Yesterday I attended Eve Aldridge's funeral at the Hatfield Road Methodist Church. It was packed. The size of the congregation was itself a tribute to the quiet impact Eve made on so many people just for being who she was. She used to be a Liberal councillor in St Albans. She came on to the council at the same time as I did so we were both "newbies" and would look to each other when we were unsure of some protocol. Her misfortune when it came to roll call votes was to have a surname beginning with "A" - the councillors are always called upon in alphabetical order - while I could lurk in the happy obscurity of the "Ws".
Eve was a Liberal because she whole-heartedly supported the way that we campaign in the community. She became chairman of the town twinning sub-committee but really she was a Fleetville nationalist, standing up for Ashley ward. She never stopped doing things in the community, whether it was the Woodville Women's Group, whom I had the pleasure of addressing earlier this year, or the Day Centre for elderly people at the Hatfield Road Methodist Church.
One of the side benefits of attending funerals is that it often takes you into churches with which you are not familiar. The Hatfield Road Methodist Church clearly has a tremendous outreach into the community. As well as the Day Care Centre for elderly people, there is also a hugely popular Mother and Toddler Group. Although it was not operating at the time of the funeral, the hall where it was held positively hummed with latent energy - serried rows of pedal cars, masses of toys. On the back wall there is a world map bordered by national flags connected by thread to the relevant country of origin and the number of families from that country.
Even pooling the Scottish and Welsh nationalists with the English, I still counted 31 different nation states and I was assured the list was incomplete. A great example of the cosmopolitan strengths of our city and district. Many of the leading figures in a Methodist congregation have the title of Steward. The minister at the Hatfield Road Church, who took Eve's beautiful service, is Roger Steward. For a moment when I glanced at the standard noticeboard of key members of the congregation, I thought he had press-ganged the whole Steward family into running the show...