Commemorating the Life of Sue Tansey

(27 July 1941 – 19 December 2017).

Sue helped many people as a wise and empathetic counsellor, enthused many students with a love of literature and the humanities, and in turn was loved as a wife, mother, grannie and good friend.

Sue died at Forest Holme Hospice, Poole, eighteen months after being diagnosed with Oesophagal Cancer. The immediate cause of death being Pneumonia.

Born Susan Penelope Rider in Marston Green, Birmingham, the big sister of Denise and daughter of Frederick and Vera Rider, the family soon moved to Barr Common near Walsall. Her best memories of this time centre upon riding the pony kept in the fields at the back of their home. In retirement she returned to riding – especially enjoying riding 'Whisky' around Studland Heath.

Bright from the start, Sue won a scholarship to King Edward VI School for Girls, Birmingham, which has one of the best academic records in the country. She passed 'O', 'A' & 'S' levels with flying colours and was awarded a State Scholarship to read English at Exeter University. There gained an Upper Second – which would have been a First had she not been ill during Finals.

At Exeter Sue met Stephen Tansey where they both were active in the newly formed Heretics Society and in the Liberal Club. At 22 they began 52 years of married life with a honeymoon on a student flight to Italy in the smallest imaginable tent. Returning from Venice , Rome and Florence, Sue had £4 in her account, Steve was £4 overdrawn!

Steve had missd a job interview whilst on honeymoon, but was still offered and accepted a post at the University of Ife in Nigeria. Sue was planning to study Librianship at the Ibadan Library School, but to her surpise, found herself on the timetable of Ife's English Department where she lectured very successfully for the next three years.

In Nigeria Sue and Steve began their own family. Paul Simon Bamidele came first – his second middle name meaning 'Follow Me Home' in Yoruba. Christopher Stephen Ayodeji followed – his Yoruba name signifying 'Our Joy is Doubled'. On return to the UK to Poole, where Steve worked at what eventually became Bournemouth University, a third son – Gareth John Duncan completed the family.

Sue juggled motherhood with teaching Englsh, at first part-time for the tech, then full-time for Uplands School where she later was appointed Head of Department, enthusing many of her pupils with a love of literature. She was also, in addition, a pioneer tutor in Humanities for the then new Open University.

She moved on to volunteer for Oxfam and the Citizen's Advice Bureau where she was soon promoted to a part-time post training Advisors. Sue's natural empathy worked perfectly in such an environment. In another context on holiday on a Corfu beach she got chatting to a lady who had just lost her husband; the effect of Sue's listening ear and helpful nature meant that they stayed in touch for many years. Even when she lost her first grandchild, Alisha, at seven months she helped other grandparents in the same position as a volunteer telephone counsellor.

Sue recognised that clients seeking practical help at the CAB needed not only practical and factual help but emotional support. Supported by her manager she set out to supply counselling on CAB premises, charging the tiniest of nominal fees. She trained, both through the local college and the Open University, obtaining a First in Psychology and membership of the British Association for Counselling and the British Psychological society. At an earlier stage she had also passed several Law Society examinations, a number with Distinction. Qualifications she kept quietly and modestly to herself unless anyone needed to know.

Retirement didn't exactly slow her down, with Sue and Steve jointly being actively involved Bournemouth and Poole U3A Philosophy, Bridge, and Discover Dorset groups as well as a Poetry Group at the Ashley Cross Little Red Roaster Cafe. On her own Sue also was involved in a U3A Poetry Group and joined a Philosophy of Human Behaviour class as a student, but was soon prevailed upon to become joint Leader of the class.

Sue achieved a lot in her life, she inspired others. She travelled to exotic places such as Nigeria, Egypt, India and on safari in Kenya watched from a balloon, as herds crossed the Mara River intercepted by crocodiles. But her greatest achievement, pleasure and pride was her family.

Her three boys welcomed Tanith, Carol and Karen into the family and Sue became Granny to Jonathan, Michael, Sam, Alisha, Emma, Freya and Jake. With grandchildren growing up and Hannah, Kirsty and Marta joining the fold, the sadness of of Sue's loss is a bitter-sweet time with the arrivals of two great-grandsons in the past month. Edward and Jason are proof and comfort of the circle of life, and are here because Sue was there.

Most of the items here were spoken at her funeral on 23rd. December 2017 at Poole Crematorium. This introduction is an edited version of the funeral address by Independent Celebrant, Rob Hazell.

Some memories of Sue from her sons and some of her friends are to be found here.

 

Speech for Mum

What can I say about the woman who brought me, Chris and Harry into the world?

She never talked much about her life before Dad. I think it was fleetingly happy but not entirely so. I think she blossomed when she left home and went to University.

