UCT, Hermine and John de Kock who completely coincidentally lived in the next village from us ... Kate was the bridesmaid; the tin tent in all its glory somewhere in Africa - you can tell it was later in its life by the Hermanus number plate ... earlier adventures had started out from Durban.
The Bosches hit Hermanus
Being the gregarious people they were, it wasn't long before they were fully assimilated and throwing uproarious dinner parties (and no doubt being invited back). Of course, they didn't have too far to go either, especially to visit John and Emma Hayter who lived just across the road.
A favourite pastime was taking a bottle of wine down to the beach (probably illegal but blind eyes were turned) ... this turned into a ritual when family members "discovered" the small but perfectly formed guest cottage in 57 Mitchell Street's capacious garden, especially those of us from the Northern Hemisphere. I've lost count of how many times we travelled out there but it was during that period that "Eriksen Day" evolved. I suspect that the prototype of these might have been created to entertain our friends and relatives for a get together in that dead period between Christmas and New Year.
Above (top to bottom, l-r): Judy and Billy never did their sundowners without a splash of panaché; surveying the scene for a few beach games before Christmas 2002; the games begin; the group shot; the "adults" plan the December 27 lunch; a few bottles of wine were consumed at that lunch; more family had arrived by 2017; Billy and Judy relaxing après déluge; another Christmas and Judy is as delighted as ever; and again with a splendid gilet; the gilet had arrived in an equally splendid bag; still modelling the latest hippie fashions in 2019.
Reciprocal travel did continue to the Northern Hemisphere but less often in the latter years.
Sadly Billy died pretty suddenly after a stroke in November 2011. He lingered in hospital briefly during which time he managed to summon a grin and pinch Judy's bottom. I'm pretty sure she responded with faux outrage, "Oh Billy, you silly arse."
A previous occasion on which Billy had attracted that response happened after the notorious local baboons had raided their fruit bowl, peeled all the bananas and chucked the skins on the floor of their patio.
Judy discovered them first and shouted to her husband: "Billy, you silly arse, why did you throw the skins on the floor?"
Billy, of course, delighted in repeating this story.
He also enjoyed her sense of mischief and encouraged her to do things that would have had her children diving for cover with embarrassment. A particular example of this occurred when I was working on a project in Cape Town and invited a colleague, Ross, to stay with my in-laws for the weekend. Billy was, as always, determined to to show off Hermanus and bundled Judy, Ross and me into their car for a guided tour. As we returned to the town limits Billy stopped the car just before the large plaque identifying "Hermanus". The sign was about 2 metres above the ground.
"Have you got your brolly, Jude?" he demanded. She nodded in the affirmative.
"Go on, do your trick," he grinned. So she exited the car and marched over to the sign and, with a degree of panache, swept the brolly in an arc until it obscured just the M in the sign.
I believe Judy and Billy were raised to hero status in Ross's mind immediately.
Judy only visited us once after Billy died. This had to be done prior to her 83rd birthday before insurance became all but prohibitive. We were able to put the spoils of my business-travel air-miles to good use to get her a bed in Business Class on her return journey. She enjoyed that.
Above (l to r): Judy and Kinks in Boston, Mass for Marts 50th birthday; in our town square in Faringdon having a drink with friends; always the avid gardener, visiting Badbury Clumps near Faringdon in spring with the bluebells.
Judy found it all but impossible to sit around feeling sorry herself. I have made a tangential reference to her art earlier on but this was one of her skills that intensified during the second decade of the 21st Century. She had taken lessons in technique at the Volmoed Trust retreat in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley that included, inter alia an art studio and had a little studio of her own in Mitchell Street where she was seriously prolific. The last chapter to this story will illustrate how her art kept her interest going to the very end.
Another part of Judy that not everyone was privy to was her determination to keep up with current affairs and often specifically Northern Hemisphere current affairs. She read UK newspapers avidly, albeit a few days late after John Hayter had bought and read them and passed them on. A chain developed with other residents of Mitchell Street reading them downstream. I'm sure this happened to others of my generation, too, but whenever I rocked up at Sun Cottage she couldn't wait to have the conversation surrounding what she had read. As I was mostly there on holiday and usually sans TV, she was often ahead of me on the doings of the previous days. She made sure to read up on the latest advances in the digital world, too, so she could discuss these with her grandchildren. An example of this was to advise them to think about investing in bitcoins.
Judy nudges Ninety
With the 27th of June 2019 looming, it became clear that we should all be there to celebrate in style. The family was swarming and Shan went ahead to greet them and help with the preparations. Kate and I followed shortly afterwards. I had volunteered to stock and man the bar for a major garden party. Kate and I grabbed a hire car and stopped off for cases of wine from Blankbottle en route to Hermanus.
