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Eulogy, by Nick Hoult

Alexandra was born on February 1 1947 in Glasgow and she spent a happy childhood living in the city with her parents Peggy and Alex and sister Claire. Alexandra often said that Peggy was the perfect role model as a mother and homemaker. Peggy also helped to nurture Alexandra’s love of music.

She was a talented chorister and a member of the famous Glasgow Orpheus choir but sadly the musical talent has so far skipped the generations. Alexandra was told she could only remain in the school choir if she agreed to mime.

Her father Alex was a joiner and exceptional craftsman. The toys he made for Alastair have survived the test of time and the rigours of being played with by a succession of young children. Abigail has her eye on them already and is looking forward to their dents and scratches.

Alex was a keen gardener and it was through helping her father on his allotment that Alexandra’s interest in gardening was born. It was to become a lifelong passion and her dream, which was ultimately unfulfilled, was to build a garden from scratch. It was with that in mind that early in her marriage to John that Alexandra opened a savings account for her garden project, a hedge fund of sorts I suppose.

It speaks volumes of her generous spirit that she eventually gave the money to John to pay for his trip around the Himalayas. It takes a special person to derive as much pleasure from helping someone else fulfil their dream even when it is partially at the expense of their own.

Alexandra’s favourite garden was Crathes in Aberdeenshire and it was her love of Scotland and her Scottish heritage that was manifest in her personality and identity. She was proud of her Scottish roots and was particularly fond of the poetry of Robert Burns and spending family holidays in the western Isles.

Ah the family holidays. Over the past 10 years I have heard a lot about the Davies family holidays with stories told from two different sides. On one hand we have the carefree adventurous spirit that oozes from every pore of John’s body. Off he would trot with a child under each arm to scale some misty Scottish mountain laughing in the face of any potential danger.

On the other side we have Alexandra, the constant source of sensible caution and motherly concern. Often it was the case that many years later we would be sat around the kitchen table in Woodford when Alastair would relate some hairy expedition with John that both of them had forgotten had been kept secret from Alexandra at the time. “You did what”, she would say. But secretly I knew she was immensely proud of the way John taught his children to love life and not be afraid of the unknown.

Alexandra and John lived in Haworth in Yorkshire for 11 years before moving in 1979 to London. It could be said that in some ways Alexandra led a simple life. She only lived in three houses and married her first boyfriend – she met at the age of 17. But we all know the bare facts can often paint an unrepresentative picture.

Her wisdom, her compassion and her ability to help others solve problems in their personal and professional lives was exceptional. Many of us here today, friends, family and colleagues, will tell of the value of the advice she gave. Secret was her ability to listen to what others were saying and look beyond the words. Her children, her friends, her colleagues were all dipping into this well of knowledge up until the very end.

Alexandra was a strong believer in equality and worked to educate others to counter all forms of discrimination whether racial or sexual. She drew attention to and denounced the attributes she hated such as greed, unfairness and hypocrisy.

It was her skills of communication and dedication that helped her build a successful career in later life. After taking a break from teaching to raise the family she returned to work in adult education, a field she found very satisfying.

She became a department head at Southwark College and was responsible for the Queens Road Centre, a building she was particularly proud of as this was the building which had been the home of the 1930s social project, the Peckham Experiment.

She took early retirement from Southwark College and worked independently in the field of dyslexia awareness. She established courses in training lecturers how to help adults with such difficulties. After years of supporting John in a business career that took him around the world, it was Alexandra’s turn to hit the road. Trips teaching and lecturing around Europe followed.

In 2004 she was successfully treated for breast cancer and was in fine health for the weddings of Alastair and Grainne, and Catriona and myself. She also caught the travel bug. She spent two weeks independently travelling on trains around India and enjoyed a magnificent holiday to New Zealand with John where she climbed the Franz Josef Glacier and swam in the Tasman Sea.

Sadly secondary cancers were discovered last year and Alexandra knew the diagnosis was bleak. But despite the pain and discomfort from the cancer, and her treatment, she was still able to dispense wise advice, forget her own troubles in order to help others, while still cooking up some magnificent meals to continue her love of entertaining at home.

The birth of her first grandchild, Abigail Alexandra, in January of this year gave her a renewed vigour and the months they spent together were special times for all the family.

Watching the two bond was a privilege and one of the saddest aspects of her passing is that Abigail will miss out on many happy years with a wonderful grandmother. It is down to Catriona and I to ensure that the memory of the times Alexandra and Abigail spent together live on. It is one we will be honoured to carry out.

Before I finish I want to end with a few words composed by some of the people in the room today and posted on Alexandra’s memorial website.

This is from Fiona and the girls : Alexandra your wisdom and understanding will continue to encourage. Your positive outlook, appreciation of life and love for those around you will always inspire.
And this a tribute of a different kind : I remember Alexandra’s mini-mini skirts in the ‘mini days’ and Mum being aghast at their length (or lack of). I was secretly impressed and thought they were wonderful and kept trying to hitch mine up that little bit further!
And finally the last word : Alexandra: So much a woman, so little time.