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Tribute to Liz Clay nee Hurrell

She was cremated in Cambridge at 12:00 on Friday 30th August, and there was a Thanksgiving Service in the Church at Longstowe at 12:00 on 6th September 2013, at which the Revd. Nigel H.A. Pearson gave an address. Her son Charlie Clay followed with this Tribute:-

The master of sweet peas, roses, geranium cuttings and all things floral and green – nothing would stop mum in the pursuit of her passion, least of all some unruly wisteria.

And so a tragic and devastating accident, and she is suddenly be taken from us.  It was so quick… it would be the way many of us would wish for ourselves; but this cruelest twist of fate left no time to say goodbye – the ultimate reminder of how precious and fragile life is. 

Mum, the consummate breeder of male grandsons, was hugely enjoying life.    Halcyon days for all our boys this summer – immortal memories of mucking about with Granny – swimming, making stuff, treasure hunts, dog walks…  and low impact shunts on the Caxton Gibbet roundabout (mum’s cars wore dents like a Battle of Britain Spitfire sported Luftwaffe scores). 

And Birds and I had such similar happy child hood days – doing basically all that same stuff.  Although, let’s be honest, for those of us who knew her as children; she could be rather terrifying at times - especially with well aimed clogs (she was always deadly at 20 yards). 

On occasion Mum could get quite stressed - particularly when late for Pony Club; who remembers Boomerang, Gamble, Tippy and the psychotic Nabby with the strange wall eye? Nutty ponies being towed around Cambridgeshire behind an underpowered Volvo.  The first time I really tasted fear was when we ran out of gears on Wimpole Hill.

She gave us an incredible childhood of adventure and independence of spirit. – I do wish Nigel hadn’t brought up ‘earing-gate’ in his address.

Then there is Flo, the wife, 43 years of excellent marriage – of friendship and companionship shared with so much in common….. dogs and picking up, Norfolk and a blooming good holiday…. and still laughing at Dad’s jokes right to the very end…….   (even if the odd face may have been pulled behind his back). 

Liz was just the best person to sit to next to at a dinner party. Funny, interesting, unconventional in a conventional life.   No wonder she was always the naughty one at school.  She loved to share her hugely ironic sense of humour – and mastery of appointing nicknames to all – my personal favourite:  The late and great ‘Mr Baggaballs’.  Those of you who spent summers on the beach at Overy will remember him well.

Mum thought of herself as ‘not very bright’, but we all beg to disagree. Take her Bridge playing for example….  Oh she was so much better than she let on.  Those days spent at the table gave her a new circle of friends of like-minded quick minds.  A passion I’m sure she wished she’d taken up earlier.

It was the countryside that was perhaps her greatest love.  Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.  The seasons and the people were her great mates.  Picking up– with her black, happy (not always so) well-behaved Labradors - she had a total professionalism to her approach.   Always the most willing to go to the furthest boundary in search of a wounded bird…. and the last back.

She adored her sailing in Overy – always challenging Dad to go that little bit further out to sea…. stay out just a little bit longer before the tide turns.  Thank God for 4 HP outboard motors.  She pretended she didn’t know how to sail, but she knew that creek better than any and reveled in her role as the backseat helm.

Mum in Younger Days:  Born upstairs in a small estate cottage during the middle of the war with a longhaired dachshund under the bed.  A child hood spent galloping free across fields. A ‘bracing’ education on the North Norfolk Coast - which always sounded to me more like St Trinians meets Prisoner Cell Block H.  Back home at her beloved Newton - a super close bond forged with Sisters and a Brother pulled together by the loss of parents who also left us too early.

This last week I found myself reading a couple of letters to Dad from what must have been old boyfriends from Cambridge days – mixed feelings there…. to hear how ‘pretty and terrific fun’ she was.  High times, great friends and parties galore … and I thought it was my generation who had invented the rave.

Mum in more recent years – an integral player in the Cambridge Mafia and the ultimate committed member of the community: NADFAS, this Church, 40 years of Longstowe.  Then there was always The Red Cross book trolley, meals on wheels and folk to visit. 

A long list of commitments and friendships that seemed endless, because she was always there to help others.  Nigel also spoke of Liz as a dream friend and a great support to the many whom she helped through hard times… it’s just so sad that it takes a tragedy like this to see how very many best friends she had.  Her talent was to make talking about anything completely relaxed and easy.

So, think of those best and last times we all saw her: We celebrated her 70th Birthday twice this year; first at Newton, and then a fabulous evening of cheap wine and hectic gambling at the Henlow dogs…. everyone came home a winner!  These are special memories. 

For Mum there will be no pain or antiquity.  She had a great fear of becoming ill or infirm.  So she will never be a burden to us but always a joy.  Above all the she was the strongest of women with integrity, sympathy and a straightforward approach to life.  A life lived to full.


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