v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024


Having just googled YWCA, I now realise that it's a far more complex organisation than I'd imagined, with many and varied historical roots (and the same is probably true of the YMCA). But in the sense that features briefly in this narrative, it functioned as a safe and inexpensive place for single women to stay whilst travelling, or if temporarily homeless for domestic reasons.

As with so many of us, of course, my brain tends to be unretentive when tired, and although Jane returned to this particular event (and its consequences) a good few times in her late-night telephone caIls, I never got a grip on all its aspects, and the notes I made didn't get filed systematically.

After her father's death in 1952, and her sister Frances' departure to work abroad, Jane and her mother Hannah (always known simply as Grannie) were left as the sole occupants of Elm Lodge, the largeish family bungalow just off Apuldram Lane, then a winding little road leading from Fishbourne towards Bosham and the Witterings. Jane cycled off each day to County Hall in Chichester, where she had an unexciting clerical job with the West Sussex County Council, and Grannie gradually reorganised the household which had for so long been focussed on her terminally-ill husband's nursing needs.

At some point in the ensuing year or two, a crisis erupted elsewhere in the family (Edinburgh, possibly) and the call went out, could Hannah help? So off went Grannie, none too strong herself but indomitable as always, for an unpredictable period of time, quite possibly months.

Jane was now left by herself, on her own in a four-bedroomed bungalow, with no neighbours, and no company except the cat and the 9 o'clock news-reader on the BBC wireless Home Service each evening. So she decided to go down to the YWCA in Chichester, chat to some of the people staying there, and maybe find somebody congenial of her own age and background to come and stay at Elm Lodge. And the person she found, ideal in all respects, was Valerie, about whom I can tell you considerably more when I've found my notes.

And so Valerie moved into one of the spare rooms – on a temporary basis, of course, but both she and Jane probably hoped that when Grannie returned the arrangement could be made more permanent. When that day arrived, however, Grannie wasn't actually terribly pleased at all. I've had my own experience of such arrangements, and wasn't terribly pleased either, so I sympathise to an extent!

Things muddled along for a while, and then came to a head over a pair of brass candlesticks, about whose provenance Valerie (who was knowledgeable about antiques) inadvertently made an incautious remark, saying that she didn't think they were actually Middle Gothic, or whatever. That was the final straw, and the arrangement had to be curtailed.

But fortunately the connection with Valerie continued, and in due course with her daughter Jennifer (of whom Jane was godmother), who wrote regularly to Jane ever after – and I can relate more about all that in due course.