John has asked me to
give you some of my memories of Aelfthryth - we were colleagues at SCPR, now
NatCen, a social survey research institute, for around 20 years. I was a member
of the research team and Aelfthryth a member of the interviewing staff. As I was one of those who designed
questionnaires and Aelfthryth was one of those who had to implement them, we
looked at research
from different perspectives, which of
course to some extent colours my memories.
When I circulated the
news of her death to many of our ex-colleagues the remarks they made in reply
however repeatedly shared my thoughts about her.
across as a unique, wonderful and I think a truly good person. She made many
friends among those whom she worked.
however not at all a retiring wallflower and right
from the start of joining the interviewing team she made her views known about
the quality of the surveys she worked on. And although one dreaded the
inevitable pointing out at a survey briefing the very poor question that a client
had insisted on being included, all the
researchers had great respect for her and thought her invaluable at the
piloting stage of a questionnaire. Someone
also remarked how kind and helpful she had been to her when she was a new and
stopped being pencil and paper and were put onto computers, Aelfthryth
was responsible for training interviewers on how to use computers for this
purpose, many of whom had never used a computer at all. This somewhat amused me
as early on in her career I asked her to tape record some pilot tests of a
questionnaire. She replied she was quite incapable to using complicated things
like a tape-recorder! Some hidden agenda
there I thought - but maybe she really was a technophobe and this helped her to
understand how best to help those new to computing. She was certainly very
successful in this respect.
It was on
one of the surveys that I was responsible for that
we were asked by the government to get everyone involved on it to sign the
Official Secrets Act. As it was about housing, I failed to see what the
Official Secrets Act had to do with it. But no amount of protest from me cut
any ice, except that I did get an agreement that we could un-sign it at the end
of the survey. The day came when I had to tell interviewers at a briefing that
they would have to sign the OSA - the government representative was also
present at the briefing. Aelfthryth got up and said that on principle she was
not going to sign the OSA. Consternation and uproar! To my amazement the government
rushed outside, made a phone call, came back and said decision rescinded.
Relief all round.
and John retired they came to live not far
away from us. I had recently started a
Pensioner Group for ex-colleagues with the intention of producing a regular
newsletter. But my good intentions were beginning to lapse. Aelfthryth leapt
into action and joined me as editor, making sure that we never forgot to set
about getting copy in time. As a result,
I got to know and appreciate her more than ever. I admired enormously how she
dealt with the
return of her cancer and the courage she displayed.
will live on in my memory as one of the very special
people that I have known and I will miss her enormously.