Last Drinks, Please

My blog has been so inactive that this will probably come as no surprise to anyone else, but I’ve been deliberating, delaying and so on for months… I have decided, reluctantly but I hope sensibly, to close down my blog in a few weeks’ time.

I have been trying not to think about this for ages. It is all part of the painful process of decluttering, downsizing, winding down that happens, if one is lucky enough to live long enough to have to face it.

But even more significant for me was John’s death in September 2020. He was always so supportive of themarionfsblog, so encouraging and of course my chief (and only) photographer. Of course I can’t blame John – or his absence – for my lack of spark, but merely acknowledge how important he was for me.

Before you start thinking what a miserable old soul I must be, I am actually coping pretty well, thanks to my lovely family, and friends near and far. I have only recently returned from a most wonderful seven weeks’ holiday in Australia (with a few days in Singapore en route) with Sara and Derek, and grandson Tom who is now a fine young man of 18 and planning to go to Sydney University next year.

Nearer to home is Ruth in London whose flat I more or less ‘use as a hotel’ – as parents were wont to complain of their young, perhaps rather than their mother. And of course, still in London but not quite just as convenient for St Pancras, are Sam and Nick, and their two absolute darlings, Nell (5) and Frank (nearly 14 months).

Meals, walks, bridge (still no improvement), trips and family holidays fill my time, plus – less attractively – taking stuff to charity shops or the tip, going through countless old files, diaries, photographs and what feels like tearing up my life. And taking the decision to close down my blog…

The Marionfsblog is Alive and Well!

Even if rather silently so…

Well, I really am still here, and sorry I haven’t been very obviously alive. When I think about doing a blog post, there are so many things to say it is difficult to know where to start. So it’s only too easy to tackle something else that needs doing (in my defence, there is still a lot!).

But at last, here I am. In the nearly 18 months since John died (a close friend warns me it will be at least three years before one feels ‘normal’ again!) I have come to appreciate many things that I previously took for granted. One big thing is that as a couple, one is more than simply two people coexisting.

John was always very supportive and encouraging, and ages ago he would have been reminding me about writing another blog post, and probably offering up some photos if that would help…

So with only me to remind myself, anyway, here goes and it’s not instantly cheerful! We’re all just emerging from Storm Eunice, with more bad weather to come apparently. We are also tentatively emerging from nearly two years of Covid-19 restrictions, sadness and gloom. Newspapers are hardly cheery, with depressing headlines about global warming, Russia’s threats to Ukraine, enormous hikes to the cost of living.

However, closer to home, there is much to enjoy and be thankful for. And the big family news is the safe arrival on January 23rd – after a difficult birth – of Frank Johnny Jack, a son to Sam and Nick! Sam and Frank had to stay in hospital for a week, so poor Nick was shuttling between hospital and home, where big sister, Nell, aged 4 ½, was. Her aunt Ruthie fortunately had been able to ‘babysit’ Nell for the week – but neither was able to visit Sam and Frank in hospital and nor was I or his other granny.

I have since seen him twice. What a real, deep joy!

Meanwhile, since John’s death the support of family and some very very good friends – and neighbours – has been a real life-saver, as has WhatsUp, Zoom and online bridge (I seem to get steadily worse but we’ll gloss over that and my friends don’t see to mind too much…).

As I end, great fat fluffy snowflakes are fluttering steadily down. Eunice hasn’t finished yet!

And I’ll be back soon.

56 Years Ago Today…

On July 10th 1965 John and I were married. Such a happy day. Many of our guests stayed with local friends in the village and nearby. The tiny local church of All Hallows, in Ringmore, South Devon, was packed to bursting. It was a joyous family/village occasion.

The only thing that didn’t go quite to plan was the fact that overnight we had the first rain after a three-week heatwave. Barnford, our family home, was opposite a farm which brought its cows in for milking twice a day. The hard-packed manure on the lane between Barnford and the church turned overnight into a very perilous slime. All morning every fit male guest staying locally was to be seen in morning suit and wellies, wielding hoes and shovels and any manure-clearing instrument to be found, trying to clear the road. Not totally successfully…

Photos of my father which should have portrayed gleaming pride, show instead a very determined and anxious man leading a very nervous bride to the church over what in effect was a skating rink. We arrived safely but my poor Uncle Kim did not, so the flowers in the church were definitely no match for farmyard smell. Selfishly I was relieved it wasn’t me in my wedding dress!

