Archive for the 'Family' Category


On 28th January 2017, my mum, Lucy Mary Hodgson passed away after a long battle with Lymphoma. Here is the eulogy I read at her funeral.

Thank you for coming to celebrate Lucy’s life with us. It means a lot to see you all here. We can’t possibly hope to fully capture her in this eulogy — everybody has their own perspective, but we’ll do our best. When I say we — my Granny Mary and aunt Paula had a big hand in this.

Lucy was born in Stratford upon Avon on 20th April 1956. She was the eldest daughter and the third of seven children. Mary, her mother, described her as “an exceptionally beautiful baby who rarely cried”. Some qualities are clearly set at a very early age.

The family moved to Woking when Lucy was five and she attended the Providence Convent School, which was situated on the site of this church. She was a confident little girl and played the leading role of Little Red Riding Hood in a school production.

However, as she got older and changed schools she became shy, quiet and self-effacing. Perhaps because of this people often underestimated her. She was amongst the first intake when the new St John the Baptist School opened here in Woking.

She enjoyed spending a lot of time at the swimming pool with her sisters and by the age of twelve she could swim a mile. Throughout her life whenever she was near the sea she’d want to get in for a quick dip — even in ridiculous Welsh winter conditions.

On leaving school she went to work at Slocock`s Nursery and studied horticulture concurrently at Merrist Wood.

Later, working in the greenhouses at Woking Park, she met and fell in love with the park’s foreman, Adam Hodgson. They married in 1979 and moved to Guildford where Adam started a landscaping business — Adam the Gardener.

To help the business Lucy became adept at administration and book-keeping. They bought an early Amstrad PC, and she was soon an expert with spreadsheets and accounting software — long before most people even knew what they were.

They had four children: me, Alice, Florence and Abigail. Lucy loved motherhood; her children were her pride and joy, she adored their company and would do anything for them.

Lucy had fond memories of her own childhood camping holidays, travelling all over the UK in a succession of family minibuses and converted ambulances. She kept up this tradition with her own family, making numerous trips to France, North Wales and even the Isle of Man to see the TT Races. Sometimes we joined forces with Sheila, Stephen or our friends’ families, camping en-masse so all the children — and adults — could play together.

She also took the family further afield to soak up the culture and sunshine in Malta, Cyprus, Florence, Rome and Florida.

Lucy travelled to Sri Lanka on her own, to Vietnam with her sister Sheila, and on a variety of European trips with her mother and as many of her siblings as possible. She loved to savour the local sights, cuisine and wine with her family.

She would have loved to have travelled more – she dreamed of seeing fall in Vermont, and of visiting her brother-in-law Piers in Australia. She loved to hear about all her children’s adventures too — firing her own imagination.

Her husband Adam was a keen motorcyclist. He and Lucy attended many events together including all night rides and large weekend events with the local classic motorbike club.

In 1994 Adam died in a motorcycle accident, so Lucy was left to close the business and bring up her children alone. His sudden death when Abigail was only two was a crushing blow; but she faced this, as with all the challenges life threw at her, with dignity and fortitude. She was a very private person and kept most of her worries to herself.

Adam supported Crystal Palace football club. Lucy took up his season ticket and we cheered them on from the Holmesdale Terrace together for a couple of seasons. She supported them ever since — taking great delight on the rare occasions when they embarrassed a much bigger team. I still remember her singing variations on “Que sera sera” when they were doing particularly well.

When we children had all started school or university, Lucy looked for work and for a while had three part-time jobs — helping various small businesses with their admin.

Finally, she began working in the office of Woodbridge Hill Surgery, just around the corner from her home. She loved the job and adored the people she worked with. She started small, effectively just sorting the post. Over time she grew tremendously, taking on more and more complex roles. She worked her way right to the top, becoming Practice Manager — an achievement she was rightfully very proud of.

