Last night my beautiful sister-in-law - my husband's sister Jenny - died. She was just about the same age as I - a few months younger in fact. She has been very ill for some time now and so In many ways it was a relief to all around her to know that her suffering is now over. But that does not mean that there is not now a great big hole in her sons' lives, her brother's and in the lives of many others too. I know of several, including my own two sons, who I suspect saw her as a substitute mother whilst they lived in England all those years ago. A beloved aunt anyway and one in whom they could confide without all the inhibitions of confiding in one's own mother.
I can't quite remember my first meeting with Jenny but I know I was nervous. I was well aware that she was important to David, and therefore her opinion of myself was also important. But I needn't have worried of course, because Jenny had a natural openness and, I suspect would probably have welcomed anyone into the Dearman clan.
As with everyone her life had its ups and downs. Some of them dramatic, some less so. Some heart-wrenching, some just annoying and frustrating. But always she had her three wonderful sons nearby, and they will now be keenly feeling her loss.
She and her family remained in England and so we did not see her that often, but every now and then we met up with her in France. Initially with husband Bruce. I still remember them arriving with a car load - well it seemed like a carload - of Welsh mineral water, which caused us huge amusement considering that France is a major producer and consumer of mineral water. They loved France and camped there almost every year with their boys and yet like many British people back then they spoke not a word of French. And then there is the famous story of her trying to buy grapes in the hypermarket somewhere and when told by her budget conscious brother that they were not in season and were therefore expensive (and imported) she seemed not to understand the concept of 'in season'. But you could tease Jenny and she did not mind.
After her husband Bruce's death she threw herself into work and almost became a workaholic. She worked so hard in fact, that on one holiday in France in a remote Southern French village in the alpine foothills, she spent so much time on her mobile phone on work-related business that I could not resist taking this photo (and a couple more besides). Her working life was spent in the advertising and PR worlds and she was ideally suited to it I think. I'm sure that all of her clients loved her - she was so open and friendly not to mention efficient and effective.
Jenny was not a great cook. She wasn't a bad cook either, but I don't think it was her thing. After Bruce's death and when her boys had left home, I think she became a bit of a workaholic, and probably existed on TV dinners and salads. She ate a lot of salads and fruit. In the last few years she has been dogged by ill health and had a restricted diet. And yet it was she who taught me how to make chocolate mousse. So I would like to remember her with the recipe - below, and with the joyous picture of my two grandsons making chocolate mousse via Zoom in lockdown. Their joy matches the joy that Jenny induced in those around her.
Chocolate mousse à la Jenny - for 4
100g chocolate 2 dessertspoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
juice of half an orange
2 dessertspoons cream
Put some water in a small saucepan - not very deep - and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Into a bowl that will fit in the top of the saucepan without touching the water underneath, grate the chocolate. Add the sugar and egg yolks.
Put the bowl over the simmering water and beat the chocolate, sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Remove from the bowl and cool slightly. Add the cream and orange juice and stir to combine. Beat the egg whites until stiff. When the chocolate mixture is quite cold, fold in the egg whites - best done with a spatula or a large metal spoon. Pour into glasses, or bowls or cups and chill in the fridge until set. Serve with cream and/or biscuits.
And I should also say that she was a loyal reader of this blog and I thank her for that. I shall miss her.