On leaving University Mum was told by her University Professor that she could be anything she wanted to be. That’s about as big a compliment as they give. It sums up an extraordinary woman.

Mum was the clever, independent, strong-willed and beautiful woman who totally and utterly stole my father’s heart. I discovered recently that Dad told Mum he was going to propose to her after 2 weeks of meeting her – an introduction made by Alan Briar who is here with us today.

Look around you Alan, must of us wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t introduced these two. Good work.

Eventually after an extended courtship of 6 weeks, Dad did propose and in doing so began a patient, lifelong act of love and devotion the like of which few will ever experience.

When they graduated, they travelled to Nigeria together as teachers they lived in some exotic sounding places before accidently starting a family in one of them.

I was the consequence of reckless abandon of two young people in love and I kind of like that.

Obviously there was much, ongoing reckless abandonment because soon there were three of us.

We grew up as the family with cool parents and cats. Always cats. Siamese ones, tabby ones, black ones, ginger ones and in the end even lots of wooden ones. Mum loved them all.

The reason many of our friends are here today is that it was cool to be at our house. Mum and Dad imposed very few rules and although Mum never fussed over little things but she had a very clear sense of where moral north was on the compass and it was never a good idea to venture too far south, I occasionally discovered…

Mum could be fierce if you did.

If you knew my Mum at all you didn’t take liberties with her. She was a very strong person who was a black belt in all forms of spoken combat.

Her massive intellect and humbling linguistic skills made her an awesome force and she could be intimidating or inspirational depending on which moral compass bearing you were headed at the time.

This made her a powerful and hugely protective ally. It also made her an inspiring person and an inspiring teacher.

She was a teacher at a school for teenage girls. As a teenager myself I came into contact with a few of her pupils. (In fact Boris, Rob and I tried very hard to come into contact as many of them as we could). Her pupils raved about her. It seems she was every bit as cool at being a teacher as she was at being a Mum.

Although hugely capable she was never arrogant and actually sometimes was insecure about her abilities. I remember when she decided to get qualified as a solicitor. She would fret and worry and convince herself she’d failed each exam, before relentlessly discovering that she had actually over achieved. I remember thinking that it was odd that she was the only one surprised by this. The rest of just knew that exams were designed to test ordinary people. Not people like Mum. She just blew them away.

Later she would use her skills for the benefit of others again, championing and protecting as a counsellor and Citizen’s Advice Bureau consultant and trainer.

People sought her advice on all kinds of issues – especially complicated ones – she could always be relied on to cut through the crap and tell you the truth – absolutely straight.

She wasn’t always serious though. She was witty and sometimes a bit silly. There were times growing up when we laughed a lot and she always enjoyed being entertained by a good story. She would come alive in company and it was her dry humour and astute insights that were always the things you took away from any conversation she was involved in

Mum took great pleasure in her grandchildren and recently great grandchildren.

Our own three boys Jon, Mike and Sam, Harry and Carol’s three girls Alisha, Emma and Freya and Chris and Karen’s Jake all knew a Granny that was generous and always interested in everything they had to say.

When tragedy struck, her haunting poem for her first grand daughter captured the beauty of the child and aching loss she and the rest of the family felt, perfectly.

Mum was always one half of a partnership though. Dad was my mum’s rock. Between them they made a great team and Dad made 3,700,023 cups of tea.

Tea wasn’t the only drink Mum enjoyed. She wasn’t completely without vices. Interesting people rarely are. She kept a picture on the wall that said only dull women have immaculate homes.

Mum wasn’t dull.

Dad, you guys did a great job of bringing up kids who loved you and respected you. You were always united, always there for us and your generosity has at times been staggering.

I’ll end by saying that Mum loved lots of things – not just cats - horses, literature and poetry, classical music, puzzles but most of all she loved Dad.

She definitely didn’t love football, AC/DC, Motorhead or motorbikes - but she put up with those things for us with grace - and she hated being photographed or being the centre of attention.

Mum didn’t even want a funeral.

We’re here today because Dad quite rightly insisted that there would be one. In the end though, Mum agreed and after more than 50 years of marriage, Dad finally won an argument.

I’m glad he did.

Farewell Mum, I’m glad that suffering is over, although I never once heard you complain, it was hard for us to watch.

You were much loved and admired by all of us.

Your departure will forever leave a vacuum in our lives.

 

- Paul Tansey

The Light at the Back of the Room

 

Idiosyncratic, perhaps eccentric. But understood.

A G&T or two. With a twist of dry humour, that’s good.

No airy socialite. Maybe a game of bridge this week.

