22nd May 1913 – 21st December 2003
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES BY STANLEY ROSS
This village will not seem the same without Geoffrey in it. He was a man of great charm, and boundless hospitality: a man of the most impeccable manners. He had already been at Common House about twenty years, when Jackie and I moved into Oak Tree Cottage in 1970.
Although we have always loved our own old house, Common House to me is absolutely superb, the most beautiful building in a village full of lovely buildings. I once said to Geoffrey, ” if you ever decide you want to sell, please let me be the first to know “. His reply, which I was to hear many times over the years, was “Dear boy, I promise you this, I am not going to leave this house until they carry me out in a box”. That is how he wanted it, and he did just that. Geoffrey died virtually fifty-three years, to the very day, after he moved in.
Common House became for us, and I suspect for others too, a home from home. In those good old days, when we were all over thirty years younger, Geoffrey (already married three times) used to say to Jackie, more than once, and somewhat speculatively I thought, ” You know Jackie I have always fancied being married four times “. I somehow think there may be others who also heard those words.
For above all, being with Geoffrey was always fun. Common House was a place where we were always made to so welcome, where the dinner parties in that magnificent dining room were legendary, where the food was outstanding, and the wines from Geoffrey’s amazing cellar inevitably superb. Where shall we ever enjoy the like of those dinners again?
Geoffrey in the old days was very active. He loved to hunt and he loved to ride and it was about twenty years ago that he had a riding accident and broke his neck. For months he lay in hospital with huge weights attached to his head to keep it straight. Quite a few of his friends (usually female) would smuggle whisky in to him hiding it under the covers.
Eventually he recovered and came out knowing not only that he would never ride again, but he would have to cope with walking and sight difficulties. This stopped his driving for ever and it meant that inevitably he became far more dependant on Jean. A proud man, this did not sit at all well with Geoffrey and, as the years progressed, their subsequent fights were often wondrous to behold. Some time ago I portrayed them in ‘Under Dunsfold Wood’ as follows:
Midmorning Mrs Newmark, in Common House,
Takes up an early whisky to Mr Newmark.
She whispers to herself on the stairs,
“Here’s your arsenic dear,
and your nice weedkiller biscuit,
I’ve poured your best wines down the sink,
I’ve flooded your cellar,
I’ve dug up your precious roses
And I’ve put your house up for sale”.
She enters the room and says, sweet as a razor
here’s your nice whisky dear”.
Geoffrey takes the whisky,
Smiles gently at his wife,
Puts his chin to his chest,
And longs for youth.
All that was ten years ago, ten years during which time Geoffrey gradually went further and further downhill; Jean, inevitably taking more and more of the burden. At the end of the day it was Jean, and Jean alone, who fought so long and so steadfastly to keep him alive. Geoffrey once confirmed to me he knew this was so.
He was a man of courage and of very simple faith and in the days before he died he said to us in his bedroom “I am going to see my sons on Thursday, and then I shall be ready to go”. He did just that, for on the Sunday he died. Death is coming to us all and I hope when my time comes I can as bravely, as gradually, and as calmly settle into that oblivion as Geoffrey has now done.
He was an example to us all: a true gentleman.