It was two years ago today that we lost Russell’s grandma; she came from a generation that knew first hand what it was like to be at war.
Florence Kathleen Ennals was born in February 1926, the youngest of four children; she enjoyed school, but at the outbreak of World War Two in in 1939, her south London school closed and relocated to Devon. Florrie didn’t want to leave her family, so at just 13 years old she had to leave school and start work.
Florrie’s outlook on life was to take things as they came, to do the best that you can with what you have got, and to have a sense of humour and determination. It was two wartime incidents that we believe shaped Florrie’s values and thinking:
One night during the blitz- the whole family went to visit Florrie’s newly married elder sister, Edie, who was very ill with TB. Hard enough in itself, but during the visit there was an air raid- endured no doubt with the black humour and stoicism of the time. The all clear sounded and when the family returned home they found there was no home, no Anderson shelter, in fact nothing left at all; they had been bombed out. That is hardship. For obvious reasons the family counted their blessings as they moved in with relatives to share one small house.
Life goes on though and Florrie progressed and now had a job at Marks and Spencers; she had just left work in the Oxford street store, when she heard the dreaded scream of an infamous flying bomb. Now as I understand it the noise is bad enough but it is a lot worse when it stops… Yes you’ve guessed, Marks and Spencers took a direct hit; another lucky escape.
In 1949 Florrie married an ex Navy man and sales clerk, Roy Meech, and in 1956 they moved to the rural splendour of Bledlow Ridge. It must have seemed like a huge amount of space. This move gave the family the opportunity to live in a fantastic environment. In Bledlow Ridge Florrie played a big part in the local community and took part in the Women’s Institute, the Friendship club, scouts, school and so on. It was only in her late seventies that she gave up being treasurer of the Village Hall committee- never using a calculator always neat rows of numbers- balancing, tidy, that satisfied her exacting standards- in fact being tidy was a bit of a hallmark and probably where John gets his annoying tidy streak from! However, the ‘tidy gene’ was not inherited by any of her three grandchildren, Russell, Sarajane and Lisa!
Florrie loved having her family around her; every Boxing Day family and friends would visit for lunch and a party in the evening. The men would go the “Three Horseshoes” for a pre-dinner drink, often turning up late for the roast beef lunch that Florrie would cook. This tradition carried on until Roy died in 1992.
After we moved back from Wales, we were able to visit Florrie on a regular basis. While we know she loved seeing us, we suspect that she also slightly dreaded the mayhem that certain members of our family would cause in her otherwise immaculate house. Well, if you buy your grandson a t-shirt with this written on it, what else can you expect?…..
As Russell got older he did less “demolition work” and often visited to help Florrie with gardening and other odd jobs around the house. Russell was intrigued, and we also could never work out why she always payed him in ham sandwiches! She must have thought we didn’t feed him enough, but there were occasions when he said “I never want to see another ham sandwich EVER AGAIN!!” maybe she just didn’t put enough tomato ketchup on them!
Florrie and Roy were married for over 40 years, and it was a blow to all of us, especially Florrie, when he died at the relatively young age of 64; but she did well with the support of her extensive network of friends and neighbours who also helped her maintain independence pretty much to the end. Florrie lived in the same house in Bledlow Ridge for 56 years; it still seems strange not to visit the village any more. But were it not for a couple of wartime near misses we may not have been able to visit at all, or be here to remember a special person today.