Mrs Miriam Cecilia Flower
1st February 1917 – 1st August 2020
This a short article taken from the eulogy given by Tim Aldiss at the funeral of Mrs Flower which took place on Monday 16th August in Great Massingham Church.
Miriam was born on February 1st 1917. She grew up in Fakenham where she had an idyllic, happy childhood as the daughter of Mr Aldiss the founder of the Aldiss stores we know today.
She told me that one of her favourite games involved funerals for her dolls. The head gardener had to dig the grave and help officiate. Thankfully the dolls were dug up and resurrected after a few days!
Miriam attended a Boarding School in Hunstanton called Reanver. She said the name of the school meant A School for Young Virgins!
Holidays were spent on Burnham Overy Point – carefree swimming and sailing and games with other young people whose families had bungalows on the beach. Skiing in the winter – all the things that privileged young ladies did in the thirties.
Miriam accompanied her mother, my grandmother, on a six-month trip to South Africa in 1937. The holiday was great success for both my grandmother and Miriam who was young and good-looking. The holiday culminated in her meeting the love of her life.
She always told us that the lucky young man, Lawrence, was reading a paper upside down in the foyer of the Victoria Falls Hotel trying to get a glimpse of her. He plucked up courage to ask my grandmother if he could take Miriam to The Falls to view them by moonlight. My innocent grandmother said yes and a budding romance started followed by many letters exchanged between Lawrence and Miriam over the next few years.
On the way home Miriam caught a bad dose of malaria but still managed to bring home a pet monkey that came to live with her in Norfolk.
Miriam then decided to join the army. She said life was pretty basic – I imagine it was after her having had such a privileged childhood. She soon became Corporal Aldiss.
In one of his letters Lawrence asked her to come out to Rhodesia to marry him. In the late 1930s Rhodesia seemed an awful long way from home and all the wonderful security she had so I can understand her reluctance to go especially with the very political concerns about Europe and Germany. Miriam then met and married John Woods and they went to live at Waterden. Farming life wasn’t easy. One Christmas she gave all her brothers, sisters and her mother Lord Leicester’s pheasants which she managed to shoot from the bathroom window!
Sadly, during her time at Waterden she learnt that Lawrence had been killed in action.
Unfortunately Miriam’s marriage to John ended in divorce and this was a sad time for her.
Happy times were just around the corner for Miriam – she met Bertie Flower and married him. They lived in Sculthorpe and Salle before finally coming to Great Massingham and settling into The Little House which was her pride and joy.
Together Miriam and Bertie created a wonderful garden and a happy life with their mutual love of Norfolk Terriers. Miriam had many friends who she loved and who loved her wherever she went. She was very fond of Reverend Rook, his wife Bar and their children. Their daughter Olivia still kept in touch with Miriam right up to Miriam’s death.
Life was good in Massingham. Miriam was always busy – being a Brown Owl, painting lessons with the Cramptons and making sure her and Bertie’s stunning garden was always ready for visitors. Bertie, Miriam and their Norfolk Terriers were happy.
Sadly, Bertie died in 2005. Miriam and her current Norfolk Terrier Pepper were supported by Jill Whitmore and Kevin Lawrence. Their support was vital to Miriam’s wellbeing at that sad time not just for what they did in the house and garden. I know Miriam always thought of them as treasured friends.
One of the many things I will miss most was that Miriam knew every one of my cousins, their children and their childrens childrens names, ages and birthdays. Miriam was an encyclopaedic mine of information regarding the family.
As a demonstration of what fun she was, when she was in the nineties she asked Jill to draw her pension from Ray at the shop. She sent a message with Jill saying that she wanted all of her pension as ‘I am going clubbing in Lynn’. A few weeks later Ray asked how the clubbing was going. Her reply ‘Can’t go anymore – I have been had up for drink driving’.
Janice Bolt comes on the scene. Miriam and Janice became very close and great friends. Lots of laughs were exchanged between them. Janice took her a full Christmas lunch every year while she was serving her own family’s up.
What a lovely surprise the village gave Miriam for her 100th birthday. All the schoolchildren came and sang Happy Birthday. A brass band came and played on a cold, dark February afternoon. Miriam observed all this from her bedroom window and was delighted.
Miriam’s quick wit was at its best when she was read the Queen’s birthday card. As whoever it was finished reading her the card Miriam, as quick as a flash, added ‘and I would have cycled over from Sandringham to see you but Phil and I have both got colds. When we are better we will come for a cup of tea’.
After her stroke, when Miriam was very frail and on a driver and before she was moved to East Bilney, Teresa and Janice managed the difficult situation between them extremely well. They were helped by District Nurses, Tapping House Hospice nurses and Doctors from Great Massingham Surgery. All of these people saw Miriam through.
Then the roof of The Little House fell in! Literally. Miriam was quickly moved to East Bilney. She went with grace and courage and settled in far better than any of us had dared to hope having always begged me to allow her to stay in her beloved home.
Her 103rd birthday on February 1st was the last time she was surrounded by all her family and friends. I know I speak for every one of her relations and friends when I say that they had great love for her.
How we shall all miss her.
At her 103rd party, she said what she always said to everybody – ‘I am a Lucky Old Woman and I’ve had a wonderful life’ and I really believe she was………….and did.
After Bertie died, Miriam lived alone in Little House and was very independent until she had a minor stroke in 2018. She moved to East Bilney Hall Nursing Home in 2019 where she celebrated her 103rd birthday on 1st February this year surrounded by family and friends.