Following the recent death of Shirley Edrich, who lived in Wanstead for over 50 years, her daughter Carole Edrich reflects on a life of teaching, a life of learning and a life well lived
A long-time Wanstead resident, Shirley Edrich lived in Selsdon Road with her husband David and children for over 50 years. They’d walk through the Green, past Lewis Marine, visit Matthews the Chemist, Vanes the Stationers, Rollys, Dunhams the Drapers, Trevena, Woolworths, the Garden Centre and the Wanstead Wool Shop, which she loved.
She once told me one of the things that attracted her to this area were the gardens and trees lining the roads, but only after moving in did she realise that none were on her road. She saw the Queen’s visit, Dunhams the Bakery change to Nice Croissant, the treeing of Felstead Road, the building of the library and Wanstead High’s science block. Having expected the motorway to be created in time to block the road and give my brother and I a safe space to play, she was bemused by Swampy’s campaign against it years later.
She taught biology and history at the Edith Cavell in Hackney, which was where she met David. She also reviewed books, was an O and A level examiner and lectured nurses on hygiene and birthing. She once said to me laughingly that, while she was qualified to do so, at the time she had no idea how it felt.
She and Dad read for Redbridge Talking Books (ponderous machines with three settings delivered weekly to the borough’s blind) and inevitably ended up coordinating it. A keen bridge player, she started at Wanstead House, press-ganged Dad into teaching and played in clubs and with local friends around the neighbourhood. This supplanted sailing at Walthamstow Reservoir but never replaced her golf. For years, she visited the homebound for chats and company, keeping up with friends in similar straits.
Deeply sensitive and too old-school to show it, with Dad she lost a part of herself. At 80, she complained her friends were getting too old to walk and hike with her, and grieved for each friend she lost. Easily 20 years older than most of them, she outlasted all but a few.
At Wanstead House and environs, she learned woodworking and carving, upholstery, crochet, art and crafts and even Italian. Later, she enjoyed local U3A events. Until her stroke two weeks before the first lockdown, she went to a West End play once a week.
She was one of a kind, got arrested for kissing her Greek fiancé on a pyramid after the war (she had given up waiting for Dad who had to telegram her money to pay for her fare home). At 90, she still harangued anyone who encroached on her property, had a near-eidetic memory and worked on her antiquarian book business well past her first stroke. The last food she enjoyed was a banana from Harveys and a pastel de nata from City Place. Other favourites were fruit tarts from Le Bakerie and strawberries from The Co-op. She will be missed.
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