Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Obituary Dorothy Camplin (Crosland, Rayner, Duff) 27 March 1926 - 06 August 2015

Dorothy at Benbow Quay Shrewsbury Aug 2009
If I had to choose the worst time to be born since the Middle Ages I think it would have to be the 1920s. The world was in the grip of economic chaos, the worst war ever had ended only a few years earlier, leaving families without many of their bravest and best young men and, although they didn't know it at the time, another world war was soon to follow. It was a period of poverty and no hope for just about everyone. That was the world Dorothy Crosland was born into and from which she never really escaped. She often said to me that she never had a chance to fulfill her dreams and I always responded impatiently that anyone who didn't take the opportunities on offer only had themselves to blame. We have never had the chances to do whatever we want in life as much as in the last 100 years. I was wrong. My generation, growing up in the post war years were the ones who had the opportunities. The previous generation did not but they did, eventually, win the fight and gave a rich legacy to their children and future generations.

View of Berry Brow towards Crosland Moor
Berry Brow lies to the south of Huddersfield just 5 miles from Holmfirth where the Last of the Summer Wine series was shot and nearby is Crosland Moor. Very unusually the locality was named after the family, not the other way round, which is the norm. Every Crosland in the world can trace their roots back to this part of the world and the Croslands moved in a very very long time ago. I hope one day someone will research where they did come from - perhaps the Viking invasion, perhaps even as far back as the Dark Ages, perhaps Roman. At any rate they have been supporting local industry, primarily textiles, for centuries but one of them, James, my great grandfather, answered an advertisement in the local paper for textile workers in Cam, a part of Dursley in Gloucestershire and off he went to work there. In
Communicating with Sir Edward Elgar
a short space of time he was married to a local girl and had 2 children, a girl and a boy, my grandfather, and promptly returned to Berry Brow, family in tow. His wife was also from a local country family, as was her mother, Sarah Greening, but the family tie as well as bringing in new blood linked us to one of the most interesting families you could ever hope to encounter. Sir Edward Elgar's mother was a Greening and Greenings pop up all over the place. One helped to found the Co-Operative Society. Another fought in the Napoleonic Wars. One branch emigrated to New Zealand and produced a rugby player who played for his country. One in New Zealand ran a stagecoach taxi service up and down the coast, another, in Australia, set the local time in Melbourne after spending 2 years trying to establish what it was in relation to the horizon. There is also an MP, Justine Greening, who was side lined for being too outspoken.

The other half of the family was called Jefferys and came, as the name suggests, from the West Country,
Cheapside Halifax where George Jeffreys set up his workshop
probably Bath, but, at any rate, George Jefferys married Martha Charlotte Cosway from Tiverton in Devon, in 1845 in Taunton, Somerset. Some time after they moved via Wolverhampton, to Halifax in Yorkshire where they set up a workshop in the town centre as cabinet makers. The youngest, Sidney Herbert, moved over the hill into the next valley, Sowerby Bridge, where he became a chimney sweep, as did his son, who took out a patent for a method of cleaning chimneys without mess. Sidney's daughter was my grandmother, Annie Jane who married Reginald James Elliott Crosland. Contact with the rest of the Jefferys' family was lost but, in fact, they prospered and today have a large furniture cut price showroom near Halifax Railway Station and a removal service. They were also significant figures on the local Town Council for many years. None of this was known to us growing up and we often wondered if the large removal vans were part of our family but were told they were not.

So there it is. My mother grew up in Sowerby Bridge from the age of 4 having been born in Luddendenfoot, nearby. Her father was a joiner on the railway, served in the Medical Corp in the War where he saw action at the Battle of the Somme and her mother was the daughter of the local chimney sweep. She was the youngest of 6 (3 boys, 1 of whom died at birth, and 3 girls) and was, in every respect what you might expect of a youngest in a large family.

Sowerby Bridge Cricket Queen aged 13
At the age of 13 Dorothy won a beauty competition sponsored by the local cricket team and by all accounts it went to her head. She attempted to become a model and was frequently photographed in preparation for the life that was planned. I don't know the details but I did find out that it was her mother who put a stop to it when it came to the point that a trip to London was required.
Dorothy takes to the stage
Her main passion in life, however, was dancing and that never left her. I think she pretty well chose her men according to their ability to dance and she, herself, was equally at home as a ballroom dancer, tap dancer or chorus girl. For many people to have such a keen interest and to be able to pursue it all their life would have been good enough but Dorothy had the incurable disease they call The American Dream. She wanted rags to riches, overnight success, the full Broadway whirlwind and it never came. As a result she went through life either full of unrealistic hope or disappointment for not being the best ever even if you had only just learned something.

Chorus girl - Dorothy is 2nd from left
The War years may well have been the best years of her life and indeed for many of her generation. Expectations up until then were not exactly full of excitement. Schooling was limited to little more than reading, writing and arithmetic and employment prospects were basic. The War opened that up with travel, danger, excitement, community spirit and sentimentality. Brief encounters were common due to a feeling that you or your partner might not live to see much more so you had better take what you could get whilst it was on offer - and she did.