Less big embrace. More gentle kiss on the cheek.

Most often right. Who’s brave enough to argue that one?

A poem for a lost summer grandchild. Now we must winter on.

An ailurophile. Purring contently.

A hippophile. Trotting gently.

A cruciverbalist. Did you solve that one?

Resolute. Yielding within reason.

Quietly proud. Fiercely protective.

Elegant and beautiful. Photographically elusive.

Bach and Beethoven. Not your sons’ heavy metal.

Bibliophile, teacher. You taught us so well.

Feminist, humanist, intellectual, philosopher.

Instilling values. Dispelling fears (but not spider).

A counsellor. Gently removing the mental cyst.

Mum. Granny. Great Granny. Loved and greatly missed.

A bright light sat behind a door. We always noticed you.

We say a fond farewell. Keep your light at the back of the room.

 

-Gareth 'Harry'

Tansey

Memories of Sue

A little over 57 years ago, two shy eighteen year old girls, one tall, one short, met outside their tutor's door at the University of Exeter. It was the beginning of a friendship which endured for all of those 57 years.

Sue and I didn't become bosom pals to begin with. Although we met for tutorials every week, we lived in different Halls of residence and so moved in different circles. And she was always more intelligent than I. But by the time we decided to share a bedsit in our fourth year, (she doing a Master's, I a PGCE) we had become fast friends.

Oh those bedsits! One of them boasted what we called 'The Victorian Architecture' a monstrous wooden edifice with pinnacles and jutting out shelves and drawers, none of which was big enough to be of any use for storage or indeed for display. Another was in a polite semi, from which boyfriends had to be firmly ejected by 10 pm (or smuggled out through the window if they overstayed their time and Mr Bunker was heard on the prowl.)

We left University, we left the country. Sue and Steve went to Nigeria, Bob and I went to Scotland. But somehow we always kept in touch, and when we were all back in England there began a series of magical summer holidays when I would come with my children to Canford Cliffs, to their huge house full of sand and lovely people. Here Sue and I annually picked up our friendship from where it had left off, drank too much gin, smoked too many cigarettes, and talked loudly until after midnight.

We thought we could write just as good romantic novels as any Mills and Boone author, and spent a happy year writing our own – a chapter each at a time, then sending that chapter to each other to continue the stories. We were too mean (or too proud) to buy the latest M&B novels, so completely misjudged what was required and our efforts were rejected.

I cancelled one summer visit. I had a mysterious illness with soaring temperatures. Undaunted, Sue travelled to Wolverhampton to look after me for a week, then, with doctor’s permission, drove me and baby Selina down to Poole to have our holiday after all.

Then came grandchildren, and time slots were jealously used travelling to them instead of going down to Poole. I moved to Wales, and wanted Sue to come and have a holiday in my lovely new home. But she had grandchildren too, and just as jealously used her time for them.

But we still kept in touch – latterly by Christmas card, onto whose small space we managed to cram a year's worth of information. Until this year, when my Christmas card came from Steve.

It has been a wonderful friendship. I have so many memories. Thank you Sue, for being Sue.

- Anne Ruffell

Sue & Hat in 1962

Sue & Hat

Memories of Susan

 

When I arrived in Exeter in September 1959 and was shown my room in Lopes Hall Susan Rider my “room-mate” – as they used to say – was already there and welcomed me.

I cannot remember what we talked about during this first encounter, but we got on well from the start. Soon it turned out that Susan (I never called her Sue then) was even able to put up with the ghastly smell of a special medical tea I had to drink because of some kidney trouble. “Yes, it is horrible, but if it helps you…” she said, and that made her a real friend and not just a room-mate.

We had our room on the first floor and therefore hadn’t got to keep the window open for latecomers in the evening. As far as I remember we never used the ground-floor windows. We were “good girls”.

I had “permission” to come back late once (at the age of 22!!), when our tutor had invited us. Susan was still awake when I turned up at about 10.30 p.m., and she liked my description of Miss Ross (the warden) coming down in her dressing-gown and with her red hair down – to show me that she would have been in bed, - if she hadn’t had to wait for me. “Lady Macbeth” we called her then. We were both doing Shakespeare at that time.

Miss Ross was a constant source of laughter and fury for us. We laughed when she informed us that the “Europeans” (!!!) did not keep the British Sunday (no pubs open on a Sunday at that time), and we were both furious when she suggested that I should move to the annexe of Lopes Hall where the “nice” girls lived. She changed her opinion of Susan though after her parents had come down in a Rolls Royce [Jaguar really -SDT].

So much for Miss Ross… But even years and years later she was still a topic of discussion when we met, and then – in the end – we always had a good laugh - after having got worked up.