After the service everyone walked through the faint drizzle to the reception, which was in a marquee in the Barnford paddock. Friends from all over – including Ireland, Northern Rhodesia and Somaliland – had come and it was all very jolly.

Except after what seemed a very short time the MC insisted we left early as was the style in those days. We were packed off to the Clarence Hotel in Exeter (now sadly no longer). Everyone else stayed on for a party which lasted into the night and was reminisced over for many many years, leaving John and me feel rather out of the story.

What a lot has happened since then. After a honeymoon in what was then Yugoslavia we set sail for three years in India. After that we did such a lot. Inevitably we had our trials and our triumphs over the years, created wonderful memories, met and made some wonderful lasting really good friends and had our three children which I feel must be our greatest achievement!

As you all know, John died last September. This September his ashes are to be buried in the Ringmore churchyard where my parents already are and where I shall eventually be.

Meanwhile, today is the first time I have spent the 10th July without him. It does feel very deeply sad but i have so much to be grateful for, and such wonderfully supportive family and friends. Thanks to them/you all I am managing quite well. So instead of looking back and grieving for what I have lost, most of the time I can look forward, thankful always for the love and happiness we did enjoy together for nearly 60 years.

By the way, sorry about the photo.It was a photo of a photo of a photo… (Gone are the days when i could just ask John to produce one.)

Remembering John Today

November 27th…

For many years this has been a special day in the F-S/Hall/Cragg world.

Today would have been John’s 81st birthday. John loved birthdays, as many of you will remember: presents and happy gatherings meant such a lot to him and he was quite charmingly shameless enjoying his own quite as much as anyone else’s.

Continue reading Remembering John Today

John F-S Update and Thanks

Raising a glass to John 8pm Thursday 8th October 2020

There’s not much to be cheerful about these days. Covid-19 strengthens its grip – Tier 2 for Derbyshire Dales as from last Saturday night, lockdown from today Thursday 5th November, winter approaches and the days ae getting shorter… and as far as John’s immediate family and friends are concerned, the gap he leaves seems to get wider.

Continue reading John F-S Update and Thanks


I’m afraid I have some very sad news. After several months of acute pain and ill-health met with great fortitude and dignity, John slipped away very peacefully on Saturday 19th September 2020.

He had been suffering from Discitis, an infection of a disc in his spine. He received wonderful care from everyone on Elmton Ward, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, and we kept thinking and hoping he might be turning the corner, but sadly it was not to be.

I am writing this in great haste with no time to tell you more. I will later.

There’ll be a Cremation Service at Chesterfield Crematorium at 10am on Thursday 8th October 2020 to which we can invite in theory a maximum of 30 people. It means, practically, more like about 10 or 12 and no legal opportunity afterwards to celebrate together the passing of a great friend and family man.

With all the increasing Covid restrictions it is proving very difficult to arange the kind of send off we would’ve wished for John, a man who had had a very full and interesting life with very many friends, colleagues and ex-pupils.

No singing, canned music…The only compensation is that the service will be streamed so that anyone unable (or perforce uninvited) to attend will be able to watch the service. We don’t yet have the link but when we have, if anyone would like me to send it to them please send an email to

There will be a notice tomorrow, Saturday 26th September, in both the Times and the Telegraph, thanks to the Old Bramcotian Society who have submitted it on our behalf.

And I will write more later when I have more time. Meanwhile, here is goodbye from him…

Farewell from John

Coping Under Lockdown

Almost exactly four years ago, April 15th 2016, we moved into Crown Cottage, here in Winster. It was the 14th house we had viewed, and the first that we had both been completely smitten with, and possibly in many ways the least suitable for a couple approaching old age. Heart ruled the head, and how happy we are that it did…

Continue reading Coping Under Lockdown