Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Carmen Angibault – funeral 3rd November 2011

Posted in Funeral for Carmen Angibault by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 11, 2011

I conducted the funeral  for Carmen Angibault on Thursday 3rd November at North East Surrey Crematorium. Carmen,whom I knew for many  years,  was a member of Battersea Labour Party , The Battersea Society, etc.  I was contacted by her god daughter Luise who  spoke fondly of Carmen  at the ceremony as well as Tony Tuck who is chair of The Battersea Society and the Wandsworth  Pensioners  Forum .

Here is Carmen’s story written by Luise.

Angela Carmen Valerino was born in Malaga, Spain, on 10th August 1926. Her mother was Spanish, her father Gibraltarian. She was the oldest of 3 and had two bothers Freddie and Steven. During the Civil War in Spain the family moved to Gibraltar to escape the fascist regime.

During the war, women and children were evacuated from Gibraltar. Carmen was initially sent to North Africa, she was only ten, however when the French surrendered she was then evacuated to London. Carmen’s father was granted compassionate leave from his work in Gibraltar to join his family in London. The Valerinos were later evacuated to the north of Ireland and once the war was over they went back to Gibraltar where the family settled. However, Carmen had fallen in love with London and so, not so many years later, at the age of 16 years of age, she took the brave step of leaving her family and Gibraltar and settling in Battersea.

It was during the troublesome years of war that Carmen realised her penchant and passion for radial Socialism.

Carmen had trained as a nurse during the final years of the war and worked hard as a nurse in London. She also carried out other menial work for extra, albeit minimal, money. During this time she met Lucien Ovide Georges Angbault, who was a waiter in a hotel, and they fell in love.

In 1967 Carmen and Lucien married. They enjoyed a passionate relationship for many years, however, finally their political differences would prove too vast to rectify and, after 20 so years of marriage, they divorced. The fact is Carmen walked the streets for days when she walked out on her husband. She would rather have done that than to have gone against her beliefs. Nevertheless, Carmen continued to wear her wedding band and honoured her husband’s memory when he died years later. North East Surrey Crematorium is where Carmen’s Lucien was cremated and his ashes laid, hence her choice, and her wishes are to have some of her ashes scattered on his grave.

About 40 years ago Henry Strapp met Carmen, while she was married to Lucien. Henry used to deliver the Workers Press around Battersea and he and Carmen formed a special bond based on Politics and setting the “World to Rights” – another one of Carmen’s favourite pastimes. As Lucien objected to her passionate Socialism, Henry would secretly deliver the paper to Carmen so her husband wouldn’t find out.

In May 1980 Henry (or Hendry as Carmen used to call him) and his wife Joanie had a daughter called Luise . As parents, they made a personal decision to ask Carmen to be Luise’s Godmother for a few reasons. Firstly as she had no immediate family of her own, she used to look out for Henry’s Italian mother Carrie, plus Henry believed that she would be the perfect role model for his daughter. And he was right. The fact was that Carmen effectively became Luise’s Grandmother, as Luise’s grandparents all had died when she was very young. Carmen however wasn’t any normal “Grandmother” type figure – she was hip and happening, she was fun and free spirited, she was full of stories and knowledge and Luise was proud to introduce her to all her close friends.

Carmen lived her life to the full. She dedicated time and passion to the Labour Party. She wrote plays, articles and poems under the name of Carmen Cortes and she was never without a book. As her dear friend Lourdes said of Carmen “she always had to have a book. Despite how many she had stacked up at home, she had to have more”.  And she adored chess. She would often have 2 or 3 games at once on the go – one on the computer, the others on boards in her flat. She would be particularly chuffed when she beat the computer, which happened quite often too.

Carmen loved to dance and to sing and she embraced life and all it’s qualities. Many of us remember her at social functions like the Battersea Society events that she often attended with Maria.

Her life was not without troubled times but she brushed all those times to one side and did not let anything stop her from going where she wanted to go or getting to where she wanted to be. She was a loyal friend, she was selfless and kind but she was strong and she didn’t suffer fools gladly as Henry commented of her.

6 years ago, Carmen’s brothers Freddie and Steven tracked Carmen down via a family friend. They had not seen their big sister since she left Gibraltar all those years ago. Carmen was very private about her life and upbringing. Carmen always spoke fondly of her “baby” brothers but it wasn’t until a few years ago that they became very close again. Freddie came over for Carmen’s 80th birthday in 2006 and again for his 70th a few years after. He was welcomed by Carmen and all her wonderful friends and became part of Carmen’s Battersea family. Unfortunately they can’t be here today but they send their love and wishes and just want to say “Angela, Rest in Peace”. They enjoyed the years they spent with you.

Carmen was a “Utopian socialist”, as Henry referred to her. She was a trade unionist and she contributed much to the struggle for human rights through her work with Amnesty. Carmen adored Battersea. She was a passionate feminist and Labour party afficionada. Carmen did not look back on the troubled times that she’d experienced along the way, but instead reflected on all the happy memories and all the special people and stories she had acquired along the way.

Carmen wrote an article in which she wrote: I have three passions in life. They are:

One; Reading. Because if able to read, learning is nearly always possible.

Two; listening to music.

Three; sharing a meal with friends and talking and listening.

I think that says it all. RIP Carmen. The world is a better place for having had you in it.

This is from Sarah Rackham who runs the Katherine Low Settlement. Carmen was an enthusiastic member of the Gold and Silver Players Drama Group at KLS. As many of you know she was a great friend of Alice Taylors and they made a formidable team of radical activists. The Battersea Singers had a song entitled ‘Born and bred in Battersea ‘ and Carmen had re written it for Alice and used to get the older members singing it several times.

Sarah mentions her amazing sense of injustice her involvement with the older people’s Battersea Park School project with prisoners entitled ‘safe ground , common ground’.

Carmen was much loved by her drama group and the members of the contact club.

Here is an anecdote from Penny- Only a few years ago, I was asked to look after a Visiting Academic at Royal Holloway College, who was a shy but very handsome young Italian, studying modern British politics. Wondering how to amuse him, I invited him to a social event at the Tucks. I need not have worried. I introduced him to Carmen, who announced loudly: ‘Oh but you’re absolutely gorgeous’ – appealing equally loudly to me to confirm that she was right. I was bound to admit that she was. Within moments, he was sitting next to her on the sofa, where he remained for the rest of the evening. They were gently cuddling and talking in a rapid cross-fire of Italian and Spanish. At the end of the evening, as we took him home, he said in a dazed tone: ‘I had no idea that local politics in Battersea were so … fascinating’.

Penny refers to her friendship with Alice and how the two of them could produce together ‘a loud, lengthy and lascivious cackle like no other’.

Henry Strapp said of her “She gets under your skin”.

We all returned to La Movida for delicious tapas buffet and were joined by some members of the Gold and Silver Drama group.

As usual after a funeral that I take people jokingly say they want to book me for theirs. I reply that I can’t take firm bookings until time and place are confirmed and that even then there is a possibility I might be on holiday! Because they were people I knew they did not say ‘ No offence , but I hope I don’t see you again for a very long time’ . To some people I am the GRIM REAPER.

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