Last summer Pat Wilson (who has died aged 97, see here) wrote asking me to speak at an informal tea at Meopham Village Hall, to celebrate her life when she had gone. She was so anxious to hear that she sent me a stamped-addressed envelope.
Yesterday I spoke at the ‘tea’, which was very much more than that. It was a great gathering of Pat’s family and friends. The hall (with its health and safety limit of 120 people) overflowed into the next-door country club.
Others too had received the summons to speak or perform—and had been sent an sae!
So it was the event Pat had created, and everyone there learnt something about Pat which they hadn’t known before.
We learnt that she had campaigned for safety-glass in windscreens after her daughter Hilary nearly had a fatal accident. The former MP for Medway, Bob Marshall-Andrews, who was constantly lobbied by Pat, said that ‘Pat was the constituent of whom I was most frightened—she was fearless, committed, tireless, fiercely intelligent, articulate, artistic and funny, in fact everything a politician ought to be without being a politician.’
Many spoke of Pat the perfectionist, who returned letters and articles marked with corrections (my blog on her 97th birthday was one such example—she felt I gave her too much credit; I don’t think so).
We heard about what Pat meant to her family and friends who gathered regularly at the family home, Wildwood near Harvel in Kent for terrific holidays. Pat believed in allowing children to be independent, but safely so, and she encouraged her children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces to read and learn, much of the time outdoors.
I spoke about Pat’s immense contribution to public paths, access and open spaces, throughout Kent and Medway, and beyond.
Her granddaughter Emma told of how, when she was very young, Pat spotted that the rabbit on her bib was the right way up for everyone except Emma and complained to the manufacturers. Emma must have been unique in having a bib with the rabbit reversed.
One of Pat’s phrases was ‘Only dead fish swim with the stream’. Pat swam against the stream all her life. Because of Pat we have paths, open spaces, safety-glass in windscreens and much, much more.
The event was accompanied by a wide range of music, reflecting Pat’s eclectic taste: Mozart’s horn concerto number 4, Blow the Wind Southerly sung by Kathleen Ferrier, Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika (The Funeral—Cry Freedom), Miss Otis Regrets sung by her great-nephew Anthony Smith, with jazz provided by Dr Jazz.
Pat would have loved it.