Lucy had many hidden talents. In Woking at her old home there are several remarkable paintings completed when she was in her 20s. She carried on dabbling throughout our childhood, and in more recent years became a fixture at a local art class, developing her own signature watercolour style and making some good friends. Every year she would exhibit her work and sell her own Christmas cards — and then downplay her accomplishments.

Not only was she a very talented artist, she could name most plants by their Latin names, and tell you when to prune them. She loved gardening, and every year she had some Gooseberries, Raspberries and Sweet Peas on the go. She could help you with your tax return. She knew all the details of football leagues and transfers, Formula 1 fixtures and tennis tournaments (all of which are quite incomprehensible to the rest of her siblings). She was a friend of the Royal Academy, a member of the National Trust and of the Guildford Cinema Club. She became engrossed in TV series as diverse as Star Trek, Doctor Who and Masterchef. More recently she took up badminton and proudly stuck to a workout regime at a local gym.

She loved music, attending festivals and gigs at first as a teenager, and then later with her own children. She saw some really big names over the years. Her vinyl record collection is huge — and she would relish the opportunity to get them out and dance around the living room, usually with one or more of her daughters. Whenever we were planning to embark on a long car journey, she would compile a mix-tape to liven up the trip and make the miles fly by.

She was also a big reader, regularly losing herself in a good book. Her most recent accomplishment was completing the entire back catalogue of Kate Atkinson.

Although she lived in Guildford she came every Saturday night to Woking to attend mass here with Mary, and then to stay and catch up over supper and a glass of wine.

She was never particularly evangelical about her faith — it was a very personal thing. She knew where she was going, and that gave her strength right at the end.

Lucy had a sweetness and kindness about her that made her the perfect restful company — she was one of those people that made you feel better the moment they appeared. She was funny, sympathetic and constantly good natured.

Nevertheless, she had strong views about everything, from politics and current affairs to books, films, artists, as well as food and travel.

I loved chatting with her over a long drawn out breakfast (her poison was bacon) discussing anything and everything, especially if it was on the front page of the Guardian.

She was open-minded, with no big expectations of you. She wasn’t pushy, but rather wanted you to find your own way. She would love you whatever you did — and she loved to hear all about it, too.

She got great pleasure from simple things; a new baby, cats, a Belgian chocolate truffle, a Stevie Wonder track, chickens, jigsaws, Sudoku, a good cheese, a glass of Petit Chablis in the sun, and all of our big family gatherings — especially Christmas in Woking and new year in Cheltenham with Stephen and Helen.

Of course, the new baby Lucy was most excited about was Alice and Angus’s daughter. She was thrilled to be a grandmother and loved to spend time with little Astrid, see the latest photos and to hear about every stage in her development.

A little over a year ago Lucy was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive blood cancer. One of the things I’m most proud of is how she faced up to it: Her attitude was always strong, positive and forward-looking. Although she was often scared, she found the strength to push on through and take on the next challenge. Even at her lowest, she never gave up hope.

In her mind, the future was always bright. And of course, it still is — it’s just that now we’ll have to face it without her gentle loving presence.

Boiled eggs

On Saturday 6th January 2007, my granddad Dominic McDonnell passed away, after a mercifully brief battle with cancer.

On hearing the news, I jumped on a train home so I could be with the family. My grandmother and most of his children (including my mum) had congregated at his house in Woking: we spent the evening celebrating his life, reminiscing and sharing our favourite memories of him. It was very much the right thing to do.

A week and a half later, I headed back down south for the funeral. I’m not sure why, but I felt almost emotionally detached during the service. The church was absolutely packed with friends and family, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. It wasn’t until we left the church and I had my arms around my younger sisters that I broke down, as we watched the hearse carry Granddad away. The cremation service the following day was lovely, with his children, Justin, Claire and Stephen all reading pieces about him.

It almost feels wrong to say it, but the parties we had after each service were great. It was good to catch up with all of the people I only ever see at the really big family events.

You may still be wondering why I’ve titled this piece “Boiled Eggs”. It’s because that’s my favourite memory. I don’t think I voiced it at the time.

