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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Farewell Flora

This blog has been silent for a month or so as I’ve been dealing with the death of my mum, Flora, (pictured left at her sparkly-eyed best in the late 1950s) who died on July 15.

She had struggled for the best part of three years following a massive stroke in 2007 which left her physically unable to get around without assistance and largely unable to speak (though she could get her point across in no uncertain terms).

It wasn’t the first time my mum had dealt with a major health challenge. In 1988, she suffered a brain haemorrhage which almost killed her. She fought her way back to health, re-learning how to read and write and how to carry out basic day-to-day tasks.

So, she was a touch cookie (as she would have put it...) A former nurse and primary school teacher, she also had a third career as a minister’s wife. Energy, drive, focus, determination and creativity were personality traits which helped her in all three roles.

Mother/daughter relationships are rarely straightforward. To misquote William Wordsworth , I became the child who in turn became the mother of the woman - and it was not always an easy course for either party.

As my mum was brought back to life briefly at the uplifting funeral service which celebrated her life in the Ayrshire church to which she and my dad gave almost 40 years of service, I could see in the descriptions of her, echoes of myself, though I’d always thought I was more like my dad in every way.

In the last few years, one of the meeting points we shared was a growing love of art. She had largely lost the power to communicate in the conventional sense, but was always interested in stories about the artists I had interviewed and loved to see catalogues and pictures. It seemed to transport her to a different place. One which brought a bit of the old sparkle back was a catalogue of paintings of her native Bute by my former art teacher, Davy Brown.

As the racks and racks of clothes in her home testify, she loved clothes and had an eye for colour. (My husband would disagree – he was horrified the day a pair of gold slippers appeared in our shoe rack...)

She was a hands-on creative and a talented dressmaker. Throughout my childhood, she was always running up clothes for herself, for me, for my aunt and for stage productions which she oversaw at the church. I remember being mesmerised by the wedding dress she crafted lovingly for my aunt, her sister Una. Then again, I wasn’t so impressed by the Brownie uniform she made for me. There was nothing uniform about this one-off piece.

She could also sing like a linty and she did amazing things with flowers. She would get frustrated with me when I jammed flowers in a vase with little ceremony.
We shared the same sense of humour and this meeting point got us through many a crisis. Believe me, growing up and living in the goldfish bowl of a manse, you needed to develop a sense of humour...

We also shared a love of language and she was possessed of a fine turn of phrase, I will remember (and use) her many choice expressions. “See him, he’d make a cork screw looks straight!” or “Do you think I came up the Clyde on a banana skin?” or “Lie down and I’ll fan you with my eye lashes...” Another one which I am often tempted to use to my own two children: “You won’t dirty another shirt...”

My mum had been through so much that I had come to view her as indestructible. Of course, she wasn’t. She was only human, albeit irascible, determined, vivacious, creative, energetic, bloody-minded and a force of nature to be reckoned with at times.

I will remember her raucous laugh and her sparkling eyes. I will remember her tutting at my latest hair-do and her own penchant for ‘blonde tips’. I will remember stroking her soft skin and the way she smelled of Youth Dew perfume. I will remember her ticking off my dad when we posed for a family photo in Castle Douglas (Don’t Donald!) and her reading Anna Karenina on a caravan site somewhere in France. And how could I forget her culinary creations? Meringue Pyramid, Cider Chicken and more conventionally, the most comforting Lentil Soup ever made.

One day, the memory of the intensity of the last few years and how our roles reversed so dramatically, will fade.

Flora Bell Patience, nee Edgar, you were a one-off and I salute you.


  1. Beautiful Jan, thank you for sharing dawnmurray :)

  2. Jan, that was lovely. I'll be using “Lie down and I’ll fan you with my eye lashes...” whenever one of our lot next moan.

  3. Thanks to everyone who has responded to this posting remembering my mum. A lot of people have said that they can't leave a comment. Not sure why that is. On list of 'to dos': be a more savvy blogger.
    Other Flora sayings:
    You make a better door than a window (usually when one of us was standing in front of the tv)
    Mines are for coal, gold and diamonds (correcting a pupil's grammar)
    Ewes (youse) are lady sheep: ditto
    I could wear a bin lid and he wouldn't notice (following an all-nighter making a new outfit and bemoaning the fact my dad wouldn't clock it)

  4. that was lovely jan and the wee sayings made me laugh i could picture ur mum saying them. god bless her and it was lovely to know her x


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