The post War years were another thing altogether, however. Marriage and family were the order of the day and Dorothy and my father, John Rayner, were exactly the right age to be a part of that. They married in September 1945 and had their first child, Paul, in January 1947, a baby boomer. I followed in 1949, Richard in 1950 and Mark much later in 1963.
Rayner family - Peter, Dorothy, Paul, John, Richard

Married life was not kind to Dorothy. It was, as Alan Aykebourn once remarked like a cold bath - the longer you stayed in it and the colder it got and she stayed in it far far too long - 33 years in all, a fact I still find hard to believe. It was not pleasant for those of us who had to observe and live with it either, characterised as it was by chronic depression and an over possessiveness that bordered on strangulation at times. Each of us had to re-structure our lives in some degree or another before we could settle down to living the life we actually wanted rather than the one she attempted to carve out for us. All the more surprising, then, that in 1966 the family emigrated to New Zealand, a dream
Dorothy posing on the beach
they had kept alive since first getting the papers in 1950. Paul stayed behind to get married and I pulled out at the very last minute having secured a place at university. Looking back on it I can see that it marked a turning point for all of us as the family began to split up and each of us made our own way in life. They returned to UK after 3 years because Dorothy was homesick but stayed only 9 months before returning to New Zealand, minus Richard, leaving Mark to cope all on his own with his mother's emotional turmoil and the break up of the marriage.

The final 35 years of her life were very different from the previous 54 as she waded through 4 significant relationships, 2 of which were marriages. The first was to a man 14 years her senior and ended after 2 years when he died. The second also died after 4 years, as did the third. She then emigrated to Australia, staying briefly with Paul before settling on the Gold Coast. Her fourth man was a
Palm Beach Australia showing Dorothy's home
retired policeman from New Zealand who eventually left her and returned to New Zealand although she crossed the sea to try and bring him back. Although not in the best of health he has survived her. In her final years Mark moved in with her as her carer and those were turbulent years for both of them, neither being willing to give way.

During this second part of her life a more positive personality emerged and with it many odd ideas. In her earlier life she had played the femme fatale modelling herself on Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. Logic and science meant nothing at all to her and she felt free to believe whatever she wanted to believe. Many of her ideas came from spiritualism and a magazine called Nexus which presented very extreme notions such as that we were all put on the earth many years ago from another planet in a galaxy far far away. She had very well developed ideas about conspiracy theories believing even that the medical world told wholesale lies in order to make money. Just about all of history was false and was a huge cover up for what had really happened. This side of her belief system conveniently supported her notion that she was a victim and never stood a chance in life.

Some of her ideas were quite amusing. On one occasion she collapsed on the dance floor and was revived by a burly fireman which she reported to me by saying she had died on Saturday night but was feeling much better now. On another occasion she said that burial trapped the soul in the body and that if you walked past a graveyard you could see the souls sitting on the headstones unable to be released. My favourite was simply a misunderstanding when she insisted that a 60 year horse had just won a gold medal in the Olympics. The truth was that it had been 60 years since the Brits had won gold. She never backed down though.

So what do we make of this life now ended. It is, at the very least, a tragedy. In my early years I saw myself as a victim with her as the perpetrator. However, she saw herself as the victim and I have never discovered a perpetrator. I made a very clear decision never to play the victim card and never to have much sympathy for others who did. You could say I got that from my mother. Yet in many ways we are alike. It takes only a slight adjustment to move from hopeless to hope and to be fair to her she did have hope - but it was a teenage girl's dreamy hope that never crystalised into anything that took her forward. She did see herself as little more than a teenager and was proud of it. The glamour, the pretentions, the stunning appearance, which she believed she still retained just as it was as a young woman, were all intact. As a child she was a blond, like many children. As an adult she was a blond by choice - a dumb blond bombshell with a teasing and seductive style to lure in whoever she could. Yet underneath it all she simply wanted to be loved, preferably by a devoted man who worshiped the ground she walked on. She had a few disciples but not enough to satisfy and I don't think she ever understood why her invitation didn't work. She had much love to give but few takers.

In the world of psychotherapy you learn that people are the way they are for a reason and your job is to find that reason and exploit it. It is not a good thing to take sides and either support or condemn someone for how they are. Easier said than done when the person in question is your mother - but that is what I did. On that basis we were separate people and I reclaimed my life even though she spent the rest of hers trying to draw me back into hers. She didn't take after anyone as far as I can ascertain and I don't think anyone takes after her so maybe she achieved the uniqueness we all want - or maybe, as my 5 year old godson says, she just wanted to be an angel.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Would you ever skydive?

No - nor water dive - nor ski. I do falling over quite well, tho

Ask me anything

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Do you like tattoos?

Yes but only on other people

Ask me anything

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's your favorite TV show?

Hustle - and it's finishing forever soon. Bah

Ask me anything