As many of you will know, but some won’t Barbara Alexander passed away this week following a heart attack which sent her to the hospital at Exeter last Wednesday evening. For a while, she was on the critical list, but when I messaged her a few days ago, she was no longer considered critical and was looking forward to coming home to her family and her beloved cats. She told me her daughter Pam (of Sweet P confectionery in Bude) had been great (I was keen to pass that on) and she was looking forward to getting back to some writing. Equally, I was looking forward to visiting her.
Alas, it was not to be, and much-loved Barbara who had seen a good deal of difficulty in her life, some of which I was privileged she shared with me, died quickly – and hopefully peacefully – in hospital.
She was 81. A resident of Hanover House, I know Barbara will be deeply missed by her family and friends both here and in London from where she originated.
There is obviously lots about Barbara I don’t know, but what I do know is she was bright, articulate and intelligent, a woman of a generation never quite allowed to fulfil her potential, but she never let that stop her, maintaining a keen interest in events and local politics which might make a difference. She kept journals. We shared similar book tastes (both of us raved over Eleanor Oliphant), she came to my writing group sessions (and many other activities). She attended meetings (council, railway, and more) so was very aware of issues in Bude, and was keen for change.
A cat lover, she also enjoyed more esoteric activities. Indeed, it was Barbara who arranged for me to meet the lovely Tony Edwards, the only man remaining who had met the woman I was researching for my book, who died in Bude, Pamela Colman Smith. That was so fortuitous for my research, and I cannot thank Barbara enough for her interest and generosity in organising the meeting.
Sometimes, because she had diabetes and arthritis, Barbara could be a bit grumpy with me and others (like most of us without those conditions to be honest) – she was in pain – but when she smiled, she genuinely lit up. Barbara was thoughtful. Earlier this month, she sent me (and maybe some other women as it was around International Women’s Day) this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was very kind and made me stop and think. She didn’t have to do it, but she chose to make me smile, and she succeeded.
That, for me, I think is the essence of Barbara. Given a choice of doing and saying nothing and doing and saying something which would make a difference, she always chose the latter.
I never had Barbara down as 81 (her birthday was in January) because while her movement was becoming more difficult (she complained it was a struggle to attend morning writing group sessions as it took her a while to unstiffen) her mind was extremely sharp, and she was in many ways rather youthful. Take her wonderful hair – she liked it purple, and I liked it, too! She brightened up the day, and to hell with convention!
Pam Alexander, Barbara’s daughter said: It is quite shocking news. We will all miss her; she was a great woman. She knew this last week how much she was loved by so many and this surprised her.
Barbara, you are forever in our memories – and mine are all good.