I think Susan and I were diligent students interested in literature and therefore reading almost all the time; but of course we had much more down-to-earth problems, too. We decided we had to slim. So we had PLJ (Pure Lemon Juice) – not instead of breakfast but before breakfast. And there was one real luxury I remember. Although Susan’s parents seemed to have a lot of money and my mother had not

We were both always short of cash and the only thing we treated us to was – fruit-salad in one of the Exeter cafes on a Sunday afternoon (of course without cream – too expensive and fattening…). So we did go out, too… Mind you, we never missed a play or a talk on literature, and of course TWTWTW (That was the week that was) was obligatory.

Time passed with quite a bit of work (especially at exam time) and lots of fun.

When Susan did Chaucer she told me about the term of endearment – Popelot – that he used in one of his tales, if I remember correctly. I loved this word and of course I used it for Susan – but I got it wrong: Lolepot instead of Popelot. We were in fits of laughter. From then on whenever we felt like it we addressed each other as Popelot (Susan) and Lolepot (Rosemarie).

During her last two years we felt like it quite often. It was a time of very intense friendship.

The fact that we got on so well from the very start meant a lot for the enjoyment of my stay in Britain for a whole year. I came from an overcrowded German university and had lived in digs – on my own. Now I shared a room with Susan – and it was perfect.

But when my mother came with friends of ours they gave Susan the shock of her life. We had been waiting for them to arrive (they brought the car from Germany) for hours and hours, and even I – the notorious “one-cup-woman” had various cups of tea to kill the time, and there was no way of keeping track of the number of cups Susan had, it must have been hundreds. Our visitors had taken the coastal road from Dover to Exeter and arrived very late and worn out. Susan prepared fresh tea to revive them and what did they do??? They did not want any tea – unbelievable! They just wanted to go to bed in their hotel or B and B.

So, finally, the year came to its end and I had to go back to Germany. We promised to keep in touch. We had got on well from the beginning and our friendship had become more intense during the year.

I came back to England as an assistant teacher in 1962, and for half- term I had the chance to go to Exeter where Susan was in her 4th year doing a master’s degree. For a long week-end we were “re-united”.

That was the “week-end of her hat”. For some sort of event Susan had had to buy a hat and the photos in the attachment show how much fun we had with it.

After that there was a gap. – Susan met Steve and they married.

Her next letter with all the news came from Nigeria, if I am not mistaken. In due course there was a photo of little Paul. I heard about Christopher’s birth not too long afterwards, and when they were back in Britain the invitation to meet the whole family arrived. It was only some time after Gareth was born that I actually went to see her and the family in Poole.

From then on I went quite often. When the boys grew up Susan came to see me in Berlin and later Steve came as well.

Going to Poole was always a great joy for me, because there I was accepted as almost one of the growing family. We always had a jolly good time.

In Berlin Susan and later Steve met my “senior students of English” (most of them older than I am). They enjoyed these visits very much and tried hard formulating their questions, and were glad when they understood Susan’s and later Steve’s answers. They were shocked when I told them about Susan’s illness and they kept sending their good wishes as did all my other German friends who knew her. I haven’t seen them since December 14, when Sue was still alive. When I meet them again at the end of April I have to tell them …

Then there was Sue’s last visit – of course we did not know it then.

I had tripped and fallen again and broken a part of a spine. I rang and told her that I would not be able to do a lot together with her and suggested to postpone the visit. I still hear her say: “I’m not coming to see Berlin I’m coming to see you.” We had four days of talking and reading. Instead of going to museums etc we met friends of mine whom she had not met before, and I think she enjoyed that, too.

It was a very sad good-bye because on the day of her departure I did not feel well, my back was very bad and I could not take her to the airport. Somehow we were both in tears…

A year later it was to be Shakespeare again on Brownsea Island. The tickets were bought, she told me. But before I could book my flight I had another mail postponing everything because she had to see a doctor as she could no longer swallow food properly.

And then there was the diagnosis.

She was always so optimistic in her mails and ever so glad when she could tell me round about Christmas that the cancer had gone. Although this did not turn out to be true, when we rang each other for our birthdays she always sounded optimistic and her usual self – to the very last letter of November 15.

Maybe that was why her death was so unexpected for me.

Even when Steve said that it was now only a matter of time I – hopefully – interpreted “time” as “months” and I was even wondering whether I could go and see her once again.

In a letter to me Paul wrote that “losing a true friend is tough”.

It is very tough indeed.

But looking back at more than 57 years of friendship I am glad and very thankful that I had Sue as my close friend – my dear Popelot – and I miss her very much.

 

- Rosemarie Franke

www.intergage.co.uk