Lucy Cranfield – a ‘glass half-full’

I was born on 18 October 1963 in Cambridge, the youngest of five children, into a happy and lively family. My father was a doctor and my mother his devoted wife – they were an amazing team and good parents, indeed a hard act to follow.

We lived next to my father’s surgery so there was always a lot of activity, either medical on one side of his scary secretary’s door, or home life on the other. One of my best childhood memories was Christmas mornings when we used to take a tin of Quality Street to various of my father’s patients, and I was always struck by how he would chat to everyone with the same ease, respect, interest and humour, whatever their walk of life. This was clear at his funeral when I have never seen such a cocktail of people in one place. My mother is a warm, kind lady and nothing was ever too much trouble when we were growing up. She used to bake a lot to feed whole rugby, rowing or cricket teams brought home by my brothers after school, as well as entertaining friends, undergraduates, and all kinds of people, over Sunday lunches or evening suppers.

My mother had trained as a radiographer just so she could marry a doctor and her dream came true. When the Falklands War broke out, my father decided to volunteer as a doctor because there was a shortage of doctors and he felt like a change from being a GP. Although my mother was obviously worried, she would never have stopped him, saying there should be breathing space within a good marriage. I gave up a sixth form place at Haileybury College (a boarding school in Hertfordshire), so my mother should not be alone during the Falklands conflict. Those two years brought us very close. I have no regrets about this, indeed I am lucky not to have any major regrets and always try to turn negatives to positives.

It was not a Catholic family. My father had been Scottish Presbyterian. I know he tried to find belief, and had long discussions before he died with his friend Professor Owen Chadwick, the well-know theologian. I think he was afraid of what was to come. My mother had been a Quaker when evacuated to the States during the War and for some years afterwards.

My siblings were born within a few years of each other, but then I arrived some eight years later so they affectionately call me the ‘mistake’, while I call myself the ‘miracle’! I was in many ways almost an only child, because my siblings had all left home by the time I was ten. I think this explains the overwhelming sense of excitement when I went off to Exeter University at 18 to study French and Spanish.  I felt a liberation which could explain why student and then London days were lived to the full. I have always been lucky enough to have a lot of energy. Luckily it didn’t put my future husband off when introduced to me as ‘Lucy Girl About Town.’

When school encouraged us to choose a musical instrument, someone suggested the flute but that wasn’t quite noisy enough so I chose the trumpet and have never looked back. I had a short break at university when I was more into sports (tennis, squash and skiing) but since then I have played at weddings, funerals, parties and now I am lucky enough to play at St Edmund’s with the best organist around, Clare Seabrook.

During my teen years, my friend Louisa and I were the only girls to play in our local boys’ school brass band. which provided weekly fun. A few years later in 1991-1992 I played in an amateur jazz group in Seville with an English saxophonist and some Spanish friends. In those days I was braver about improvising so we played locally, and once the local flamenco guitarist had cancelled so we offered some free music.

After studying French/Spanish at Exeter university with a third year in Paris, I followed the crowd to London and seized everything on offer there for 13 years. When there was an underground strike in 1997 I bought myself some rollerblades to get to work which got my photo into the Evening Standard among others who had beaten the strike and travelled to work in different ways! Since then I still enjoy wheels and scooter around Norwich, or cycle and roller-skate locally.

Still on two wheels – in Moscow

My first job was not for me, working at Lloyds reinsurance Brokers but after a year I asked my father for some advice on how to change direction. We were drinking a good bottle of wine together at the time. He suggested combining a hobby with a job so I joined the City wine merchants, Corney & Barrow, and still do part-time wine work for a local firm. I took the Wine and Spirit Education Trust exams, I gave tastings, and – because I speak French and Spanish – met wine producers and travelled to vineyards. I took a year’s break translating at the French bank Banque Nationale de Paris, but realised the higher salary didn’t bring more happiness so luckily Corney & Barrow had me back until I met David in 1997 and a whole new chapter began…David saved me from a career! He is less outgoing than me, so we complement each other.

