Andrew Bluett-Duncan

Thanks for the memories

21 August 2021

Andrew Bluett-Duncan

Director 

St Mary's Reigate

It's Wednesday morning, 18th August

You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not in the mood to flog you pans today.  So this is just a minor update on Babette’s funeral arrangements, or perhaps I should say the lack of arrangement so far.

After some discussion with Jonathan, Jeanne and Josie we realised that we wanted, if possible, to bury Babette, rather than cremate her so that we could go and see her when we wanted to. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’ll take you back to my childhood of about 59 years ago. It was 1962, and we moved to Reigate because I’d won a choral scholarship, to Reigate St Marys Choir School, we’d previously been living in Cobham before this. But mum and dad were finding the size of the garden in Cobham a bit much and were happy to have a reason to move. So move to Reigate we did. I have very fond memories of the choir, practicing 4 afternoons a week, after school, for an hour and half each day. And as a result of this discipline I think our singing was to a pretty high standard and pretty varied in what we sang. And, in fact, the choir was usually invited to sing with St Paul's Cathedral Choir every Christmas to perform Handel’s Messiah, in St Paul's itself, so we must have been reasonable.

Anyway, the connection with this update is that, during my time there, it was our duty to sing at St Mary’s church, across the road from the school, twice every Sunday for the morning and evening services. As a result I became intimately acquainted with the church and the surrounding church yard, which, if you haven’t been there is a lovely peaceful place. So, when Babette was ill, in the months preceding her death, she and I often walked round the church yard as it's virtually opposite where we live and was an easy walk for her. So shortly after she died the idea began to germinate of actually burying her there, a place that meant a lot to both of us for a variety of reasons.

After a conversation with Kate Capper, at St Mary’s, it turned out however that the graveyard had no space for a conventional burial, but there may be a slim possibility of having her ashes interred there.

As it stands (Wednesday morning) it's looking rather unlikely that this will happen as they are very short of space, and that is really a bit of a blow, however unrealistic the hope was in the first place. But for the moment I’m just remaining quietly hopeful that we will prevail. If this doesn’t work then we’ll look at the alternatives.

Friday morning and I’m putting the finishing touches to this email

Well, yesterday (Thursday) I had a call back from Kate, who I believe looks after Pastoral Care at St Mary’s and I’m truly delighted to say she had asked the question and she must have put a good case because the answer came back, that yes, we could have Babette’s ashes interred there. I was so pleased that words cannot express quite how I’m feeling at this moment. So I’ll content myself by just saying “very pleased, delighted and grateful”, inadequate, but it’ll have to do.

I think Babette will be tickled pink to see that she’s to have an “Ashes Plot” in a place she loved right at the end of her life. I understand that this corner of the churchyard is where some of the youth of the area meet to drink, smoke and doubtless do all the other unspeakable things that many of us got up to when we were young. And, on hearing this I thought to myself, “well if there’s anyone who won’t mind one iota, it will be her”. She loved people, and would meet them wherever they were at that moment in their lives, no judgement, just an offering hand, if they wanted it. So she, I think, will enjoy the company! In any case she probably did a lot worse when she was young…

Thanks for the memories

Lastly, may I thank you if you have been one of the people who have left messages on the blog, or written us a card, or sent me an email that I haven’t managed to reply to. In this last week I have often burst into tears when reading many of them, to see how loved or appreciated she was.

Thank you, I found it very comforting to read them, as did my three “children”.

Kind regards,

Andrew

P.S. If you feel moved to reply to my email, may I ask you to do so here, partly and selfishly so I don’t feel obliged to reply, and I want everyone to see how she has been seen in her life.

For instance, for me she has been such a force for questioning the status quo that, if you have example you want to share of how she touched your life, I’d be delighted to hear it and suspect others will as well.

Thank you.”

44 comments

  • Carole Zander and familySep 08, 2021

    Dear Andrew, Jonathan, Jeanne and Josephine,
    I would like to pass on my sincere condoleances to you all. I met Babette a long time ago at Homelsdale school when Josephine was in the same year group as Matthew. We obviously spoke French together and I always enjoyed talking to her. Being involved in the school PTA, we obviously participated in her Babette Stir Up quizzes. We even won the one she did at Priory School, which made lots of people think we had cheated being all French in the group! She was such an amazing lady full of ideas and with so much energy! We became friends and much closer after spending quite a lot of time making sure Jeanne’s dress for the Tudor Day in year 6 was going to look nice! She was always so proud of her family. She was also always ready for a challenge and even started sewing her own curtains after me suggesting she could do this! And she did so much more as she was also very talented. It was always a pleasure to see her and last time was on the high street as she was going to the shop. I will always remember hugging her that day (before Covid). I had not seen her recently and I could not believe she was ill again and as she was so strong, I always thought she would survive her dreadful illness. I will miss her and her sincere laugh. I will pray for her and keep her in my thoughts, especially when I go to the back of our garden! I would love to come along to her funeral tomorrow together with Caroline.

  • Melanie GrabeSep 03, 2021

    Dear Andrew and family
    My sincere condolences, I am so sorry for your loss. I never had the pleasure to meet either of you but have been a keen follower of your wonderful blog and was heartbroken to read about Babette’s illness. Life, it offers us so many wonderful moments of joy and laughter and I truly believe to enjoy life we must know how to cherish them and use that energy to pull through the tough times. You and your family are going through the worst loss and I cannot possibly imagine what you must feel like but I wish you all the very best and that you will always sense Babette’s presence and eternal love to get you through the hard times. Sending lots of love and it filled my heart with joy to read that Babette will have a place at the church yard and forever be present at this special place. Best wishes, Melanie

  • Tricia Richards Sep 01, 2021

    Dear Andrew . Although it is many years since I last saw you and Babette, I remember the very happy times when I was part of the AOL team in Cobham . I was always amazed at the wealth of information and expertise you both carried together into the business . How good that other family members now work with you and I hope this brings you strength and joy as you continue on without your much loved wife ,business partner and friend . Her courage and honesty over these last months has been inspirational .We celebrate life and cry at the unending absence of our loved ones . I will be thinking of you all as you gather together . Tricia Richards (Spain)

  • Jane Brown Sep 01, 2021

    Dear Andrew and Family
    Unfortunately I am unable to attend Babette’s funeral on the 9th but my thoughts and prayers will be with you all on the day. I know the wonderful times you all spent together down the years will be remembered with love, laughter and tears and the happiness that Babette shared will never be forgotten and will be in your hearts forever.
    God Bless
    Jane x

  • Sue ChapmanSep 01, 2021

    Dear Andrew
    I didn’t get to meet Babette and I’ve only spoken to you a couple of times on the phone when you kindly allowed me to cancel a Le Creuset order on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago but you were so kind and helpful it left it’s mark and I subsequently signed up for your weekly newsletter which I never fail to put a smile on my face on a Saturday morning. The news of Babette’s illness came with much sadness but the updates she shared with us were an inspiration: her bravery, kindness, words of wisdom and of her illness and treatment and the love in her heart made me appreciate what a very special lady she was. And so whilst she is no longer with us, the love she shared will always remain with all those she touched – even those of us who only read her updates. I would very much like to return to you and your family the love she shared with us and hope that her loss is eventually replaced with the happiest of memories. My Mum’s passing and funeral 4 years ago was during the same weeks as Babette’s so my thoughts and prayers will be with you next week as I remember my Mum.
    With love and best wishes Sue.

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