My parents had met Anne and her husband on the ferry between France and the UK, I think. They had started a conversation and eventually exchanged their details and invitations to visit.
That's how I came to first meet Anne, whose name I shared. I can't remember what pushed me to accompany my parents on this trip and stay with perfect strangers...
The house had the romantic name of Abbey cottage so maybe I fancied myself as a French Jane Austen's character, travelling abroad with elderly relatives (my parents will kill me for saying that!)!
The house was lovely, cosy, perfect. I found there a haven of peace I had not known I needed, and a very dear friend. Anne and I quickly formed a strong connection and we wrote to each other regularly after that first visit.
When DH and I moved to England we visited Anne and her husband while we were in between lodgings, leaving a B & B to move into our rented house. The contrast was quite stark, from a warm country cottage to our empty (our belongings were stored somewhere), cold and - we discovered a bit later - flea ridden house!
After we lost our first little boy we went to Anne's again, a peaceful week that we spent reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, resting. It's so, so exhausting to be sad and grieving.
Anne had lost a child too, although later in his life. That became another link between us.
I'm so glad that Anne got to know my oldest daughter.
Anne sadly left us when I was expecting DD2. She had chronic arthritis as well as heart and circulatory problems, which didn't prevent her from smoking her cigarettes! She did it with ineffable grace, as she did everything.
She embodied a certain class of old England - English lavender, grammar school and Agatha Christie! But she was also resolutely modern, open minded and tolerant.
I've always known her with poor health, getting easily tired, doing everything slowly. She would spend nearly the whole day getting a meal ready for us, to share in the evening. She was an excellent cook and loved cooking. Her Sunday roast stays, in my eyes, unequalled.
She was soft spoken, full of mirth and humour, and extremely gentle.
We named DD1 after her, M. Anne...
This picture is not a very good one of her but it's unfortunately the only one I have, it was taken at our wedding. It's my picture for this week's theme at the Gallery : Inspirational women.