A Tribute to Anthea Busk by Camilla Geffen
Gilbert and Sullivan once wrote “Is life a boon? If so it must befall that death when ere he call must call too soon”. Anthea believed that all of her life was a boon. Everything good and happy came her way with, she thought, apparently little effort from herself – but this disguised her innate modesty her wonderful charm and amazingly wide range of skills.
Anthea had charming and loving parents and a very happy childhood with three super elder sisters. The four sisters made their own fun in spite of a terrible war raging during her formative years. Educated by PNEU (Parents National Education Union) governesses, evacuated to a PNEU school in Scotland to avoid the worst of the bombing she returned to England to finish her education and briefly became a secretary before, at the age of 22, she married Martin.
Anthea started her wonderful happy marriage (which was to last 60 years) as an army wife in Detmold Germany. She loved the life and was initially quite sad when Martin decided he would rather go into the City but soon acclimatized to a happy life in London, to Walnut Cottage in Houghton and to travelling the world accompanying Martin on business trips to Europe, Asia, America and a long and hugely enjoyed stint in Australia where they returned annually until very recently.
Anthea created beauty everywhere and when Martin inherited Houghton in 1977 Anthea found a house stuck in the 1950s which she set about transforming little by little with her immense artistic and practical flair; modernising kitchens, an old bathroom being divided (into 3 bathrooms!) – the front door being put back in its original place, the Music Room renovated and the Victorian porch being taken off – ably abetted by the tree that conveniently fell down on the house in 1990!
As a good churchwoman there was much to do with the Church in those days too with the Spire appeal and the renewal of the organ, raising money for Marie Curie and the Red Cross and even hassocks to embroider. Then came Daniel and Camilla’s weddings and the happy arrival of 5 Grandsons and one Granddaughter, all christened in All Saints Church with water taken from the river and of course the saddest point – Grandson Edward’s death aged 8 in the year 2000.
In the last few years Anthea put a lot of thought and work in to the garden, renovating the hydropnicum, relishing the orchid house, organising the new pond, adopting the Alpacas, replanting the herb garden, opening the house – and giving a little garden glimpse of heaven to those who visited. Anthea regarded anyone coming to the garden as her guest and to Martin’s indulgent despair this meant they had to have the best homemade cakes and people had to be allowed to judge what they thought of as a slice! In vain the family reminded her that this was supposed to be a commercial venture! Even the dogs were provided with their own biscuits and the birds fed all year round. Yet run on an honesty box basis, the garden has been a huge success; everyone loves being trusted and adored Anthea’s quirky comments.
A happy part of Anthea and Martin’s summer day was relaxing over tea and cake in the tea room and reading the wonderful feedback from visitors – Anthea’s favourite comments were those from children who had enjoyed the puffing dragon (she formed this out of a bush one afternoon with Grandson Oliver when he was about 3) and those who said they had brought their troubles to the garden and gone away soothed and refreshed.
A wonderful hostess to everyone – (one could put her next to anyone and find they both hugely enjoyed the experience) – she could paint (beautiful detailed watercolours of wild flowers and butterflies). She could sing wonderfully (she once surprised and delighted an HMV shop assistant by singing a song that she wanted to buy but had forgotten the title of – it turned out to be ‘Stand by Me)’. She could act, she had amazing handwriting, a beautiful smile and a wonderful laugh – always current with world news and so elegant with the latest fashions – I am, I know, struggling to do justice to her. She brought light, love, laughter and real joie de vivre to us all. How we miss her.