Evie Bermant
  Evie Bermant

Tribute to Evie

by Aliza Bermant

If I have ever written anything in the past, it has always been with the help of Evie.

She has always been horrified at my English and has coined me as being 'A'lingual. I could never get a word in edgeways without Evie's correction - and I don't think she'll be too happy about me doing this 'wee epistle' without her.

My grammar is abominable and my English is politically incorrect, so please, Evie, if you can hear - it'll be fine if you chip in to correct me. We grew up together in the same room. Evie was always neat and tidy and I was a slob; no need to say we didn't get on too well for my mess seemed to overtake everything. I'm Balthazar - Evie was described as Pen In Hand, tidier than her sister but much noisier - jabbering all the time in a loud voice and if that wasn't bad enough, she fancied herself as something of a pianist. Whenever it was quiet, there was suddenly bh-wzng! She was at the piano. She was called Pen in Hand because she was small and black (usually blacker than she really was, for she was always half covered in ink) and was nearly always with a pen in her hand. Drawing, drawing on bits of paper, on books, on the table cloth, on the walls - in fact on any flat surface!!

With every drawing she did she always had a story to tell. One that in particular stands out in my memory was 'yamon beany' a burly bearded chap with glasses whom she said was going to be her husband. He resembled Stephen but again it could have been Dad.

At Kerem, she was friendly with Ruth Weger. They made up this crazy language, that only they understood, one word was to "Govee shuu" which meant to make up to words to a song, or prayer, when one only kneew the tune, often people would be found on Shabbat and would not know the zemiret - so they would "Govee Shuu" their way through the songs. She had a very loud voice and once, when walking through Kenwood when about four years old, a hippy man with long hair and a moustache walked by. Evie stopped in her tracks, turned and pointed at him and shouted: "Look everybody, a lady who drank havdalah wine!!

Despite her popularity she has always said she has no friends and when I would mention, "well, what about so and so," she'd say, "oh, I paid her to come." In fact, I'm sure if I was to comment about all her friends that have been turning up night after night during the Shiva, she'd say Stephen specially hired them for the evening.

She was so convincing when she told people she had no friends, one old aunt recently asked her - "Do you still have no friends?!!" She was a bit of a 'dafkanik' and she definitely wasn't a typical Hampstead Garden Suburb type. She made sure of that. She'd make sure when going to Norrice Lea she'd be wearing a favourite shmatter much to my parent's despair.

She was a real perfectionist. When she was a teacher, she spent all night re-writing her students' essays. It became a common joke if Stephen turned up without her. They'd all say, "we know, Evie's marking." But it paid off, because her class always did the best in English exams. Evie always identified with the underdog and at times it was taken to extremes. After David Irving lost his libel case, she felt sorry for him because he had no friends.

She had a gift for working with kids with funny names, 'suck deep,' 'harddick,' 'avip' and an Asian kid called 'manish tana.' She would control her disruptive kids at school by sending them on different errands like changing the colour of the chalks - so they'd miss going out to breaks.

She was a brilliant mimic, taking people off especially those with a Mancunian or Jamaican accent.

She was very adamant that she would be related to as Evie and not as the one with 'the illness.' She, despite the difficulties, was very hopeful. And when she was discharged from the Royal Free in August, the nurses told her that after she had left, she had lifted the morale of the ward.

In fact, even her consultant, who was always terribly busy, asked her to come by so she could get 'naches' at seeing Evie's improvement. Even at the last stages of her illness, she was hosting loads of guests, always the perfect hostess, even when she was confined to bed. The doctors worked overtime manning the phones so all her friends could get to talk to her.

Despite the gravity of her illness, there was always the feeling of hope and somehow we really believed that 'she'll show 'em'. Because she has at every stage till now.

Last Monday night, she was still laughing and making jokes - so it still was a shock when she passed away that night.

All this week, we've been hearing wonderful stories about Evie, we hope to carry on hearing these stories that will keep her alive for many years to come.

©Danny Bermant 2000