I was deeply shocked and saddened to learn today of my beloved stepmother’s death.
Margaret was a beautiful, stylish, courageous, witty, and generous person. She was a wonderful friend to me, a frequent travelling companion, and an inspiration. I have so many happy memories of her, and will always be grateful to her for giving my father the happiest years of his life. I’m not a big believer in the whole “soulmate” thing, but I truly believe they were meant for each other. As Margaret put it, they had a ten year honeymoon together.
She was a remarkable woman. She started flipping houses after World War II, long before it became the fashion it is now. She built up what we laughingly, but with some accuracy, called “The Empire”, renting out houses she owned in Wimbledon to tourists. She ran the business herself until just a few years ago, when she handed the reins over to her son.
She learned to drive in her forties, bought a car, and drove it home – a surprise to her first husband! Anything she set her mind to do, she did. She had more energy in her seventies than I have in my forties.
They both loved travelling, and Margaret was the ideal companion for Dad. If he was travelling on business, which was often the case, she amused herself until they met up at the end of his working day. Egypt, East Africa, even Uganda! India, Italy, Russia, France, the Czech Republic – they went everywhere together. Dad told me once they were on a bus somewhere in Africa, with the livestock and the heat and overcrowding you’d expect in this mode of travel, when the bus broke down. Margaret calmly went to sit in the shade and read her book until it was repaired – many hours later. Dad couldn’t resist pointing out that Margaret was a much better candidate than I would have been in such circumstances.
We travelled together on my annual or twice annual visits to London when Dad was still alive. Our last adventure was going to Italy in 1999, where Margaret had rented a palazzo in San Gimignano, appropriately named Villa Margherita. We went together and had a spa day at the famous Montecatini Spa, merrily getting lost on the winding mountain roads.
Margaret was the most tireless shopper I have ever met. We cut a swathe through Harrods and boot sales, Rigby & Peller and second hand shops in the King’s Road. I still use the bag she bought me in the King’s Road – it has been with me as far as Russia and as close as my sister’s house. It holds enough clothes for two weeks in Europe, but still fits in the overhead bin. Just one of Margaret’s many bargains.
She was always beautifully dressed, and had great personal style. My father always appreciated her elegance and beauty. They used to change for dinner every night, ready to spend the evening together after a busy day working.
Margaret welcomed Dad’s children and his aging dog with open arms and open heart. We were all lucky to know her and love her, and to be loved by her. I hope there really is an afterlife and Dad, Margaret and Jesse James the Outlaw Dog are united once again.