When we were young, Alice & I would occasionally be dropped off at the grandparents for a weekend. Our mum & dad were usually off doing something silly like The National Rally on their classic bikes. Anyway, breakfast was always a highlight: Dominic had perfected the art of the soft-boiled egg. It came from the chickens they kept in the garden. It went in for four minutes. It never cracked prematurely. The soldiers were toasted to perfection. There’s probably an element of rose-tinted glasses, but that’s the way I remember it. Good times.

Obviously he was a lot more to me than just the man who taught me how to boil the perfect egg. It was my mother that pointed it out to me: I was probably a lot closer to him than I might have been if my father hadn’t died in my teenage years. Granddad was always a man I looked up to. He was so bright, talented and worldly wise, without ever being condescending.

I was looking through my collection and could only find one photo of him. I’ll have to get some more from the family. My little sister’s got a nice photo of the whole family from the day of the funeral.

People are still shopping!

Just going through my old text messages and came across this one from Alice, my sister. I’ve been reluctant to delete it for some reason.

SMS From: Alice Mob
07.07.2005    11:04
Oliver they are
blowing up london
the whole of zone
one is shut. im ok
though. im in 
selfridges wierdly
people are still
shopping! Alice x

It was quite a relief to get that message, I can tell you. Quite insightful too. Despite all the chaos going on outside, these people were trapped in huge department store. What else were they going to do?

Happy Birthday Little Sister

Abigail Hodgson, Avebury, 8th May 2005

Hello Abigail. Yes, you, in the pink.

Your big brother (that’ll be me) has been spectacularly useless, and failed to get you anything nice for your birthday (that’s today, as I’m sure you’re aware).

This could be something to do with not having a clue what you’d like. He thought about another game for the ‘cube but he would appear to have already bought you all the good ones. The he thought about a CD, but what does an Abbie listen to, if anything? The chocolate, sweets and book/music/beer token options all seem like a bit of a cop-out.

It could also be down to sheer disorganisation on his part.

No doubt he’ll give you a call later and see if you know what you’d like [1]), have a think, buy something and put it in the post. Maybe he’ll come and visit you at some point in the near future? He can’t plan his life beyond tomorrow so who knows when that might be…

Anyway, he hopes you’re having a good one and that you’ll forgive his uselessness – you really ought to be used to it by now!

[1] The reader might be interested to know that this question usually results in an “erm…” or something very very expensive indeed.

Birthday Bits

A couple of birthdays to celebrate:

First up, Happy 30th to Leon McD! It was a week or so ago but I quite cleverly forgot all about it. Quite worryingly he seems to have been playing Half Life 2 since early in December last year. I hope he’s not trapped in there somewhere…

Secondly, Happy 22nd (?) Birthday to Tommy Tubbs Westbrook! He’s not to be confused with the extraordinary gent of the same name, though some would say he’d fit right into Royston Vasey.

That will be all for now.

The Easter Collection

The Easter Collection

Who’d have thought they’d have Zebras, Monkeys, Lions and Leopards just up the road from here eh? Pictures in The Gallery.

Oh, it was the Cotswold Wildlife Park. I spent a couple of years working a few miles down the road, drove within spitting distance of it on the way home, and never once registered its existence. It took my mother (who lives about 130 miles from me) to a) point out that it exists and b) drag me there. Glad I went though – its not every day that you get to see White Rhino and eat/drink slush puppies.

I should point out that Great Grey Owls are very sinister looking creatures in real life (as opposed to the quite friendly looking specimen on that page). They seem to belong in some sort of gothic horror film. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, considering their native habitat is the dark and remote forests of Alaska and Lapland.

The Christmas Collection

Thumbnails of The Christmas Collection

Here’s a selection of pictures I took over the Christmas period. You’ll find friends, relatives and turtles amongst other things. Hope you enjoy them. View the pictures…

A Great Service

Phone rings. Its Alice.

Hi, we’re in Sainsbury's, in the beer section. What would you like us to get in for you for Christmas?