Saturday, October 27, 2012

Elizabeth Daniels The best next door neighbor ever

It is now nearly a month since my wonderful next door neighbor Elizabeth Daniels died. I have had many wonderful next door neighbors but Elizabeth was something special and although I knew her for less than two years I shall never forget her and it was a privilege to know her even for that short time.

I only got to know her by the strangest of coincidences. Another Elizabeth, Why are all the nicest people called Elizabeth? suddenly called me after an absence of twenty years. Elizabeth Jenkins is one of the most talented artists I have ever known and used to design costumes for my opera and ballet productions. Somehow we had lost touch.

She just said "Do you remember me well I am in the house across the road". Her great friend Elizabeth Daniels, who she had known at Otago University had recently moved in and my Elizabeth J had come up to help hang the pictures. I was introduced to the kindest and most cultured women I have met in Auckland and I was so happy to gain her as my neighbor. Good neighbors are so hard to find. My house is isolated and having a good neighbor made a great difference.

Sadly Elizabeth Daniels was suffering from terminal cancer so she and I knew our time was short. She enjoyed and knew about everything I enjoyed and I took her to meet my bookbinder Peter Goodwin in his bindery. She loved it. She loved gardens and did a spectacular job on her own tiny garden. It was formality personified, trimmed hedges and regimented camillas and velvet lawn. Not a weed in sight so different from my own cottage style garden where weeds abound. I used to call her garden Versailles and mine Le Petit Trianon.

She appreciated art and is the only person when entering my drawing room for the first time asked seriously to be talked around. She is the only person who has ever shown such interest. Usually I never bother or have to force guests to show an interest.

She also lent me books One of which is  The Angel Tree which I blogged about

All to soon our friendship has come to an end. Over Christmas I became very ill with B12 Deficiency but even though she was dying Elizabeth took time to visit me in hospital. She spent a happy ten days in Hawaii and then I rarely saw her. It was from my Christchurch friend that I found out she was dying. I was across the road and I did not know as Elizabeth herself never said.. 

Elizabeth Jenkins suggested I pick  a basket flowers from my and her garden for a last tribute for the children. I picked Elizabeth's bluebells and camillas and anything I could find. There was no time to use them so we put them on the tables. I knew that this was the last thing I could do. 

Listening to her funeral oration it struck me that we never really know anyone if we rely on them to tell us. I wish I had known then what I know now. Elizabeth spoke two languages French and Italian, She had studied art history at University and had been a garden designer. She spent hours in her garden and according to her children was not appreciated. They had to be dragged in and forced to looked. I know that feeling all too well. I have great difficulty getting anyone into my garden.

Elizabeth loved literature and had a degree in that too. Fortunately when asked what my favorite book was I said Marcel Proust Time Lost and Regained. She knew of them but had never read them so I leant them to her. Unbeknown to me I must have passed her literature test.

Now she is gone but I shall never forget her. She died with such dignity surrounded by her large family and I could do nothing for her. I miss her dreadfully for although I did not get to see her often I knew she was there. Why is life so cruel?

In April I filmed her at the local Anzac Day Parade. She looked so happy so here it is for posterity.

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