David at Ampleforth

Neither of my parents was Catholic but many of their friends were, so they decided to send me to St Mary’s Convent in Cambridge, run by the IBVM order, where I spent ten happy years. Sister Francesca, my French and Spanish teacher, was a big influence in my life and instrumental in my later becoming a Catholic. Also my father was GP at the Blackfriars monastery next to our house – on one occasion he was unable to go for supper with them so asked if I could go instead – this was total immersion! The monks could not have made me more welcome and this experience, as well as being at a Catholic school, French/Spanish exchanges with Catholic families and marrying David, were turning points for me in later deciding to convert when our eldest child was one.

Wedding in Cambridge, March 1998

David and I have just celebrated 20 years of marriage (March 98), adventure, fun and good fortune. He is immensely complementary to my free spirit with a level headedness and kindness which keeps the scales balanced. We are blessed with three children, Guy (19), Charlotte (16) and Benedict (14). When we got engaged (before I was a Catholic) we went up to his old school, Ampleforth, for a weekend of ‘mixed marriage advice’ With Father Richard Ffield. He asked such questions as how many children we would ideally like – David ‘two’ Lucy ‘six’, to which he replied we should perhaps compromise half way and that’s where we are lucky enough to be.

Portrait by Russian artist Marina Chulovich

I converted when Guy was one year old, and it was absolutely the right place for me. A lot of my life had been leading up to it.

David is a corporate lawyer and his job took us to Moscow from 2006-2015. Politics aside, it was such an exciting place for him to work and for us to bring up children and a privilege to have met many delightful Russians and expats. We were very happy there. The coldest we experienced was -33C when our eyelashes and eyebrows grew icicles and our nose hairs froze! The children particularly miss the Russian winters when they enjoyed all winter sports including skating, ice hockey, cross-country and downhill skiing, often sledging down the slopes of the Kremlin. We even braved the traditional ‘ice plunge’ at Epiphany which involves cutting a hole in the frozen river, submerging yourself three times and doing the sign of the cross each time you come up. The Russians believe this will bring good health for the coming year, that’s if your feet don’t get stuck to the ice when you get out, so they pass you your shoes before your towel! No wetsuits, and Vaseline is for cissies!

During our time in Russia I worked with an inspiring team for a charity called ARC (Action for Russia’s Children) which helps several children’s orphanages in and around Moscow and organizes fundraising events.

While we were there I also did some work – wine tastings for the British Embassy, and a review of the Ambassador’s cellar which had been rather neglected.

We visited wonderful towns outside Moscow, and Russian orthodox churches in and around Moscow, including the famous golden ‘onion dome’ churches of  Kolomskoe, Sergeiv Posad, Souzdal and Vladimir.

The family in Moscow

The Candlelit Easter vigil in thick snow at Novodevichy convent was an incredible sight, before entering the church at midnight, to chanting by their five-voice male choirs and pealing of bells which sound very different from ours. I was always struck by the communion of people, some of whom looked boarish but were all united by “Христос воскрес!” (Christos Voskres! – Christ is Risen!). We used to go to a French Catholic Church where the children received their first Holy Communion and we also attended many Russian Orthodox masses which last up to three hours but people tend to come and go and walk around praying to various icons.

We all speak Russian, and became integrated into life there. But things became more difficult with the imposition of sanctions in 2014. So we left. It was the right time for the children and their schooling.

The children have brought many aspects of their ‘Russian life’ home with them to England, for example our daughter plays the balalaika, our eldest son plays ice hockey for Imperial College London and our youngest ice skates whenever he can. The Russian period of our life definitely consolidated my Catholic faith and St Edmund’s Bungay continues to do so, as it does for the whole family.

Why Norfolk? We have good memories of holidays in Norfolk; it has good schools, the sea and is at the limit of the London commute journey. Also it’s near my mother in Cambridge, as she is now elderly. We found the house on the internet, and it answered our prayers. And we found St Edmund’s in Bungay by chance one day when we were going for a walk. This has become part of our life, and I so enjoy singing in the choir with Clare Seabrook.

I am grateful for everything in my life. I am definitely a happy, “glass half full” and optimistic person.