The party at 57 Mitchell Street was, by anyone's judgement, a festive affair with friends and relatives descending from far and wide. Notably, the three splendid ladies from the beginning of this story were still alive (with Joy and Bar there in spirit) and there were a lorra lorra Eriksens and their kith and kin. The photographs below demonstrate the solidarity of the occasion.
Above, it should be reasonably obvious which caption relates to which picture so, starting from the top: Joy, Judy and Bar is the most recent pic I could obtain of the three of them together - sadly Bar and Joy were unable to travel; Judy holding Luna Reeves the first of her great grandchildren; Two generations of actual Eriksens, Vicky and Judy, blow out the candles; Judy with her brood; Judy with many of her direct descendants and their spouses/spice; everyone who was still left standing, including Denise, who was representing Bar.
As I mentioned, the party was a happy affair and none of us would have known at the time what was looming around the corner. There was an "until we meet again" feeling as we all went our separate ways.
The final chapter
No one could have anticipated the pandemic that was lurking around the corner. It changed many lives and Judy's more than most. Covid Lockdown was particularly draconian in South Africa and Judy was left for most of the time in virtual solitary confinement. Kerry, Judy's only "child" remaining anywhere near Hermanus, stretched the boundaries wherever she could and spent time with her mother practically every day. But Judy, being the sociable person she was, was alone for most of the early part of the pandemic waves. She withered. She did continue her art from home but its mood had changed from optimism to a kind of abstract representation of what she was feeling. Difficult to interpret without being actually inside her brain.
In latter years, Judy, so caught up in life, became nervous, even frightened, of death. She asked Kerry if there was someone she could speak to to prepare herself for death. She had always been privately spriritual, never pushing religion, but quietly attended a local church. Kinks arranged for the local minister to visit and that seemed to allay some of her mother’s fears.
But Judy was actually meticulous in preparing for the inevitable, often disguising it with a layer of levity. To quote Kerry:
"One day Mum and I were in her kitchen at Sun Cottage making tea when she suddenly asked me, straight out, what would I do when she died....
"Well, I told her that I would first phone Packet, Marty and She-annies and tell them that she had died. She then asked, and what next...? I told her I would phone the Bosch children and tell them that you had died and that Sun Cottage was now theirs.
"Okay she says, let's practice! She then proceeded to slither (giggling) down the cupboards until she lay flat out prone on the floor. I pulled out my phone (as per script!) and frantically called my siblings saying Oh No! Mum has died, she's lying on the floor in the kitchen, I'm so sorry!! I then (pretended to) phone Roger and told him as well and to please tell Lance, Alison and Julia.
"While she was lying there playing possum, she asked me what she should wear to her funeral!! She then laughed and sat up saying it doesn't really matter, why should she care, she wouldn't be there. I even offered to take her into her wardrobe so we could choose an outfit for her! She refused.
"Mum had an extraordinary gift of seeing the funny and practical side of all aspects of life. That was one of the many things I loved most about her."
Judy also asked Packet, a lawyer, for help with ensuring her estate was in order and he discovered a wealth of notes, codicils and instructions about what should be done with her belongings. Kerry adds:
"Mum was always pragmatic about dying. When we were kids she would walk us round the house pointing out various paintings she thought could be valuable or the odd piece of furniture which she figured could be worth something."
A rebellious side, mostly buried, also came to the fore. Kinks shared an example:
"...she discovered her extended middle digit which she proceeded to use with gay abandon, whether across the myriad of people queuing in Clicks, or, her most famous was when bidding us farewell on leaving our house in her trusty Nissan steed, and instead of the usual royal wave, we were graced with The Digit wave."
After the initial lockdown things eased a bit but it became obvious that Judy would require full-time care. After a shortish period of trying to find a suitable person, Connie Spandiel arrived and the two women became inseparable. Connie was happy to live in the guest cottage until early in 2022 both Judy and Connie became ill, Judy with an amputation-threatening cyst on her foot and Connie with a heart attack. Both ended up in hospital and tragically, Connie died on that first night.
Even thoughshe did not eventually lose the foot it became self-evident that Judy would have to be moved into a full-time care home. Despite excellent care Judy longed to be back in her own home. This was never going to be feasible and in her last days she was most content with her art.
Kerry concluded that despite a diagnosis of early stage dementia, "she knew who I was right up till the end: Kinks/Kerry, and she kept the photo of us four children and her in front of her on her bed table and told everybody who came in that I was her daughter and those were her four children. She loved us so much and we will always miss her."
Above (clockwise from top left): before the pandemic, Judy kept up with her art classes; Clouds in what I suspect is a South African landscape; a small hamlet somewhere in Italy; Three generations and the last time Kate saw her grandmother ... always the hijinks.
Judy had made her epitaph plain to anybody who asked: "I'd rather die of exhaustion than boredom."
I suspect she pretty much got her wish during the night of December 29/30.
Above: possibly Judy's last painting, done while she was in the Onrus Manor care home. Still as neat as a pin and seated with a straight back.
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